It was one of those New Years Resolutions that I probably wasn’t going to keep (like all the others made at the beginning of this year). Still, by the end of June, I finished my 50th book of the year. I recently completed my 51st book and one book over six weeks shows how slowly I go through books when I’m not listening to audiobooks (the 51st was only the 2nd physical book of the year). To consume so many books, I just switched to audiobooks and sped them up (shout-out to the Omaha Public Library’s Overdrive subscription!).
I enjoyed most of the books and some authors stood out – most for good reasons, and just a few for not-so-good reasons. I summarize why I liked (or didn’t) these authors below.
Business and Productivity
Laura Vanderkam – She writes with a pretty specific audience in mind – people (and particularly women) who have children and work in demanding jobs. I’m not this audience at all, but I still liked I Know How She Does It so much I quickly followed it up with 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Vanderkam is a master of showing you how to better use your time and she’s well worth a read.
Angela Duckworth – Grit is the hot idea in education right now, but it’s useful to know about for life in general. Duckworth balances talking about important academic research with stuff that interests and applies to regular people nicely.
Chip and Dan Heath – These brothers produced a trilogy worth reading for making yourself better at work (or home). Decisive studies decision-making and how to improve it. Made to Stick looks at presentations and making yourself more memorable. Switch dives into habits and how to change them.
Charles Duhigg – Speaking of habits, this is your man if you want to understand them: read Smarter, Faster, Better and The Power of Habit.
Liz Wiseman – I loved Multipliers. Great for managers to see how they can improve. Great for people who are managed to recognize how their boss works and what that might mean for you and your career.
Jack Shafer – The Like Switch has fantastic, practical advice from an FBI agent on how to get people to like you quickly. Good examples, useful tips, and interesting backstories on how and why it all works.
Daniel Kahneman – Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow is an approachable summary of leading research on decision-making and behavioral economics. He’s one of the people who literally invented the field so he’s a pretty good source. Another great read is The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, which tells the story of Kahnerman and Amos Tversky, their research, and their relationship as they pioneer the study of decision making and its impact on economics.
Don’t bother: Who Moved My Cheese and I Moved Your Cheese are short, heavy-handed allegories that are better off left unread. I also stopped 48 Days to the Work You Love and One Big Thing because they were making bad arguments from the beginning and I didn’t want to waste time on them. I don’t want to write off Amy Wilkinson entirely but The Creator’s Code had issues – one of her main examples is Theranos, the medical tech company that ran into a lot of trouble for its claims and methods, so it’s an outdated read and I found it tough to get past that.
Memoir and Memoir Adjacent
Shonda Rhimes – I think Rhimes’s shows are a good guilty pleasure watch, but I thought the whole Year of Yes thing would be a little hokey. In reality, the book is excellent and inspiring.
Hannah Hart – I knew Hart from My Drunk Kitchen, but I didn’t know anything else about her. Turns out – she is amazing and her life is interesting and intense and her book, Buffering, is a compelling read.
Issa Rae– I didn’t know who Issa Rae was before The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl , but I still enjoyed it. I also read Shrill by Lindy West on a whim (though it turns out, I had read some of her articles). It’s also worth a read.
Phil Knight– Shoe Dog only focuses on the early days of starting Nike so it conveniently skips all the child-labor and sweatshops parts, but it is a close up look at a unusually very successful (though not always at first) business. Lots to learn but keep a skeptical eye when going through.
Don’t bother: Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass is book that espouses a secular prosperity gospel and not all that useful. #GIRLBOSS is a close up look at a modern startup but, halfway through it, my wife reminded me that Sophia Amoruso’s company had already failed in spectacular fashion, which colored her advice.
General Nonfiction that doesn’t fit anywhere else and other books
Nancy Jo Sales – American Girls is full of powerful stories of girls using social media that back up solid research and its findings. It terrified me a bit to hear about the impact social media has on kids, but it’s important to know.
Mark Kurlansky – So the history of frozen food doesn’t lend itself to a sexy pitch but its history and the life of the man who invented it make for a good read in Birdseye.
Jon Krakaeur – Read all his books. He tells a great story and picks topics that get at the heart of important issues. Like American Girls, Missoula is terrifying as it reveals the fucked up world that is the criminal justice system’s treatment of rape and other sexual violence, but it’s very important, particularly for college students and educators.
Don’t bother: America’s Bank by Roger Lowenstein should have been my jam. Gilded Age / Progressive Era history about the founding of the federal reserve. The story has some really compelling parts too – I just struggled to pay attention. I don’t know if it was too long or too bland but listening to it was just a drag at times.
- The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver – Audiobook
- Spark Joy by Marie Kondo – Audiobook
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler – Audiobook
- Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakaeur – Audiobook
- Bossypants by Tina Fey – Audiobook
- The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu – Audiobook
- Missoula by Jon Krakaeur – Audiobook
- Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett – Audiobook
- The Story Teller’s Seceret by Carmine Gallo – Audiobook
- Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan – Audiobook
- Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson – Audiobook
- The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis – Audiobook
- Grit by Andela Duckworth – Audiobook
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – Audiobook
- The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff – Physical Book
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – Audiobook
- Birdseye: The Adventures of A Curious Man by Mark Kurlansky – Audiobook
- Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg – Audiobook
- I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam – Audiobook
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – Audiobook
- 168 Hours: You have more time than you think by Laura Vanderkam – Audiobook
- The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae – Audiobook
- American Girls by Nancy Jo Sales – Audiobook
- I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert – Audiobook
- America’s Bank by Roger Lowenstein – Audiobook
- Buffering by Hannah Hart – Audiobook
- Shrill by Lindy West – Audiobook
- You are a Badass by Jen Sincero – Audiobook
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – Audiobook
- Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath – Audiobook
- Multipliers by Liz Wiseman – Audiobook
- #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso – Audiobook
- The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin – Audiobook
- Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – Audiobook
- Linchpin by Seth Godin – Audiobook
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Audiobook
- Switch by Chip and Dan Heath – Audiobook
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – Audiobook
- Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss – Audiobook
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daneil Kahnerman – Audiobook
- The Creator’s Code by Amy Wilkinson – Audiobook
- Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port – Audiobook
- Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath – Audiobook
- Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson – Audiobook
- I Moved Your Cheese by Deepak Malhotra – Audiobook
- The Like Switch by Jack Schafter – Audiobook
- The One Minute Entrepreneur by Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson, and Ethan Willis – Audiobook
- Make Your Idea Matter by Bernadette Jiwa – Audiobook
- Fascinate by Sally Hogshead – Audiobook
- Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan – Audiobook
- Augsburg Confession – Physical Book