I have always been interested in improving my knowledge in a wide variety of subjects and reading books is a great way to accomplish this task. In 2016 I set myself a goal to read two books a month, the same goal that Mark Zuckerberg set himself in 2015. The difference is he set up a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ayearofbooks/) to document his journey whilst I will be using many different forms of social media to do this, as well as Facebook I will also post my books to Twitter, LinkedIn and Yammer (if business focussed) and also on my blog.
I’m pleased to say that I managed to read 24 books within the year. This was only possible because I have an Audible subscription and I listen to at least one book a month whilst cycling to work. I also listen on double speed, which when you first hear it sounds strange but if you slowly build up the speed it becomes pretty easy to listen to. If you are looking at ways to increase the number of books you read in a year then I would definitely recommend this approach. Find some time in your day where you do something simple, e.g. ironing, walking, etc., and get yourself an Audible account to listen to from your phone. See how easy it is to listen at slightly faster speeds until you reach the maximum of 3 times – I’m only on 2 at the moment but find I’m able to concentrate whilst cycling at this speed.
So, anyway, here is my list of books I’ve read last year, in the order that I read them. I hope you enjoy them and if you have any suggestions for other books you think I should read then add them to the comments section as I’m going to be continuing my reading this year too.
1. Memories of Ice
by Steven Erikson
This is the third installment from the Malazan: Book of the Fallen series and was immensely pleasurable to read. The genre is high-fantasy, which is something I hadn’t realised I would like so much until I started reading it, and is based in a world where mortals can ascend to become Gods and Gods and can be dragged kicking and screaming into the mortal realm. There are games being played on so many levels, by mortals, ascendants and Gods and they all intertwined in wonderful and magical ways, it reminds me of Greek mythology, which I love. A very good series to start if you like anything similar to Game of Thrones or The Lord of The Rings.
2. 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot
by Richard Wiseman
This book is all about how changing the way you think about something or changing the way you present yourself can have a major impact on your happiness as well as: how successful you are at dating and dieting; how persuasive you are to other people; and how motivated you are with your tasks. The author has researched lots of studies that have been conducted in all of these topics and delivers them with some subtle humour that keeps you entertained. At the end of each chapter there is a section called ’59 Seconds or Less’ that gives the reader a task to do to help them improve quickly based on the studies they have just read, it’s also a great way to review the chapter in a concise manner at a later date. I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to understand how to improve their day to day mood and those of people around them.
3. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Reveiled
by Ray Kurzweil
The first part of this book is a fascinating insight into how memory works in the brain. It’s very easy to liken the way the brain stores information to the way that a computer stores information on its harddrive but Ray explains that we don’t hold items of information but instead patterns of information and to retrieve that information we follow a hierarchical system of patterns to rebuild the memory based on these patterns. The second part to this book starts getting very deep and discusses consciousness and whether a computer could ever be conscious. A very enlightening read for anyone interested in artificial intelligence.
4. The Docker Book: Containerisation is the new Virtualisation
by James Turnbull
This book gives a very good introduction to containerisation and the reasons it should be used. It also goes into a good amount of depth with examples so that you can understand how it works practically as well as in theory. The only shortcoming I found with this book is how dry it could be. The introduction to Docker was fascinating and gave me lots of information on its creation and use but the examples ended feeling a bit monotonous by the end. Still, I recommend this to anyone wishing to get to grips with the technology quickly.
5. Ramen Noodle Cookbook
by Nell Benton
This book starts off with information about each of the constituent parts that make up a ramen and the Japanese love affair with the famous dish. The second part of the book is all about recipes, and they range from the simple chicken stock down to building a full tonkotsu ramen including chashu pork. I found the first part of particular interest because it explains the history of the dish and gives insight into the regional varieties that have changed over the years. The second part was great for learning that you really can put anything into a ramen, e.g. they have a Pad Thai Curry Ramen, but for the advanced cook you’ll find yourself skipping a lot of parts that are just too simple, but that just makes it a great read for the novice.
6. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
by Susan Jeffers
I was recommended this book by a colleague of mine whilst I was working on a talent and development programme. I’d mentioned that I wasn’t that comfortable standing in front of people and presenting to them, and the culmination of the programme was a presentation to the board of directors! This book was a great way to understand why we are fearful and also how to overcome fear. The first quarter of the book really gives you all you need to know about the topic but the rest of the book drives home the point with lots of case studies, some of which I found useful but mostly they weren’t relevant to me and only laboured the points I already knew. Still, it was a great book to read and has given me the confidence to be more proactive and put myself in more situations to overcome my fears.
by Tony Judt
Wow! This was a very long book. I have to admit it was not really my cup of tea as it was unbelievably dry. If you like history and can deal with the dryness then you’ll probably love this book. It is a very thorough account of the events that have happened since the Second World War ended and in parts I found the depth and breadth of this book to be outstanding. However, it’s made me realise I don’t ever want to read a history book again! I prefer dreaming of the future and not dwelling on the past.
8. Pitch Anything
by Oren Klaff
I started reading this book because I was going to pitch to the board of directors of my company as part of a talent and development programme that I was part of. Initially I thought the book wasn’t great as it was suggesting some things that sounded like a surefire way to get fired very quickly. However, after reading more I realised that the content in this book would really help with a pitch, in fact I even used some of the techniques in my presentation and they worked well. I highly recommend this book if you want to know a few tricks of how the brain works and what you can do to get your idea through when presenting.
9. The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling
This was a brief respite from the hectic first six months of the year. Even so it was a fantastic story that I haven’t read since I was a child and I’d forgotten most of the story. It was a relaxing dive into another world, a world full of animals, adventure and education. A good light read.
10. How to be F****** Awesome
by Dan Meredith
This book caught my eye because of the brilliant title. What more could someone want than to be fucking awesome. Everyone has a different interpretation of what awesome is but I’m sure no one wants to be mediocre, they want to be awesome in their own right. So, I gave this book a shot and was happily surprised by how enlightening and damn right hilarious this book was. It took a lot of the principles that I’ve read from other books and turned them slightly on their head and looked at them from another perspective. A highly enjoyable book with some great tips.
11. Night School
by Richard Wiseman
Another great book by Richard Wiseman, he’s fast becoming a favourite of mine! This book was a fascinating insight into the way the brain works during the wee hours of the night. It explains all the really interesting and down right bonkers experiments people have attempted to crack what dreams are made of and how to get the most out of your sleep. I’ve always been someone who likes to get as much out of the day as possible and sometimes this has been to the detriment of my sleep but this book has shown me that that kind of lifestyle can only last so long – sleep will catch up and is required. Now I have a better understanding of what I need to do to maximise my sleep and be fully alert throughout the daytime.
12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
by Stephen R. Covey
This book is full of really great ways to improve yourself. Whether you want to do this for your family life, for your work life or whether you just want to understand the pschology of people, you will find a lot of answers to your questions in this book and should easily have some take aways from it. It reiterated some of the principles I’ve read in other self-help books but also explained some new ones. The first three habits are great and really worth getting stuck into, however I found some of the latter habits to be a little trickier to process. I am going to spend some time mastering the first three habits and then re-read the book to see if I can push to the next level. Great book and worth a read if you want to improve your life in anyway.
13. Emotional Intelligence
by Daniel Goleman
I really enjoyed reading this book as I have a 2 year old daughter and a lot of the case studies from this book were on young children and how easily they can be affected by emotional situations around them and what can be done to help them set themselves up for a happy and healthy life. I’ve read before about the different areas of the brain and how they function and how there is a “croc brain”, an “emotional brain” and a “logical brain” and how when receiving information from someone the information is fed through each through acception but each one can reject the information before reaching the next. However, this book described how children’s brains start off with just the “croc brain” and as they grow they develop the next two “brains” meaning for the first few years they don’t have the logical part of their brain that we sometimes expect them to have. So during this time it’s better to be emotionally involved with them and just nurture them – this opened my eyes to how I could better deal with potty training.
14. Grit: Passion, Perseverance and the Science of Success
by Angela Duckworth
This book was pretty decent and explained why sticking to a passion is so important to becoming successful but it did seem to go on a bit long. To be honest the title explains everything you need to know – find a passion and persevere with it until you are successful.
Book 15: Mindfulness: A Practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World
by Mark Williams & Danny Penman
I’ve been meditating for a while now, on and off, but it’s been based on a few reads here and there on blog posts. So I figured it was about time to get serious and this book seemed well reviewed. I thought it was a good read but it didn’t give me anything major to think about apart from the weekly structure of meditation. The best part for me was the end where Mark talks about 8 different meditation techniques, it was spoken in a similar vain to the Headspace app and this was nice to hear. A good book for anyone who hasn’t looked into mindfulness before but if you are already a little used to it (and already open to it) then it may not be that good, except for the exercises.
Book 16: You Said What?! The Biggest Communication Mistakes Professionals Make
by Kim Zoller and Kerry Preston
Not that impressed with this book. When a book tells me that I have to be careful of what I post on social media then I soon realise this book is not going to be of that much use to me. The majority of the book was in list format, e.g. do this and don’t do that, with the odd ‘side note’ that included a snippet of a real life example of what you should say and do. However, these just felt tacked on and didn’t make me feel a eureka moment, it was all common sense. So, I wouldn’t recommend reading this book.
Book 17: Black Box Thinking
by Matthew Syed
This has to be up there with one of the best books I’ve read his year. it’s all about how failure should be embraced and how successful people, companies and industries rely on failure to improve themselves. It explains why scientists have been failing fast but continuously improving since the dawn of science and how creating an MVP and iterating is better than perfection from the beginning. It gives good examples of how companies failed and made a success from it, such as Dyson and how they iterated over the vacuum 5000 times before it was the product we know and love. It also gives some great examples of how to make failure work for you so this book is a must read from this list.
Book 18: Full Catastrophe Living
by Jon Kabat-Zinn
I enjoyed reading this book because it explained mindfulness in more detail than my previous book on mindfulness. The last book was more about how to deal with stressful situations whereas this book explained how mindfulness is great in any circumstance. My only criticism is it doesn’t have any practical examples but they are easy enough of find elsewhere. This book combined with the Mindfulness book have lots of great information though.
Book 19: The Obstacle Is The Way
by Ryan Holiday
The idea that hitting an obstacle and not giving up is a great one. Learning to persevere during the hard times is a great skill to have and this book champions this trait. I thought the book was a good read but I don’t feel it had that much depth. The title summed up the book and the stories within didn’t call out to me. I suppose it’s very similar to the Grit book, which I also didn’t rate very well. It is a good read but didn’t give me much knowledge that I didn’t already have.
Book 20: House of Chains
by Steven Erikson
What a fantastic book this was. It’s nice to have a good long fictional book to get into. I like to keep one ticking over in the background whilst reading non-fiction and self-help books and for this 2 books a month challenge it is necessary as this book has taken me almost a year to read! I was blown away by the majority of this book, there were parts that got a bit complex with the storylines not melding well together but it was a thrilling ride none the less.
Book 21: Vaporised: solid Strategies for success in a Dematerialized World
by Robert Tzercech
This book is a great book for anyone who wants to understand the history behind the digital revolution and what it has done, and has the potential still to do, to well established businesses across the globe. it was a fascinating read that explained how traditional businesses such as record stores, taxi firms, the hotel industry and even banks are being vaporised into digital bits. I’m a keen reader of technology news so already had a pretty good understanding of this but as the book wore on a started to realise just how much scope there really is for improvement and disruption. The next 10 years are going to be very spectacular indeed.
Book 22: Pregnancy For Men: The whole Nine Months
by Mark Woods
I’ve read this book once before, back in 2013 when my wife was pregnant with my first child. I decided that I’d give it another go now that she is pregnant again, yay! It wasn’t the same the second time round though. Still very amusing but I suppose the unknown of the first made this book what it was. Now I know what it’s like the second read is not that useful, but still funny. A definite read for new dad’s to be but no need to read twice.
Book 23: Negotiating the Impossible
by Deepak Malhotra
I don’t like things to be static, I much prefer to change something and see if it is better or worse. This kind of attitude can sometimes get me into some difficult arguments though. Sometimes this change can be perceived as too drastic and disruptive for limited gain but that is where negotiation comes in. So, I decided to read this book and found that it had some really great insights into how to better frame your idea so that others are less negative towards your requests. It tells you about how to see it from the others point of view and try to solve their issues so that you can then present yours. It has some great case studies and is well worth a read for anyone who deals with conflict in their daily life.
Book 24: The Coaching Habit
by Michael Bungay Stanier
This book was pretty good. It explains how to be a better coach to people around you by giving examples of what you should and shouldn’t do. I thought it was going to be more around how to coach other people but it seems to be more about how you can be a better coach, i.e. how you can change your own habits so that you react to situations in a better way. In some parts it was very pertinent to me but in others it was preaching about habits that are generally common sense. It was a good book for me to read this year as next year I will be managing people for the first time but I think this only really covers a few topics around being a successful coach and there is so much more to learn.
So, that’s all folks. I’ve been on a wonderful journey this year and read some fantastic books. Next year I won’t stop, in fact, I’m hoping I can get more than 24 in next year as this year was probably one of the busiest years of my life. However, I do have another child on the way so maybe I’m being a little ambitious. Till next time.