“Stop Counting All The Books You Read!” And My Favorites From The Year

When you walk into my house the first thing you see is a tall bookcase screaming out, “Hey look at me and all these books! You must think I’m pretty smart, huh?”

There’s a shelf of novels I never finished and a stack of others I reread each year. There’s Roman philosophy, Holocaust horror, and first-hand accounts of the Civil War. Step inside and Awaken The Giant Withinhang with Dale Carnegie, or get lost in the woods with Thoreau.

My self-help section spills over into the “business” and “biography” stacks, taking up precious shelf space. Of course, like Marc Maron once wrote, “All my books are self-help books. Just having them makes me feel better.”

Yes, my Ikea bought tower of knowledge says, “Oh I read alright. Let me tell you.”

There’s just one problem…

I don’t really read all that much. Certainly not a book a week. Nor do I knock out a quick 20 pages before bed. In fact, I sometimes go weeks without reading at all.

The real downside to this truth is that I have a lot of underlying guilt about it. I walk past this bookcase each day and hear, “Hello!? Aren’t you a little behind on your reading list, hmmm!?”

This daily flick in the ear is certainly magnified by the “knowledge is power” arms race that somehow feels louder than ever.

 

Tweet by @DrAlexTweets

 

“Yep, we’re all reading 60 books a year and running companies. What are YOU doing with YOUR life?!”

The need for speed has found its way into the pastime of reading as our appetite for consumable content remains unsatiated. There are even new apps for breaking down popular books into bite-sized, here’s-the-gist-of-it, prose on the go.

 

https://www.blinkist.com/

 

There’s no reason to take it slow anymore. No need to savor.

Each year I set out to read a certain number of books and each year I fall short. 2017 was no different. Sure, I read some great books, but what I gained from them was served with a sharp hint of “on to the next one…”

“Well, this year is going to be different!” he proclaimed in unison with a billion others.

No, but really… This year I won’t be making any quantifiable goals when it comes to reading. I’m going to let interesting books find me, as they always do, and then make time for them the best I can.

I won’t be keeping score or entering the CEO, million-pages-turned marathon.

I plan on sitting, savoring, and ruminating. I’m a slow reader and if I find myself powering through titles faster than once a week, I’ll take it as a signal that I should probably read more challenging books.

My only goal is to be better at making time for reading instead of hoping time appears. Because one thing we should all agree on is this: Reading is important.

Instead of telling you why I’ll let George R.R. Martin sum it up: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Here’s what I did read

While I didn’t make it to all the books I planned for, I still read some amazing, life-changing, shout it from the mountain tops, works of art.

Here are 12 in the order which I enjoyed most. If you’re looking for a title to add to your 2018 list, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these.

(none of the links below are affiliate links)

1 Tribe, by Sebastian Junger

This was my favorite nonfiction book of the year and one I recommended to just about everyone. It covers eye-opening ideas on society, PTSD, and our evolutionary hardwiring. I’m a big fan of contrarian thinkers and here Junger puts mainstream assumptions to bed with science and historical examples. Fascinating, well-written, and important.

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”

 

2 What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver

Caver is a magician. I’ve read most of these stories twice, some five times, and still can’t figure out how he does so much with so few words. This is the best collection of short fiction I’ve ever read. If you like words please read. 

“and it ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”

 

3 Perrenial Seller, by Ryan Holiday

All of Ryan’s book seem to find me at the right time in my life. This one unlocked plenty of “aha!” moments and sent me back to drawing board on work I’d thought was, “good enough.” This is one of the best books on marketing I’ve ever read. You really can’t go wrong with Ryan Holiday, but if the subject of this book doesn’t interest you, start with one of his others, The Obstacle is The Way.

“People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don’t, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds. They want to make something timeless, but they focus instead on immediate payoffs and instant gratification.” 

 

4 Losing My Virginity, by Richard Branson

I did devour this 600-page memoir in just a few days time–it’s that good. It’s Sir Richard Branson’s first book and the story of how he went from a high-energy, dyslexic kid who dropped out of high school to a high-energy, dyslexic billionaire who has changed the world multiple times over.

“the best motto to follow is ‘Nothing ventured; nothing gained’.”

 

5 A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

I read a lot of Hemingway while in Colombia early this year. Not sure why, but there is something about humid nights and warm rum just makes me think of the guy. After reading through a dozen of his early short stories, I felt compelled to finally read his memoir of 1920’s Paris. 

Written in 1960 and published posthumously, it’s never been clear what Papa Hem would have kept in and what he would have cut if he’d been around for editing. But what was left are revealing, entertaining, and, at times, unflattering portraits of the people, places, and feelings of The Lost Generation.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

 

6 Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, by Kamal Ravikant

I read this short book twice back to back. I’d been hearing about it for awhile and the first time I went through much of it didn’t register. My second go-round the words sunk in and I’ve used the mantras included inside over and over. 

Self-love is a hot topic and something that the mainstream is finally embracing as a requirement rather than a bonus. Kamal does a great job telling his story while adding value in this quick read.

“Here we are, thinking that one needs to be in love with another to shine, to feel free and shout from the rooftops, but the most important person, the most important relationship we’ll ever have is waiting, is craving to be loved truly and deeply.”

 

7 Deep Work, Cal Newport

I started this book last December, but finished it in the first week of January, so it’s just eligible for the list. Deep Work kept growing on me long after I finished it and it still fresh in my mind. A bit dry at times, I’ll admit, but the overall message and ideas here are well worth anyone’s time who is looking to do creative work or increase overall focus.

I’ll be going through my notes on this book again to start the year off, as increased focus continues to be a goal of mine. 

“To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”

 

8 Wait Until Spring Bandini, John Fante

This is a beautiful novel and the first in the Arturo Bandini series by Fate. I loved this novel, if not only for the fact that it’s a prequel of one of my favorite novels of all time Ask The Dust.

Technically this book is first in the series, but if you haven’t read Ask The Dust yet, I’d start there. 

“If there is work there is warmth, that when a man has freedom of movement it is enough, for then his blood is hot too”

 

9 As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen

This book, written in 1902, spawned all the positive thinking books out there today. Great for a quick read on how much our own thoughts affect our actions and our future. Allen lays it out plain and simple, “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”

This is Tony Robbins favorite book, so that alone should be enough of an endorsement. Well worth the read.

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

 

10 How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has turned most of his failures into springboards for success. In the book, he explains why “goals are for losers. And winners create systems.” He offers pragmatic reasoning for why affirmations work and dishes out intellectual kung-fu that challenges old world ways of thinking.

His blog, http://blog.dilbert.com/ is also a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with his writing.

 

11 Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin

Steve Martin wasn’t actually born standing up, but he did dedicate 30 years of his life to perfecting the art of telling jokes on stage. 10 years of learning, 10 years of floundering, and finally, 10 years of growing success.

This memoir is more than a laugh out loud read. It’s a story of perseverance and tenacity and a guide to creating laughter in our own lives.

“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”

 

12 Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business, by Ramit Sethi

If you’re looking for straight ahead, no BS business advice, it doesn’t get much better than Ramit Sethi. This book and his site, iwillteachyoutoberich.com hold a wealth of actionable, tactical, and philosophical value. Loved this book and have tons of highlights I’ll be revisiting in the new year.

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Phew, that took awhile. That’s plenty of titles to add to your own list but remember: Reading is to be enjoyed. A book is not something to get through. Make time for reading and please email me all the books I’m missing out on so I can stress-add them to my Amazon cart.

Happy holidays and happy reading!

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