In 2017 I read so many books that had such a huge impact on me. The books below all reshaped the way I thought about the world around me in a fundamental way. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High By Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.
My whole life, I have struggled to navigate overly-emotional or high stakes discussions. This book provides the tools to safely cross that minefield of difficult conversations, whether it’s an argument with a girlfriend or negotiating a business deal. Instead of resorting to passive aggressive tactics like “silence or violence,” this book advocates using compassion and common ground to successfully diffuse tense situations. There is so much useful information on every page that I couldn’t stop highlighting. This is a book that I will definitely revisit over the years.
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Ostensibly, this is a book about soldiers returning from war and why they suffer PTSD. But it is so much more than that. Junger goes into depth about what it means to be a member of society and how that definition has changed since our hunter gatherer days. Humans, he argues, traditionally lived in small groups where they were united in a common goal: survival. In our safe and sterile modern society, this sense of common purpose has been stripped from us. Where does that leave us? This book offers a host of fascinating answers to that question.
Many of my friends are shocked when I tell them that I’m an introvert. But introversion is not about lacking social skills or being shy—it’s about where you draw your energy from. I’ve always needed dedicated quiet time away from intense social situations to recharge my batteries. This book explains so many things that I always wondered about my own emotional states. Even if you aren’t an introvert, the research that Cain describes is crucial to all human interactions. And best of all, this book is not about how to “overcome” introversion, but why and how these traits are so essential to society.
What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Shulberg
This is the only work of fiction that made the list this year and it doesn’t really fit with the others, but it definitely deserves to be here. This story was written in the 1930s, but transcends the time period. It tells the story of a conniving young writer in Hollywood who gets ahead by betraying and manipulating those around him. The story is Shakespearean in its naked exposition of human nature at its extremes. It is so beautifully written that you feel like you know all of the characters by the end.
Are you tired of self-help books spewing frivolous advice? TEN EASY STEPS TO BECOME RICH TOMORROW… This book is the antidote to all the bullshit out there. Instead of telling you how to be more successful, he steps back and says, “Do you really want to be?” Maybe you do. But maybe you are measuring success wrong. Maybe you are chasing a false standard that society has foisted upon you. In the culture of Instagram where everyone else appears to be leading a perfect life, this is a very important book that everyone should read.
The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. He could write about an afternoon walk in the park and have me roaring with laughter. So when I learned that he had written about the history of the English language, the linguistic nerd in me was excited. Bryson points out many things about the English language that you’ve probably overlooked your whole life. He gives tons of funny examples, from grammatical quirks to regional accents. As I traveled around, this book gave me endless topics of conversation to talk about with people from different countries and cultures.
The Cage: Escaping the American Dream by Rollie Peterkin
Of course, before you read any of the above books, you should read this one. Rollie is brilliant, funny, and insightful. He is also handsome and charming. You will laugh and cry. And it makes a great present this Christmas!