61 Lessons From 61 Books In 2016


2016, man.

Prince died.

But also a lot of great things happened. Some of which involved the fact that I read some great books in 2016, many of which held outstanding lessons within them. And actually if you read through this list you’ll notice that there are some recurring themes across the books.

And while there are some recurring themes and books that focus on helping you become a better person, that’s not at all what the whole list is. I’m not a robot. I don’t read only business, psychology, or philosophy. I love great literature and great writing, I like to be pulled into a story, and walk around viewing the world through the lens of the great novel that I’m currently working through.

So what follows is a gigantic extension of my reading romp posts. It’s every single book I’ve read this past year, with a quick little lesson. If you’re curious about any of these books and want to learn more, I’m always happy to talk about them.

But for now, enjoy the books, and happy reading.

1. The Alchemist

Sometimes there are lessons deep inside you that teach you everything you need to know. And sometimes you need to travel the world and meet a bunch of people to realize you knew what was right from the very beginning.

2. Viralnomics

Being really good at using social media is far more about playing on psychology and telling stories than most of us care to realize.

3. Stumbling on Happiness

You’re a fool, and you as a fool are constantly fooling yourself. You will always try to believe that one thing, relationship, or event is bound to make you happy. Chances are, you’ll continue doing that throughout your life, and reverting to a base level of happiness.

4. Man’s Search For Meaning

Suffering is inevitable in life. Trying to avoid suffering or live a comfortable life without any trials is not only futile, it’s going to cause more harm than good. Embrace the suffering and know that you’re working for something greater. That is the real meaning of life.

5. Way Of The Superior Man

Give more to the world than you take from it. There is value to living for your purpose in your life. Not your girlfriend’s, not your parent’s, and not what society deems your purpose to be. Finding it may not be easy, but when you have found it, and you’ve decided to live for it, you’ll find clarity in more than one aspect of life.

6. The Obstacle Is The Way

Quit thinking about shit that is out of your control. The shit that is on your Facebook feed, the news, or that asshole who cut you off in the parking lot. Control how you handle situations, and keep moving forward towards your goals.

7. UD 2.0 

Dieting sucks. But when you diet correctly you’ll be blown away at just how awesome you look.

8. Ready Player One

80’s pop culture is awesome. Video games are awesome. The idea of virtual reality gone too far freaks me the fuck out. But this entire book is excellent and if you don’t read it I will hunt you down and punch you in the throat while listening to Phil Collins.

9. For Whom The Bell Tolls

Life is ugly. It is filled with bloodshed, death, friendship, love, and heartbreak. And that’s part of what makes this life so great. The range of emotions and experiences we as humans are privy to are unlike anything else. The highs, the lows, and all of the in betweens are things that we shouldn’t take for granted. In fact, sometimes those highs or lows can help us appreciate the opposite even more.

Also, read this book.

10. Blood Meridian

The American expansion into the West was more hellish than you probably want to imagine. But reading a fictionalized tale of this expansion is not only entertaining, getting in touch with the intensely violent aspect of the human mind is something that we can all benefit from. Because deep down there’s a monster inside all of us.

11. The Game

There is a science and a formula to seduction, and when your eyes are opened to it, you might feel a little gross about it. You also might realize just how valuable real human connection is in living a meaningful life. Very entertaining book, and totally worth the read.

12. The Truth

Turns out living the life of a playboy might fuck you up just a bit. So much so that you might try to live in a commune in a big group relationship. But will that make you happier? Or will you actually feel as if a piece of your soul has died the moment you say “I do“?

13. Candide

Being hopelessly optimistic is a recipe to making sure that you become certifiably insane and delusional. The world is dirty and life is messy. Just hoping that everything will be taken care of is downright idiotic. Cultivate your garden and take care of what you can.

14. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

I refuse to believe that Lewis Carroll didn’t spend his entire writing time on one long mushroom trip. Also, this book gets far more credit than I think it deserves.

15. Through the looking glass

Seriously, I want whatever drugs he had.

16. The Perfect Day Formula

Want things to change in your life? Develop a morning routine that reflects that of the person you want to become. Feeling like you can’t catch up in life? You probably need to wake up earlier. Which means you probably need to quit watching TV until midnight. Does that ruffle your feathers? Tough.

17. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

Inside every man there is a King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover just waiting to be explored and cultivated. Often times we repress those, because embracing them can be downright scary. Especially when it feels like society doesn’t want us to, or like one can’t be both a warrior and a lover.

That’s an immature view, and one you need to do away with immediately. These psychological archetypes live within everyone.

18. Green Hills Of Africa

Hemingway really liked killing very big animals. And he makes it sound awesome. I finished this book and wrestled a rhino. There’s also really good commentary about writing.

18. The Good News About What’s Bad For You

There exists a study to show just about anything and everything. Including how ice cream, gaming, and drugs can be good for you. And also how exercising, water, and vegetables can be bad for you.

19. Hell’s Angels

Hunter S. Thompson was insane, but nowhere near as insane as the legendary biker gang, The Hell’s Angels. And while they were batshit fucking crazy, they were a bit more misunderstood than you may think.

20. In Our Time

It’s fun to read the book that made Hemingway famous, but there’s a major difference in the quality of work between this and some of the heavy hitters like For Whom The Bell Tolls.

21. The Fat Loss Prescription

Disappointed by the lack of dick jokes from Spencer. But really impressed with the actionable and easy to understand plan delivered by Dr. Nadolsky. Every trainer can benefit from reading this, and it’s blatantly obvious how much Spencer cares about helping people.

22. The Fellowship Of The Ring

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

23. The Way Of Men

Donovan pulls no punches and is clear in his belief that the world is out to work against men. As such, he says men should respond by getting in touch with their inner violent and aggressive selves. I really loved his talk about what I believe he called the empire of nothing.

24. Becoming A Barbarian

Donovan is a hardcore nationalist. But some of his arguments are really interesting, especially the point he continually hammers home about being obligated to everyone actually makes sure you’re obligated to no one, which is something that I think we will continue to recognize on a broader scale as globalization increases.

25. Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers

Testosterone is nowhere near as simple as more = you are more of a badass alpha male. In fact, there are a number of fascinating relationships between testosterone and behavior. Including some studies suggesting that men who have more academic experience or have climbed the corporate ladder have lower testosterone levels than the construction workers, and they may not be a bad thing.

26. Man, Interrupted

Probably the best place to start when it comes to the struggles of young men in the modern age. The reliance on video games, porn, and social media as a whole may be crippling young men more than most of us want to realize. But it’s imperative we recognize this, and begin fighting it.

27. Deep Work

Have work you need to do? Turn off your fucking phone.

28. Principles

Something may sound great in theory, but life experience cannot be undervalued. In fact, you would do better to learn from those who have experience in the aspect of life you’re working on.

29. Ego Is The Enemy

The story that you tell yourself about how great you are might be your worst enemy. That narrative bias, a story written by your ego, is something we all need to get under control. Forever remain a student and a servant to all of those in your life.

30. The Two Towers

Gandalf The White > Gandalf The Grey. Sometimes we all need to fall into the Mines of Moria.

31. Steal Like An Artist

Inspiration and creativity comes from everywhere. All around us. So ruthlessly steal that inspiration and use it to create your own art. Whatever your art is.

32. The Republic Of Pirates

Pirates = paragons of democracy? Actually not as far off as that may sound. The story of pirates that we have in our minds is a bit off compared to what actually went on in the Caribbean. Sure, there were plenty of bad pirates. But turns out there were also plenty of good hearted pirates as well.

33. The Sun Also Rises

This is a fantastic book, and is immeasurably important in the rise of Hemingway. Fun fact: it’s based on a true story and real people. It’s so similar to real events that the people the characters are based off of were a bit pissed off at how some were portrayed.

34. The Writers Journey

Interested in Campbellian monomyth? Start here. Why should you be interested? Because it’s every story you’ve ever heard. Also contains this great quote about writing: “When you “spell” a word correctly you are in effect casting a spell, charging these abstract, arbitrary symbols with meaning and power.”

35. To Have And Have Not

Sometimes a good man has to do bad things in order to keep his family alive. Read this fucking book.

36. Philosophy 101

Really solid 30,000 foot view of the major schools of philosophical thought. If you’re interested at all in philosophy or the major questions, this is a great entry point.

37. Theodore Roosevelt’s Wit And Wisdom

I’ll never get over just how awesome Teddy was. This is a great book of Teddy quotes that will make you want to fight a Grizzly Bear and wrestle a unicorn.

38. Theodore Roosevelt In The Badlands

Teddy Roosevelt = more badass than you ever knew. Including: him chasing down boat thieves, big game hunting, getting shot after giving a speech, and the intense lows that Teddy faced before beginning his soul saving sojurn into the Badlands.

39. The Afghan Campaign

Pressfield makes me want to go fight for Alexander The Great. The entire book makes you feel as if you’re reading something that happened just a few years ago. Not a war that took place in 330 b.c.

40. Snow Crash

Probably the second most fun novel I read all year long. The entire thing is a page turner, and leaves you feeling like you’ve legitimately learned things about linguistics and history. Read this.

41. Fight Club

Not much has changed. Palahnuik’s first novel is still an excellent satire on the modern world and the ceaseless rat race. If anything, reading it a second time makes the novel sink in even more. And maybe makes you want to embrace that glimmer of anarchy that’s within us all.

42. Iron John

A recurring theme in books on men is the devastating absence of iniation rites of men that have completely disappeared in the modern world. Another big takeaway for me that fell in line with a lot of other reading and studying on my end was the fact that we should try to become more aware of the symbolism that exists in the stories and myths in our culture.

43. The Warrior Ethos

We are all warriors for something in our life. Embrace that inner warrior, live by your warrior code, and let your constant battle as a warrior shine through in all aspects of your life.

44. Fire In The Belly

Much of the issues that men battle with come from the fact that we identify so much of ourselves and our missions in life in women. This is not a bad thing in itself, but when it has manifasted to the point that men are consistently just becoming what women want, men everywhere suffer.

45. Guns, Germs, and Steel

Why have some societies taken off when others haven’t? Because they managed to move out of the hunter-gatherer stage more quickly. Which happened in thanks to geography. In essence, geography rules all. But for real, this is a fascinating book that will leave you fascinated and questioning what you thought you knew on multiple occassions.

46. Call Of The Wild

If you’re a dog lover, read this book. You’ll be heart broken at points, and at the same time find yourself wanting to embrace your own animalistic instincts. But mainly just because dogs are awesome.

47. Player Piano

A world where the Doctors and Engineers become the nobility of society sounds even more terrifying than the world of information overload and celebrity worship that we currently live in.

48. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck

You should actually give a fuck, but you should be seelctive about the things you give a fuck about. But in order to know what you should give a fuck about, you need to get your values in line. Because without your values in line, well, you’re fucked.

49. Gates Of Fire

The Spartans? Those were some badasses if there ever were some. They fucked up a bunch of Persians and it pissed Xerxes off to no end. This is the book that the movie 300 was based off of, and honestly, it’s even more fun to read. The stories of valor, bravery, and pushing through pain to defend your land and what you know to be right in your heart is awe inspiring.

I finished this book, got up, and dug a trench in my front yard to ward off the invaders.

50. Tribe

You need a tribe. We all do. And our lack of a tribe in modern life could be contributing to depression, the rise of PTSD, unhappiness, and even the crisis that men feel they’re experiencing in everyday life. But how do you find your own tribe? This book doesn’t say. It is a fascinating look at humans and our tribes, though.

51. The Garden Of Eden

Falling in love with two women who also love each other sounds utterly amazing, beautiful, awe inspiring, and unlike anything else in life. And exhausting.

52. 48 Laws Of Power

Human nature is a very fickle thing, but it can be managed successfully. This is essentially a guide to human nature, how to control it, manipulate it, and use it to advance in your career and life. All wrapped inside a ton of fascinating anecdotes.

53. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Doing drugs with Hunter S. Thompson sounds awesome. And like it would drive you insane.

54. The Road

A father loves his son, and together they agree to carry the fire no matter where their journey along the road takes them. Carry your own fire along the road of life.

55. A Joseph Campbell Companion

Find your bliss and follow it. Then embrace the struggle that you encounter along your journey for this bliss. This is the true meaning to life. Also, this is a great book, and one that I return to frequently.

56. The Social Animal

Success happens as a product of environment. But if your environment isn’t conducive to success, you have to work extra hard to change that environment. This book was fascinating, and a great entry point for anyone looking to get into psychology, behavioral economics, philosophy, or any related fields.

57. 1984

Don’t give the government too much power, because it doesn’t know when to stop exploiting that power.

58. A Moveable Feast

Paris in the 1920’s was the place to be, and Hemingway clearly lived the life. It feels like it was impossible to live there and not be inspired by all the great minds and artists of the time. Joyce, Picasso, Stein, Fitzgerald, Pound, and others. After I finished it I moved to Paris.*

*Okay, actually New York City, but you get the point.

59. Antifragile

The world is full of disorder. Random events happen, and often when you least expect them. Put yourself in a position to be able to withstand disorder and massive randomness, and maybe even take advantage of that disorder.

Seriously, this book is paradigm shifting and worth the read. Take the time to go through it. Your life will be better.

60. The Greek Way

What made the ancient Greeks such a cultural force in history? Influencing art, science, war, philosophy, and war? This book attempts to answer that by capturing the essence of the ancient Greeks and what made them, well, them.

To summarize the entire book, the Greeks were obsessed with the concept of apotheosis. Something we as a culture have lost.

61. Crime and Punishment

Life involves messy situations, mistakes, moral quandries, and you will be given the choice to atone for them with your actions and by recognizing your errors. This entire book is a fascinating journey into the human condition, how good people can do bad things, dealing with the consequences of your actions, and atonement.

I fell in love with my first foray into the Russian novelists and actually can’t wait to read more.

And that’s it. Those are the books I read this past year. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a few more during 2016, revisit some, and learn new lessons from old books. Here’s to a great year of reading.

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Who’s this guy?

Yo, I'm Tanner. I'm a Texan marooned on the Island of Manhattan, reader, history nerd, and rom com afficianado.
I like to talk about fitness, history, pop culture, and just about anything else under the sun. If you're here, hopefull you do as well.

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