Part of the rhythm of my reading list is to mix-in a business book between fun science fiction reads. Given I’m working on growing my business, I like to read and learn about the tactics and methods that other startups and tech companies have used or are using to market their wares. This desire led me to reading Startup Growth Engines: Case Studies of How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. Both Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown are well-respected in the technology startup community, particularly for working in and helping businesses rapidly grow their user bases. Bottom line, the book was a good fit according to the criteria I’ve established for my reading list.
There were 25 books on my 2016 reading list. I was only able to get through 21 of them before the clock struck midnight on December 31st. The four remaining books were ones I had been very interested in reading, so I carried them over to 2017. The Belial Stone by R.D. Brady was one of those books. It was number 23 on my list from last year, and number 2 on my 2017 reading list.
I’ve been trying to document where I get my reading recommendations from so I can track the best sources. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a source marked for The Belial Stone. According to Amazon, I purchased it back in May, 2015. Since I have a hard time remembering what I did this morning, my best guess is that I found it through an Amazon source of some kind. It was either through their Daily Deals, the Sci-fi newsletter, or my ultimate nemesis – the Amazon recommendation engine.
In any case, I was looking forward to The Belial Stone when it rose to the top of my reading list. It checked many boxes of the types of books I like to read. It fit into the science fiction genre and was by an author I hadn’t read before. I really enjoy books that fit into the latter category. It’s fun discovering new authors, especially those who could become sources of additional book recommendations.
With a title like Rocket Fuel, you would think my latest read was an epic science fiction adventure. Turns out, it was a business read, but I knew that going in. The full title of Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters book is Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want From Your Business. Yes, it’s a mouthful. But it also provides an accurate description of the book.
I grabbed the book through an Amazon Daily Deal back in September 2015. The book was somewhere on my reading wish list, and Amazon had a deal on business books where they were literally giving it away. I snatched the book for no charge and added it into my 2016 reading list. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it to Book #22 last year, so Rocket Fuel rolled over to the top of my reading list for 2017.
Our society has become obsessed with the overnight sensation. We are entranced by the performer who sings with perfection, the star athlete who makes all the right moves at the right time, and the businessman who comes out of nowhere to build a massively successful business. We focus on the outcome. We attribute them to being gifted with special talents. It makes one pause. Are successful people simply lucky, or is there a path or formula that anyone can follow in order to succeed?
While luck may play a role in one’s success, I’ve come to believe that there is more to it. For example, in order to take advantage of luck, one has to be ready and prepared when the opportunity presents itself. In many cases, a person creates their own luck. So what is it a person does to reach such high levels of achievement, success and happiness? The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness by Jeff Olson sets out to provide answers to this question.
Every project we do won’t be our best. We all have off days. Just look at professional athletes. Jordan Speith doesn’t win every golf tournament. Novak Djokivic doesn’t win every tennis match. Even someone as unstoppable as Serena Williams doesn’t win every major.
I’m a huge fan of Hugh Howey. I was introduced to his work through Wool, Shift and Dust (aka The Silo Series). I really enjoyed Sand, Beacon 23, and his short stories. One of my reading themes for the last year was to read more Hugh Howey. I was looking forward to Half Way Home when I saw it reach the top of my 2016 reading list.
Unfortunately, I walked away let down. Let me explain why.
After coming up woefully short of my reading goal of 36 books in 2015, I set a goal of 30 for last year. I managed to get in 25. It’s the same number I completed in 2015, and just shy of the 27 I read in 2014. Out of the 25 books I read last year, the good news is that 21 of them came from my 2016 reading list. It’s good sign that I managed to stay true to my plan for the year. I attribute it to having goals, reading themes, and trusted sources that I use to populate the list. I’m going to use the same process for my 2017 reading list, which I will be publishing in the next few days.
Even though the number of books read in 2016 were the same as 2015, it felt like 2016 was a more productive year for reading. I read quite a few good books. Here’s the best of the bunch that I would recommend you add to your reading list for the upcoming year. As in the past, I’ve broken the list into General Recommendations, Business Books, and Fun Reads.
I got a lot out of the book Same Side Selling by Jack Quarles and Ian Altman. It was one of my Must Reads in 2015 and one of my top business books to read for 2016. What I liked most about their approach was that, unlike most sales books, they don’t focus on driving the client to ‘yes’. They encourage you to examine your business model’s strengths and weaknesses, understand what customer problem(s) your solution or product solves, and identify your target clients. As I wrote back in July 2015, they don’t teach closing techniques:
Instead, they take a long-term view to the sales process and drive the delivery of value to the customer as the basis for a long-term relationship.
In other words, they propose an approach where the seller offers value by working together with the buyer to build a solution, or offer a product, that solves a buyer’s specific problem.
Given how much I liked the book, I decided to grab a copy of Altman’s Upside Down Selling.
The internet is a fascinating place. It can be both scary and amazing at the same time. Scary because it can be an echo chamber where one’s views, no matter how extreme and radical, can be validated and amplified. But it’s also amazing because put to the right uses, it is a fountain of knowledge. I prefer to take the latter approach to the internet rather than the former.
Here is a case in point. Last year, I chose to search out inspirational readings and motivational stories on the web. As part of my search, I landed on a blog started by Chiao Kee Lim called the The Dirty 30’s Club. While the blog has gone a bit stale (no new posts since May 2013), there are many great readings and stories there.
In one of the readings, The Creatures at the Bottom of the River, the book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach was mentioned. I found the reading very interesting and thought it might be worthwhile to investigate the book. When I saw the overwhelmingly positive reviews the book received on Amazon, I decided to let it jump the queue in my 2016 reading list. By the way, if the name Richard Bach sounds familiar, his more famous book is Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
When I was putting together my reading list for last year, the movie The Big Short was just hitting the theaters. It had a great cast which included Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell, and Ryan Gosling. I had heard about the book and knew it was written by Michael Lewis. I had been wanting to read another one of his books ever since I read The Blind Side, which, by the way, is much, much better than the movie. Anyway, I wasn’t sold on adding it to my 2016 reading list until I read a post from Brad Feld where he raved about how well the movie portrayed the events of the book. It was a done deal after that, and it finally bubbled to the top of my list within the last month or so.
Despite being my book recommendation nemesis, Amazon can come in quite handy sometimes. I was trying to figure out how I found out about the James S.A. Corey novel Leviathan Wakes. Luckily, Amazon archives all of your orders, so I was able to trace the purchase to May of last year. My best guess tells me that it came from either an Amazon Daily Deal or one of their email book list recommendations. Either way, being a science fiction novel, it fit neatly into one of my reading genres and, since I had already purchased it, I had it on my 2016 reading list.