Of the 30 or so books I read in 2016, here are the highlights. For each of these books there are at least two or three accompanying books that I will recommend in an incoming post. For example, Fahrenheit 451 pairs very well with 1984; The Looming Tower pairs well Islamism and the Future of Tolerance. And all the books on this list fit together with one another.
*Let me know what your top reads of the year were. I’m always looking to stack my reading queue!
Was this required reading in your high school english class? It was in mine, but I opted for the spark notes version.
This book is often characterized as a story about firefighters who burn books. True. But, books are burned because they cause pain, because they make people think unhappy thoughts. “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.”
If you’re interested in what a politically correct, technology saturated world might go, read this book. Censorship, education, media addiction and more topics are taken on in an eerily present account of a future world.
“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.”
“The difference between a man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is the touching. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
“The most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom is the solid unmoving cattle of the majority.”
“I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when I come home three days a month; it’s not bad at all. You leave them into the parlor and turn the switch It’s like washing clothes; stuff laundry in and slam the lid.”
“Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery.”
2. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself – Michael Singer
Death is the greatest teacher, Michael Singer reminds us. If you are interested in a mindfulness practice, how to hold it together when life throws hammers at you, or an accessible spirituality book – try this one.
I often found myself rereading phrases, pages and chapters.
“We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.” p.121
“There are two ways you can live: you can devote your life to staying in your comfort zone, or you can work on your freedom. In other words, you can devote your whole life to the process of making sure everything fits within your limited model, or you can devote your life to freeing yourself from the limits of your model.” p.122
3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition – Robert Cialdini
If you paid attention to the US election and are wondering how it’s possible that Trump won, read this book. Or, if you’ve wondered why people are obsessed with sports.
Dr. Cialdini exposes the tactics that marketers, dictators, politicians, salesmen and conmen use to manipulate us —and how to say ‘No’. I experienced multiple epiphanies while reading this book. Commercials, political discourse, and the world at large won’t be the same.
Plus, how to navigate the constant clamoring of attention in our digital world.
“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”
“Deep inside is a sense of low personal worth that directs them to seek prestige not from the generation or promotion of their own attainments, but from the generation or promotion of their associations with others of attainment.”
“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”
4. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 – Lawrence Wright
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this book explains the rise of Islamism, Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the intelligence failures that culminated with the attacks of 9/11.
This book angered me, and captivated me. If you want to be an informed citizen and to realize at once how uniformed your opinionated friends are on the topics of Islamism, Jihad, Saudi Arabia, etc, read this book.
“Radicalism usually prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities.”
“The legacy of bin Laden is a future of suspicion, grief, and the loss of certain liberties that are already disappearing from memory.”
5. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield, the author of Bagger Vance, talks to us about resistance and how to slay it. Resistance is what stands between you and what you want to accomplish.
This book, along with Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, is one that I often open to a random page and read for inspiration when the Resistance is strong.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”
6. Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur – Derek Sivers
This one takes an hour to read. It’s all substance and no fluff from a former rodeo clown turned accidental entrepreneur, Derek Sivers. Immensely valuable for the genius inside us all.
“It’s a big world. You can loudly leave out 99% of it. People in that 1 % will come to you because you have shown how much you value them.”
“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.”
7. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin
Whether your a cubicle cog looking for a new job, a business owner struggling to find the right talent, or an artist having trouble marketing yourself, this book is for you. We need more linchpins in a world that is becoming more and more automated.
“If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.”
“If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you’ll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job.”
“The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.”
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