Here are 5 books I read this year that might change how you see the world –
1. The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan: If you haven’t considered the world from a lens of geopolitics, The Accidental Superpower will likely blow your mind. I found the first half of the book particularly powerful. It included a view of the history of super powers from the eye of geopolitics. And, despite having read a similar view on history in another book, this was beautifully synthesized. Following that, Zheihan explains what’s going on by focusing on population demographics. Again, fascinating. The second half focuses on prediction. And, prediction is very hard. So, I took that bit with a helping of salt. After reading the book, I did wonder why we don’t teach geopolitics at school. I guess it flies against the face of our general narrative about what makes super powers. Geopolitics contends that it is all about geography.
(Note: There’s another geopolitics based book “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman. Friedman was Peter Zheihan’s former manager.)
2. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly: Kevin Kelly talks technology in a way only he can. He takes twelve verbs that technology has impacted (cognifying, sharing, updating, etc.) and takes them to their logical end. In that process, he gives us a view into what our future might be. It is powerful.
3. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight: One of the most beautiful books about entrepreneurship I’ve read. It isn’t a manual in the way “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” is. Instead, it is a story from the heart of Nike’s legendary founder. It feels authentic and real while also being It is not just about the fact that it is beautifully written (it is), it feels authentic and real. Phil Knight takes us on a journey where he impresses upon us the strength of his belief that the world is a better place when we run with great shoes.
He makes mistakes and a couple of very questionable ethical decisions. Yet, we find it in our heart to forgive him. Somehow, he makes us feel the desperation that drove him in that moment. And, he then goes onto teach us how mission driven businesses are built. He explains that a business is about money just as living is about pumping blood. You need both. But, life and business are about a lot more than that.
And, while you are at it, I’d recommend picking the Audible version. Norbert Leo Butz does a fantastic job.
4. The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias. An oldie, but a goodie. At its heart, it is really simple. Andrew Tobias explains that a penny saved is actually a lot more valuable than a penny earned since Ben Franklin didn’t have to deal with taxes in his time. So, save a lot more than you earn. And, once you do that, develop a simple approach to investing. Of course, he patiently lays out all the ways we can do that. But, this book isn’t so much about investing as it is about a mindset.
5. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Brene Brown brings her research on shame and vulnerability together in this beautiful book. It is fascinating to learn that women have about 10 shame triggers. And, appearance and body image top the list followed by parenting. Men, on the other hand, have one very powerful trigger – showing weakness, or in her research’s terms, “being a pussy.” She also inspired my theme for 2017 – engagement. She wisely pointed out that we spend too much time asking questions like – “Am I being good/perfect?” Instead, we should ask – “Am I being engaged? Am I paying attention?” No good comes from seeking perfection. ”
(Quick note: The audio book narration didn’t work for me in this case.)
Here’s the Amazon list.
Books that almost made this list:
The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck is a classic. The first half of the book was incredibly impactful. I especially loved his definition of love.
Peak by Anders Ericsson is the ultimate guide to deliberate practice research from the master himself.
Deep Work by Cal Newport rails against our distraction filled work environments and presses us to think deeper about depth in our work.
Persuadable by Al Pitampalli beautifully explains why it is important that we change our mind.
And, finally, Einstein by Walter Isaacson has a life lesson about not taking ourselves and our world seriously in addition to the expected lessons on curiosity and perseverance.
Other resources: Past lists of “5 books” – 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011. Book reviews here and book notes here.