Book Read in 2017

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Huari – I wasn’t sure what to expect to a followup of one of my favorite books, Sapiens. But it similarly excelled in fundamentally changing one’s perspective. While it took me a few days to bounce back from a nihilistic depression after the book’s close, Homo Deus goes in my “must-read-if-you’re-a-human” category.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel – So many big ideas in this book. I love the question: “What are the big companies of the future that don’t exist yet?” Also, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

If we already understand as much of the natural world as we ever will—if all of today’s conventional ideas are already enlightened, and if everything conventions secrets mysteries easy hard impossible has already been done — then there are no good answers. Contrarian thinking doesn’t make any sense unless the world still has secrets left to give up.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – Wow this book is fantastic, lives up to its hype. I swallowed it in two days and afterward felt so close to the piece that I felt I had lived his childhood. I would go with the audiobook version to savor Noah’s gift for accents and languages. I also appreciated the opportunity to learn more about South Africa.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams – This is a rare gem in the self-help world because it manages to be humble, funny, and… actually helpful. While I already think similarly to Adams on many subjects, I repeatedly found myself reflecting, “Huh. I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

While I have always thought that health should come first because the healthier you are the more effective and happier you will be, Adams puts it in terms of having more energy. I liked that perspective, as it’s more positive-oriented than a nagging “I must to be healthy or else,” orientation that will occasionally summon my psyche’s rebellious side.

A lot of the book is about creating systems instead of goals, which I also have been coming to realize in my own life. For a long time I would do 30-day or 60-day health goals and succeed, but sprints to a goal will not make you a winner. Creating a forever system in your life is far more effective, albeit a slower process.

I also appreciated Adams’ perspective on failing. His list of all the ways he’s failed is a nice change from reading authors whose success appears untouchable. His point is that failing doesn’t matter as long as you fail forward–that is, you create knowledge and contacts from the failed endeavor. His perspective is that as long as you keep trying and learning, you’re bound to find success someday. I liked this “slow success” mentality.

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields – I like the idea of minimalism in scraping away the excess and seeing what is truly important to you, and this was a fun read.

Average is Over by Tyler Cowen – A fantastic read on where technology is taking jobs and the economy — I can see why so many people reference it. Also a fascinating look into computer-aided chess tournaments. I’d put this book up there with Sapiens and The Power of Habit into the must-read-if-you’re-a-human category.

Lying by Sam Harris – Thought-provoking read that questions the harmlessness of white lies. I loved Harris’s portrayal of how lies separate the liar from those around him.

Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. The premise of Mini Habits is that you do one super-easy thing every day to build lasting change. Guise argues that if you make your habit so easy but also do it every day, then you overcome your resistance and then a major habit builds based on a small change.

The Complete Guide to Fasting by by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Jason Fung – good overview on fasting. If you want to fast and are convinced of its health benefits, you probably don’t need to read a whole book on it, but I appreciated the depth of information.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts by Marshall Goldsmith – I liked the idea of doing daily ratings for values every evening. Such as, “Did I treat everyone with kindness today?” and then rate that from a 1-10. Or, “Did I make the best choices for my health today?” or “Did I make the wisest decisions for how to invest my time today?” You can set up this type of daily review and scoring system with the HabitBull app.

What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott CarneyFinally someone explains why animals have no trouble in the cold, but the minute it goes below 67 I freak out. I loved the idea that we’re not meant to be kept in temperature-controlled boxes and that we have the power to condition ourselves to embrace the elements. As someone who’s dabbled in Wim Hoff’s methods, I also appreciated getting a deeper understanding of the science behind them. I closed the book enamored by the cold, but it may take a few more reads before I can keep my hands off the thermostat.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko presents the findings from studies of America’s multi-millionaires. The authors argue that the millionaires who keep their money are those who forego the status symbols of wealth. After all, the status symbols of wealth necessarily drain finances and keeps one from accumulating wealth. “I am not my car,” says one millionaire studied, reflecting the sentiment of many of the millionaires who drive regular trucks and sedans. While many of the millionaires studied made their fortunes due to being in profitable industries (e.g., attorney, doctor, etc.), many simply scrimped and saved their way to financial independence.

I loved this book because it made me critically reflect on my material desires and see if they were driven from a desire to appear in a certain way, versus coldly reflecting the functionality of the item. Does it really matter that my car is 16 years old, has balding paint, and rolls its windows down every time I unlock the door? There’s actually a lot of benefit from not worrying about it or paying expensive protective insurance on it. Does it matter that my phone is cracked, or does it only matter that it is completely functional and provides me with the same tremendous value as the day I got it three years ago? Will people think less of me if I never update my wardrobe, or will people appreciate me more if I focus my attention on matters more useful and helpful to others?

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly – A fabulously entertaining book about where technology is going. Having adored Wired as a kid, I felt waves of nostalgia as Kelly described the evolution of the internet in the same excited tone as early Wired issues. I most loved Kelly’s description of a future city where you basically own nothing, and every gadget is provided on-demand through a seamless network. While I’m much more concerned about AI’s problems than Kelly, I enjoyed the dose of optimism.

Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf – In Wired to Eat, Wolf proposes you adapt a paleo diet with the addition of particular carbohydrates that you individually test to see how your body responds. I really love that we’re getting into the era of more personalized nutrition. Why are there so many conflicting opinions about what to eat? Probably because everyone’s body reacts to food differently.

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson – While I have issues with numerous aspects of this book, I found its overall message inspiring and one that feels true. Somewhere in the book I decided that life is just a game we play to overcome fear.

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey – Fun read with lots of great ideas. My favorites:

  • keep track of your productivity (you can’t manage what’s not measured)
  • use caffeine strategically (use it only when you want to power on, not as just a daily routine that your brain gets accustomed to)
  • write down each distraction as it arises and then ignore it

Your Money or Your Life. Apparently 2017 is the year for me to read bestseller cheesy self-help finance books. But, like the others, this book was pretty much as good as everyone says. What I loved about it was that it looks at money through the eyes of your life energy. It takes you X number of hours to afford Y, and once you see that then you can start to make more conscious choices about your spending habits. I also loved the notion of being careful with one’s resources as a way to be careful with the Earth’s resources.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – Powerful book on gender inequality. I appreciated Sandberg’s perspective on the difficulties negotiating as a woman in a society where both women and men expect women to be “nice.”

IF WE CLOSED THE GENDER PAY GAP… the average Hispanic woman would earn $1,000,000 more over the course of her career. – LeanIn.org

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes – Truly fascinating book on the ramifications of sugar. So many things I didn’t know, such as how the British Empire was built on the sugar, coffee, tea, and cacao trade. I also loved the descriptions of how sugar is a drug to make the suffering of every day bearable.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – Light, artful read with a strong message. Humans like to be comfortable, but to live a good story and have a consequential life, you have to go beyond that and seek a meaningful challenge filled with risk and obstacles. My favorite example of this was a family was concerned because their daughter was hanging out with a guy who was getting her into trouble. They realized that she was doing that because she didn’t have any better story to live than the story he brought to her life. So the dad decided that they were, as a family, going to build an orphanage. This meant a lot of work and sacrifice in everyone’s lives, but the family became engaged with the meaning it provided in their lives. The girl lost interest in the guy she was seeing.

Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic by Esther Perel – Great read on how to keep the spark alive in long-term relationships. I’ve found Perel’s well-produced podcast equally thought-provoking.

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner This was a perfect book for me as I tried to figure out where to travel and where to call home. I enjoyed Weiner’s observations about what makes places and cultures happy, such as Icelanders’ freedom to reinvent their career without society’s disapproval.

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang – A fun read on one man’s experiments with rejection. I appreciated Jiang’s take that the fear of rejection is based on an evolutionary need to stay with a tribe. Now that being rejected by someone has little impact on our survival, our fear of being rejected causes more harm than good. I loved how Jiang opened his life to fun adventures and connections just by asking unusual questions.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger – Fun read on why some things get talked about.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann – Cute parable on achieving success through a giving mindset. I have experienced this principle in my life; my successes have stemmed from aiming to do my best to help others succeed and not worrying about compensation.