My favorite books in 2016

I hit my goal of reading one book every week in  2016. I’m writing a post about the good and bad things about doing that. I wrote about my progress 6 months in and 9 months in.

Here are ten of my favorite books this year. Here’s the rough criteria:

  • Which books do I want to re-read?
  • Which books did I follow through on with my actions?
  • Which books did I enjoy reading the most at the time?

Finally, you know what they say: don’t judge a book by a blogger’s poor drawing of the author.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport

I started the year reading this book. It got me thinking about the importance of blocking time. It also set me off into being a lot more conscious about how I use social media, how I deal with boredom, and thinking about focus as something to practice.

All of that led to action this year. I took breaks from social media and social news. I started meditating and will continue practicing that next year.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
by Michael Lewis — (My notes)

I picked up Flash Boys because I listened to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast and he said he admires Michael Lewis as a storyteller. Looking at my full list, the books I enjoyed most were the ones that weren’t business/self-development related.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth — (my notes)

I listened to Grit 3 or 4 times and it’s reminded me how beneficial the practicing difficult things is.

Spoiled Brats: Stories
by Simon Rich

I spent a few weeks reading every book Simon Rich has published. I heard him as a guest on James Altucher’s podcast and checked out some of his stories in The New Yorker. I laughed out loud regularly while reading Rich’s work. I’d love to have that ability someday.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
by George R. R. Martin

During a Game of Thrones season, it’s so easy to eat, breathe, and sleep theories. Dunk and Egg are referenced often so I thought it’d be good to actually read the book with their story. Can’t recommend it enough. Particularly if you want a taste of George R. R. Martin’s writing but don’t want to commit to reading the main series.

Sick in the Head: Conversations  About Life and Comedy
by Judd Apatow

I bought this thinking it’d be something I read in short chunks over the next year. Instead I’ve been setting aside hours at a time to read it. It’s a collection of interviews by Judd Apatow. The fascinating thing is that the interviews range from recent ones to all the way back to when Apatow was in high school. We know how these people turned out. It’s great to see them talk about their dreams before they happen.

But What if We’re Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past
by Chuck Klosterman — (my notes)

Westworld started a few weeks after I finished reading But What if We’re Wrong. So I basically haven’t stopped thinking about simulation theory. Add in a percentage of Joe Rogan podcast discussing how our brains work and I don’t know what to believe anymore. Our minds are powerful. That’s just a few pages of the book and the rest is just as good.

How To Write Funny: Your Serious, Step-By-Step Blueprint For Creating Incredibly, Irresistibly, Successfully Hilarious Writing
by Scott Dikkers — (my notes)

I read a few different how-to comedy books this year. This was the most recent that I read but I also think it was the most relevant to what I want to do. All the books have the same conclusion: writing jokes is hard work. Next year I’ll really sit down and try applying the methods from the books.

(I also really enjoyed Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV. When I was growing up, my dad used to watch Jay Leno every morning taped from the night before.)

Ego is the Enemy
by Ryan Holiday — (my notes)

The Obstacle is the Way really helped me a couple years ago. I was stumbling while trying to reach some career goals. It helped me look at setbacks as challenges to learn from. Ego is the Enemy has been helpful for my current stage of career goals.

Anything You Want
by Derek Sivers — (my notes)

I admire Derek’s views on work, business, and happiness. When picking people whose footsteps I’d like to follow, he’s near the top of the list.

My book notes make up the majority of things I write for this blog. It’s almost entirely inspired by Derek’s book notes.

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
by Steven Kotler

Flow means things are going right—adrenaline means something has gone wrong. This book is about action sports athletes and flow. First, action sports make for good stories. I don’t have aspirations to be one of those athletes, but it’s been valuable knowing how to reach flow and understanding how it can improve work in all fields.

Honorable mentions

  • I finished Save the Cat, which I put on hold for probably a year. It really made me think about structure in any writing and how systems and formulas fit into anything creative.
  • I started being a less dumb with money this year and some credit goes to Happy Money. It explains the best tactics to spending money with a focus on increasing happiness.
  • Smarter Better Faster got me to really set high level and low level goals. It’s not the first book to talk about it but it resonated this time around and now am quick to remind myself to review a high level goal when I’m stuck during a low level goal.
  • 10% Happier is the best audiobook I’ve listened to. It got me to try meditating and it’s one of the things I’ll really focus on next year.
  • I’m finishing up Tools of Titans. It’ll probably be at the top of next year’s list.