I just finished organizing my book wish list. It’s grown to nearly 180 books. if you look at my reading pace, around 25 books a year over the last three years, I have seven years worth of books in my queue. Given the pace at which I add books to my list, there are books I will never get to. Therefore, I have to have a system for creating and prioritizing my annual reading list.
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.
Between my recreational, science fiction reads, I like reading books to brush up on product and business development, software development techniques, management and leadership skills, and business strategy. Strangely enough (tongue in cheek), the emails I get from Amazon are either full of sci-fi books or business books. Therefore, I was not surprised when UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want by Jamie Levy showed up in my Amazon recommendations. Since I work with clients on product development strategies, as well as potential product ideas for my business, UX Strategy looked like it had a lot of potential. The strong reviews on Amazon certainly didn’t hurt its cause, so I added it to my short list of books for 2016.
Even though I have a reading list that has grown to out of control proportions of 150+ books strong, I’m always on the lookout for book recommendation sources. I have a few friends and blogs that have become trusted sources. There’s my ever present nemesis – the infamous Amazon recommendation engine. For my latest read, I decided to try a new recommendation source – Gizmodo, one of the tech blogs that I follow. One of their must reads from a while back was Pines from the Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch. Since I follow the site primarily for tech gadget news, I was a little concerned about the potential quality of their book recommendations, but I figured it was worth at least a shot.
While I was a General Manager at Vitesse Semiconductor, traveling to our office in Woodstock, VT was always an interesting adventure. The town of Woodstock is your stereotypical quaint New England town that looks like it came straight off a postcard or out of the set of a Hollywood movie. The office there was a converted ski lodge off Route 12 on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t a big building. There were 2 offices upstairs, and a meeting area, break room, and space for about 10-12 cubicles spread across 2 rooms downstairs. From one of the upstairs offices, you could see the old rope tow that took you up the slight incline that had once serviced a single run ski slope.