You can hear an audio version of this post at this podcast episode.
Last year was the first year that I wrote a blog post covering what I read in the previous year. I ended up reading a lot more in 2016 than I initially thought I would. After reading 29 books in 2015 I decided to set a goal of 36 books in 2016. I smashed that goal and read 63 books last year, 43 of which were non-fiction. That number doesn't count the few books I started reading and didn't finish or the ones that I just skimmed through.
I use Goodreads to keep track of everything I read and I’ll always write a short review / summary after I finish a book. Every year they also automatically generate this great review of My Year in Books .
The most impactful book I read in 2016 was Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. At any stage of life, whether that’s aspiring, succeeding, or failing, ego is the worst thing you can give into. I’ve been a big fan of Ryan’s work for a while and this might just be his best book. I found this to be a very moving read that helped realign my general thoughts on how to live a good life. I really enjoyed this book and Ryan’s last one, The Obstacle is the Way, because when I read them they make me want to be a better person. This book is filled with historical examples of how ego crippled those who gave into it and how it rewarded those who didn’t. There are plenty of important life lessons in here that would take much too long to list. Do yourself a favor and make sure you read this book. It’s such an important read for us all to understand just how dangerous our ego can be. I was also fortunate to have the chance to interview Ryan on my podcast and discuss the book.
The most enjoyable book I read in 2016 was Disrupted by Dan Lyons. I loved reading this book and thought it was hilarious. I've worked in tech for a while and was not surprised by most of the ridiculous shit that's mentioned in this book. This was a very funny read but served little purpose other than plain enjoyment and a reminder of why I left the Bay Area. Dan Lyons goes to work at a startup after a long career in tech journalism and has the shock of his life to find himself working for a bunch of inexperienced kids that earn low-pay and just sell a crappy marketing product. He writes not only about his awful experience working at Hubspot but about everything wrong in the tech industry today (lack of diversity, VCs taking ordinary investors for a ride, founders working their employees so hard but then unfairly pocketing all the wealth). If you enjoy watching HBO's Silicon Valley (where Dan is also a writer) or just want a funny glimpse into some of the ridiculousness happening with the tech bubble we're currently in then this book will be perfect for you.
My favourite fiction book in 2016 was The Firm by John Grisham. I read 20 fiction books last year (four times as many as 2015) but this one was the most enjoyable one to read. This book came into my life only by complete chance. I happened to be in an op shop on the outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne and found this in the used books section for $1. It ended up being an absolute page-turner! I would pick this up just before bed and read for over an hour most nights. I just couldn’t put it down. The story follows an ambitious young lawyer who takes a very lucrative job offer to work at a small firm. He soon begins to suspect that he's just taken a job working for the mob. As with most film adaptations of a novel, the book ended up being way better than the movie. Honourable mentions for other great fiction I read last year go to Ready Player One and The Shadow of the Wind. Both of which I have Marama Whyte to thank for recommending to me.
Let me also give you a quick snapshot of what I got out of each book I read last year:
- The Score Takes Care of Itself taught me how one of the greatest NFL coaches turned the worst football team into champions.
- Cat's Cradle showed me how dangerous it would be if water was solid at room temperature.
- Show Your Work! taught me the importance of sharing your creative process with others.
- Ready Player One showed me that there are certain human experiences that will always be better than virtual reality.
- Trust Me, I'm Lying taught me how most of the Internet is incentivized to create content that drives the most clicks.
- Fight Club taught me that sometimes the movie is actually better than the book.
- Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist taught me that a long-term approach to life and business has served Warren Buffet well.
- The Prophet taught me that the peak of our happiness is only as large as the depths of our sorrow.
- Flowers for Algernon taught me that it can be as much of a curse to have a very high IQ than it is to have a low IQ.
- The Psychopath Test taught me that most people have psychopathic tendencies.
- Trump: The Art of the Deal taught me that deal-making is mostly a product of your confidence and ability to negotiate.
- Look Who's Back taught me that when you write a book in the first person about a historic figure it really humanizes them.
- The War of Art taught me that doing creative work requires us to constantly battle resistance.
- The Devil and Miss Prym taught me that there isn't a clear distinction of good or evil.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People taught me that if you want to better connect with other human beings that you have to take a genuine interest in them.
- The Trial showed me what it would be like if we didn't have clear laws in our justice system.
- The Life Plan gave me a few exercises to plan out the life I want to live.
- Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! reminded me that curiosity is one of the best parts of being human.
- The 4-Hour Body taught me that you really need to increase your protein intake if you want to grow muscle.
- Stumbling on Happiness taught me that we can't really know if a certain path will make us happy unless we're willing to speak with someone who lives that life right now.
- An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth taught me that the greatest achievements only come about from an incredible amount of work and preparation.
- The Happiness Equation showed me a number of important factors that determine what makes us happy.
- The Shallows taught me why the Internet is causing us to lose our ability to focus.
- Welcome to the Monkey House provided me with a number of entertaining science fiction short stories to read before falling asleep.
- Sapiens taught me that certain events like the Agricultural Revolution actually caused an individual's quality of life to decrease.
- Time Out of Joint showed me what it would be like to just convince one man of an alternate reality.
- Shoe Dog taught me that having exponential growth might require taking the risk to bet it all.
- Ego is the Enemy taught me that in every stage of life the most dangerous thing one can do is give into their ego.
- All Marketers Are Liars taught me the best form of marketing is having a brand with an authentic story.
- The Road showed me how people can act in times of desperation.
- Business Model Generation gave me a framework to create well thought out business models.
- What To Do When It's Your Turn taught me that you can't wait for permission to do things.
- Fahrenheit 451 taught me that a world without free speech isn't one worth living in.
- Flash Boys taught me that most stock trading platforms don't fulfill orders on an even playing field.
- Letters from a Stoic taught me that no one is born wise but anyone can acquire wisdom.
- How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia taught me that pursuing wealth won't always make you happy.
- Mastery taught me that the process of achieving mastery is one with a lot of dedication and the right experiences.
- The Crying of Lot 49 showed me what a postal system that isn't run by the government would look like.
- Disrupted showed me even more of how ridiculous tech industry culture can be.
- The Magic of Thinking Big taught me that the way we think about things is the biggest factor that affects how our lives turn out.
- Lost at Sea provided me with a number of entertaining real stories and occasionally forced me to think a bit deeper about what's happening in our world today.
- Outliers taught me that outlier-type success can often just be a product of being at the right place at the right time.
- The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories taught me sometimes life can be more upsetting than death.
- The Firm gave me many entertaining nights lying tired in bed but unable to stop reading.
- Essentialism taught me that we need to decide what is essential to us because we can do anything if we don't try to do everything.
- Melbourne: A City of Villages taught me a lot of things I didn't know about the history of my hometown.
- Elon Musk taught me that even if someone is an impressive human being their biography might be completely overrated.
- An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments taught me a few logical fallacies that people often make when arguing.
- We showed me how the influence of a woman can completely change a man's priorities.
- The Most Beautiful Airports in the World taught me to appreciate the work that goes into designing an airport terminal.
- The Shadow of the Wind taught me that some mysteries deserved to be solved.
- Bigger Leaner Stronger taught me the importance of having the right mindset when doing strength training and conditioning.
- The Song of the Dodo taught me about species diversity and extinction.
- 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism taught me that our conventional logic around free-market economics might be flawed.
- What Makes Sammy Run? showed me that some people will do anything to get ahead.
- Grinding It Out taught me that some men are capable of having their greatest success toward the end of their lives.
- Modern Romance showed me what it really means to be dating in the 21st century.
- The End of Jobs showed me that today, more so than any other time in history, individuals have the opportunity to deliberately design their lives.
- The Bed of Procrustes offered me a number of thoughts on what it means to be free in the modern world.
- The Victorian Internet taught me about the history of one of the most revolutionary devices of all time: the telegraph.
- A Confederacy of Dunces showed me how being very educated doesn't mean you'll be able to function in the real world.
- The Undoing Project reminded me that human beings are way more irrational than we realise and told me the story of the two men that helped point that out to us.
- The Dilbert Principle gave me a number of laughs as a satirical insight into corporate America.
I will likely end up reading roughly the same amount of books in 2017. Even though I've been doubling the amount of books I read each year for the past 4 years I think this pace of about one book a week is a pretty sustainable one. I am going to try and push myself a little and actually read 52 non-fiction books this year. Just remember, even if you don't read 60 books this year that doesn't mean that reading can't have a huge impact in your own life. If you ever want personalised book recommendations you know who to ask.
If you enjoyed this or have book recommendations then please tweet me.