I have always loved to read. My childhood summers were spent at the library browsing the aisles and picking out a stack to take home. Not much has changed now, except of course I no longer frequent the library. But I believe books and the act of reading — reading anything, is one of the most important things you can do in your life.
This year I’ve read a ton of great books. As of right now, I’ve read over 60 books this year and I’ll probably finish a few more before January 1st. The list is a wonderful mix of everything – fiction, books about space and the universe, biographies, psychology, history books, science fiction, business and sales books and of course the occasional romance novel thrown in. What I also started doing is something called a Commonplace book. This is a book that you fill full of quotes, passages and other important information that you come across. Whether it’s in your readings or in life in general. If you want to find out more about what a Commonplace book is, check out Ryan Holiday’s blog article about it. I really recommend that everyone start one! I’ve really enjoyed mine.
So, this year I’m going to start doing an annual recommended book list where I choose the top books that I’ve read and that I think you’d benefit from reading as well. And everyone has time to read. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day or can only commit to reading 100 pages a day, that’s more than most people! Audibles are also awesome if you are in your car commuting (or if you are cleaning the house, don’t have your hands free, or don’t have a quiet moment to sit down). So here they are! Enjoy them! I sure did.
Washington by Ron Chernow – This book is a long read but by far the best book I’ve ever read about George Washington. It goes through his entire life, his accomplishments and failures and talks about the growth of the United States during his lifetime. The author is a genius at writing and this book is not the usual dry biography but instead reads more like a novel. If you want to really learn who George Washington was and what his time period was like – read this book! You will learn so much about this founding father — our school books were nothing compared to this. This book has also made it into my top 10 favorite books of all time.
Street Smarts by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham – Anyone who is thinking about starting their own business or currently is running their own business should read this book immediately. As in, go to Amazon, and buy it. Now. It is an invaluable resource and a book you will continue to reference depending on what stage or problem your business is in. It also has one of my favorite quotes about entrepreneurship: “Life is too short to waste your time—and everyone elses—on things you don’t believe in. Then again, if you do have the passion, you’ll look at entrepreneurship the way I do; as a fantastic journey and a truly fabulous way to spend a life.”
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – This book is a fascinating examination of the atheist point of view on science and religion and is a well done (if slightly challenging and sometimes scornful) discussion on the topic of whether God exists or not and why people believe in God in the first place. If you are religious (and even if you’re not), read with an open mind, as he does come across a little harsh sometimes to fundamentalist religion, but I still recommend this read as it opens up some serious questions about science and religion.
The Curse of Challion by Lois McMaster Bujold – This one definitely caters to my love of a good fantasy fiction. This book is now in my top 5 favorite books of all time — with a non-cliché plot and near perfect characters. This author is the king of character development and the dialogue is some of the best I’ve come across. It’s about a man named Cazaril who returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. There is a curse (of course) that has to be broken and the magic in this book is in the form of gods and demons who choose people to influence their plots and agendas. If you like fantasy books, definitely pick this one up! It’s a trilogy (Paladin of Souls & the Hallowed Hunt) so be sure to read the other books — they are as good as the first. Also, if you want to read more of this author’s books — The Sharing Knife series is also great and subtly references this trilogy.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel – People have been talking about this book/movie for awhile now and it took me a long time to pick it up. I tend to stay out of the mainstream book lists (generally because I like things a little bit different than most) but I have to say, this is now one of my all time favorite novels. The ship Pi is on sinks and he is left stranded on a small life boat with a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. The story is a masterful display of plot development and the ending has the twists and turns that I find irresistible in a novel.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber – 40% of businesses fail within 1 year. If you are thinking about starting your own business, read this book first. I wish I had read this book before I started my business but I’m glad I read it now. This book dispels the myths surrounding starting your own business and shows how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running your own company. “Your comfort zone has seized you before and it can seize you again when you are least prepared for it, because it knows what it means to you. Because it knows how much you want to be comfortable. Because it knows what price you are willing to pay for the comfort of being in control – the ultimate price, your life.” Very well written and definitely a book I will come back to again and again.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley – This is a lovely historical fiction romance novel with a fascinating plot and great characters. It is about an author who goes to Scotland for a story she’s writing about one of her ancestors. Somehow the story she is writing ends up being true and she has no idea how she could be able to “remember” history that happened to someone else. The book alternates between the main character’s present time as she is writing her book and then flashes back to tell her ancestors story aka the story that the main character is writing (so basically you get two stories in one book). There is also a small romance that develops and if you want a nice book to read curled up in front of the fire with a mug of something hot, this is the book to pick up. I read one of her other books too, The Shadowy Horses, and it was great as well.
The Compound Effect by Darrin Hardy – If you are trying to develop new, healthy habits in your life, read this book. It can be applied to anything, whether you are trying to lose weight, get ahead in your business, or simply lead a better and more fulfilling life. It goes over how to develop healthy habits and how making small changes now, will effect your life in the future. Start looking at your life long term instead of living for short term satisfaction.
The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen by Paul W. Swets – I sometimes have trouble communicating. I will admit to this, especially after reading this book and I think that EVERYONE should pick it up and read it. Even if you think you know how to talk to people and even if you think reading about this is pointless, it’s not! This book has great insight on how to communicate with everyone – family, friends, children and business associates. I guarantee there are ways you can improve your communication with the people around you RIGHT NOW that will make your relationships even better in ways you never thought possible.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – So, this is a special book for me. It’s actually not the first time I’ve read it either but it has to make it’s way onto this list because I read it, a lot. In fact, I’ve read it over 8 times now (and the entire series twice). I tend to read it multiple times a year and it is by far my absolute favorite book of all time. It’s on my list because as many of you know the tv series came out. I have only watched the first episode and I’m impressed. I’ll probably get around to watching it at some point but I just dearly love the books. You can either read the first book, Outlander, and be done – or you can continue on through the series (caution: if you continue on and read the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, you will need to read the third book, Voyager, after that because there is a cliff-hanger). It is so well done and you will fall in love with the characters. Diana is a genius with dialogue and she writes so well you feel as though you are actually transported to her settings without being overly wordy. It is a historical fiction romance novel that over delivers in ALL three of those categories.