Reading List Annual Review 2017

I certainly started the year off strong with high hopes, believing that it wouldn’t slow down with the birth of my first kid in March.  I was either wrong, stupid, or weak. I don’t like thinking about which for too long ;P.

Here is a list of the 10 books that I got around to reading.

If you’re interested, here is my list from 2016.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It was quite cool to be able to read a classic.  Mostly so that I could stroke my own ego.  As Pavel Bulowski cited on his list of 2017 books, “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” I figured this one fit the mold.

“The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”

The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton

It’s not a 10 step program, it almost seems like a collection of blog posts, just short chapters with different thoughts.  Mostly around behaviours, psychology, and systems around money.

This is a re-read of my favourite personal finance book.  As I was preparing for 2017, thinking about financial goals, and thinking more about planning and legacy as I transition to being a father, I wanted to prime myself and give myself a reminder.  I may consider re-reading this nearly every year just to prime myself and remind myself of my financial goals

“Few emergency funds stand a chance against society’s innate skill: the ability to rationalize.  We can convince ourselves of anything if the result is short-term gratification.”

Night by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel gives an account of his experience in the concentration camp, Auschwitz, and through other camps.  Wiesel does not spare any details of his experience, which is absolutely horrific.  I had to take several breaks during reading, as it was quite intense and upsetting.

Hard to recommend to book after that sort of review.  However, part of my interest in this area is that it builds gratefulness.  Reading accounts of history’s past gives perspective on how trivial our problems of today are, or the evilness that exists or doesn’t exist in our world today.  I would highly recommend reading this if you are as ignorant as I am around the monstrosities of the times.

The translation I read was by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife, which I would recommend.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Continuing in my research and interest in Europe during WWll, I wanted to read this classic.  It definitely was not what I was expecting, which was going to be an education about the war.  Rather, what I encountered was a very normal girl, trapped and gone stir crazy inside and in hiding, going through very normal 14 year old problems, and got to transport myself into the crazy time that it was.

“The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God.  For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity.”

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine

Irvine, a professor of philosophy and practicing stoic, gives his version of a summary of stoic principles.

The book goes through a wide range of topics in Stoic philosophy and I earmarked quite a few pages.  It is very practical in the sense that they speak about mindset, riches, fame, anger, insults, grief, old age, and other everyday topics. Whether you want to learn more about Stoic philosophy, or you want a very handy and practical guide to live a more effective and happy life, I would give a loose recommendation to read it.  The introduction into the history of stoicism in the beginning, as well as the end chapters were quite boring for me.

“If we lack self-control, we are likely to be distracted by the various pleasures life has to offer, and in this distracted state we are unlikely to attain the goals of our philosophy of life.”

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Although this book may have been industry changing when it was released years ago, it has weaved throughout companies and tech so much that it just seemed like logic as I was reading (listening to) it.  I stopped midway as I found it quite boring and not a great use of my listening time.

Work Rules by Laszlo Bock

Bock is essentially head of People Operations (his title now escapes me) at Google, and had a lot to do with the hiring practices, HR practices, and culture building within Google.  Decently written for a business book, which is rare, and kept me quite engaged, particularly throughout the first half of the book.  I took a lot of ideas and carried away with me and implemented a lot throughout our hiring processes and practice at Keboola.  I would say it is one of the most practical books I have read, and I don’t doubt I will keep it as reference for many years.

“Our goal is to tell every person in the bottom 5 percent that they are in that group.  That is not a fun conversation to have.  But it’s made easier by the message we give these people: “You are in the bottom 5 percent of performers across all of Google.  I know that doesn’t feel good.  The reason I’m telling you this is that I want to help you grow and get better.”

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

A lot of what was in this book informed me on how I want to focus on maneveruing in my career, as well as how I want to build a culture at my workplace.  Focus on being effective, making contributions, focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, delivering results, prioritizing and spending time well, and other helpful models for being effective at work.

I have a hard time remembering a better business book that I have ever read. It is a short book, packed with ideas, and doesn’t waste words, my favorite kind of business books.

“Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual; they fail to realize that the brilliant insight is not by itself achievement. […] insights become effectiveness only through hard systematic work.”

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

I guess this is one of those books that either resonate with you or don’t.  The lessons it tries to teach are very in your face, there isn’t any deep thinking you need to do.  I know lots of people read it and re-read it often.  I found it quite boring and didn’t resonate with me at all, and stopped midway.

I do want to point out that, it seems that not only what you’re reading, but at what point of life you are in, is very important to the experience in the book.  For myself, the lessons within this book is not something that resonates with me.  Perhaps it will in 10 years, I don’t know.  So sometimes it’s not helpful to decide a book is good or bad, another response may be “it’s not what I need right now”.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz 

Seems like it is likely a good book for CEOs and founders … though I do not identify with the downswings and pits of what entrepreneurship is.  Lots of encouragement and how to deal with feelings when you have to let go of a bunch of people, can’t make payroll, upsetting the board and shareholders, waking up in the middle of the night in sweats and nightmares about failing others.

There wasn’t much I got out of the book.  Although there is a large section on interview questions when hiring a Head of Sales that seemed quite good and comprehensive.

Thousand Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

If you enjoy cooking shows, not the drama filled competition crap, but the documentaries on obsessed chefs, I think you would enjoy this book.  I loved it, so much so that I missed my bus stop by several bus stops once as I was so deeply into it and couldn’t draw my eyes off the page in order to see where I was at.   Great arc on the story, and excellent writing, including the food descriptions.  This book was also made into a movie recently which I recommend watching as well.

The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant

This husband and wife duo are historians and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors.  This is a tiny (seriously tiny) book with small lessons from history.  Unfortunately I did not squeeze out of it what I wish I had, so I do want to re-read it.

“The influence of geographic factors diminishes as technology grows.” 

The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

As parents, our first instinct when we face pain or challenge for our children is to help or save them.  Unfortunately, often this is actually not what you want for them long term.  Facing challenges, dealing with the emotions of failing, figuring out what to do in the face of failure, in aspects of household chores, friendships and social dynamics, homework, competition, etc., is a crucial part of development.  A good reminder to try and take a step back and see how failures play out, in order to raise more resilient little human beings.

“Given our support, love, and a lot of restraint, our kids can learn how to engineer their own solutions and pave their way toward success that is truly of their own making.”

I’m surprised, looking back, at how much I actually did get to read.  Even if I spent very little time doing so, small increments of reading can actually add up to something substantial.

If you ever want to discuss books, give me a holler!