“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” – Maurice Sendak
As i’m writing this i’ve just taken a break from reading “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday. I started reading it quite a while back but it got put on the backburner because of stuff getting in the way. Oh, the irony.
The list was really hard this time since I had atleast another 10 titles I wanted to include. But I took five of them as honorable mentions. The rest will probably be recommended in upcoming posts anyway. So, homework’s coming!
Just a caveat, the official list is all non-fiction (or atleast it pretends to be!). This is because I like reading real life stories that we can apply to our craft in some way.
Let’s dive right in shall we?
10. “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” – Nick Bilton
I smell draaamaaa! Really great insights into how one of the biggest companies came about. I’m sure there’s a lot more versions of what happened than are included in this book but it shows how fragile friendship is and exactly how important it is. The reason we get to enjoy this medium is because of passionate, hard working people who want to deliver great services. Why can’t they get along? Because there’s about as many opinions of what’s best for the company as there are individuals. A great read for anyone who wants insights into the tech industry or just wants some real world drama.
9. “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” – Greg McKeown
The title says it all. This is a great guide on how to really focus on doing the RIGHT thing instead of doing as much as possible. It’s so easy to say yet so hard to do. If you want to clear the clutter and find an easier way of operating then this book is for you.
8. “Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind” – Biz Stone
Step into the rosy colored world of Biz Stone. Yet another look at Twitter only with more focus on Biz’s life and what he thinks and feels about it all. The things I found more interesting were his insights into creativity and how to hold on to your values.
7. “The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” – Walter Isaacson
Alright, so don’t expect this to be on par with the Steve Jobs biography. It is not. What it is though is a great look at the lineage of ideas that culminated in the personal computer. There are some great surprises and interesting life stories in it that just sucks you in even if you’re not into technology.
6. “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found a Self-Help That Actually Works” – Dan Harris
I’ve recommended and mentioned this book in other posts during the year and it’s really a great book. Even if you’ve read everything else in the self-help section this one takes you on a personal journey with a real skeptic. It also highlights our misconceptions about what happiness really is. Cozy up with some hot chocolate and read this, you’ll be glad you did!
5. “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” – Simon Sinek
Like with “The Innovators” this book needs to be looked at not through the lens of the authors previous work. Sinek’s book “Start With Why” was for me jaw dropping, I don’t remember who recommended me to watch his TED talk, but when he drew the parallell between the golden circle and the brain it just blew my mind. That was right at the start of my to exploration into creativity. I had huge expectations for this title. So? Is it any good? Heck yeah! It’s a great book! It talks about why it’s important to be a good leader, what it means to be a leader and how to be a leader. Also it offers some insights into why a lot of companies have such a hard time building loyalty and a safe environment for its employees. It stands on its own merits as a great book as long as you don’t read it as “Start With Why – Episode II – Attack of the Clowns”.
4. “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help” – Amanda Palmer
There’s a lot of shame around reaching out a hand and asking for help. This is wholly written based on her experience and doesn’t necessarily take into consideration all the other social aspects that play a role. That being said there is still a lot we as creatives can learn from her exploration. It isn’t a sign of weakness to be vulnerable and let others help you out. We couldn’t enjoy the things we enjoy today if we didn’t in some way help each other.
Before the official top 3, here are the honorable mentions I promised earlier!
“The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control” – Walter Mischel
Since i’ve been exploring this type of science for a while this wasn’t anything groundbreaking. It was still a great, fast read and a great reminder about how we need to look at the long term implications of our actions. I recommend this to anyone who wants a fun way to explore psychology, because this book delivers!
“One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories” – B.J Novak
Silly, stupid stories that made me laugh and reflect. The audiobook version includes Jason Schwartzman, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling and Katy Perry. I suggest you get that version. En-Joy!
“What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” – Randall Munroe
You’ve seen the xkcd-cartoons before. Well, here’s that guy’s book! He delivers funny, scientific and interesting answers to wonderful questions like “What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”. The answers might surprise you!
“Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences” – John Moe
This book contains for me the fucking funniest story of the year. It’s the exchange of letters between the producer of the 60’s “Batman” tv-show and its songwriter Neal Hefti. I could not breathe. Tears and snot, everywhere. Being a songwriter/producer and working with songwriters/producers/artists i’ve actually seen letters (well, e-mails) pretty damn similar and it really hit home! If you’re a creative person in need of some shits and giggles to heal the trauma, pick this one up.
3. “Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success” – Shane Snow
This contains soooo much great info for creatives it’s not even funny. If you extrapulate the right lessons from this book it’s like getting maybe 15-20 “how to”-books in one. I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff that made me think “Oh! That’s from that book. Yeah! That’s from there! Damn it, had I just waited 3 years I could’ve had ’em all in one!”.
2. “Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered” – Austin Kleon
I LOVED Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like An Artist”, if you haven’t read it, it’s a must for ANY creative! So, this is for those who’ve actually created stuff but are either afraid to get it out there or don’t know how to go about it. This is a great book to get you fired up and going with that project that’s lost momentum or you just don’t know what to do with. Get. This. Book!
1. “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation” – Blake J. Harris
Now this, THIS is my book of the year. It made me laugh, cry, think and reminisce. I grew up in the heat of the fight during the late 80’s and 90’s. I was clearly a Sega-kid! So this is really close to my heart. It offers a great (if not THE greatest) insight into the world of tech and videogames. The emotions, drama, laughs, friendships and hardships that these people were involved in gave me an even deeper appreciation for the games that I got to enjoy as a kid. This book also gives us great lessons about what videogames can become in the future. Like with “The Innovators” it gives us a great lineage of what came before that’s lead us down the path we’re on now. This, again, for any creative person should be required reading to learn from and apply in their own craft. If you prefer, you can always wait for the movie based on the book currently under development by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen!
So, there they are and there they shall remain! I hope you found something interesting to pick up and that you’ve had great readings during 2014 yourself! If you have any book that you’re missing from this list or that you’d like to recommend, leave a comment!
Oh, and looking forward into 2015. What books look most exciting?
1. “How Not to Make a Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer” – Roberta Marie Munroe
2. “Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink” – Gail Carson Levine
3. “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty” – Scott Steinberg
4. “Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully” – Allen Kurzweil
And on that note, i’ll leave you with a quote!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss