This Year in Books 2016

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The sensation I have while working.

This Year in Books 2016

Each year I post a summary of the books I read. In This Year in Books 2015 I shared that A Short History of Nearly Everything was my personal book of the year. In 2015 it was Moonwalking with Einstein. Maybe it was a combination of moving to a new city and starting an MBA program, but my reading this year felt less inspired. I read a lot of textbooks, and when I wasn’t, I read a decent amount of fiction.

2016 Book Review

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Pacing myself with works by Murakami is difficult. While prolific, they are numbered, and it is preferable to always have a Murakami on the shelf to read if I would like to. Likely my favorite author, his short stories are equally good.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The Tom Hanks movie is good. The book is better. It’s a bit long and meandering, just like the movie, but that is to be expected when you are telling five stories at once. Unlike in the movie, it is not clear to the reader at the beginning that the stories are related. This process of discovery and realization is particularly satisfying, which is lost in the movie where it is clear the same actors are playing roles in each of the stories.

The Minority Report by Phillip K. Dick

In my opinion, the movie here was better. I generally enjoy works by Dick, and appreciate the creativity and world-building he masters. In this, the movie explored characters and ideas more deeply than the book.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason

After reading, I gave this book to my brother, who is starting out on his journey in the working world. It’s an allegorical tale about money. On many personal finance blogs and websites, this is the starting point they suggest. It’s short, with simple language and simple ideas that if accepted may have profound outcomes. The basic premise is set aside some percentage of your income first and invest it, before paying bills or buying things you think you need. This is where the concept of “pay yourself first” comes from.

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngoza Adichie

An adaptation of her TED Talk, Chimamanda discusses what feminism is, and why it is important. It’s very short, readable in an afternoon. For anyone interested in a quick primer on what feminism is and why understanding how humans interact in the modern world is important, this is a good choice.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

My mom has a knack for finding powerful pieces of fiction, and gave me this book. It’s deep, and dark. Somewhat reminiscent of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. For those that are interested in human behavior and the impact of race and death on families, this is a powerful read.

The Functional Art by Alberto Cairo

Cairo is a major name in the field of data visualization. He began his career in Brazil and grew to manage some of the most impressive graphics desks in the world. This book is my first recommendation to anyone interested in creating visualizations. I have a copy on my desk at work and reference it regularly. He masterfully manages to break down research into how the human brain processes information into applicable instructions for how to apply that knowledge to creating visualizations. Highly recommended.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

As a 5th grade teacher, all of my students read this series.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Last year, Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything won my best book award. I wanted to explore some of his other work, and this one aligns with one of my hobbies, backpacking. Bryson decides he is going to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), despite little camping experience, or much preparation. For those interested in a thru-hike at some point, but are concerned about their lack of experience, reading Bryson is necessary.

I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

After reading The Richest Man in Babylon, I recommend reading this. Sethi outlines how to financially plan for real humans. Everyone knows to set a budget, and tries to cut down on unnecessary expenses. Sethi takes a slightly different approach and suggests we work with our natural human behaviors, by suggesting we automate everything we can, clarify our needs and expectations, and then not to worry about the rest. Where Babylon is a helpful conceptual primer, Sethi’s book is a step-by-step guide.

Pirkei Avot by the Mishnaic Rabbis

I try to read something about spirituality or religion each year, to better understand myself and the people of the world. Unlike many other Jewish texts, this is almost entirely about ethics rather than the laws of Judaism.

Sprint by Jake Knapp

Last year, I took on a role in technology at my company. Technically an Implementation Manager, my responsibilities are very similar to that of a Product Manager. I help bring business needs, customer needs, and technology to a workable harmony. With the rise of Agile Methodologies in software development and project management philosophies, the concept of a “sprint” is popular. The idea is to timebox yourself and your work to solve problems quickly. The team at Google Ventures needed to do this a lot with the startups Google was working with, and the leaders of that team wrote a book about how to do it well.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Poetry is great.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

It was worth the read simply to see the story I enjoyed with To Kill a Mockingbird continue. Other than that, it was not particularly great.

Peace in Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn

One of my favorite lines and inspirational ideas, “Walk like you are kissing the earth with your feet,” comes from this book. Mindfulness is hard. Being aware of who we are, how we are behaving, where we are, at all times is tough. Buddhist philosophy can be difficult to grasp. Some ideas resonate with us, others are simply confusing, and some just seem trivial. This idea to kiss the earth with my feet resonates with me.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

For anyone interested in slightly more advanced astrophysics, this is a good read.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Another fantastic recommendation from my mother. The novel explores the varieties of human experience and the complexities that arise when our experience deviates from social norms.

In Milton Lumkey Territory by Phillip K. Dick


2016 Book Awards

Best Overall: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Most Useful: The Functional Art by Alberto Cairo

Best Fiction: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides