40 books I read (and recommend that you read) this year
I am a believer in building a diverse skillset in life, and part of that process is consistent self-education. 2016 was a crazy, busy year, but I still managed to carve out time to feed my brain and soul through books (mostly at the expense of zombie and football tv time).
It was worth it.
Let me repeat that for emphasis: Every moment spent away from the TV (or game console) and in front of these books was worth it.
So I’d like to share my past year’s reading list and encourage a little bit more reading in the world as we move into 2017.
I found this book pretty interesting, quick read. It’s mostly a treatment on maintaining focus on what it is that you want to achieve, and to make sure and carve space out for your own goals, not just those of your employer.
Key quote: “The work you end up loving might not even exist yet.”
2. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
This is a great book about how we can not only craft experiences to match existing human tendencies, but develop an understanding of when others are using the “gentle power of nudges.”
Key quote: “People who think others have their eyes fixed on them, conform to what they think people expect. But people are paying less attention than you think.”
3. Confessions of a Public Speaker
by Scott Berkun
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Practical. Funny. Contemplative. This is for anyone that has to step up on that stage and put themselves on the line.
Key quote: “I don’t want to be perfect. I want to be useful, I want to be good, and I want to sound like myself.”
4. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
by Mason Currey
Great insights into the rituals of some of the world’s greatest artists. It is disturbing, however, how common substance abuse and insomnia are constants across so many of the people in this book.
A key quote: “Do you know what moviemaking is?” Bergman asked in a 1964 interview. “Eight hours of hard work each day to get three minutes of film. And during those eight hours there are maybe only ten or twelve minutes, if you’re lucky, of real creation. And maybe they don’t come..” – Ingmar Bergman
5. The Dream Manager
by Matthew Kelly
A great book on building connections between people and companies; between the reality of the now and the dreams of the future.
Key quote: “As best I can tell, there are two things that keep people interested in a job: the sense that they are making a difference and the sense that they are progressing or advancing.”
6. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
by Youngme Moon
Different is about, well, being different. It’s about people and businesses, and how it’s all evolving rapidly.
Key quote: “Cirque du Soleil, like many other breakaway brands, understand that there is a certain seditious advantage in being able to position itself as the player in the category willing to venture out-of-bounds.”
7. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir
by Haruki Murakami
A quirky memoir about being a runner and a novelist.
Key quote: “No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”
Both a classic and a cliché. That being said, I still gained value from reading it. Sometimes reading the very obvious awakens in you the understanding that you are missing the obvious.
Key quote: “Three-fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them, and they will love you.”
9. The Oxford Book of Aphorisms
by John Gross
This book is an absolute gem. At the very least, buy it and bring it as your airplane companion. Turn to a random page and read.
Key quote: “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible. – Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1711″
For my designer friends out there, this is a fantastic UX 101 guide.
Key quote: “It’s shocking how many people say they’re practicing user-centered design, but rarely talk to actual users.”
11. Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
by Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden
Required reading for anyone in the technology sector.
Key quote: “For Lean UX to succeed, your organization needs to adopt a mantra of ‘competencies over roles.'”
Another great book on continuous innovation and entrepreneurship.
Key quote: “The amount of time a company can count on holding on to market leadership to exploit its earlier innovations is shrinking, and this creates an imperative for even the most entrenched companies to invest in innovation.”
13. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
by Daniel, G. Amen, M.D.
This book is the first one I have read that has given me some insight into my own thought patterns from a biological point of view.
Key quote: “Looking at the brain gives us the opportunity for many powerful insights not possible by just listening to symptoms alone. Imaging immediately decreases stigma as people begin to see their problems as medical and not moral. We have nothing else in psychiatry that is this powerful or immediate. Imaging increases treatment compliance, because people want a better brain so they can have a better life.”
This book (and Tony, himself) has been around a while. I finally gave it a shot after listening to a very compelling interview on Tim Ferris’ podcast. While the book is a bit too long and convoluted for my tastes, I found a significant amount of insights that made the reading worth it.
Key quote: “The words you habitually choose also affect how you communicate with yourself and therefore what you experience. People with an impoverished vocabulary live an impoverished emotional life; people with rich vocabularies have a multi-hued palette of colors with which to paint their experience, not only for others, but for themselves as well.”
15. Ben Franklin: An American Life
by Walter Isaacson
A compelling biography of an American icon.
Key quote: “Social mobility was not very common in the eighteenth century. But Franklin proudly made it his mission—indeed, helped it become part of America’s mission—that a tradesman could rise in the world and stand before kings.”
Another great book on communication.
Key quote: “Churchill once explained that praise in the beginning of a talk sounds like flattery, whereas the same praise wedged into the middle of the speech comes off as sincerity. He called this delayed appreciation parenthetical praise.”
17. Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
by Coach John Wooden with Steve Jamison
I didn’t really know much about Wooden except anecdotes and his NCAA records that will never be broken. After reading this, you can’t help but get this zen like feel for his perspective on life and achievement.
Key quote: “Winners Make the Most Mistakes: The doer makes mistakes.”
18. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D.
Phenomenal book on the powers of persuasion. The examples and case studies were eye opening.
Key quote: “From the inside, there is a pressure to bring self-image into line with action. From the outside, there is a sneaker pressure—a tendency to adjust this image according to the way others perceive us.”
19. 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing
by Gary Provost
Great writing basics book. I have a long way to go in incorporating all the insights from this book.
Key quote: “Read. And listen to what you read. Listen for the sound of the language, the music. Note the punctuation, the spelling, the logical progression of information. And find the things that fail, also. Listen to how two similar sounds close together can cause a disturbing noise in your head. Hear how the use of the wrong word wakes you from your reading spell. Be a critical reader, and look upon all that you read as a lesson in good writing.”
20. What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People
by Joe Navarro with Marvin Karlins, Ph.D.
Pretty good insights on non-verbal communication.
Key quote: “Whenever there is a limbic response—especially to a negative or threatening experience—it will be followed by what I call pacifying behaviors. Pacifying behaviors reveal so much about a person’s current state of mind, and they do so with uncanny accuracy.”
As a creative who has spent a great deal of his career inside large organizations, I found this book very insightful and reassuring. Life isn’t always an either/or existence.
Key quote: “So, whenever you feel your head being pushed down onto an organization’s cultural chalk line, remember the challenge is to move out of the way, to choose not to be mesmerized by the culture of the company. Instead, find the goals of the organization that touch your heart and release your passion to follow those goals.”
22. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
by Sebastian Junger
A sobering essay on war, sacrifice and modern society. Still, there are insights in the book that give me hope. If we are an unhealthy society, the sooner we face that truth, the better off we all will be.
Key quote: “Soldiers experience this tribal way of thinking at war, but when they come home they realize that the tribe they were actually fighting for wasn’t their country, it was their unit. It makes absolutely no sense to make sacrifices for a group that, itself, isn’t willing to make sacrifices for you. That is the position American soldiers have been in for the past decade and a half.”
23. Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth
by James Altucher
Altucher often throws out controversial ideas. But the best thing I like about him is his willingness to attack conventions most people take for granted.
Key quote: “Produce something of value – I gave one guy, Jim Cramer, ten article ideas he should write. He ultimately wrote back, “You should write these” – which started my financial writing career.”
This book kinda blew my mind. Buy it. Read it.
Key quote: “The funny thing about a whole class of technology that enhances experience and personalization is that it puts great pressure on us to know who we are.”
25. Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success
by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, with David Wright
Whether or not you are interested in self-publishing, I think this book is really insightful. It got me thinking about not just ebooks, but looking at my products as a funnel and not just a collection of individual artifacts that I create and sell.
Key quote: “Sean and I have raised a dozen funnels to market, with around 40 individual titles. If one of our titles hits BIG, everything sells at least a little bit more. But the magic is that we don’t need a bit hit. The approach we believe in, use ourselves, advocate, and evangelize is workmanlike. Get one book that makes $200 per month, then create another 20 or 30 like it over time.”
26. Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions
by Carmen Simon, PhD
Another no-brainer purchase. I know I’ll be revisiting my book notes on this for years. Do you want to be an effective communicator? Buy this book.
Key quote: “Given that natural selection favors those who can accurately predict the future, our brains have evolved to be constantly on fast-forward. From this perspective, biologically speaking, surprise is always bad.”
27. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit strikes a balance between illuminating why human beings do what they do and how businesses succeed by better understanding us.
Key quote: “As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower become stronger, it touched everything.”
Great e-book on building writing habits
Key quote: “Most successful writers come up with a production model that allows them to crank out project after project. They stick with this model even if they suddenly get inspired to start a new project. Why? Because they understand the value of a completed project.”
29. The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences
by Matt Watkinson
Another “must read” user experience book.
Key quote: “You can tell a lot about a business by how things are handled when they go wrong.”
30. The Experience Economy, Updated Edition
by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore
This book more than any other on this list has changed my perspective on designing for the user’s experience and reframing my beliefs around where modern economies will go in the future.
Key quote: “The Internet is the greatest known force of commoditization for goods as well as services. It eliminates much of the human element in traditional buying and selling. Its capability for friction-free transactions enables instant price comparisons across myriad sources. And its ability to quickly execute these transactions allows customers to benefit from time as well as cost savings. . . All this points to an inevitable conclusion: the Service Economy has peaked.”
Loved this book. Whether you are interested in the restaurant business or not, this is a great book for business owners..
Key quote: “Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions—for and to—express it all.”
32. Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company
by Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm, and Jeffrey O’Brien
A nice discovery that wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t an IBMr.
Key quote: “I firmly believe that any organization, in order to survive and achieve success, must have a sound set of beliefs on which it premises all its policies and actions. I believe that the most important single factor in corporate success is faithful adherence to those beliefs. I believe that if an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except those beliefs as it moves through corporate life.” – Thomas Watson Jr
33. What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable at Every Touchpoint
by Nicholas J. Webbe
A good close to my UX readings of the year.
Key quote: “There is a connection between keeping customers and having satisfied employees. Companies that deliver exquisite customer service also offer a far better quality of work life, and their employees are happy.”
Met the sweet spot of my two passions: storytelling and user experience design.
Key quote: “The enchanted objects that will succeed will be the ones that carry on the traditions and promises of the objects of our age-old fantasies, the ones that connect with and satisfy our fundamental human desires.”
35. Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche
by Robert A. Johnson
Facing up to and dealing with our darker tendencies is something I believe is essential for us as individuals and as societies.
Key quote: “All healthy societies have a rich ceremonial life. Less healthy ones rely on unconscious expressions: war, violence, psychosomatic illness, neurotic suffering, and accidents are very low-grade ways of living out the shadow.”
36. He: Understanding Masculine Psychology
by Robert A. Johnson
A great book about myth, masculinity and the quest for the holy grail.
Key quote: “Most western men are Fischer Kings. Every boy has naively blundered into something that is too big for him. He proceeds halfway through his masculine development and then drops it as being too hot. Often a certain bitterness arises, because, like the Fisher King, he can neither live with the new consciousness he has touched nor can he entirely drop it.”
37. She: Understanding Feminine Psychology
by Robert A. Johnson
Similar to his other books, on myth and psychology.
Key quote: “Almost the only place where ordinary people are touched by the gods in our time is in romance. Falling in love is the experience of looking through that person and seeing the god or goddess who stands behind.”
38. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
by Robert Cialdini
The recently published sequel to Influence.
Key quote: “No longer should we think of language as primarily a mechanism of conveyance; as a means for delivering a communicator’s conception of reality. Instead, we should think of language as primarily a mechanism of influence; as a means for inducing recipients to share that conception or, at least, to act in accord with it.”
A great step-by-step book on how to enable success in book publishing.
Key quote: “A platform is whatever plan and method you use to connect with your readers and sell books, whether it’s traveling the world to speak, hand-selling to friends or building a popular blog. From my work and study, the authors selling the most books today are those that are focusing first on planning and building their platforms.”
40. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life
by Twyla Tharp
A masterful book on the creative process.
Key quote: “Our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.”