2017 Reading Review
2017 was great. I traveled a lot and that lead to a lot of reading on planes, buses, and boats.
I set the goal of reading 40 books at the beginning of the year and fell short. Not a big deal. The high number was a way to be competitive with myself. I still bested last year’s total by four.
I publish this list to elicit suggestions and hopefully inspire you to read more. It is in no way meant to boast or show off. Reading is not a competition. ← I’m still working on learning that lesson.
Here's a list of all the books I read in 2017;
(1) Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
I’ve done a ton of interviews discussing cognitive biases, so I figured it was time to go straight to the source. Kahneman, and his partner Amos Tversky, created the field of behavioral economics and uncovered the shortcuts all our minds take to problem solve. You’ll never master them all, but understanding your blind spots is the first step towards improvement.
(2) The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis’ unparalleled ability to storytell and make big ideas accessible to average minds is on full display in his 16th book. He chronicles Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s exploration of cognitive biases and the idiosyncrasies of a powerful intellectual partnership.
(3) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The host of The Daily Show grew up right as apartheid was ending in South Africa. Embedded in his story is a history lesson in history and analysis of race relations, poverty, and family dynamics.
(4) On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A classic traveler’s tomb, as Sal follows Dean around North America. Themes of freedom and the open road are intertwined within this winding tale.
(5) The Social Organism by Oliver Luckett
Luckett has been influencing pop culture from behind the scenes for over a decade. In his first book, Luckett shares his thesis for how social media really works, drawing on his study of biology.
(6) Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
If you are ready for a chef to pull the wool from over your eyes, then read Bourdain. He exposes the reality of what goes on in our restaurant’s kitchens and share his secrets from a multi-decade career. Never eat fish on a Monday.
(7) Write Your Book on the Side by Hassan Osman
A concise, focused book on how to complete and publish a book.
(8) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This book is a significant breakthrough, sitting squarely between minimalism, stoicism, and personal psychology. Kondo’s lifelong obsession with clean spaces has led to breakthroughs in technique and philosophical insight.
(9) Getting Things Done by David Allen
I recommended this aggressively in my February newsletter. Like most skills, productivity can be boiled down to solid fundamentals and consistent habits.
(10) The Essays of Warren Buffett
The greatest investor of a generation has laid out a comprehensive business education through decades of letters to his shareholders.
(11) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Some members of society are invisible. How does that change? Ellison meditates on the bitter reality.
(12) Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens
Hitchens autobiography chronicles his formative years and evolution of political thought. Fascinating insight on a man who fought to think independently.
(13) Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
One of the biggest comedians of the 20th century chronicles his rise and departure from the world of stand-up.
(14) Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne
One of my favorite concepts, stolen from my friend Mike Dariano, is the concept of a “lightbulb book”. As he described in our 2016 book review, lightbulb books seemingly illuminate a whole new part of your brain that you didn’t previously know was there.
Games People Play is firmly in that camp for me. There is a risk with any psycho-analysis book to play ametuer therapist with your newly minted information. Despite falling prey to this, there are still a laundry list of actionable takeaways from just one reading. Appreciating how your past influences your present is crucial to success and GPP services this endeavor.
(15) Nudge by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein
This pairs with Thinking Fast & Slow perfectly, as Thaler spent time researching with Kahneman and Tversky. The biggest term Thaler introduces is Libertarian Paternalism. While it seems contradictory, Thaler explains that small nudges and suggestions, without making explicit rules or laws, maximizes health and outcomes for everyone. A perfect example is auto-enrolling employees in retirement accounts.
(16) You're It!: On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found by Alan Watts
This one is a collection of public addresses in audiobook form. Alan Watts talks religion, spirituality, and how to be human.
(17) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
Yale professor Timothy Snyder wrote this in reaction to Trump’s election. He calls on historical precedent for signs that things in the US politics could get dangerous.
(18) Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
Wall Street is oft-maligned for sins of greed and deception. However, the details, perhaps the banality of evil, are lost beneath the headlines. In Michael Lewis’ first book, he outlines the ascent from lowly trainee to geek to Big Swingin’ Dick at the hottest firm of the moment, Salomon Brothers. Amazing interviews, interwoven with personal narrative and vivid storytelling.
(19) The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by Rich Cohen
Sam “the Banana King” Zemurray’s biography belongs right next to American tycoons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford. Zemurray’s tactics would fit perfectly in a 48 Laws of Power vignette and offer keen insight into disrupting existing businesses.
(20) Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras got the most acclaim for facilitating Edward Snowden’s revelations about the obscene amount of data that the government collects on its citizens. Schneier was also involved and builds a compelling case for why we should be concerned with this massive invasion of privacy and how to protect yourself.
(21) The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cowen
Tyler Cowen is one of my favorite modern thinkers on a broad range of topics. His newest book offers in-depth analysis of the trends of stagnation and complacency within America.
Why don’t Americans riot anymore? How come less people move or travel internationally? Cowen identifies the problem, supports his views with evidence, and makes balanced prognostications on how things could play out.
(22) Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
Exploring the secret techniques advertising agencies use to influence consumers and sell their clients’ products.
(23) Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink
True leaders are defined by their responses and actions in the highest intensity situations. Willinck translates his lessons from the battlefields of Iraq for those in the boardroom.
(24) Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
Scott has worked at Apple and Google and personally learned from Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt. Basic fundamentals of communication make all the difference.
(25) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Decided to mix things up with some heavy fiction. The content was creepy and not sure I’ll be coming back to Nabokov anytime soon, but certainly written in vivid, precise prose.
(26) The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991 (Check Out My Interview with National Teacher of the Year, Sean McComb). This book is considered his Magnum Opus.
A book like this could easily drift into the overtly conspiratorial. However, Gatto masterfully balances analysis of the incentives that drove the rise of mass schooling with the realities he has witnessed over decades in the classroom. This book fundamentally changed how I will approach parenting when I have a family of my own.
(27) Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
I interviewed Seth about this book and found it to be a really fun read. Seth has used Google searches to measure racism, self-induced abortion, depression, child abuse, hateful mobs, the science of humor, sexual preference, anxiety, son preference, and sexual insecurity, among many other topics.
(28) Casino Healthcare: The Health of a Nation: America's Biggest Gamble by Dan Munro
The American healthcare system is confusing, complex, and bloated. I didn’t know the extent until I read this book and spoke with Dan.
(29) King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette
Do you have a strong male role model? Many don’t. This book can help with understanding what it means to be a mature male adult. Really good.
(30) A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
Questions are really important. Having a deep reserve of questions ensures that you will stay creative and find opportunity for yourself.
(31) Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson
Two incredibly smart dudes break down why evolution has taught us to overlook the selfish motivations driving a lot of our actions and traditions.
(32) Black Privilege by Charlamagne tha God
Charlamagne the God is hilarious and I highly recommend the interviews he conducts on The Breakfast Club to learn about effective interviewing. His life story is equally candid and entertaining.
(33) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’m a white guy. I want to better empathize and understand what it means to be a minority. Coates taught me a lot in a short, poignant read.
(34) Open by Andre Agassi
Can you become one of the best in the world at something you hate? Apparently yes. Agassi chronicles his internal dialogue over the course of a transcendent career.
The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by Rich Cohen
Best Book to Take with You on Vacation
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Safest Bet for a Breakthrough
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I'm always looking for suggestions for future reading, drop me a line if you have any recommendations. Here are my starting five for the beginning of 2017.
Internet of Money by Andreas Antonopoulos
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
The New New Thing by Michael Lewis
The Information by James Gleick
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
I set a goal of reading 40 books in 2016 at the beginning of the year. I ended up at 34, and I’m pushing for 45 next year.
What will you be reading in 2018?
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