I’m a little late to the game with this post, but I was fortunate enough to read a lot a great books in the back half of 2017 that I wanted to make sure I shared before getting too far into the new year. I know I have benefited greatly over the years from reviewing what others have already done the dirty work of filtering through, and curating what I read and don’t read from the recommendations that are left standing. So it feel it is only my duty to give back and make my contribution to the larger discussion.
Overall, this was a good year of reading for me, though I still haven’t been able to hit a full year where I don’t regret a small number of the books I chose, for various reasons. This year started with a couple of politically oriented books coming out of the Presidential election, and then deviated through a number of value investing and finance books, as this is personally a passion of mine. But I gained the most value out of the back half of the year, where I pivoted to more historically oriented books; less information-driven, and more timeless and principle-driven books. The kind of books that really change how you view aspects of the world, make you think more deeply about values that you hold and embody, or teach you lessons on how to be a better, more impactful person. In essence, these are the books that most contributed to my progression this past year into becoming a better person today than I was 365 days ago. It is also these books which ultimately helped me decide on my reading strategy for 2018, so more to come there. But I digress, onto the list.
In no particular order:
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (John Gottman)
I actually started this book in 2016, as I took the plunge and got married towards the end of that year, but finished it in early 2017, so hopefully no one will hold it against me to count it here. The title of this book is a bit misleading and can sound a bit dark, but inside is actually an extremely insightful look at how to deal with the differences of personalities and perspectives that can crop up during any relationship, not just marriages. The author takes more of a scientific approach to his research and writing, which I appreciate. Very readable without too much superfluous, repetitious messaging. Highly recommend for anyone in a serious relationship, whether your current issues are large or small.
Birth of Britain (Winston Churchill)
Written by Winston Churchill before WWII, this book is the first in a series of four that cover the entire history of the British Isles, with this first installment covering the time from the Romans up until the start of the Tudors in the 1400s. Due to this the view is very aerial, with broad, sweeping analysis by Churchill on the character of each period of time in between. His ability to speak to the noble causes of life, to stir a desire to reach for the highest values, is unparalleled. A sample quote is below, quite possibly one of my favorite quotes of all time:
“And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honor, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round”
Ego is the Enemy (Ryan Holiday)
Similar in a way to The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday’s follow-up philosophical handbook is steeped in Stoic lessons that he has gathered over the years of pursuing his own reading agenda and self-education. Extremely beneficial to those early in their careers and still on the rise (though Ryan covers both the rise and fall), Ego is a book bent around the idea of how to recognize and then set aside the pride that often comes with people of ambition in the pursuit of good, meaningful work. A quick read that I found to be most beneficial in small dosages spread out over time as opposed to one steady reading, but regardless, a great addition to one’s mental toolbox.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Harari)
Similar in a way to Birth of Britain, Sapiens takes a broad look at the themes and ideas that have brought humanity to where it currently resides in the flow of history: what has worked, what hasn’t, and what we can learn from either scenario to continue our progression forwards as a species in an intelligent manner. I absolutely love these Lessons-in-History styled books that draw out the deeper lessons and meaning of history, so if you are a fan as well consider this a must-read.
The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman)
A slightly dated book, The World is Flat was written over a decade ago on the cusp of the modern era of intense globalization. The first half of the book is largely skippable now, but the second half takes a hard look at how this globalization of businesses will change both local and national economics, particularly in the US, and what will need to change about our systems (politically, economically, educationally) in order to ensure everyone can successfully cope with the changes. Call it an older take on a similar message as Average is Over, one of my favorite books of 2016. Safe to say, much of what Friedman discusses still holds water today, and this book is more relevant than ever.
John Adams (David McCullough)
Midway through 2017 I took a break from listening to Audiobooks during my commutes to listen to a podcast series done by the Washington Post entitled Presidential, where they spent ~45 minutes discussing every POTUS from 1 to 45. This inspired me to make my own way through the more consequential Presidents (sorry Fillmore) that I hadn’t gotten to yet. So up first was Adams, and he didn’t disappoint. Adams was the early bulldog and talent scout of the Republic, and his fingerprints can be seen across a vast swath of its formation, from legislation, to diplomacy and foreign policy, to administration. Much can be drawn from the different personalities and approaches our Founding Fathers took to our country’s first days, but all shared a common sense of deep virtue, a respect for the lessons of history, and a desire to make something inherently good that would stand the test of time. Excited to carry this project forward over the coming years.
So there you have it, my favorite reads from 2017 that made the largest impact on my development, education, and general understanding of the world. Hopefully some of these were already on your readings lists to get to eventually, and if any were not, I would definitely recommend you add them. As I mentioned before, what you spend your valuable time reading is one of the most important decisions you can make, so hopefully this post and others like it across the web help you get the best return on your investment.
As always, you can find a complete list of all the books I read this past year on Goodreads, and I would love to hear back about books that made other’s Best-of-2017 lists. So here’s to the close of another memorable year, and looking forward to seeing what this next year’s pages will bring.