It’s been a pretty good year this, at least as far as my reading list goes. The full list of 34 books I’ve completed in 2016 (the two favourites on top, then in no particular order):
Top#1: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (Adams, Scott)
My favourite book of this year. Plenty great ideas in this one, some of which I’m subconsciously implementing for over 15 years, but works to an incomparable greater effect as a conscious daily practice. One example: if you hunt for deer, you want to improve your chances by going to the forest, learning about how deers behave, and perhaps getting a gun. (Replace deer with whatever you want achieve.)
Top#2 The Elephant Vanishes (Murakami, Haruki)
I’ve found Haruki Murakami by accident when I was looking for contemporary urban short stories on the Interwebs. This was the book that came up first on Amazon, I’ve read the first chapter and I was sold immediately. Excellent read, full-heartedly recommended.
Blind Willow Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)
Another collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami. After the Elephant Vanishes I was sucked into his world, and this book gave exactly that: more of the same drug.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Gladwell, Malcolm)
The way Malcolm puts disadvantages and advantages into perspective is brilliant. Goliath might have been a massive fellow, but it would have been useful only in close combat: as soon as David chose slingshot as a weapon and dismissed sword & armour to be more agile, he became the natural favourite. (Translate this to your startup, and you’ll be killing it.)
The Art of the Deal (Trump, Donald J.)
I’ve read it over the spring when no one would have considered a Trump presidency, apart from, perhaps Scott Adams who blogged about Trump’s persuasion skills for a while. The realisation that Trump could become president hit me while reading his book: the way he brought massive projects to life is the exact way you can win anything (and the way I’ve accidentally lead an ad agency to success some ten years ago): by telling appealing stories that people remember.
It’s actually one of my favourite books this year but I wouldn’t tell anyone. Read it as if someone else wrote it.
The Tao of Warren Buffet: Warren Buffett’s Words of Wisdom: Quotations and Interpretations to Help Guide You to Billionaire Wealth Enlightened Business Management (Buffett, Mary)
One of my favourite learnings of this year is from Warren Buffett, although not exactly from this book: write down the 25 goals you want to reach in life. Put them in order: on top the ones you absolutely, must achieve, and the goals you care about less in the bottom. Now circle in the top 5 and cross out the bottom 20: the crossed-out ones are the ones that divert your focus and keep you from reaching the most important goals.
The book offers similarly smart business management insights.
The Magic of Thinking Big (Schwartz, David J.)
It’s a “whether you think you can do it or you think you can’t you’ll be right” self-help book, but the one of the few that passed my well-trained bullshit filter. Recommended for those times when you can’t seem to get up to speed.
Revolution (Brand, Russell)
“When I was poor and I complained about inequality they said I was bitter, now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite.” He’s a great writer, yet this book doesn’t seem to go anywhere. I’d recommend reading Russell’s Guardian posts or watching his stand-up shows instead.
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days (Livingston, Jessica)
A list of interviews with companies that we don’t really look at as startups any longer: Apple, Paypal, Gmail, Trip Advisor and many others. It’s a time-travel to the 2000s (when I too started to work for one of the first Internet companies and created my first startup). Absolutely loved it.
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Kleon, Austin)
It’s more a nice gift to creative people than a book, at least in a sense that it can be read during a a short plane ride. I also like the way it’s drawn-and-written, sort of Wait but Why? style.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (Fielding, Helen)
I’ve read the latest Bridget Jones book mostly because my girlfriend was laughing on it so hard. For me it was rather difficult to get in the head of a 50-year old lady dating men in their 30s, but it’s all in all a fun read.
God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment (Adams, Scott)
Upmost fun. In my 25+ years of studying mathematics I’m quite used to playing with abstractions. This book offers exactly that sort of fun.
All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World (Godin, Seth)
Absolutely fantastic. Stop thinking about marketing in a way that worked in the TV-era: we can’t buy eyeballs any more. The only thing that works today is developing the story, one that’s important to others.
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Godin, Seth)
Another one from Seth Godin, I’ve read it because the other book of his was so brilliant. This one is great too, but it’s almost the same thing: read whichever comes first.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (Godin, Seth)
And one last one I’ve read from Seth Godin this year, about becoming irreplaceable in the new economy. (Quite along the lines of Yakuzuzu’s “what would you do if you didn’t need to work any longer?”) A bit longer than it should be and pretty repetitive, so if you can multitask somewhat, listen to the audiobook version in the background.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Adams, Douglas)
The first time I’ve read the series I was about 16, and I accidentally bumped into the book when I was moving stuff in my old room. I’m 32 now, and it’s not the same experience really, but the Hitchhiker’s Guide is still upmost fun.
Cat’s Cradle (Vonnegut, Kurt)
Starts with a story based on Ede Teller, the weird Hungarian physicist who was one of the inventors of the atom bomb. That part is awesome. Then it becomes weirder and weirder.
Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut, Kurt)
It’s another nice-and-easy Vonnegut novel. Excellent story, I love the style, the fun scenes and jokes, though I don’t remember too many details. Great read to switch off after a long day.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Heath, Chip)
Excellent, hands-on advice with plenty examples in the book. Look for opportunities to change the environment in order to shape your behaviour. (Habits for the win!)
Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Kiyosaki, Robert T.)
Recommended by many, it’s a great book for people who are not entrepreneurs. I forward the title to my friends who are thinking about becoming investors or seem to have gotten stuck in a rat-race – for already entrepreneur folks it’s just stating the obvious. (Doesn’t do any harm hammering it though.)
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Thiel, Peter)
Great and inspiring, but if you read one or two articles from Peter Thiel’s blog, you probably get the same effect. The main point is that the author prefers startups that invent something out of thin air rather than the ones that merely improve on stuff.
Monty Python Live! (Chapman, Graham)
It’s scripts, drawings and stories from and about the Flying Circus series. After reading the book, I started to work on another script with no delay – I guess it’s what you’d call inspiring.
Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth (Weinberg, Gabriel)
It’s a users manual to startup marketing, listing the 19 marketing channels Gabriel wrote about. Don’t read the book, read the Medium post and actually implement it in real life.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time (Ferrazzi, Keith)
The best takeaway from this book is already explained in the title: meet people, make strong relationships, and do fill your lunchtime, dinners etc. with those meetings. The book hammers this in across a few hundred pages.
Is It Really Too Much To Ask? (World According to Clarkson, #5) (Clarkson, Jeremy)
Collection of stories by Jeremy Clarkson. If you like him in Top Gear / Grand Tour, you’ll like this book.
The World According to Clarkson (World According to Clarkson, #1) (Clarkson, Jeremy)
Same as all other books in this series really; see above.
The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World (Kirkpatrick, David)
It’s the story of Facebook. If you only have two hours, just watch the movie. I had one great takeaway from the book I didn’t remember from the film: Zuckerberg kept working on other side projects for quite a long time while developing Facebook.
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Holiday, Ryan)
Stoicism repackaged really, so it’s a good gateway drug for friends who haven’t been bitten by it. It inspired me to practice cool-headedness.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Duhigg, Charles)
Most of the stuff we do in a day is controlled by our subconscious, so as soon as we get the habits most things will fall into place. Great book, highly recommended (as well as most interviews with the author).
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business (Duhigg, Charles)
The difference between internal and external locus of control, and the fact that this can be changed by simple nudges. (Note to self: re-read this as soon as you become a father.) Also from Charles Duhigg, also very highly recommended.
The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life (Roth, Bernard)
The core takeaway was identifying the difference between trying and doing: most barriers only exist in the mind. By saying you’ll try you identify yourself as a “trier”, by saying you’ll do it you automatically enable your “doer” mode.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Bach, Richard)
I’ve read it on Scott Adams’ recommendation for a “weird story”. It was less weird than boring.
Ego Is the Enemy (Holiday, Ryan)
Two super-important things that stuck with me. First, there is a danger in applying career labels: are you a “filmmaker”, “writer”, “investor” just because you’ve done that once? Do you want to do something else at any time?
And second, stay a student for ever and more: “You can’t learn something you think you already know.”
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Carnegie, Dale)
It’s a psychology book written exactly 80 years ago and it still works: always think about what the other person is thinking about. Motivation only goes as far as you can align others’ goals with yours. Already forwarded to many of my friends.