It’s been over three years since I read One Second After by William Forstchen. In the book, the United States is struck by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a high altitude nuclear explosion. Forstchen details how such an event would cripple all the daily items we have come to depend on such as computers, phones, cars, and most importantly, the infrastructure that delivers electricity and clean, running water. Society rapidly devolves into chaos destroying the fabric of the United States from within. Sure, it’s a fictional book, but given today’s situation with North Korea, it’s not an outside the realm of possibility.
One Year After is the sequel that, as you can rightly guess from the title, picks up the story one year later. The small North Carolina towns of Black Mountain and Montreat are still in disarray but doing their best to return to some sense of normalcy. The United States as a whole is struggling to get back on its feet and slowly trying to rebuild itself, which leads to the main premise of the story – the conflict between the goals of the local communities and the federal government, both of which who are trying to rebuild.
I’m not a runner. My entire running career consists of my one and only 10K (which I completed in just under 50 minutes by the way). So it would seem odd that I would read a book about running.
On the other hand, friends are one of the recommendation sources for my reading list. In fact, out of all my sources, friends are my favorite, even more than my nemesis – the Amazon recommendation engine. The reason is pretty obvious. My friends and I share many of the same interests.
Therefore, it really isn’t much of a surprise that I ended up reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It was recommended to me by Steve Hudson, a good friend of mine who has been a good source of book recommendations. We’ve been sharing our experiences related to food, diet, and fitness. During one of our discussions, he suggested I read McDougall’s book. While he’s more of a runner than I am, he still felt that I would enjoy it.
As part of my new routine, I’ve been reading “learning” books in the morning. Many of these books reference other books from where they’ve derived their ideas, or used their concepts as a foundation to build upon. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t add a book to my reading list unless it is mentioned in more than a couple of books. One book that consistently appeared in many of the self improvement books I’ve read recently is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Naturally, it made it to my reading list and moved quickly to the top given the number of mentions.
To say Think and Grow Rich is a classic is an understatement. It was first printed in 1937, and it’s still relevant 80 years later. That makes it more than a classic. It makes it a timeless treasure.
An amazing thing happens when you start reading positive, inspirational, motivational readings and books. The infamous Amazon recommendation engine kicks in and starts recommending more. It should be no surprise then that an inspirational classic showed up in one of my Amazon recommendation emails – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I added it to my reading list at some point during the first half of 2016 and decided to make it a priority for 2017.
I enjoyed the story in the book, but that’s not its focus. The primary point is about following your dreams, or your “Personal Legend” as Coelho calls it. I found this post on Paulo Coelho’s blog which is an excellent summary of the 10 Powerful Life Lessons in the book, but here are the top three which I took away from it.
Back in early 2015, I watched the documentary series, “The Men Who Built America”. It was inspiring to watch how industrialists such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford transformed America during the late 19th and early 20th century. While it can be debated how much came at the expense of the lower and middle classes, the fact remains that their ideas and the businesses they created had a profound impact felt around the world.
On the whole, I am rather disappointed with the innovation in our current generation. Too much energy and money is spent chasing the latest “quick buck” ideas rather than exceptional breakthroughs. Fortunately, there are two clear exceptions in my opinion – Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
I enjoy following and learning about how they have pursued their passions and built companies around their visions. One of my favorite books from 2015 was “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. It was a fascinating tale of how Jeff Bezos conceived and built Amazon. When I saw that a similar book had been written about Elon Musk, I knew I had to read it.
After reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson last year, I decided to make a change in my reading habits this year. Instead of reading one book at a time, I decided to read two books at once. I split my reading list into two pieces – learning books and recreational books. I decided to read the recreational books at night and the learning books in the morning. As Olson said in The Slight Edge, if you read about 10 pages/day from a learning book, you’ll finish it in a month. It went well with Psycho-Cybernetics, so I decided to continue the morning reading with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
To be honest, I’m not sure how or why I hadn’t read 7 Habits already. I’d heard about it and had it recommended to me numerous times, but I never got around to reading it. I finally decided it was time to push it toward the top of my reading list after seeing this post on the Learning A Day blog that I follow. The blog’s author, Rohan, wrote in that post that 7 Habits was the one book that had deepest impact on how he approached life. With a recommendation like that, I wanted to read it to see if it would be just as inspirational for me.
The last book on my 2016 reading list was The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Since I wasn’t able to get through all the books I had on my 2016 list, I carried this one over to my 2017 reading list. To make certain that I read the book this year, I put at the top of the list – position #4.
I discovered the book through a technology blog that I follow regularly, Gizmodo. They periodically review and rate science fiction books, and The Three-Body Problem was highly recommended. Since it also rated well in the Amazon reviews, I figured it was worth checking out. There was also one other aspect to the book that piqued my interest. It is an English translation of a book that was originally written in Chinese. As it turns out, Cixin Liu is one of the most popular science fiction writers in China.
It’s rare to find books that stand the test of time, especially as it applies to personal development, self-help and psychological theory. So many of these books are written based on the trend of the day in an attempt to ride the wave to making a quick buck. Even rarer is finding a personal development book that you know you will come back to on a regular basis. As the saying goes, these are even fewer and farther between.
Fortunately, I discovered a book that fits these qualities – The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz.
I’m not exactly sure how I happened across Maltz’s work, but I’m glad I did. “Game-changer” can be such an overused and over-hyped word, but it applies in this case. In other words, reading The New Psycho-Cybernetics has had a profound outlook on my approach to life. It is what I would call a foundation book in the realm of personal development. It revealss the science behind how we can employ basic techniques to control our brain and inner voices to get the most out of life. Since reading it, I’ve noticed that many of the concepts discussed are referenced and built upon in other popular personal development books. For these reasons alone, it is a book that I plan to refer back to on a regular basis.
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.