2017 was a mixed year of learning and consuming content for me. I put a more concentrated effort into consuming audio content than ever before since living in NYC lends itself to that. I still don’t know if I retain audio information as well as reading it (my hunch is I don’t) but it was fun to play with.
Putting more effort into listening meant that I didn’t read 61 books like I did in 2016, but I think it all factored out to be roughly the same amount of intake, along with being varied across a number of topics, which is what I like.
- Jordan Peterson’s Maps Of Meaning lectures (about 18 hours)
- Jordan Peterson’s Personality and its Transformations lectures (about 18 hours)
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History blitz episode Destroyer Of Worlds, history of the atomic bomb (1 episode, 5 hours)
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series on World War I (6 episodes, about 22 hours)
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series on Ancient Kings (3 episodes, about 15 hours)
For anyone at all interested in history, I would HIGHLY recommend anything that Carlin does on his show. He’s an excellent storyteller and a slave to context (his words). So when listening, you really are taking a deep dive down the rabbit hole of a given topic. It’s obviously a commitment, and I have an easier time listening now that I live in NYC, so I walk around a good bit. But each and every episode is worth the time investment.
As far as Peterson goes, he’s become a pretty controversial figure given certain political stances he has taken. Those are arguments and things that I’m just not interested in discussing here on the Internet, considering it’s hard to have a productive discussion about things that require a great deal of nuance. However, his lectures on psychology and human behavior are truly outstanding. Which shouldn’t be a shock, considering that’s his profession and the lectures above are just tapes of the lectures he gives in his classes at The University Of Toronto.
There was other audio content that I consumed, but nothing structured. Just kind of bouncing around listening to various podcasts and interviews that friends recommended or that sounded interesting. I’m not going to bother counting any of that here though since it’d be damn near impossible to track down.
Anyways, here are the books:
Brave New World
A much better and a more accurate depiction of a dystopian future than 1984 could ever hope to be. You can buy it here.
The Name Of The Wind
Maybe the prettiest book I read all year, and some of the best storytelling in fantasy or fiction I can think of. I was stubborn about reading this for nearly a year and after starting I immediately hated myself for that. Don’t be like me. Don’t be stubborn. Hell, I loved it so much that I went to the book signing and bought a special edition 10th anniversary copy of this book a couple of months ago. You can buy it here.
The Wise Man’s Fear
The second installment and follow up to the book above. A faster moving story, but maybe not as pretty of a read. Still outstanding and one of my favorite reads of the year. You can buy it here.
A Farewell To Arms
I think this was the 4th or 5th time I read it. After finishing the two Rothfuss books I needed something that wasn’t so wordy. Hemingway may be lots of things, wordy isn’t one of them.By far my favorite Hemingway novel, and I still think it’s one of the best and saddest stories I’ve ever read. You should buy it here.
But What If We’re Wrong
I took a really deep Klosterman dive this year, which was a lot of fun because I honestly don’t know if I understood I enjoyed thinking about popular culture as much as I do. This one ranges across all sorts of topics from music to sports to gravity. Actually, he starts off the book questioning what we think we may know about gravity, which is a pretty serious intellectual dick swing if you ask me. You can buy it here.
Gaiman just gets the power of belief and the importance of mythology. I ate this book up. You can buy it here.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
Didn’t I tell you Gaiman gets the power of belief and mythology? This confirms that. It’s a shorter and easier read than American Gods, but it’s a testament to the power of stories we tell ourselves both as children and as adults. You can buy it here.
A Confederacy Of Dunces
A damn near perfect book. It’s hilarious, sad, captivating, and a love letter to New Orleans all wrapped up in a book. In fact, the story that is this book is really only topped by how the book itself got published. An absolute must-read of American Lit. You can grab it here.
The Art Of Learning
Overall I was meh on this book. It was interesting primarily because Waitzkin is clearly just really good at getting really good at things. But when it comes to being a guidebook for increasing performance, I don’t think this book is as good as Deep Work by Cal Newport. But if you want to read a book about the childhood chess prodigy who was the inspiration behind the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer, then it’s worth checking out. Oh, he also became a world Tai Chi champion, which is weirdly interesting. You can grab it here.
You Are Not So Smart
An entertaining and accessible read on psychological fallacies and how our brain does a really great job at fooling us into doing things and altering our perception of reality. I read it more as a refresher course on psychological biases since a lot of the stuff it covered wasn’t exactly new. It’s easy to read, entertaining, and a great choice if you want to learn more about the brain and how dumb it can be sometimes. Grab it here.
Ernest Hemingway On Writing
A collection of things Hemingway has said about writing (many of his books involve talking about writing, so there’s a lot to pull from). There are lots of great nuggets. It’s short, simple, and can be read in about 2 hours if you want. Grab it here.
What Makes Sammy Run
An outstanding fiction (but based on truth) story that captured the view of early Hollywood as well as the typical view of a studio exec. There’s insight into ambition, integrity, relationships, and life. It’s a fast and easy read and wound up being one of my favorite reads of the entire year. You can grab it here.
Do The Work
Read the title. Then read it again. Now read it over one more time. The entire book can be read in about two hours or less and it’s full of bumper sticker type sayings on the importance of doing the dirty work. Pressfield’s nonfiction writing may be full of platitudes, but I love reading him. You can grab it here.
I read this after my buddy Aadam Ali recommended it to me when he was here in NYC. I don’t read too many thrillers, but this was excellent. Fast-paced, smart, and like a bit more of an intellectual Jason Bourne character that is fundamentally broken in that he actually has empathy, which makes him a great character. You can read it here.
The Nowhere Man
The second installment in the story of Evan Smoak. I have no idea how many he plans on writing, but I plan on reading them all. Grab it here.
It Can’t Happen Here
The most accurate dystopian novel to come out of the early 20th century, all the way down to an egomaniacal demagogue being elected President. It’s not as easy to read as Brave New World, but it’s a more accurate depiction of the America many of us felt like we were living through in the most recent election. Read it here.
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance
I re-read the classic philosophical novel this and took way more away from it the second time. It’s an examination of what makes up a good life, dichotomous thinking that goes on between the East and the West, love, fear, ambition, and some of life’s most fundamental and deepest questions. If you’re at all interested in philosophy and haven’t read this, then I recommend giving it a go. Grab it here.
Why I Write
More of a series of essays about Orwell’s political beliefs than anything. And in case you hadn’t figured out, Orwell writes because of his strong political beliefs. Those political beliefs are socialist beliefs. There, I saved you 100 pages. But you must read it, do it here.
The War Of Art
This book is great the first time you read it. I honestly think it’s even better the 10th time you read it. So go ahead and get on that by buying it here.
The Brothers Karamazov
This was the most difficult book I read all year. It wasn’t the longest (it’s about 750 pages) but the entire book took me a solid month to read. And while that sounds daunting, it’s worth it. It’s a deep dive into morality, the battle of good vs. evil, people embodying those ideals, and seeing how those ideas play themselves out in the world. It’s not easy, it will kick your ass, and you will be different because of it. But if you do care about being a good person and trying to improve as a human, you owe it to yourself to read this. You can grab it here.
Tiny Beautiful Things
The is my favorite read of all 2017. Strayed manages to be heartbreaking and inspiring all while making you laugh and making you cry. Her prose is utterly gorgeous and the entire book is full of a special kind of vulnerability that I think all writers aspire to. It’s become one of the few books that I recommend to just about everyone I meet. You need to get it here.
The Sirens of Titan
I love just about everything Vonnegut writes, and this was no exception. It’s a hilarious ride through space and time. And all the while Vonnegut makes you think about morality while asking what the meaning of life is. And then he goes and answers that question. You can get it here.
Wolf In White Van
This book made me feel weird. Which I think may have been the point. It’s dark, strange, but beautifully written. I still don’t know what I really thought about it, but I do know that I didn’t hate it. I just felt… weird. You can read it here.
The Slow Regard Of Silent Things
A deeper dive into the life of one of the characters in The Kingkiller Chronicles, Auri. It’s nowhere near as long as the other books, but it’s just as beautifully written. I’ll read anything and everything Rothfuss writes. You can read it here.
Why We Make Mistakes
I didn’t love this, but probably because it’s an older pop-psychology book, which means that most of the topics it addresses are things I’d already read plenty about. However, for someone who is interested in human behavior that hasn’t really read much on the topic, it’s a great entry point. You can read it here.
You Shall Know Our Velocity!
I think this was the only Dave Eggers book I haven’t read up to this point, and it turned out to be one of my favorites by him. A rambling trip around the world with two best friends on a mission to spend $32,000 by giving the money away to random strangers they felt “deserved” the money. If you like Eggers, it’s a good read. If you haven’t read Eggers, it might be one of the better places to start when reading him. You can get it here.
By far and away one of my favorite reads of the year. Which jives with just about what everyone else that has read this book has to say about it. Harari touches on everything from agriculture to religion to economics, explaining the advancement of humanity in a simple and easy to understand way that leaves you feeling like you’re at least 10x smarter than you were before you read it. You should get it here.
Chasing The Scream
This book confirmed a lot of thoughts I’d started to develop, only coming at it from people filling their needs with drugs and not food. It’ll change your views on addiction, especially if you think addiction solely stems from chemical dependency above all else. In fact, this book attempts to show that chemical dependency is the smallest factor when it comes to addiction. By far and away one of the best and most challenging books I read all year long. You should read it here.
Eating The Dinosaur
This book started off a stretch in the year where all I really wanted to read was Klosterman. The simplest way to describe this book is that Klosterman attempts to explain what reality is through talking about people like Lady Gaga. Which is right up my alley. If you like philosophy and pop culture, read it. Do so here.
The Screwtape Letters
I loved this adventure into a discussion between demons of Hell attempting to subvert belief of Christians, which I think is a genius concept for writing a book. It’s a great read on how to rip apart belief and faith along with instructions on how to prevent that from happening. You can grab it here.
I Wear The Black Hat
The villains in our society are always way more interesting than the good guys. This attempts to explain why that is. Read it here.
A history of the things we liked in the early 21st century and more importantly, why we liked those things. I love Klosterman and I thought this was a great read. You can grab it here.
Killing Yourself To Live
Why is that sometimes the best thing a rock star can do for their career is die? This attempts to explain that. Read it here.
Bird By Bird
I didn’t love this book on writing near as much as most of the people who recommend it seem to love it. It was good, but I didn’t think it was outstanding or Earth-shattering. It’s mildly entertaining and kind of funny, but I just didn’t quite get it like a lot of other people did. That’s alright. You might love it. You can grab it here.
The Great Shark Hunt
I love Thompson more than almost any other writer, and I loved this collection of articles and essays he wrote early in his career. Thompson had a wide-ranging career where he wrote about politics and sports above almost all else, and this is an excellent intro into a lot of what he has to say. The part I loved most is his insight into the Nixon administration during Watergate. It was also a great reminder that while we feel like our current political climate is terribly embarrassing and explosive (which it is) we can’t forget just how much of a disaster Nixon was. You can grab it here.
More Klosterman genius about why we like the things in pop culture that we like. Including Britney Spears, Val Kilmer, Bono, and Robert Plant. Honestly, just read all of Klosterman’s stuff. Grab it here.
Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs
When you start reading Klosterman, start here. This was a re-read, but it was just as good reading it 10 years after the first read. You should get it here.
Generic business book with generic advice about why it’s important to be a good person. Generic doesn’t mean bad, though. It was a decent and very quick read. Plus we can all use a good reminder every now and then about why it’s important to be good. You can get it here.
The Beautiful And Damned
It’s not the best Fitzgerald novel, but there are some stretches in this where Fitzgerald is really on his game, spinning a beautifully tragic story. However, this also serves as a cautionary tale, and it’s hard to read this and not feel like Fitzgerald was writing about his tragically flawed relationship with his wife, Zelda. You can grab it here.
Prince Of Thorns
I wanted to go back to some generic fantasy to round out the year, and this was a strong choice. It’s fast-moving, easy to read, and full of action. It’s not an exercise in deep character development like Rothfuss, but I do love how the main character is more of an anti-hero than a traditional hero. If you like fantasy, you can grab it here.
Men Without Women
No, not Hemingway being a misogynist. It’s a collection of early Hemingway short stories where he begins to feel out some of the topics he’d write about later on. Things like war, sport, the dreams of men, and the complicated relationships between men and women during this time period. You can read it here.
King Of Thorns
Another installment of fantasy anti-hero/hero/kill-all-the-people. Grab it here.
Ready Player One
A re-read for me since this was the first choice of the Stronger U bookclub that I run with my buddies Robbie Farlow and Nick Sorrell. In reading it again I think I was honestly even more impressed with just how full of pop culture references this is while telling an engaging and entertaining story. Lots of people are worried about this coming to film, but I honestly can’t wait to see this in theaters. I think it’ll be a visual spectacle. You can grab it here.