Non-Fiction

  • 🎧 The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E Gerber. Great book for learning how to systematise your small business. My main takeaway was to spend more time working on my business rather than in it, in particular to start planning on how it’s overall success can be less dependent on my time. [8/10]
  • 🎧 The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. A book which had been recommended by several folks I respect, I read the Kindle version a few years ago and listened to the audiobook in 2017. It describes the Cue-Routine-Reward cycle that habits follow and helped me to get a more objective outlook on my own habits as well as generating ideas on how to implement new habits I would like to adopt. [9/10]
  • 📖 The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Short book about decluttering your home. A departure from my usual genres but I particularly enjoyed this. It helped me be more aware about items around my house, particularly useful after having just moved into a new home. My main takeaway was to make throwing out an item my default action unless I could really justify keeping it. [8/10]
  • 🎧 Deep Work by Cal Newport. I listened to this book twice last year. A highly practical guide on how to cut out all the distractions that the modern world brings in order to carve out time and circumstance to do your best work and to switch off effectively when the work day is over. [9/10]
  • 🎧 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Hariri. Walks through the history of humans, from caveman through ancient civilisations to the modern day, touching on all the main philosophical concepts of war, money, politics, nationality, religion and technology. Hariri has a particular style of making his opinion sound like fact (e.g. on existence or not of deities) but once I got used to it, it challenged me to think, even if I didn’t always agree with him. [9/10]
  • 🎧 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Hariri. A follow up to Sapiens, this book touches on the same philosophical concepts as the first but rather looking into the future and making prediction on how things might look. As you might expect, technology is a major theme throughout. [9/10]
  • 🎧 A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. A review of the history of people and the universe in language an everyday person can understand. Somewhat similar to Sapiens in subject matter, the main differences are that it’s not just focussed on humans and also covers origins of the universe and physics concepts. It’s also more factual and less opinionated in tone. I mainly enjoyed it, though I found some of the historical episodes slightly boring. [7.5/10]
  • 🎧 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. “A Short History of Nearly Everything” rekindled my childhood interest in astrophysics and influenced this purchase. This book is quite short but is very fast-paced (hence “people in a hurry”, duh!). I found it quite hard going and it needed my full attention in order to not get lost. [6/10]
  • 🎧 Money: Know More, Make More, Give More by Rob Moore. The first few chapters contain some useful info around understanding and making money. He cuts through taboos around talking about money and wealth which I liked. However, I found the author (who also narrates it) hard to empathise with. He’s upfront about being somewhat of a rich stereotype (only buying designer clothes and a super car addict) which is fine, but the bravado did get a bit grating. Covers a lot on property investment (which I wasn’t particularly interested in) and got very repetitive in later chapters. [6/10]
  • 🎧 The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. A book I’ve heard a lot about and referred to as somewhat of a bible for entrepreneurs. I enjoyed the content around systematising and automating your business (e.g. through using virtual assistants) but found the content around travelling the world while running a business less applicable to my situation. Wish I’d read this book 10 years ago. Later chapters are somewhat dated as they go into detail on specific online services you can use to accomplish the 4hr week goal, many of which are obsolete now. [7/10]
  • 🎧 Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. A book about how people and organisations should change their attitude to failure, and embrace it rather than punish it. I found the title a bit confusing as the computer scientist in me seen “Black Box” as a reference to putting something in and getting something out without knowing what happens in between. It is in fact a reference to an aircraft’s black box and how it’s used to diagnose why a failure happened. It’s well known that failure is a great learning tool but yet still so few people or organisations embrace this concept today. [8/10]
  • 📖 The Lifestyle Startup by Kyle Gawley. Written by a young Belfast entrepreneur, this book provides a lot of good advice on how to start your own 1-person business. Most of the suggestions are things I’ve read before but I would definitely recommend this to any software developers or designers considering the move to self-employment, in particular if you want to take the bootstrapped route. [8/10]
  • 🎧 Principles (Life & Work) by Ray Dalio. Sets out the principles of a billionaire Wall Street investor. I really liked the concept of documenting a set of principles to live and lead by. The first half of the book is about Dalio’s personal principles which I found very interesting, although sometimes too specific to financial investing to be applicable to my own situation. The second half of the book focusses on big organisational principles and large company culture which I wasn’t particularly interested in but if you’re interested in growing your own company to a large enterprise, you would like this. [7/10]
  • 📖 The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach. Short book on personal finance. I went on a bit of an economy drive last year to cut out wasted spending and general inefficient use of money and found some useful principles and tactics in this book. My single most memorable piece of advice was to pay yourself first, i.e. as soon as you get paid then immediately put away a fixed amount into your pension and savings and don’t just save what’s rest at the end of the month. Simple but effective. [8/10]

Fiction

  • 🎧 Sum: Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. A very thought-provoking and uplifting series of short stories around the concept of an afterlife. Each story is about 5 minutes long and is narrated by a different actor. They don’t align with any particular religious viewpoint on the afterlife so if you’re Christian, Buddhist or Atheist you will still get something from this. Rather than making me wonder about an afterlife, I found each story made me reflect on my life in the here and now. [9.5/10]
  • 📖 Extracted: Extracted Trilogy No.1 by R R Haywood. [7/10]
  • 📖 From the Cradle by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards. [8/10]
  • 📖 The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott. [9/10]
  • 📖 The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards. [8/10]
  • 📖 The Magpies by Mark Edwards. [8/10]
  • 📖 Follow You Home by Mark Edwards. [9/10]
  • 📖 The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards. [9/10]
  • 📖 Dark Matter by Crouch Blake. [9.5/10]
  • 📖 For Your Own Protection by Paul Pilkington. [8/10]

Observations

I generally consume non-fiction in the form of audiobooks (🎧) on Audible. This allows me to listen to it when travelling or doing housework. Another benefit is that I find Audible’s subscription of 1 credit/month a good frequency. A minor drawback is that when listening I sometimes lose focus and don’t take in as much as I would when reading it.

All my fiction reading tends to be on my Kindle Paperwhite (📖). These are almost always read in bed as I avoid most non-fiction books late at night due to their tendency to initiate reflective thought processes which don’t make for a good night’s sleep.

General themes from last year’s reading material:

  • Human history
  • Habits and focus
  • Personal finance
  • Crime mystery

I noticed that I didn’t finish any technology books last year (though I did start a few and not finish them). This wasn’t a deliberate decision but I guess is symptomatic of my interests right now. Whilst I do still love tech and it’s an integral part of my business, I don’t see it as a major differentiator for me or my business going forward. That said, there are a few hyped tech topics (e.g. AI and Blockchain) which I do plan to read up more on this coming year.

Another observation is that the vast majority of the authors (particularly in non-fiction) are male.

Goals for Reading in 2018

  • Machine Learning
  • Cryptocurrency & Blockchain (hop aboard the bandwagons!)
  • More female non-fiction authors
  • Make time for more focussed reading and note taking on certain non-fiction books
  • Publish a few in-depth book reviews on this blog

Any good recommendations on the above topics would be much appreciated in the comments below.


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