The year of 2016 is coming to and end, and it is time to look back and summarize events, feelings and experiences.
In addition to being crazy lover of travel, I am a book worm. I adore reading books, and I wish I had more time to read everything that I want. My “to read” list is long enough for several years. But this year have been quite productive in terms of good books.
Here is what I read this year:
1. I started the year by finishing amazing For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. I have discovered this book in quite unusual fashion (for other books at least, maybe not so unusual for this specific one). I discovered it by listening to music, one of my favorite bands, Metallica, has a song with this title, and as I discovered, the song was inspired by the book. I love the song, so I could not resist to read the book. And I am glad that I did it. First, it taught me something that I did not know before, particularly some details about Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. It let me feel what was people’s lives and ideas, what they were fighting for. It is not an easy book to read, but for me personally, it showed that our hopes and dreams are worth pursuing, we never know if they will become a reality or not. And also, it showed me the importance of living in present, not in the world of your future dreams.
2. After classics of world literature, I switched to self-development. My next book was The Magic Of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. It was written in 1959, millions of copies were sold, and the book is still very relevant today. It focuses on mental barriers that people subconsciously have. It explains and shows examples of how making an effort, changing your thinking and habits, can have big impact on your life, boost your performance in routine tasks. I discovered it by a reference from another book that I read before, a business book by Donald Trump. He argues that this book helped him to become successful. After reading it, I can totally agree with the American President, I made an effort to adjust some of my habits and the way I think about my work, and it totally boosted my performance, improved my motivation and helped me to think more clearly about the future.
3. I try to alternate “hard” books with books that are easy to read, so my next book was supposed to be an easy one. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. It is one of the most unusual books that I have ever read. It is written in unique style, not like a narration, but as series of reports from a diary of main character. Algernon is a mouse who had undergone a surgery to increase his intelligence and the book follows a story of Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man, who had the same surgery. It starts as reports that were written with countless grammar mistakes and in a way that 3-years old boy write, then his writing evolves with increase of his intellect. The book touches many moral and ethical aspects, and I thought it would be an easy read, but in fact, it was the opposite. After reading the last page, I was very emotional, it almost made me, a grown man, cry. I am grateful to my friend Ed who suggested me to read it. It definitely told me things that I did not give much thought about, and I think made be a better person. Also I have very good memories related to this book, I was reading it during my vacation in Nova Scotia, I was reading it on quiet evenings somewhere near Halifax waterfront.
4. The next one, was again a personal growth book, How to Live 365 Days a Year by John Schindler. The book introduced concept of “emotionally induced illness” well before official medical science did. The book studies how unhappiness influences life in general and health in particular. The author also talks about ways to deal with emotions and unhappiness, to don’t let them ruin your life. The book came to me at a right time when I was having quite difficult period in life. It really helped me to cope with difficult situation, and I learned some self-control skills that I am using all the time.
5. Again, after a personal growth book, it was time for a fun book. This time it was a proven easy and fascinating read, another masterpiece by my favorite author, Tom Clancy, the Red Rabbit. The book is another part of Jack Ryan series. The plot evolves around a soviet KGB communications officer, the “rabbit”, who decided to flee Soviet Union to the West, taking some KGB secrets with him. Jack and company organize the operation. I really love Tom Clancy’s book, his attention to details and amazing stories about politics, military, intelligence services, they are always pleasant and fun to read. Although this one was not the most exciting book in the series, I think the events were too predictable with lack of tense situations. Anyway a good read that I really liked, it shows soviet people and soviet world very well.
6. Then I decided to read something totally different, something unlike what I usually read. I have chosen to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science fiction classic. This book is often described as a comedy book, shows our perception of our world from a different angle, often playing with our usual beliefs and ways of thinking. Also, it narrates adventures of its main characters in far corners of the galaxy. It is a great book, but not my format, I have no a slightest interest to read next books in the series, I am not a fan of space science fiction.
7. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie was my next book. The goal of this book is to teach a reader to fight worry. The book analyzes why do we worry and “How to Break the Worry Habit Before It Breaks You”. This book was recommended to me by my ex-boss (and I can say, mentor), and it really showed me good ways to cultivate mental attitude that reduces worry, and in the end, improves perception of happiness in life. It taught me to stop and think, what it is that I worry about, and then decide what should I do to stop it. This was a really good book for me, I enjoyed reading it and feel that I learned something very valuable.
8. “Do you wish you had 25 hours a day to get more things done?” – one good man asked me once. Sure, I never have enough time to finish what I want. That’s how I was introduced to “Getting Things Done” method of time-management and productivity, developed by David Allen, and described in his book Getting Things Done. The main focus of the book is to teach reader the art of stress-free productivity and relaxed control. The main idea is about moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable items. This allows to focus attention on taking action on tasks, instead of trying to recall them. It also tells many approaches to efficient workflow, from some fundamental ideas, to little rules that improve output dramatically, such as “2-munute rule”: “If something takes less then 2 minutes – do it right now”. Try this small rule and you will feel 50% more productive, I am telling you from my personal experience. I have seen that GTD approach really works for other people, and I started using it. I really feel improvement to my productivity and feel more in control, I clearly know what I need to do and how. However it is not a magic pill, nothing will happen after you read the book – it takes a lot of time and effort to change habits and change your self-organization.
9. From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000 by Lee Kwan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. I think this one is the most valuable book that I read in terms of information. I think it could also be called “How to create a state for dummies” – Mr. Lee Kwan Yew describes every aspect that they faced when Singapore gained independence from Malaysia and they started building a country. Singapore grew from a small fishing town with one of the biggest corruption on Earth to economic center of Asia and one of the best places to do business. The book clearly describes how it was done. It is a success story that everyone can learn from. I was amazed how many aspects of modern world it touches in so many details – army, economics, finance, welfare, culture, languages, foreign relations. After reading it, I understand world history and economy, politics, international relations and internal affairs much much better. I think that this book is a very good read for everyone who wants to understand the world better.
10. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by popular blogger Mark Manson. Another self-help book, counterintuitive approach to deal with problems of people in modern society. The book is about problems that people get from trying to be happy (instead of just being), from trying to be special or using wrong values. It somewhat opposes idea of positive thinking as a key to happy life. Mark argues that our ability to turn lemons into lemonade is not what we need, but learning to stomach lemons better, not giving a f*ck and accepting that it is a lemon, not honey, is a much better approach. It is a good and fresh view on ways to deal with common people’s problems. It was a good book to read, It was definitely another piece of sand that, combined with others, make a change.
11. Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy. Is book feels twice as long as other Tom Clancy’s books, but possibly, twice as interesting! In this book Jack Ryan and Co. faced a really complex set of problems, that included military, political and economic complications. In my opinion, it is one of the best books written by Tom Clancy, a sort of books that keeps you awake at night because you just cannot stop reading! It gets more and more interesting and excited from very first pages, and stays unpredictable and exciting as the story evolves. I liked some unusual tricks that main characters did to become winners in a totally loosing game. Another interesting thing, the book was written back in 1994, but it describes a situation that is very similar to what happened in USA on 9/11. Seven years before the actual events! In general, it is a top read for Tom Clancy’s fans.
12. Adventurous Motorcyclist’s Guide to Alaska by Lee Klancher and Phil Freeman. No, I am not a motorcyclist and I am not going to Alaska yet. But what is good for motorcyclist, is just as good for car traveler, right? This amazing book tells about what to see, where to go, where to stay, how to pack, etc – basically everything you want to know if you plan a trip to Alaska and Northwestern Canada. It was written by travelers and for travelers, authors have traveled Alaska for many years, looks like they know every tiny corner of US biggest state.
I read a lot of good stuff this year, entertaining, motivating, inspiring, self-improving.
What do you think about these books? What did you read and what can you recommend me?
I still have so many books to read on my list! To be continued next year!