Reading is a Super Power
I have a love affair with books. I use the term love affair because my habits around them tend to be as chaotic as relationships tend to be. For example, in 2015 I spent a lot of time reading non-fiction, philosophy, and some metaphysics around self-awareness. If you switch over to 2016, you’ll see much more focus on the psychology of execution.
The effect is the same, they changed how I saw the world, sometimes much later than expected.
One thing I’ve recognized is that the effects of such books surface much later than when you read them. A book’s worth is measured by how much it affects your DNA, your perception, and what you think is possible. The books listed here have made a dent, and I recommend them because they might do something for you as well.
Without further ado, Top 10 Book Selections
Power dynamics exist. I think it is important to state that up front because it is comfortable to dismiss this when it is comfortable. “Type A” personalities or those in contact with “type A” need to have a toolset to operate. Pitch Anything gives that person something to work with to start to read a room, and then transform it to help your purposes. Dismiss this at your peril. If there is a nagging part of you that says “I don’t need to use persuasion because I have all the facts,” know that the person that doesn’t have the facts is counting on you keeping the “high ground.” Don’t let the world suffer because of your ego.
Use: power dynamics, negotiation
The Knowledge: A Too Close To True Novel By Steven Pressfield
This book was my first time reading Steven Pressfield fiction, and I am happy to say it is a page-turner just like his nonfiction. The Knowledge is a fictionalization of Pressfield’s life, and inside the margins, you’ll find lessons on understanding “the work,” the mysticism surrounding the creative process, the power of distraction, your own bullshit and so much more. Creatives heed, this book will help explain some of the strange things that tend to happen when you want to get something done.
Use: understanding yourself, creative process
Crafting something is hard. Putting it into perspective is even harder. Wanting something “now!” and thinking the rest of the world is ready for it is a trap that we, as makers, continuously fall into when we make things. Ready for an uncomfortable truth? The last thing you’ve made wasn’t ready for primetime, and unless you make some changes in how you work and seek feedback, you won’t grow from it. Ryan Holiday has written something that has shifted my perspective on the process and as a result, improved the quality of what I am working on, project wise. You’ll see the results in 2018.
Use: process, growth
Depression is a part of me, and it has taken almost 30 years of life to acknowledge it. It has been hard to talk about, much less tackle as a part of my personality. That is what makes what Jane McGonigal’s work so important. I’ve never had a book describe tools to help manage anxiety, sadness, and overwhelm in such a fun way. Each of the quests contains methods to use your self to get you better quickly.
Use: self-awareness, depression management
The Chomsky Reader by Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky is known as America’s most cited scholars and isn’t just the father of modern linguistics, but also is a leading voice in history, foreign policy, and politics. This book contains many of his critiques on topics such as the intellectual class, class warfare, crimes perpetrated by America/Western Europe on communities around the world, and many other enlightening topics. He also takes the time to cite everything, giving you the opportunity to refute (if you are curious). This book was an important stepping stone to help me understand the world around me.
Use: foreign policy, social policy
Man. The inner critic in my head screams at me all the time. Every mistake, both perceived and real, are used as ammunition in this trial that never ends. This book from Tara Brach is a reminder that this is a journey. We are not judged by each step, or even by where we go. Life is about the experience, and we are striving to be our best selves. I leave this on my shelf to remind me that I and others are doing the best they can, and give my inner critic a break.
Use: inner critic, self-reflection
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss
This book is uncomfortable. It lives to the subtitle by investigating love, intimacy, and sex in a raw, well-written way. As part autobiography and part therapy session, Neil Strauss lets you into many worlds, including sex parties, harems, and even sex addict therapy. Even more interestingly though, he talks about himself, his relationships, and his growth. Strauss bares all, and in it got me thinking about the relationships in my life much more proactively while helping me drop my judgments on how people express themselves sexually. A tall order and he delivers.
Use: Relationships, sexuality
This year has been my first year being an official “product manager.” As a product strategist, I’ve had to learn how to do almost everything that a product manager does, on the fly. To assist that, I’ve read a bunch of books on the subject, while calling on my experience as a founder and mainframe architect. Matt Lemay has written the only book that I feel accurately captures the day to day I experience, along with the decisions I have to make. If you want to be a product, and wonder what it is like, read this.
Use: Product management, strategy, decision making
Against Interpretation and Other Essays by Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag is known as one of America’s greatest essayists. This compilation will show you why. She has a fiery point of view and writes courageously about the arts, white / male supremacy, and life itself. I made a goal to implement more gender diversity in my reading in 2017, and like the book that I started this year with, this opened my eyes to a well written, clear, honest view of the world that made me feel uncomfortable and as a result, helped me grow. Pick it up.
Use: perspective, art, excellent critique
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It by Steven Pressfield
Ha! Twice in one year. I’ve loved what I’ve read from Steven Pressfield this year, and this short, impactful, compelling book is no different. Here, he talks about his career, ranging from being an ad man to picking apples in California (yes, seriously) and puts together lessons he learned to write something some wants to read. It is a reminder that the arc of a career is long, and every piece of your journey informs another. If you are just starting, please believe no one wants to read, listen, see, or anything else with your shit, but if you stay uncomfortable and dedicated, one day someone will. This book helps you know that.
Use: Process, journey, creating