My Top 15 Books of 2015
I had one specific project for 2015: Reading 52 books in 52 weeks. You can read all about the side effects in my previous post, but today is about my top books out of the 54 I ended up reading.
So without further ado, here it goes:
- Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh: The story of Zappos - an intimate view on how a company starts, matures and has to face a lot of challenges on the way. Hsieh chronicles the journey of Zappos from being focused on profits through passion to purpose. Very interesting, entertaining and relatively short read. Recommended especially for the ones interested in the backstory of holacracy, a principle pioneered by Zappos.
- Good to Great, Jim Collins: Hands down the best business book I’ve read since Horowitz’ Hard Things. Collins looks at the common characteristics of companies that have turned themselves from good to great ones and stayed that way, i.e. outperformed the market almost 7x in the 15 years following their transition point. Extremely well researched book and great insights on leadership - most importantly, get the right people on the bus and in the right spots. Highly recommended for all entrepreneurs out there.
- Getting Things Done, David Allen: I’ve written at length about the effects of implementing GTD in the summer (you can read that piece on my old company blog, Project Phoenix, here). If you’re struggling with too many things at your hands, a private life that suffers behind your professional one, or don’t have a clue anymore what your teams are doing, this book - and its method - are for you.
- Wild, Cheryl Strayed: The first book I read in 2015, and it stuck with me until the end of the year - Cheryl Strayed’s story of walking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) on the heels of losing her mother and losing herself in a heroine addiction. Makes me want to pull out my hiking boots and go on a long distance hike alone every time I think back to reading it. Beautiful, sad, heartwarming and healing story. For everyone.
- Personal History, Katharine Graham: I don’t remember how I came across this book, but it’s the best biography that I’ve read in a long time. Kay Graham took over as publisher of the Washington Post from her husband after his suicide; and guided the newspaper through its defining years of the Pentagon Papers and uncovering Watergate. Absolutely fascinating self-written portrait of an incredible woman! Push through the first couple of hundred pages, it’s so worth it.
- Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson: Want to read about a crazy man? Read this. This book is SO well researched and written that it reads more like a novel than a biography. Long, but very, very good. Can’t wait to dive into the next Isaacson book.
- Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson: Book 2 of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive (book 1 is the almost as good Way of Kings). I’d been on the lookout for some good fantasy books after having finished Game of Thrones, and this was the first Sanderson book that I read. Oh my god. SO SO good. If you love fantasy, go and buy these two immediately. And then finish them and cry because the next one will be published only in 2017 or so.
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt: Read this one after the hype, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it. If you like well-written novels with a twist and good insights into human behavior, pick this one up. Beautiful language, only the last 10 pages could’ve been condensed into one.
- Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: If you haven’t read it, go buy it. Now. This book is like a very, very good glass of wine (and I don’t even drink anymore…) - you savor every single sentence and you just don’t want it to end. The language is beautiful and the plot is gripping. All her other books are on my To Read list for this year.
- The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber: This was a random buy before our vacation to Iceland. Very, very strange plot (think: interplanetary mission + Christianity + love + tech), but I couldn’t put it down. If you like slightly SciFi, slightly weird, very well written novels, pick this one up.
- Being Mortal, Atul Gawande: In my opinion, everyone should read this. Gawande is a US physician who writes about the history of nursery homes, what elderly people really need and how we deal with death as a society. He examines alternative models of care and proposes ways to a healthier relationship with that very uncomfortable truth that we all need to face: We are going to die. And before us, our parents are going to age. And die. And we will have to find ways of dealing with this. So true, so important.
- The Crossroads of Should and Must, Elle Luna: This is a beautifully made book that’s based on Elle Luna’s Medium essay. It shows you that it’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life, and has handy little exercises that bring you a little bit closer to figuring it out. At the same time, it’s refreshing in a sense that it doesn’t ask you to overthrow everything right now. Buy it NOT for Kindle - this is one that you want as a hardcover as it’s so well made!
- Heroines, Kate Zambreno: Around September, I went on a binge read of books by modern feminists (Roxane Gay, Lena Dunham) and this one really stood out for me because it pushed me very far out of my comfort zone. Zambreno is a literature scholar who writes about the relationship between female authors / wives and their author husbands (think the Fitzgeralds), mental illness, and her own role as a woman / wife / writer / scholar. Fascinating insights, and very interestingly written.
- How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran: The second feminist book that stood out for me, but for very different reasons: It’s SO funny that I started laughing out loud reading it on a plane and I’m pretty sure that the mid-50s guy sitting next to me thought I was crazy when he looked at the page and saw that it was some tale of vaginas and periods and stuff. This is so honest, raw, funny, heart-wrenching that I couldn’t believe it. Every woman (and her partner) should read it.
- My New Roots, Sarah Britton: Yes, I do count cookbooks. And yes, I read them like novels. And yes, my partner makes fun of me for that (thanks, D ;)). If you’re looking for a fresh approach to veggie-based recipes, pick this one up. It has breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options per season and everything that I’ve made out of it was delicious.
If you’re looking for something new to read, pick one of these up - and let me know how you liked them!
Bonus tip: Feminist binge reading to be continued - Emma Watson just opened a feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf. It starts with Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road in January. Think about joining!