As of writing, I have powered through 55 books this year. I choose the word “powered” deliberately, and I’ll have more to say about that next week when I list all the books I read for the year. But in the meantime, I’ve been doing some reflecting on the year that is about to close, and I thought about the books that stuck with me the most.
In no order, here are the top 5 books I read this year.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog details the early history of Nike’s founding and the struggle of getting the company off the ground. While there are things that Knight did that had questionable ethics, you can’t deny that he and his team worked incredibly hard to secure their place in the world of shoes. The story was compelling and hooked me in from the outset.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
Another founder’s story, Catmull relates the history of Pixar’s founding and eventual merge with Disney. If I was going to use one book to teach me leadership (especially when leading creative teams), this would be the bible to follow.
The Daily Show: An Oral History by Chris Smith
I loved the Stewart years of the Daily show, but if I regret one thing, it was that I didn’t watch it sooner. I didn’t have the understanding of politics and history to get the show’s message while I was in high school. In fact, I only came to the Daily Show after getting into the Colbert Report midway through undergrad. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the show under Trevor Noah’s leadership, but it hasn’t been the same for me. This book helped me catch up on the early history of the show and gain some context of the show while I was a viewer. Finally, it answered my burning question of why Stewart decided to step away from the desk.
The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester
This book was so good, I gave it to my grandfather as a Christmas gift. Maybe I’m biased because I work in an office full of engineers, but the history of precision engineering was amazing. Winchester tells a compelling story of the various leaps forward in precision engineering, from machining and designing systems in entirely new ways. While you might not think a history lesson of machining would be interesting, I urge you to check this book out.
The Last Man Who Knew Everything by David N. Schwrtz
The biography of Enrico Fermi’s life was a thrilling ride. I like reading about the education and early development of brilliant thinkers, and Fermi didn’t disappoint. Fermi is known for his uncanny ability to derive equations from first principles, and to understand systems almost intuitively. Combine that with his ability to “eyeball” problems and create stunningly accurate approximations, it’s no wonder that he’s considered the father of the atomic age. While it’s a shame that his work did create such devastating destruction during the war, the man himself was charming and well-worth getting introduced to.
Next week, I’ll list all the books I’ve read in 2018. In the meantime, have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and I’ll see you in 2019.