I’ve had to do quite a bit of reading in 2016, at least compared to previous years. While I do enjoy reading, I feel like the amount of time I’ve had to be able to devote to reading has dwindled since I finished high school. In fact, there was at least one year in college where I didn’t read a single book outside of my required readings for class.
Over the last three years, I’ve done quite a bit more reading than I had in the time between then and when I had graduated high school. I’ve been averaging reading 15-20 books per year over the last three years. While most of the books I’ve read this year in particular have been related to work, I do think that at least some of them have a broader appeal.
In today’s post — at the recommendation of some of you on Twitter — I’m sharing the books I’ve read so far in 2016. They’re ranked in order from my least favorite to my favorite. Though I’ve re-read my own book probably 15 times since the start of May alone as it neared publishing, I’ve chosen to omit it from this list. That said, stay tuned for some news on some coming sales for the Kindle version of my book.
The Ultimate Question 2.o by Fred Reichheld
There were two books on this list that were absolute nightmares to get through, leading me to give up on them on more than one occasion. While I finished the other book where this was true (more on that in a moment), The Ultimate Question 2.0 was so dry that I’ve had to stop reading it on two separate occasions and still have yet to pick it back up. Business books are rough enough to read without being unbearably dry. I’ll try to finish The Ultimate Question 2.0 by end of year so I can give a better opinion on it, but at this point, I can’t consider it any more than I book I could put down over and over again.
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza
The non-business book that I’m currently working on finishing is Mila 2.0. I’m about halfway through the book at this point. Mila 2.0 tries to straddle the line between young adult novel and science fiction novel, and so far it’s done a decent job of it. The book is a bit reminiscent of one of my favorite books ever, Feed by M.T. Anderson, however I’m still a bit too early in Mila 2.0 to tell if I’m going to like it that much. Considering I’ve put it aside for three other books on this list (two of them willingly), I’m guessing it won’t be quite that high, despite being an enjoyable read.
Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
Here sits the other book on my list that I struggled mightily reading. Part of the appeal to Talent is Overrated is the fact that the reviewers of the book who loved it tend to run the gambit in the business world and the American political world. And yes, there are a lot of interesting studies and valid points brought up in the book. But in reading Talent is Overrated, I felt like I was back in my English classes in high school, stuck reading Moby Dick, Jane Eyre, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, or some other book that I was forced to read but didn’t truly enjoy. If you can get through the extremely dry text, there’s a lot to learn from Talent is Overrated. If not, there’s a suitable, if not superior, replacement further down this list.
The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard
I’ve had to read three of Ken Blanchard’s books at various points for work, and at this point I know exactly what I’m getting. There will be entertaining stories used to break down common sense ideas on how to work with people. On the downside, the book will be moderately drenched in sexism, quickly making it evident that the business world of the late 1980s/early 1990s wasn’t remotely friendly to women. At least The One Minute Manager was a quick read.
The Nordstrom Way by Robert Spector
Both The Nordstrom Way and the next book on this list are essentially interchangeable reviews. Both books pushed the importance of selflessness and creative thinking while helping customers, as well as giving an in depth history of the company and why customer service was important to them. Both books read as thinly veiled advertising for the company they were written about. In fact, the sole reason I give The Nordstrom Way the lower spot on this list is because at least the next book made no effort to hide that it was essentially advertising.
Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz
Both Pour Your Heart Into It and the previous book on this list are essentially interchangeable reviews. Both books pushed the importance of selflessness and creative thinking while helping customers, as well as giving an in depth history of the company and why customer service was important to them. Both books read as thinly veiled advertising for the company they were written about. In fact, the sole reason I give Pour Your Heart Into It the higher spot on this list is because at least it made no effort to hide that it was essentially advertising for Starbucks.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The only non-business book I’ve read this year was also the first Neil Gaiman book I’d ever read. I’ve always heard good things about Gaiman’s writing, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane didn’t disappoint in terms of quality. Books dealing with the supernatural typically aren’t my cup of tea, however Gaiman has a way with words that makes the supernatural almost relatable. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a pretty creepy read, so keep that in mind in terms of when you choose to read your books.
The Happiness Track by Emma Seppala
The most recent book I finished was Emma Seppala’s The Happiness Track. Had I read this book prior to last year, I think I would have found a lot of what Seppala covers to be a bit hokey with too much soft science for me. I’ve always had a strong interest in psychology and sociology, however I’ve never viewed the ideas of compassion and altruism as being critical components to happiness or success, even though I believe that both ideas are critical to being an exceptional human being. The Happiness Track gives great insight into why both compassion and altruism matter beyond just yourself and your day to day life.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Unless I read a life changing book over the next 5 months, I fully expect the top two books on this list to remain the same at the end of the year. Delivering Happiness is a must read for anyone who runs their own business, particularly if that business has a sales-driven model or is service-centric. While Delivering Happiness does, at times, read like an advertisement to work for Zappos, I feel as though the reason it seems that way is because of how unique Zappos’ culture is, even after their acquisition by Amazon. My only disappointment was that Delivering Happiness was written before Zappos adopted the Holacracy management style. I’d love to know how things have changed there after that drastic — though completely reasonable and understandable — move.
Drive by Dan Pink
There have been very few instances in life where I’ve consumed some sort of media (book, movie, song, etc.) at exactly the right time when I needed to. I read Drive by Dan Pink just as I found out I was going to be hiring my first employee for my department, and I think the lessons I learned from that book helped me to make a great long-term decision. One of the biggest flaws of the business world today is that many companies choose to motivate people solely with money and bonuses — despite the fact that numerous studies have shown that there’s a quantifiable limit to the amount of happiness money can create. Drive delves into the other ways that motivation can be created, as well as how to evolve your own motivational focuses to create greater satisfaction for you in your job and life.