Just as I believe that travel is critical to being an empathetic, intelligent, and thoughtful person, reading is a big piece of my effort to be a better human. To that end, I mostly read non-fiction but occasionally mix in a good novel.
My level of reading in 2017, like most years, was less than I aspire to. Nonetheless, I read some great books! This year, it appears that every book was in Kindle format, no physical books. Despite being a Kindle enthusiast since the early days of e-reading, 2017 was probably the first year that I didn't read a single book in print format. According to Amazon, I read a measly 9 books. That's one book ever 5 weeks and 4 days...pretty pathetic. Although, looking back at my 2016 in books blog post, I increased my reading by 80% over the past year, so I'm proud of that. Like last year, only one of the books I read was fiction.
In no particular order, here are the books I read in 2017 (titles link to Amazon.com):
In 2017, I changed jobs....twice! I only planned on doing it once, but life brings unexpected opportunities your way! Anyway, I hadn't interviewed in a while and wanted to brush up on my skills. Additionally, I was interviewing with Google in January and this book came highly recommended by both Google recruiters and other people that had interviewed there. Like many publications on career advice, this book was filled with good stuff that is mostly common sense. A nice reminder of what to do, but nothing earth shattering.
My job change, move out of Oregon, and moving in with my girlfriend brought a lot of stress to me all at once. To help deal, I read Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. The book offers tactics for grounding yourself by clearing the mind and going into a state of connection between body and soul. It includes links to digital audio files that walk you through guided meditation, which was probably my favorite part of the experience. The author of this book literally 'wrote the book on' Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, which is now a well accepted treatment for phobias and anxiety.
This is a book for managers and leaders that want to get off on the right foot at a new job. It offers strategies for evaluating the work situation you are entering, planning for success, winning buy-in from your manager, and executing on the plan. It has a lot of great insight for anyone that isn't a manager, but is or wants to be a leader, as well as specific advice for managers of people. The book even covers situations like inter-company transfers, being promoted above your peers, and other situations that could lead to failure if not planned for. Great stuff, but again, mostly common sense and a good reminder.
I heard about this book while listening to a podcast and I bought it immediately. The author is a former academic turned Google data scientists turned independent author/researcher. The book is anchored on his work using Google search data to uncover the hidden (and not so hidden) racism surrounding Barack Obama's 2008 (and then 2012) election as President. From there, it uses search history to unlock a variety of topics, even using pornography web site searches to make that case that there are way more gay men in the US than are out of the closet. If I had to pick a favorite book of the year, this would be a strong contender. I learned so much about human psyche and basically don't trust people as much now (only partially kidding). I also learned a lot of tips and tricks for data analysis. This book was an enjoyable, easy read that taught me a lot.
My brother-in-law, who shares a passion for lifelong learning, recommended this book to me. Its a book about negotiation, written by a former FBI negotiator. I picked it up because I wanted to be more successful in my daily negotiations, recognizing that every single day in my personal and professional life, I am dealing with some form of negotiation. Not every negotiation is life or death, like what the author faced as a FBI hostage negotiator, but the tactics he used can be used in daily life. Its not just about winning, either. This book helps you what you need, which is sometimes simply clarity or agreement.
This book by Hillary Clinton was a tough choice for me. On one hand, the election was over and my candidate lost...why rehash old things? On the other hand, this election may prove to be the most important, critical, and unusual election of my lifetime, shouldn't I learn more? I picked it up, am glad I did, but would struggle to recommend it as a read for others. In this book, Clinton describes just what the title says, what happened, from her point of view. I learned a lot of things about her as a person, which I enjoyed, but also read through a bunch of "but Bernie!" and "but Trump!" commentary over, and over, and over again. What I did walk away with was an evidence based belief that Hillary was undoubtably treated differently by the press and other candidates because she is a woman. I now blame the press more than I blame her, Trump, or Trump supporters. She was treated differently, and it is despicable. Glad I read this book, but not eager to read another like it for a long time.
This is a business book that is the 4th in a 4 part series that includes Crossing the Chasm and Escape Velocity. Oddly enough, I haven't read any of the first 3 in the series. I picked up this book because the leadership at my new employer, PagerDuty, is using the concepts as a guiding framework. Essentially, the book lays out 4 zones for each product investment at a company. The first 2 are for existing products, the second two are for new/future products. Good read, all made good sense. That said, probably should have read the first 3 in the series ahead of this one.
The only fiction book in my reading list in 2017, Dan Brown comes back with another Robert Langdon thriller. I first fell in love with his style after reading The Da Vinci Code. I've read every Dan Brown book since, as well as going back and reading Angels & Demons, which was published before his The Da Vinci Code popularity. Origin is the same style and main character as every other book, its no longer a unique or interesting style, but I still love his books! My guilty pleasure, I guess. This book takes place in Spain, one of my favorite places on earth, so the familiar sights and locals added some extra interest for me.
This book had been on my reading list for years, and with a new job in September where I'd be building a new product from concept to delivery, I figured the time was now. In the book, author, entrepreneur, and investor Ben Horowitz tells the stories of his startup life. He tells tails of near failure, some incredibly tough decisions that turned out to be critical turning points, and the hard thing about doing something new and difficult: there is no playbook. I really enjoyed the real life stories and was engaged from cover to cover. If you are an entrepreneur, or an intrapreneur, pick up this book and study how Horowitz behaved. He didn't know at the time that he was doing the right thing, but his approach was the difference between success and failure.
Those are my nine of 2017! On deck for 2018 includes When Breath Becomes Air, the memoir of a neurosurgeon exploring the meaning of life, recommended by Bill Gates; Zero to One, a book on startups and innovation by controversial entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel; and Hillbilly Elegy, the memoir of growing up in "hillbilly country" and insight into what drives some people to vote against their own interests. I want to read at least a dozen books, so I need 9 more...what would you recommend? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!