Last year I shared my 4 favorite books out of the 24 that I read, so this year it seems correct to do it again. We have non-fiction, sci-fi and more in the mix. I’ve included links to each book’s Goodreads page and the rating the book has in Goodreads as well, and a couple of quotes I liked of each book.
String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis
(4.25 ★ on Goodreads)
DFW’s writing on tennis, his experience as a young tennis pro, his take on tennis professionals and their personal lives, his thoughts on the expertise of the top players of the world, as well as his unfiltered take on the business around tennis, made this book one of my top favorites of the year.
I wish we could all be lucky enough to have somebody write about us as DFW wrote about Federer in ‘Federer Both Flesh and Not’, which was originally titled ‘Federer as Religious Experience’, just to give you an idea of the content.
If you like tennis, you have to read this. I loved this book. I’m looking forward to reading it in a couple of years when I understand more about the most beautiful and demanding sport there is (DFW’s words, not mine).
“There is about world-class athletes carving out exemptions from physical laws a transcendent beauty that makes manifest God in man.”
“Roger Federer is a first-rate, kick-ass power-baseliner. It’s just that that’s not all he is. There’s also his intelligence, his occult anticipation, his court sense, his ability to read and manipulate opponents, to mix spins and speeds, to misdirect and disguise, to use tactical foresight and peripheral vision and kinesthetic range instead of just rote pace — all this has exposed the limits, and possibilities, of men’s tennis as it’s now played.”
‘Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE.’ by Phil Knight (4.4 ★)
I actually wrote a whole post on this book. You can check it out here.
Knight shares the personal, honest, vulnerable side of building an empire. The prose is beautiful, the lessons are great. My favorite thing of this book is that it portrays perfectly how building a business isn’t about being a smart ‘businessman’, but about the people that surround you, hard work and good luck.
“The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”
“And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop. Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome. Some people might not call it luck. They might call it Tao, or Logos, or Jñāna, or Dharma. Or Spirit. Or God.”
‘Dark Matter’ by Blake Crouch (4.13 ★)
Dark Matter is a sci-fi book that deals with the idea of multiple parallel universes. A real page turner that I devoured in a couple of days.
Full of action, mystery and even a non-cheesy romance arc, Crouch keeps the reader on his toes. It’s one of those books that makes you think “What if?”.
Jason Dessen, a former scientist turned college physics professor, is kidnapped in the middle of the night. He wakes up to a life that isn’t his life. He needs to figure out what is happening and how to go back to his reality.
Can’t really talk more about the book without giving away some important parts of the plot, so you’ll have to read it to discover what I’m talking about.
“We’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.”
“He says, “Every moment, every breath, contains a choice. But life is imperfect. We make the wrong choices. So we end up living in a state of perpetual regret, and is there anything worse? I built something that could actually eradicate regret. Let you find worlds where you made the right choice.” Daniela says, “Life doesn’t work that way. You live with your choices and learn. You don’t cheat the system.”
‘A Life in Parts’ by Bryan Cranston (4.13 ★)
You know Bryan Cranston. Seinfeld’s dentist, Tim Whatley. Malcolm in the Middle’s crazy dad, Hal Wilkerson. Bad ass high-school teacher turned drug lord, Walter White in Breaking Bad.
What you probably don’t know is how Bryan got to be the lead actor in a series that has been called “the best series of all time”.
Cranston shares a very detailed and personal story. His family, his lovers, his acting career, his ups and downs. He talks about the art behind acting with a respect and appreciation that feels almost religious.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but after reading some great reviews I decided to go for it, and I’m glad I did.
“At that precise moment I conjured a credo that would guide me for the rest of my life: I will pursue something that I love — and hopefully become good at it, instead of pursuing something that I’m good at — but don’t love.”
These were 4 of the 36 books that I read in the year. I general I really enjoyed most of them. My average rating was 3.9, so not bad at all.
The goal for next year is to read 30 books, scaling back a bit to make space for other projects and goals for the year.
Here’s the rest of the stats and info for my 2016. Not like anybody cares, but being a data nerd, I just like the info. Let me know if you read any of those and have any thoughts!