This is a post that I’m aiming to keep updating throughout the year. I did a decent job of it last year in the 2019 Reading List. If I set aside an hour each month I should be able to capture, at the very least, the books that I finish.
I always enjoy reading Ryan Holiday’s Reading List newsletter along with his full year roundups (here’s his from 2019). Bill Simmons has mentioned that he’s trying to read 75 books in 2020. I’m aiming to keep the pace of 4 books a month. You can really get through audiobooks, but I want to make sure I’m actually taking them in so I’m going to write short notes more frequently.
- The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage by Kelly McGonigal — Last year I started the year listening to Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress. It… turned out to be a pretty stressful year. I’m going to take a different tact and focus on joy this year. I’ve mentioned it in probably 5 separate places but I wanted to steal one of Steve Kerr and the Warriors’ values: joy. Focusing on creating joy through the day—my own and creating joy for others. Fill other people’s buckets up and all that. Anyway, The Joy of Movement convinced me to do more cardio this year. (As I’m writing this, I’m 2 days into running the reservoir at Central Park in the morning. Let’s call that a streak.) I even tried a spin class for the first time this year. I see why she says that group cardio classes are one of the things she finds the most joy in.
- Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Mark Epstein — I listened to this in a day as sort of an experiment in listening to a book in a single day. (I took a very, very long walk on a beach in San Diego.) This was a lesson in retention and mostly a lesson in not retaining much information without writing notes down.
- The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger — Really cool to see step-by-step how a career like Iger’s happens. In an interview on Bill Simmons’s podcast, he mentions the lucky breaks he got. Lots of things had to fall in place for him to become CEO at Disney. You get a good sense of what it could be like on both sides of an acquisition, because he was acquired by Disney while at Capital Cities/ABC Inc. and then on the other side of things when Disney bought Pixar, Marvel, and LucasFilm.
- Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra — This made me really think more about the importance of things outside of products to the actual product experience. You can teach people to use tools but that doesn’t necessarily improve their lives the way that teaching them of the cool things they can do with the tool. Bad analogy: If you took a video camera to 1850, well it’d be pretty amazing to people then. But it might not occur to people that you could take a video camera and tell fictional stories with it. Competency with a creative tool does not necessarily mean that you’ve taught someone to be more creative.
- Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis — I wish I read this earlier. I’ve worked in environments that are data driven and not. I didn’t realize that Moneyball really pushed the importance of data in other industries. One way people define creativity is making connections across disciplines. Moneyball shows the challenges that can come with that sort of creativity. It’s not easy to introduce analytics to the highest levels of a discipline (baseball) rooted in tradition and subjective qualitative measures like The Eye Test.
Imagine the opposite: Someone comes into a data-driven organization and says hey guess what we’re not going to use any of this data. It’d be greeted with similar ridicule. Until it started working.
Since reading this, I’ve definitely been thinking about how aspects of my life can be simplified into a single basic metric, the way OBP (on base percentage) was the focus in Moneyball. I always like the metric for happiness that Tim Ferriss has: number of dinners each week that you have with people you love.
- Next: The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis — This really captures the magic of the early 2000s internet. Reddit seems like one of the only popular sites now where there are popular, anonymous account. Next captures stories of people becoming experts and building up online followings. The one that comes to mind first is the teenager who was a law expert, but not a lawyer. Relating it to the internet today, we’re continuing to see things get unlocked. (Democratized became a buzzword for a reason.) You can make so many things and share them online and build followings in all sorts of media. (I wrote about it in this post)
- Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton — Really enjoyed this. (I mentioned it in this post and also this one. And also am now thinking I should just be better about tags so I can link to the tag page for a book.)
- Consider This Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different by Chuck Palahniuk
- Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath — x
- That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph — x
- Tiny Habits The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg — x
- Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards
May 2020 / In-progress
- Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez — x
- High-Output Management by Andy Grove —x
- Can You Go? by Dan John – x
- The Fighter’s Mind? by Sam Sheridan — x
- Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life by Jim Kwik
- Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
Let’s count these as sort of finished
I thought it’d be good to track some books that I’m sort of read. These are things I’ve skimmed because I’ve read them previously and am not doing a full re-reading. I also sometimes just put audiobooks on and listen to them entirely while doing other things but wasn’t paying attention enough to really count it as reading.
- We are all Weird by Seth Godin — x
- Crystal Clear Communication by Dr. Gary S. Goodman
- Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn by Anne Janzer
- Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual by Jocko Willink — x
Books I really want to finish in 2020
To-read get out of hand really quickly.
- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis — I’m continuing through Michael Lewis’s library (read so far: The Undoing Project, Flash Boys, The New New Thing, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, and currently reading Next). I can’t remember where I heard this, but Malcolm Gladwell mentions The Blind Side as one of his favorite books. (It miiiight have been on Neil Pasricha’s 3 Books podcast. I’ll have to check for sure. But it was a question either about what book you wish you could read again as if it were the first time or a book that you wish you had written or authors you enjoy. Basically: I can’t remember what the question was at all.)
- Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham — I started this but didn’t finish it yet. I always like the feeling of getting a physical copy of a book, initially. But then I don’t follow through on finishing reading them.
- High Output Management by Andy Grove — I want to read this one because of the whole “read the originals” idea. This book seems to be mentioned pretty frequently by people much much smarter than me. (On the Masters of Scale podcast, Tobi Lütke mentions that he lucked out by High Output Management being the first book that he read.)
- The Fifth Season (and the other two books in the trilogy) N.K. Jemisin — I enjoy fiction the most when I sit and read for 40+ minutes at a time. aka whenever I’m on a plane. Which is a few times a year, but not often enough that I get through many fiction books. I’m going to try changing that and dedicating leisure time to reading fiction. Anyway, I started The Fifth Season and it was getting really good, then my trip ended. Bad excuse, I know.
- Death’s End (3rd book in the Remembrance of Earth’s past trilogy) by Cixin Liu — The first two books made me think in ways that nonfiction just doesn’t.
- Anathem by Neal Stephenson
- Always Day One: How the Tech Titans Plan to Stay on Top Forever by Alex Kantrowitz
- Powerful by Patty McCord
- How to Speak Machine by John Maeda
- To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy
- It Takes What it Takes by Russel Wilson
- Chief Joy Officer by Richard Sheridan
- Leading from the Edge of the Inside by Jim Moats
- Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
- Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet
- Loonshots by Safi Bahcall
- Reboot by Jerry Colonna
- Sweat the Technique by Rakim
- How Music Works by David Byrne
- Change Maker by John Berardi
- Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch
- User Friendly by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant
- Hustle by Neil Patel
- Thanks for the Feedback
- The Information by James Gleick
- Writing Places by William Zinsser
- Obviously Awesome by April Dunford
- Living with Complexity by DOnald A. Norman
- The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
- Serious Eater by Ed Levine
- A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech
Then I’ll also indulge my guilty pleasure and read like 30 nonfiction books with similar titles. (Some with swear words in the title if the trend holds.)