Is there anything offering better value than a book?
For the price of a few coffees, you can get your hands on something that contains the most powerful ideas ever expressed.
Books change lives. They inform, inspire, and entertain us, sometimes all at once.
2019 was a great year for books. I’ve chosen ten that I think would serve you, no matter who you happen to be, as well as a key idea from each to take forward into our new decade.
Enjoy, and happy reading!
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
It seems like minimalism is a popular cultural force at the moment.
Whether physical minimalism as suggested by Marie Kondo or the digital type advocated by Cal Newport, there are plenty of advocates for simplifying our stressful lives.
In Digital Minimalism, Newport suggests taking a 30-day break from all non-essential apps and technologies. If you find Twitter distracting you from getting things done, why not cut it out for a month?
Seek to find the minimal level of tech you can get by on. You’ll probably feel far more focused as a result.
Company of One by Paul Jarvis
In the entrepreneurial world, growth and size are often celebrated for their own sake.
Often, this is due to ego. It sounds good, and fits with the old-school notion of success, to brag about the size of a company.
But what if smaller is better?
In Company of One, Paul Jarvis advocates that staying small can allow entrepreneurs to pursue a more meaningful version of success on their terms.
If you face a situation involving growth and expansion, stop and consider whether staying small might be the way to go.
Loonshots by Safi Bahcall
Are you bored of the same old predictable, safe ideas and ways of doing things?
If so, you need to check out Loonshots by Safi Bahcall.
It celebrates the type of ideas that are so out there that they seem a little crazy upon first hearing.
Even though these outside the box notions were dismissed and often ignored, many turned out to be incredibly successful after eventually gaining traction.
When you next have, or hear of, an idea that seems unusual, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Stop and consider whether it might just be the next successful Loonshot.
Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday
For many people, The Obstacle Is The Way was an important reminder of the power of Stoicism as a philosophy.
Ryan Holiday’s latest work, Stillness Is The Key, blends ideas from Stoicism and Buddhism. As well as explaining why these can play a powerful role in your life, Holiday illustrates them with powerful examples from history.
If you suffer from overwhelm or distraction, consider seeking out activities and hobbies which help you stay in the moment. I know this has personally helped me become a more productive writer. Give yourself the gift of stillness, and your happiness and focus are sure to improve.
Range by David Epstein
Range flies in the face of what many people consider to be conventional wisdom.
For years, many people have advocated the importance of intense, focused specialization. Malcolm Gladwell was associated with this, in the form of the 10,000 hours rule found in Outliers.
However, in Range, David Epstein flips this notion on its head. He makes the case for trying out different things and finding your path even later in life.
If there’s something you want to try but are worried it will take away from your intense focus on something else, don’t worry!
AI and other forms of automation are rapidly becoming better at doing one particular task than humans. Give yourself an advantage in this brave new world by having a broad range of interests and skills.
Reboot by Jerry Colonna
Often, the way we are is a product of unchosen factors.
Why are you driven? Why are you vulnerable?
Many leaders have traits that act as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they help with success. On the other, they may be detrimental in some other way.
Jerry Colonna advocates taking the time to explore, reassess, and reboot.
If you’re looking for a thought-provoking leadership book, Reboot is worth your attention.
Stop and ask yourself which aspects of your life are not serving you, yet you still have a huge role to play in why they happen. When you take the time to do that, you’ll be well on the way to rebooting your own life.
Indistractable by Nir Eyal
Perhaps the biggest boogieman for people in this day and age is distraction.
Distraction might sound trivial, but its effects are anything but.
While a distraction may last only a second, it often takes us a lot longer to settle back into our previous task and regain the level of focus needed to do it well.
Indistractable by Nir Eyal isn’t just a work-related book. It can also help increase the quality of your interactions.
To start becoming indistractable, why not choose an event where you will leave your phone elsewhere? Get your companion to do the same. You might just be amazed at the quality of interaction that occurs.
Think Like Amazon by John Rossman
Amazon’s level of success is unprecedented.
In Think Like Amazon, former executive John Rossman shares the concepts, models, and philosophies that helped Amazon achieve its dominant position.
There’s no need to be part of a massive company to apply the concepts found in Rossman’s work. Just as writing a book about your business can serve other types of business, such is the case here. People of all types can find value.
If you want to think like Amazon yourself, ask yourself which metrics you can focus on that make the key difference to what you’re trying to achieve. Amazon takes this metric focused approach when serving their customers.
By choosing your own metrics, you can measure and keep yourself accountable regarding the things that matter the most.
The Likeability Trap by Alicia Menendez
Too often, we fail to stop and think about the unfairness present in so many areas of life and business.
One example is the double standards that apply between genders. For example, as much as we might wish it isn’t the case, men and women are treated very differently, even when they display the same traits.
In The Likeability Trap, Alicia Menendez explores this concept from her Millennial perspective.
No matter your age or gender, it’s worth stopping to consider how others treat you, and how you treat others. Are you being fair? Is likeability clouding your judgment?
Often, asking these uncomfortable questions is the best route to growth and improvement.
This Is Not A T-Shirt by Bobby Hundreds
Deep down, we know the best brands and products are far more than they seem on the surface.
To give just one example, we all know a book is far more than ink and paper.
Bobby Hundreds explores this concept through the example of his streetwear company in This Is Not A T-Shirt. It’s a mix of memoir and a platform for sharing his philosophy. This is a blend I’ve seen work well when my students write their memoirs.
If you’re interested in going deeper than the surface level of a brand or product, stop and consider the meaning it has, the culture it represents, and the community that surrounds it.
Doing so will give you a more meaningful understanding of business, whether it happens to be yours or someone else’s.
10 Takeaways For The New Decade
Thanks for checking out my rundown of the best books of 2019.
Too long and boring? No worries!
Here are my key ideas from each book distilled into a single list.
- Cut out all non-essential tech for a set amount of time
- Don’t grow for growth’s sake – small might be better
- Welcome crazy ideas, as they are sometimes the best
- Allow yourself permission to choose stillness in a busy world
- Feel free to generalize and pursue whatever intrigues you
- Examine the reasons for how you are, and consider finding a new way
- Recognize that distraction is your enemy, and seek to combat it at all times
- Make your life measurable, and choose metrics for the things that matter most
- Consider whether you treat people fairly, or have different standards for different folks
- Look beyond the tangible aspects of a business and seek its culture and community
I hope you find incredible value from these ideas. May they serve you well into the new year and the decade ahead!