Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! With 2017 behind us it’s a time to reflect and also to plan. As many of you know, I read a lot. For those who have known me for a long time, that seems counterintuitive (in 4 years of high school the only book I read was Pieces To Weight, 50 Cent’s autobiography…). But now that I’m literate, and per the request of several of you, I wanted to pass along what I read this year. Each book has a short description.
I’ve grouped them into the following categories to make things easier: Performance Enhancement, Career, Self-Understanding, Life Skills, and Just For Fun. Almost all of these can fall into more than 1 category but I tried to create a best fit. I’ve ordered each category from best to worst in my humble opinion.
Don’t want to read all of this and just want my top picks? Skip to the bottom.
If this was helpful, I’m happy to send a list from 2016 upon request.
Body By Science – many of you have heard me pontificate on the success of my ’10 min workout, once per week.’ In February I applied the science of this book and I lost fat while putting on 5lbs of muscle in 5 weeks working out less than 10 min, only once per week. This along with The Four Hour Body were the genesis of my shift away from my daily gym sessions. From February to March I tested the science and protocols laid out in this book, tracking my progress using the inBody 230 and eventually confirming the accuracy with the Body-Spec Scan. Using this protocol I’ve been able to maintain 10% body fat for the entire year with very little maintenance. I’ve also gained 6-9 hours of free time each week now that I’m not a gym rat. For those of you who ‘can’t find time for the gym’ or are looking to get in shape in 2018, this is an interesting read that will completely change how you think about fitness. PS – most of the human studies referenced in this book are on 40+ year old’s, so don’t think this is only for the youthful.
Choke – To be a professional, you have to be among the best. Each of the 125 members on the PGA tour can all sink 8 foot putts and hit fairways during practice. But why do we see some players like Sergio and Phil Mickelson constantly finishing second or blowing leads when the big championship is on the line? While others, like (young) Tiger, can close the door when the stakes couldn’t be higher? Choke looks at the mental aspects behind choking in sports and business. Written by a psychologist at the University of Chicago, the book breaks down how our brains operate and what happens when stress causes us to use the wrong part of it when we need it most. At the end you get the actionable steps for avoiding choking (which is the whole point for reading). Much better than Clutch which looks at many of the same concepts.
Tools of Titans – you all know how I feel about Tim Ferriss <3. He does not disappoint here. On his award winning podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, he interviews world class performers from all walks of life. There’s a lot of commonalities with how these goliaths operate and Tim’s compiled all the best advice, tactics and routines that they utilize into 1 book. This is an encyclopedia so don’t feel obligated to read it cover to cover. But I did…
Head Strong – written by Dave Asprey, founder of BulletProof Coffee, this is a book on mitochondrial function and how it affects your brain capacity, mood and energy levels. It’s fascinating how important mitochondrial function is to every bodily system (it’s a first principle). It was a NYT best seller and there’s plenty of good info in here but the writing is sloppy and redundant at times. I’d read the spark notes.
Strength Finder 2.0 – Very similar to Myers Briggs, OCEAN, or PH360. Just another way to understand your natural skill sets. Quick read and the test is very insightful. Great coaches advise focusing on your strengths and outsourcing your weaknesses.
Pomodoro Technique – our brains have trouble staying focused for long periods of time. This book breaks the mechanics behind focus and how to amplify your results through structure and specific time management techniques. It’s a short book but could have been written in 2-6 pages. Skip the book and read Wikipedia if you’re interested.
The Dip – Seth Godin is a marketing genius! The point of this book is to know when to quit. The goal when beginning any endeavor should be to be the best in the world, or quit. Think of Rudy. He was probably a 2 out of 10 for natural football ability (relative to the team). But he was a 10 for effort. Well, that averages to a 6 overall. So even someone who was a 7 for effort but was naturally a 9 for football ability would on average be much better than Rudy. Rudy spent 4 years giving everything he had to his quest which culminated with him getting in the game for 1 play. That’s touching, but not a good use of energy and resources. What you want is to be an 8, 9 or 10 naturally and then apply an effort level of 10. This book does a great job of explaining what it takes to be great and how the best in their fields are exceptional quitters. It’s also VERY short. This concept should be in everyone’s mind when contemplating a new challenge.
Rework – written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH is the guy who largely designed the internet as we know it and is also a champion Formula 1 driver) it’s written as a guide for building a business but I found it more of a guide to building yourself. It reshaped my thinking on so many things and I’ll likely reread it in 2018. It questions almost every principle that we abide by in a traditional corporate setting. If you’re in management this is a much read! It’s a VERY easy read and filled with gems.
Start With Why – check out the Ted Talk from Simon. Understanding how our brains subconsciously make decisions and then rationalize them with the conscious mind is amazing. We reverse engineer our own thinking. Understanding this gives insight into our own minds, confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Understanding this is critical for leaders, marketers, and anyone who wants to know why they do what they do or connect with their team, audience, or really anyone.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – a quick read and a staple for anyone in sales, marketing or copy writing. These are the fundamentals that all the greats know by heart. Whether marketing your brand or selling yourself, these apply.
The 4 Hour Work Week – I read this every year from cover to cover. We can often get bogged down in the routines of traditional work environments and how the ‘world’ operates. This book is my reset to remind me to question assumptions, test the efficacy of my procedures, and to focus on effectiveness and not efficiency – just because I do something well, doesn’t make it important.
The 48 Laws of Power – this is a classic for those looking to have success. Its a modern day version of Machiavelli’s, The Prince mixed with The Art of War. Each law includes a couple anecdotes from history that support it (the subject either successfully implemented the principle or failed to do so leading to their demise…). The historic anecdotes are great and lend perspective to the chaos we’re seeing in Washington these days. As Ray Dalio would say, what we’re seeing is just ‘another one of those.’
Creativity Inc. – it’s the story of Pixar written by the founder. This is a case study in creating a creative organization that looks to deliver greatness at every opportunity. In this book you also get to see a side of Steve Jobs that is rarely depicted elsewhere. This ones more for executives trying to create a culture but a great read nonetheless.
Unshakeable – Tony Robbins latest book on finances. This was a nice size book compared to his goliath, 7 Steps to Financial Freedom. I didn’t see much new info here but he does draw on the advice of the finest financial minds of our time. If you’re interest in taking control of your financial health, skip this one and read 7 Steps. Its 3x the work but the content is 10x better.
The Righteous Mind – this is the best analysis of the human condition I’ve seen. Written by Jonathan Haidt, psychologist and professor at the Stern School of Business, it explains how we actually make decisions, why we align with certain political parties, and why we often talk past one another during a debate (unable to internalize the other side’s argument at all). We believe we are rational creatures but we are so much more primitive that we know. This book describes how we operate on emotion and impulse and then reverse engineer our the ‘why’ for our action with rational thought. This is the premier text from which Start With Why, The Social Animal and The Culting of Brands pull from (whether they knew it or not). My number 1 read from 2017.
The Social Animal – David Brooks’ masterpiece. His style doesn’t change from NY Times Op/Ed writer to author – complex ideas that combine research findings from countless different fields, laid out simplistically for anyone to digest. In the Social Animal he creates a story of two individuals. You follow them from childhood to death and as they make decisions and interact with each other, David explains what drives their decision making using behavioral science, neurology, public policy and economics. One of the most enjoyable and thought provoking books I’ve ever read.
Scarcity – this book looks at mental bandwidth and how scarcity of resources taxes that bandwidth and ultimately impacts our behavior. Think of the person who’s always late or behind on projects. Their scarcity is time and whenever you have scarce resources it can lead to poor decisions ultimately creating a compounding effect to make matters worse and worse. There are ways to correct this and create an abundance model. Very interesting to see this play out in real life and ripple through the economy. Its written by economists so it can be a bit long at parts but this is applicable to everyone.
The Culting Of Brand – this looks at hugely successful brands like Apple, BMW and Saturn and compares the successful practices to successful religions and cults like Mormonism, Christianity and Hare Krishna. It’s amazing the number of overlapping characteristics between both groups that lead to success or failure over the long run. There’s a lot of overlap between this, Start With Why, The Righteous Mind and the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. As humans our software seems to be wired a specific way that we can be manipulated with the proper stimulus.
Tribe – This is a reread from 2016. Sebastian Junger is a master story teller. This is among his NYT Best Sellers with The Perfect Storm and 2 others. I’m always amazed at how many great and powerful stories as well as thought provoking statistics he can pack into such a short book! (it’s an afternoon read) We are clearly communal animals that require a sense of purpose. I was amazed at our ability as a species to endure suffering. It’s as if we’re designed for it (during periods of war or extended turmoil, depression rates and suicides actually decrease). A great read. I didn’t include it in the bottom because it was in 2016’s.
Ego Is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday is a marketing prodigy and a modern day stoic. He also writes killer books that become cult classics among NFL coaches and hedge fund managers. The Obstacle is the Way circulated the NFL after Pete Carroll made the entire Seahawks organization read it prior to his first Super Bowl season with the team. Ego is the Enemy has also made the rounds. It’s a modern day, digestible take on the teachings of Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and others Stoics. Very solid read. I enjoyed Obstacle is the Way more though.
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius (the guy from Gladiator), was the ruler of Rome and commander of the army when Rome was at its peak (he’s considered the last of the 5 great emperors). This guy had more power than God, and yet each day he was incredibly critical of himself to suppress his ego, be compassionate, forgiving and to constantly improve. He’s considered one of the great stoics. This book is his personal journal. It’s packed with actionable advice for living daily life. This book might be more relevant now than it was 2000 years ago.
Getting Past No, The Power of Negotiation – this is exactly like the title suggests. Negotiation is a life skill, like reading and this book’s considered a classic. Remember, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate. (quote from Tim Ferriss, not in the book 😃 )
It’s Not About Me – We’re social animals. Being able to communicate effectively is key. This short book, written by a former FBI interrogator, outlines the steps for meaningful conversation with anyone. Very actionable.
Just for fun:
Shoe Dog – Phil Knights memoir about starting Nike is one of the best I’ve ever read. Up there with Open for best ever. It’s a roller coaster ride that constantly makes you ask, what the hell was this kid thinking? Phil was an innocent goof ball from Portland, Oregon who dreamed big, lied a lot, scrambled well, and innovated his way to redefining the sneaker world. (He also built the fitness world as we know it).
Born Standing Up – Steve Martin’s autobiography. I had no idea that Steve reached such heights of fame. It’s amazing to read about individuals who are true professionals about honing their craft for decades. Steve’s story is incredible. He began performing as a young kid and devoted all his energy to it for years and years with only small glimmers of success. His tireless effort would not pay off for decades but when it did, he exploded like a 1000 year volcano. Steve’s rise from an incredibly difficult childhood to household name is a great tale.
Every Breath I Take – This was for charity. The author is surviving with Cystic Fibrosis and describes her time spent in a coma. No need to read but check out her Ted Talk.
- The Righteous Mind
- The Social Animal
- The Dip
- Body By Science
- Shoe Dog
Can’t read? Looking for other mediums to consume information? All these books are on Audible. Or check out these podcasts:
- The Tim Ferriss Show – he interviews the best of the best in every field imaginable. If you don’t want to read Tribe of Mentors, listen to the long version, original audio. The best Podcast I listen to.
- Econ Talk with Russ Roberts – as Nick Pellow says, you can get a full undergraduate education in economics from Russ. He interviews the best in his field on public policy and economics. He’s amazing at taking complex topics and making them very approachable. It’s like listening to a story.
- Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman is the founder of LinkedIn. He breaks down long form interviews with the best in tech and startups and dilutes their lessons into 30 min clips. Think Zuckerberg, Sandberg, Theil, founders of AirBNB, and many others! A must for any CEO or manager.
- Waking Up With Sam Harris – Harris is a neuroscientist by trade but now operates as a modern day philosopher. He’s also a best-selling author several times over. He talks with guests like Eric Weinstein and Charles Murray about politics, public policy and human consciousness.
- The Joe Rogan Experience – Joe can talk intelligently about more concepts than anyone I’ve seen! Politics, bow hunting, keto, paleo, psychedelics, philosophy, writing, biology, ect. He’s like a funny Charlie Rose. He hosts a lot of comedians and MMA fighters but plenty of intellectually stimulating guests as well (Brett Weinstein, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Sam Harris, Sebastian Junger, Neil Straus)
- Found My Fitness – Dr. Rhonda Patrick speaks with leading scientists on topics like epigenetics, health span, and physical performance. This is VERY technical and can get in the weeds but its like getting a biology degree that you can actually use in your daily life.