Five Books I Enjoyed in 2017

Happy New Year! 🎉 One thing I love about the end of the year is going through all the lists I have made during the year and counting up my stats and reflecting on things. I read (to completion) 37 books (and abandoned a further 4) in 2017. Not quite as many as 2016 when I finished 48 books but I had some difficult circumstances with family illness in 2017.

Here’s five of my favourite books I read in 2017 (with Good Reads links):

9781471138867_hrThe Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer. This was the first TED book I read and having read quite a few more since it was probably my favourite.  I read this at a part of the year where I was over-committing to too many things (travel, conferences, events) and it was a apt reminder to slow down and appreciate things. This book led me to my mindfulness meditation practice which I took up in the later part of the year (and have continued to do since then).

how-to-fail-at-almost-everything-and-still-win-big-coverHow to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams. I’m not a huge fan of Dilbert, but I’m a big Scott Adams fan after reading this book. The ideas I really like are the importance of systems over goals (a good blog post about that here), and that passion follows success (passion doesn’t lead to success: you can be passionate about something and really suck at it). Also the importance of diversification. An enjoyable well written read.

29430779._SR1200,630_Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely. The second TED book I read this year (I love the format!) and the best book about motivation I’ve read so far. I’ve tried to read Drive by Dan Pink a few times but haven’t been motivated to finish it. The thing I learnt from this book is that we lose meaning and motivation in life by outsourcing the hard work/small things (like cleaning, gardening, maintenance) – we accomplish more but get less.

subtle-art-coverThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. This book is a bit weird. It’s hard to read, because it jumps all over the place, but there’s so much good content it’s still worth reading. I also wish the book had a really clear list of things I could take away from the book and do, rather than understanding the general message which is a bit bleak. Still a good book and enjoyable read after all that.

27985224Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. One of the last books I read this year it is particularly relevant to me working for a 100% distributed company in an asynchronous communication environment it’s easy to get distracted by constant chatter and noise and not focus enough on deep work. The thing about this book is that if you can master deep work in our current world it’s another skill that you can use to be very successful as it’s a huge competitive advantage.

*** BONUS ***

9781760630775Not work related but I read a lot of fiction particularly thrillers. Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch book Two Kinds of Truth was just fantastic: hard to describe how good it was.

 

 

 

AMA: another book?

Stan asks…

Are you going to write another book? (please say yes :)

My response…

My first book was always an experiment: write a series of publicly accessible blog posts contradicting oneself on a series of topics, gather feedback on these and package these nicely into ePub/PDF format that people can buy for any amount they like (including free!). As I stated in my other post, I don’t think the book was a commercial success, but it was by no means a typical book, for instance, its length is rather shorth!

“It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.

And that’s why your books
have such power and strength.
You publish with shorth!
(Shorth is better than length.)”

I recently read an article ‘Moneyball for Book Publishers: a Detailed Look at How We Read‘ and I must admit I was a bit alarmed about the future of books, especially non-fiction books:

On average, fewer than half of the books tested were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5 percent of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75 percent of readers. Sixty percent of books fell into a range where 25 percent to 50 percent of test readers finished them. Business books have surprisingly low completion rates.

It’s really quite depressing: this isn’t the sort of material that a person thinking about writing a book should read.

But it makes me think: maybe more people need to follow Dr Seuss’s advice: focus on shorth!

I can’t say I am thinking at all about writing another book at present, but if I do it will be unlike anything I’ve already written. Maybe some Dr Seuss style poems/illustrations about testing? Who knows…