20 books you should read this year
Greetings and happy somewhat belated new year. 2017 is in the books, and books are what I’ve got to share with you today. While I didn’t quite reach last year’s volume of reading, I do have good stuff to recommend.
Regardless of your commitments, I still believe that you should take the time to read—and read diversely. You never know when you’ll get to put what you’ve learned to use.
This is quite an in depth view on the philosophy and tactics around performance and fulfilling one’s potential.
Key quote: “The most happy and successful people in the world are also the most aware of their internal and external environments.”
2. The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Googleby Scott Galloway
I love this book. It not only paints the four pretty accurately, but it gives a good explanation about why so much attention and capital flows towards silicon valley. People just aren’t that interested in building a million dollar business. They want billion dollar ones.
Key quote: “Amazon is going underwater with the world’s largest oxygen tank, forcing other retailers to follow it, match its prices, and deal with changed customer delivery expectations.”
3. Making Moviesby Sidney Lumet
Part memoir. Part “how-to” book around the basics of movie-making. I couldn’t put it down.
Key quote: “Making a movie has always been about telling a story. Some movies tell a story and leave you with a feeling. Some tell a story and leave you with a feeling and give you an idea. Some tell a story, leave you with a feeling, give you an idea, and reveal something about yourself and others. And sure the way you tell that story should relate somehow to what that story is.”
4. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imaginationby Neal Gabler
A VERY in depth look at an american icon. What was most amazing to me were two things: how early in his life Walt began working and acting like an entrepreneur and how many unglamorous periods of struggle Disney went through over his career.
Key quote: “It had always been about control, about crafting a better reality than the one outside the studio, and about demonstrating that one had the capacity to do so. That was what Walt Disney provided to America—not escape, as so many analysts would surmise, but control and the various empowerment that accompanied it.”
A “how-to” on the power of simplification.
Key quote: “Our bodies and minds were made for a slower-paced life—perhaps we can handle the huge stress of being chased by a predator, but we can’t handle the stresses of constant overload, and a constant hectic pace for every waking moment.”
Whether you are ready to go the self-employed route, looking to create a side-gig, or just searching for a better understanding of your work and yourself, this book gives you great tools and probing questions that help drive insights.
Key quote: “Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is. Second-rate ideas like glorious swellings far more. Keeps them alive longer.”
7. Rework>by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Should be required reading for any product team.
Key quote: “Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service. You have to believe in something. You need to have a backbone. You need to know what you’re willing to fight for. And then you need to show the world.”
8. Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe
by George Friedman
A critical look at the history of conflict in Europe and what lies ahead.
Key quote: “As an American, I lived in a world where all things flow from decisions. As a European I lived in a world where decisions mean nothing when the avalanche of history overwhelms you.”
9. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Businessby Josh Kaufman
Great book on business basics.
Key quote: “The disconnect between the classroom and the working world makes sense when you realize that the concepts, principles, and techniques most business schools teach were designed for a very different world.”
10. As One: Individual Action Collective Powerby Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley
Found this book through a colleague at work. An interesting take on the many models/frameworks businesses take.
Key quote: “Great architects visualize possibilities others can’t see. They are never dissuaded by the magnitude of the challenge they face. Their ideas are often so ambitious that they demand revolutionary thinking.”
11. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankindby Yuval Noah Harari
Probably the best book I read last year. It points out how much of our modern civilization is a figment of our collective imaginations. I probably need to read it again.
Key quote: “Consumerism and nationalism work extra hours to make us imagine that millions of strangers belong to the same community as ourselves, that we all have a common past, common interests and a common future. This isn’t a lie. It’s imagination.”
Think there’s no value in reading a business book that is basically pre-internet? Think again.
Key quote: “When a strategic inflection point sweeps through the industry, the more successful a participant was in the old industry structure, the more threatened it is by change and the more reluctant it is to adapt to it.”
13. Tao Te Ching: Text Only Editionby Lao Tsu, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English with Toilette Lippe
An awful lot of deep insight inside a few short poems.
Key quote: “The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places people reject and so is like the Tao..”
14. High Output Managementby Andrew S. Grove
Management gets a bad rap. Sometimes deservedly. I like to think that management and leadership are two strongly overlapping concepts.
Key quote: “My day always ends when I’m tired and ready to go home, not when I’m done. I am never done. A manager’s work is never done.”
A great book around leaders, why we have them, want them and can become one ourself.
Key quote: “Like all tribes, some have strong leaders and some have weak leaders. But they all have leaders.”
16. Mindset: The New Psychology of Successby Carol S. Dweck
A good tonic for the disease of the fixed mindset.
Key quote: “The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities ale things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
17. Matsushita Leadershipby John P. Kotter
I had never heard of Konosuke Matsushita before, but his life story is incredible. To create an economic powerhouse and reinvent business as we know it is impressive. To do it in the midst of pre/during/post WW2 Japan is almost unbelievable.
Key quote: “The whole arrangement sounds barbarous today: a child working 80 – 90 hours a week and actually living with an employer instead of parents. Yet a century ago in Osaka, an apprentice’s job was seen as an excellent opportunity to learn and advance in life.”
A great collection of insights.
Key quote: “Reid, along with Matt Mullenweg, is one of the calmest people I’ve ever met. His former chief of staff has told stories of Reid responding to an insult with “I’m perfectly willing to accept that” and moving on.”
19. Leading Change, With a New Preface by the Authorby John P. Kotter
Heard about this book from Phil Gilbert, our GM of Design at IBM. It’s awesome. This is the best business book yet I have found on how to transform a business or organization.
Key quote: “Successful transformation is 70 to 90 percent leadership and only 10 to 30 percent management.”
20. George Lucas: A Lifeby Brian Jay Jones
There might not be a more significant individual who shaped the imagination of my childhood than George Lucas. This book is an insightful look into his life and career.
Key quote: “All the films I made during that time center on conveying emotions through a cinematic experience, not necessarily through the narrative.”