These are the books I read in December 2016 and January 2017:

1. The Urban Monk | Pedram Shojai

I found Pedram via his Youtube video: Tai Chi Daily Dozen. I do this ~30 min exercise every morning; It’s helped clear up my decade old neck pain and it’s a huge shift to start my day with exercise instead of email. The Urban Monk book includes a bunch of practical advice about living a wholesome life, including diet, exercise, money, etc. with specific lessons and “first steps” from both Eastern and Western cultures. It’s written for beginners, but if you are less than 10/10 perfect in life then you will find something worth implementing. Relatively short read.

2. Mind Gym | Sebastian Bailey & Octavius Black

There are a tonne of books on pop-psychology that are fun to read but you never implement anything from, and at first I thought Mind Gym was one of those. It turns out Mind Gym is exactly what it sounds like – a series of exercises you can implement to learn more about your mind and promote healthy mental growth. Example: one of the chapters discusses the dynamics of a healthy relationship and uses a series of questions to place you in a “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Matrix. Depending where you fall there are specific suggestions for improving your romantic and social relationships. I will read this again.

3. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do | Amy Morin

I think this was a $1.99 Amazon recommendation when I was searching for Mind Gym. I only made it about 70% through this book before putting it down. It’s fairly well written, but if you are already mentally strong and emotionally healthy then you probably won’t learn very much.

4. Ego is the Enemy | Ryan Holiday

Ryan is a good writer but IMO a better marketer, so his book suffers a little from the hype gap, i.e., I had high expectations that weren’t completely met. Chapter to chapter, It’s a little template-y, and my preference would have been for fewer or shorter stories and more clear explanations. That being said, dude has a lot to share — it’s legit hard to take something as substantial as a way of thinking and living and condense it into paragraphs. I would read this again, during the day, and allow time to meditate on some of the ideas.

5. The Coaching Habit | Michael Bungay Stanier

I’m spending more time managing and leading, and I want to get better at it. This book is a step by step format for review meetings with your direct reports. I was excited reading the Coaching Habit because it promises to give you a lot more leverage on your time. I tried implementing the lessons and found that it wasn’t a great fit for my team. We have open communication channels and resolve issues as they come up, so waiting until a formal meeting isn’t really necessary. Or maybe I’m doing it wrong. I recommend reading this and trying the format if you have direct reports.

6. The Mindbody Prescription | John E. Sarnon, M.D.

My friend Julia is an artist. About a year ago she was super stressed because she was developing intense pain in her hands every time she did her art. Then Julia read this book, applied the principles, and the pain went away. When I see book lists online I liberally send samples to my Kindle, but when a friend recommends a specific book I buy it right away. It took me a few months to get started with The Mindbody Prescription. It’s not an easy read, and it takes a certain amount of faith to believe in what could be described as alternative diagnostics (and perhaps an acceptance that the current medical establishment doesn’t have all the answers). The author says that a lot of chronic and physical pain can be attributed to you suppressing emotions, and that understanding that cause can be enough to make the pain go away. E.g., once we understood that ulcers were largely caused by stress, the instances of ulcers dropped. The author invests a healthy portion of the book in developing that faith and credibility – something that I could have skipped because I trust Julia. I recommend this as a read for anyone with chronic pain.

7. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck | Mark Manson

Mark is easily one of the most relatable readers for folks in their twenties and thirties; he says f**k a lot and uses literary devices like Disappointment Panda to make his point. If you like dude’s blog you will like this book, but with the caveat that you will see some identical content and wordplay. Because Mark is a relatable writer, it’s easy to slip into a mode where you start to accept what he writes as fact instead of informed opinion. That’s not a challenge to his credentials, but every writer creates from their own perspective and in this book it’s not usually backed with data. FWIW, I agree with a lot of Mark’s worldview, but as someone wise once said, “question everything, including me.”

Here’s a sample of what you can expect from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: “There’s a famous Michael Jordan quote about him falling over and over again, and that’s why he succeeded. Well, I’m always wrong about everything, over and over and over again, and that’s why my life improves… When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong.”

8. Grit | Angela Duckworth

Grit is the best book I ever read 15% of, seriously. Duckworth is a skilled writer that takes decades of research and experience and communicates it in a succinct and compelling way. So many books become bestsellers because the author already had a platform, e.g., a blogger who writes a book as a natural next step to share their message. But while many/some bloggers write in a way that resonates with their audience, Duckworth is just technically a great writer, and/or has a very good editor. 10/10 will read the rest; I borrowed Ethan’s copy last time I was in NYC and didn’t have time to finish it.

9. The Art of Explanation | Lee LeFever

You’ve probably seen dude’s Youtube channel: paper cut-out explainer videos about everything from technology to zombies. I read the Art of Explanation because LeFever mastered that short-explanation craft, a particular mode of communication that IMO is super useful. The book is 4 Stars on Amazon, but I’d give it 3.5 because even though the concepts are good it probably should have been condensed into a booklet. Highlight: imagining your audience on a knowledge-spectrum from A to Z. Your job is to get everyone to Z, and there are different strategies you apply based on their starting point. If someone is near the beginning of the alphabet you should start with why they should care, AKA the forest. As you get closer to the end you can focus more on the trees. If you are speaking with another expert they are probably a W+ so you can go straight to the trees.

Read a great book lately? Let me know.

To be continued…

Get My Newsletter

I write about marketing, productivity, personal finance and charity.