I have been using goodreads for some time to discover new books and also for keeping track of what I’ve already read. It is a great place if you want to find books similar to one you like or to use lists to find something completely different.
Like other online services (e.g. Spotify, Facebook…) this year goodreads followed a trend of “summarizing” what you did the last year. I like this kind of stuff. Since I’m from the “internet” generation these services are sometimes like my personal (it depends on your privacy settings) journals.
So here is My Year 2015 in Books by goodreads:
Before I dive to talk about the books I would like to raise some points about the summary.
Design – I’m not a designer but I think you’ll agree with me that this isn’t any eye-catching masterpiece. There are many beautiful examples of infographics everywhere so I think it can’t be that hard to create something far better.
Content – maybe the number of books I read is not significant and therefore some parts of the summary are hidden, but I think there are more information which could be interested like favorite author, preferred genre(s), lowest rated book, timeline of things I read (if there is finish date provided) and so on.
That’s it, so now let’s look at the books I read. I’ll try to put my thoughts about the books rather than just the brief summary which you can find anywhere else. Here is the list ordered chronologically:
Popular dystopian science-fiction. I didn’t like the main character but I always enjoy the descriptions of the dystopian worlds so that’s what counts for me. Also interesting point of view on human traits and faults. The author pointed out the big questions which is around for quite some time. Should we be ruled by rationality or open heart? Is there a way to balance both? What is common good: for everybody to prosper o for a few to move forward? Again, the fight between ambitions and rationality on one side and human nature on the other. The story was fine and I also liked the end. What I hate about these kind of books is that I always want to know more about the world, how everything works there and how the story continues (not the characters, but the world). I had the same problem with The Road, Harry Potter, World War Z, Brave New World and some others.
Gamification by Design by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham & For the Win by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter
I read these books in order to gain insight for my master thesis which I was writing at that time. I also read some parts of other books about similar topic, mainly The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell, Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal, Play at Work: How games inspire breakthrough thinking by Adam L. Penenberg. The trend of gamification has been obvious some time already but it’s more than just earning points on your loyalty card. The psychology of gamification comes from the games (obviously) and it exploits subconscious human behavior. During studying this topic I stared with books about gamification but soon I realized that I have to go deeper to understand not only what game mechanisms I should use to keep existing customers (players), but also how this mechanism actually works on us. This get me to book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The flow theory hit me like a train. It’s like when you read something and you realize that this is obvious but in the context it’s something much bigger. Csikszentmihalyi explores our inner motivation to do different kind of stuff which is not easy to do, like dancing, mountain climbing or playing piano. The thing is that we do this stuff because it’s so hard. It’s right on the edge of our skills. We push ourselves little bit further every time, we have to learn and we learn to master the activity. And when you are so deep focused on what you are doing that everything else just stops “existing for you”, you’re experiencing flow – great feeling which we love and want to do again and again. This theory helped me identified my flows – I have flows during playing games, doing some kind of tables in Excel, during explaining something I know to someone else, designing Powerpoint presentation or PF card or poster or wedding invitation… Thanks to the book I know myself better and even though I read about quarter of the book I put it into my to-read list to get back to it sometime and to deeper my knowledge. But this deserves much longer post, maybe two.
The Newlywed’s Instruction Manual by Caroline Tiger and Quirk Books Staff
This book was a wedding gift for me and my wife and it was a quick read. The book contains some practical tips how to set house rules and take care of money. In my opinion you should have figured out most of the stuff in the book before getting married. You should live together, talk about money and also you should get to know each other’s parents. We did most of that stuff before getting married. But anyway, I would recommend this book to every couple which is engaged or planning to get married soon.
How to Get Lucky: 13 techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks by Max Gunther
Ohu, I really enjoyed this one. The book actually doesn’t help you get luckier, but rather help you understand that luck is present in your everyday life and there are ways to “manage it”. We won’t often admit that the luck has a large part in what happened to us, and even the book is trying to convince you that it’s a mistake.
“Whenever we think we have some answers, luck is there to mock us.”
But I think it’s OK. We can’t be perfect. What I liked about this book is that it made me realize that I’m actually one of those people, who can admit the luck in his life. I often say that I was lucky to pass many exams at college, super-lucky to get great job where you should already have a lot of experience and I had none (btw I sucked at it at first but hey, what they expected). And usually when I say: “I was more lucky than smart to get this job” people replied “nah, you had to be smart to get there”. Fine, I wasn’t dumb and that helped me, but from 80% it was luck. In college it was I think 60-70%. So thank you, but don’t give me the credit I don’t deserve. It doesn’t feel right.
When something happened to us in past, our brain is usually magically discovering reasons why it happened like it happened. For example, when a finance analyst tries to figure out how to invest based on historical data. And there is the place, when our desire of control erase all thoughts about luck. Of course, the book doesn’t say that it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s all luck anyway. Planning is really important in most parts of your life. But don’t forget the luck factor as well.
I recommend this book to everybody who wants to improve their luck in life.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
Best book I read in 2015. Peter Thiel has a nice, direct way how to teach you few lessons about the business world. It provides great advice not only for entrepreneurs but also for ordinary people. His understanding of innovation “one to n” & “zero to one” is an interesting way how to understand progress. “One to n” is an incremental enhancement – like introducing Android after iPhone. Even though I’m a fan of Android, it was only evolutionary step from iPhone/iOS. On the other hand, introducing the electric car, which can be the best car in its category and it can destroy many myths about electric cars, is small revolution – going from “zero to one”. Author’s focus on planning for distant future, to have a meaningful goal, a vision, was something really hard for me to grasp after reading How to Get Lucky. But in short time a realized, that those two ideas goes hand in hand . Also the seven questions about technology, timing, monopoly, team, distribution, durability and secrets are great help for start-up to start with right foot.
The book was a great read and again, I recommend it to you if you want to make an impact or just build a great start-up. I hope I’ll build one someday, but I’ll reread this book right before.
Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Lorimer
When I started reading this book I didn’t expect it to be full of timeless life advice as it was. The book consists of (as you may conclude from title) letters from father to son. Father is a self-made merchant and he runs a business of packaging of pork in times when not only numbers, but also respect, matters in business. The advice is put in the stories from which are really authentic and help you understand that they’re all life lessons.
This book will catch you, teach you and sometimes make you smile. Here are few quotes from book worth remember:
“The first thing education ought to give a man is character, and the second thing is education.”
“Putting off an easy things makes it hard, and putting of a hard one makes it impossible.”
“But it isn’t enough to be all right in this world; you’ve got to look all right as well, because two-thirds of success is making people think you are all right.”
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R. R. Martin
I think I don’t have to write a lot about this book. Lots of you saw the TV series (first season is quite precise), some of you read the book. The book is about explaining the human darkest traits in the great fantasy story. The brutal and honest approach, which Martin used, is really catchy.
By the time I’m writing this I already read the second book, A Clash of Kings and currently I’m reading the third one, A Storm of Swords. The story is still fascinating, but sometimes I’m getting lost in all the characters. I actually don’t read them, but listen to audiobooks in my car. So I think you understand why I get lost sometimes.
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
I mentioned a few times to my wife that I would like to read book about meditation or so, and I actually tried (and I’m still trying) meditate. So I got this book as a present last year. It took me some to go through the book, but it was really pleasure to read it. Kabat-Zinn writes with no urge, no dogmas. The book is more about being mindful in your life than about meditation as it’s commonly recognized – sitting with crossed legs and doing humming. The author says that if you are thinking and mainly talking that meditation is helping you after a week or two, you are spoiling the real effect. Even though, I have to admit that to sit after work for 5-10 minutes and try to think of nothing really calms mind. I even started using 2-minute Calm in work if I’m stressed and the breathing only is really helpful. The non-doing is as important as the doing. And learning how to meditate is a long-run – count with months and years. But as every skill even this one can be mastered and only practice is way to a mastery.
If you want to start with meditation don’t read this book. Start meditate. If you want some help at the beginning, again, don’t read this book, use mobile app such Calm or Headspace which gives you great intro to meditation and mindfulness. If you want dig a little bit deeper into mindful life, this book is good way to go.
The Martian by Andy Weir
I found this book as a winner of Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 in category science-fiction and I think it deserved to be there. I didn’t read many sci-fi books but I liked the narrative. I always like when I find a book with unusual type of narrative. Last time I get hooked like this was with World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (the book has nothing to do with the movie except idea of zombies, trust me, read it). And of course, I loved the main character. What the book told me was that you probably lose when you give up. Don’t lose your cool, don’t blame others, don’t blame yourself and do not regret. The past is for learning, not regrets.
But since most of you saw a movie (which actually wasn’t too far from the book) I think there is nothing much to write. If you haven’t seen the movie, read it. Then watch the movie.
Think like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
The main message I took from this book was to think outside the box. To find solution, to be creative and to get from “zero to one” we have to think differently. When you are looking for solution be crazy, be courageous, be rude, be bossy, turn problem upside down, dig deeper to core of the problem. In your mind you can think of anything so don’t be satisfied with your usual way of thinking.
This is a classic which I read for the first time. Finally I understood lots of funny references I came across in my life such as “thank you for all the fish“. Adams is apparently crazy if he was able to write something like this. But as we already knew from the previous book – crazy is good. One thing which I get from this book was that I don’t have to figure out everything about life. Life is too short to find out the meaning of everything. And even if I want to find it, the answer was already in the book 😉
OK, that are all books I read in 2015. I also read Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street but I finished on 4th of January, 2016 so it will be in my next summary. And it was great book.
During 2015 I also read a bunch of articles on the Internet. For that I use Pocket, which is great app for saving articles to read them later. According to stats I read another 26 book in 2015 and trust me, there are some articles I would love to talk about here. But I shared the best articles on my Facebook so check there for them. Maybe I’ll do some short post with list of the best articles from last year as well. I’ll keep you posted.