50 Books

One of my goals for 2017 is to read 50 books before Dec. 31.

I’ll keep a running list below with a short review. (Note- “pace” is how many books I am projected to finish in 2017 based on completion date).

  1. The Knowledge by Steven Pressfield (Finished Jan. 11; Pace: 33.2 books): Pressfield has written some of my favorite books on how to approach creative work in a professional manner. This book, a fictional novel based (very loosely) on his life, is essentially just him demonstrating how to put his best advice into practice and create art that works. Also happens to be a pretty good whodunit.
  2. This Boys Life by Tobias Wolff (Jan. 22; Pace: 33.2 books): I have been wanting to read this for awhile and wish I had done so much sooner. A gritty coming-of-age memoir (that is apparently “mostly” true) this was equal parts heartbreaking and darkly comic-but always extremely entertaining. Wolff endured an abusive stepfather and many other adult figures that gave him very little chance to succeed in life (other than his mother, the real hero of the book), but he makes no excuses for himself and overcomes much to become the great writer he is today. One of the best books I have ever read, I devoured this in two sittings.
  3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Jan. 31; Pace 35.3 books): A collection of writings by the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. Despite the fact that these words were written a millennium ago, so many of the insights into human behavior still hold true and are applicable today. I expected this to be very academic but found it immensely practical.
  4. My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Feb. 20; Pace 28.6 books): One of the most popular books ever published in Norway, I heard about this on the Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast. Weirdly fascinating book that is technically just the authors memoir, but the detail in which he describes everyday life has drawn comparisons to Proust. I really enjoyed it (and recommend it), but am not sure I will have the stamina for the remaining five (five!) volumes he published.
  5. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (Feb. 25; Pace 32.6 books): I don’t read a lot of autobiography, but this was so good I think I may have to start. Knight tells the story of how he started Nike and how it grew to what it is today. And while the scale is drastically different, I could not help but draw many comparisons between the early days of Nike and King of Pops. I finished with quite a few notes on culture, growing for the right reasons and transitioning from scrappy startup to the leader in your industry. NOTE – Listened to this on Audible and the narration by Norbert Leo Butz was excellent.
  6. Enchridion by Epictetus Feb. 28; Pace 37.1 books): Born a slave, Epictetus became one of the most famous Stoic philosophers and his “Manual” one if its most famous surviving texts. This a great starting point for stoicism and I am glad I now own a copy. A short text, this can be read in one sitting but I imagine I will return to it again and again. I love the opening line: Some things are in our control, others are not.
  7. Courage Under Fire by James Stockdale (Feb. 28; Pace 43.3): Technically an essay, I included it here because I needed help keeping my pace up! Before becoming a naval pilot, Stockdale studied philosophy at Stanford where he discovered Epictetus and stoicism. When he was shot down over Vietnam, he used his stoic knowledge to endure his eight-year stint as a prisoner of war-two of which were spent in leg irons. It was fascinating to read how the very old ideas of stoicism hold up in a modern (and very real) situation.
  8. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron (Mar 5; Pace 45.6 books): I heard Seth Godin recommend this on a podcast and because I devour almost anything he recommends, I snagged it. However, I was pretty disappointed. Perhaps the Buddhist teachings were just too esoteric for me, but I found much of the language overly lyrical and lacking logic. I will likely give Chodron another shot, as I know many smart people find her to be a great writer.
  9. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (Mar 8; 49.0 books): A classic that I never read, I found this on a shelf at my parents house recently and absolutely loved it. Despite its very grim subject matter, is an overwhelmingly positive read. Frankl endured unspeakable horrors in Nazi concentration camps, but from that experience developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. Equal parts gripping survival story and an academic explanation of his doctrines.
  10. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Mirakami (Mar 25; 43.5 books): I have been running a lot lately to burn off some stress and this title caught my eye. A memoir by the famous novelist, Mirakami is upfront with the reader that he only wrote this because he wanted to. I am really glad as he did. Ostensibly about running, it is also about writing, growing older, and the role internal motivations play in ones life.