The books I read (and enjoyed) in 2017

Every year I think about going through the books I’ve read and actively (key word here) improve on what I’m doing. Now is as good a time as any to start actually doing that.

The list of books are the ones that I’ve purchased in 2017 and read*. Admittedly there are plenty that I’ve bought but didn’t manage to read yet.

I’ve split up the books into very general categories, and they don’t fit neatly, but I’ll live and so will you.

*For sake of simplicity I haven’t included the books that I’ve re-read, of which there are many.

(I don’t really like recommending books for the simple reason that a book’s value really depends on the timing of which they are read. There are many books that I’ve re-read and gained a lot more value from only because of where I was in my life. I suspect many of the books listed below will have the same effect on me in a few years.)

MARKETING/BUSINESS

 

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

Chip Heath, Dan Heath

I will continue to pick and read any both the Heath brothers write. Their first book Made to Stick, and I continue to read it at least once a year. This book while not nearly as powerful, again features the brother’s captivating ability to pull in relevant case-studies that help illustrate their point. I only wish it was longer.

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Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do

Chris Guillebeau

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days

Chris Guillebeau

I’ve grouped these two books together and I enjoyed them thoroughly. Chris’ books are ones I always recommend to people who are looking to do something meaningful in their life regardless if it’s for monetary reasons or not. The writing style is charming and great for people who need a little kick in the butt to start something (not just entrepreneurs).

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Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares

To be honest I don’t really remember too many details of this book. What I do remember is that it reaffirms my beliefs that it doesn’t matter how good a product is if nobody knows about it.

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Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact

Phil M Jones

I surprisingly enjoyed this book — I thought it was going to be a bunch of crap that I already knew, but there were some really actionable items that I started using immediately. I’m going to have to read it every year just to refresh the language I use and how I can make small, impactful difference in my everyday life.

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The 48 Laws of Power

Robert Greene, Joost Elffers

Did not enjoy this book. Expected quite a lot, but the writing style just isn’t for me (kept falling asleep). Still, worth a read tho.

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Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Gary Vaynerchuk

I’m not the biggest fan of Gary (he’s loud, obnoxious, talks too much, etc.), but he’s not an idiot and he does bring up some good points. It’s worth a read, but like all things social/digital this is already out of date.

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Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising

Ryan Holiday

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts

Ryan Holiday

A very smart guy and someone I’d want to meet in real life. Growth Hacker is a little outdated, but the thinking is sound. Perennial Seller was a book I really enjoyed and gets you thinking a lot about the meaning of success. Ryan is more famous for bringing Stoicism back to the modern day, and his books there are great as well. I only worry that he’s churning out books faster than he’s bringing value (he has a new book coming out soon on the Gawker scandal).

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The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Peter F. Drucker, Jim Collins

This book gets recommended a lot and I finally got around to reading it. Not for me though — good ideas and thinking, but a little too dry for my taste.

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The Value Driven Business: The Simple Strategy To Create A Business You Love

Benjamin Teal

I’d like to think that if I wrote a book it would be this one just more entertaining.

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Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business

Remit Sethi

Super smart guy, just sometimes feels like a scam. Thinks really differently (which I like) and helps frames things in understandable bites. Worth following him (if he isn’t already on your radar, which he probably already is because he’s in a lot of interviews).

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Winning with Data: Transform Your Culture, Empower Your People, and Shape the Future

Tomas Tunguz, Frank Bien

Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends

Martin Lindstrom

Grouping these together because they’re both about data, and let’s be honest, data can be incredibly dry (although super useful). While these books are great, I often think that they would benefit with a co-collaborator that is able to tell stories in meaningful ways. Facts are great, but stories make them stick.

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SELF-IMPROVEMENT

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World

Tim Ferriss

I will read anything that Tim writes. His first book changed my life. The podcast is much better though (and a lot of information I already know). His books tend to be collections of thoughts and by no means always makes sense to be read all in one go (or chronologically) so bear that in mind before picking any of his books up.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Marie Kondo

Interesting, but I will find tidying up (and particularly throwing things away) very stressful. Will gladly pay someone to do this for me.

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How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination

Sally Hogshead

Disappointed in this book. I like Sally’s style, and her first book really grabbed me (copywriters make great authors) — she seems to have lost her magic a bit here.

Nobody Wants to Read You Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It

Steven Pressfield, Shawn Cony

As per above, copywriters know how to tell stories. This book was very enjoyable, and really puts things in perspective. Worth reading, but probably best for people who are still trying to figure out life a little.

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THE WORLD AROUND US

When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants

Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Did not enjoy Freakonmics when I first read it, however, the Freakonomics podcast is a pure delight. Economics never seemed more fun (and if I’m being honest, would have loved to study it if I could do university all over again).

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American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

Nick Bilton

Fascinating stuff. Can’t wait to read about Bitcoin a few years down the line in a similar fashion. Nick managed to make this story a real page-turner, and I’m sure the movie is inevitable.

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How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson

Great info, but wish it had a co-writer that could bring the amazing research to life. The format is also a little off, perhaps video would have been a better idea.

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“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character

Richard P. Feynman, Ralph Leighton, Edward Hutchings, Albert R. Hibbs

For some reason, the takeaway I got from this was to do things that interest you and never for money. It doesn’t get mentioned at all in the book, but when you do things well and near the top of the game you don’t really need to worry about making ends meet. There’s joy in the world, find it and make the most of it.

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FICTION

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel

Neil Gaiman

Tripping stuff. Had to do a lot of reading to make sure what I was reading was actually written and not a figment of my poor understanding. This is the first book I’ve read of Neil, which is surprising because I watch his commencement speech every year because it helps me in profound ways I can’t explain.

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Crazy Rich Asian

Kevin Kwan

Read this because I thought it would be funny. Kept reading half way through even though it was immensely silly. At least now I know that it’s going to be a movie and I have had conversations with people about this. Fun I guess, but for a very specific audience, one that I am not a part of.

SUMMARY

If there’s one thing I wish I had done more of it’s that I wish I read more fiction. There’s probably as much (if not more) you can learn from stories than from pure facts (and they’re usually written in a way that is much more entertaining).

I also spend too much time reading things I already knew (marketing, startups) — sure there was the idea of learning more but in reality, the things that work simply work only in the ‘now’ and aren’t properly captured in books. Better to spend time reading blogs/forums instead.

So for 2018, I want to: 1) read fiction (the hardest part is discovery); 2) learn things (not confirm things I already know) and 3) read 35+ books.