On the internet, December marks the time of year where everyone releases lists of their top favourite things from the past year. It’s my turn to add to that mighty tradition and announce my top books that I read in 2017. I will post my total list of books read in 2017 in January. For those curious, here are the 44 books I read in 2016.
Here are my top books that I read in 2017.
For this post, I have three criteria notes.
- The book didn’t need to be published in 2017. I’m nowhere near able to keep up with the new material getting pumped out every year, so for my list, I will include anything that I happened to read and complete in 2017.
- Having said that, I will only count books that I read for the first time in 2017. You’ll see in my overall list of books for the year, there were a few books I revisited that I read in 2016.
- Finally, the biggest criteria for “best” is books that stuck with me – they gave me knowledge or wisdom that I use, or that has lasting mental/emotional impact. This is admittedly a wishy-washy criteria, so to summarize, these are books that I found valuable to have read and I will likely re-read in the future.
The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin
This book goes on the honourable mention list because I haven’t finished reading it as of posting. It’s really good, though, and would have made the list had I finished it in time. Waitzkin is a bit of a wunderkind, having won chess championships as a child, then becoming a national push-hands championship, and now (post-book publication) has become a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I mention this because it gives credit to the idea that he’s given a lot of thought to the learning process, and his book provides many insights that I will use both as a student and as a teacher.
Top 5 Books (in no particular order)
I read relatively few works of fiction this year, but American Gods stuck out for me. It’s been a while since I felt engrossed in a work of fiction the way I was for American Gods. It was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman’s work, and it certainly won’t be my last. I’m looking forward to checking out the television series.
This is a book that I implemented at work with my role in program updating and renewals. I took the 80/20 principle and started thinking about the relatively few problems that lead to massive delays in the program review process in order to find solutions to the workflow. I didn’t get a chance to implement many changes before the Ontario College Strike put things on hold, but I’m looking forward to continuing the process when things even out a bit.
I wish I could say that I implemented the lessons from this book, but truthfully, I found it hard to absorb all the fine details from my first pass in the audiobook. This book will be a prime candidate for a re-read in the near future, as I will be able to take my time and work through the material to assimilate the useful information in my work.
I think this one will end up being one of those books I pick up and thumb to a random page for an aspirational kick in the pants. Jocko’s main lesson is that, paradoxically, if you want more freedom, you must get more disciplined. That means doing what you need to do when you need to do it. As he says, if you want more money, you need more financial discipline. If you want a body that doesn’t let you down, you need to have discipline in diet and exercise. As a former US Navy Seal, having this guy telling you to get on it, and why I have no excuses to stop is pretty powerful, even from the written word.
This might be a cheat, but I simply couldn’t pick a favourite between these two. Both have compelling stories, both have memorable characters, and both are awesome. Mort is a story where Death looks for an apprentice, and Pyramids tells the story of a prince-turned-assassin who is recalled to rule when his father dies in a land resembling ancient Egypt. Fantastical stories full of charm, and I laughed out loud while listening to them both. Therefore, they make the list in a shared spot.
Keep an eye out for my complete 2017 list in January. In the meantime, I really need to get on my Christmas shopping!