By the end of the year 2015, I had read five books from a collection of twelve books purchased that year.
I didn’t want to become somebody who collects books and never reads them so I devised a simple reading schedule at the beginning of 2016.
I started by identifying and allocating moments in my life when I could do some uninterrupted reading. These moments included: the journey to and from work and Sunday evenings. My return journey to work is roughly 35 minutes each way. That is a total of 70 minutes per day multiplied by 5 equals 350 minutes per week. I decided to reserve an hour on Sunday evenings for reading (barring any unforeseen events). Altogether I had almost seven reading hours available each week.
The next step was to make sure the moments identified are used exclusively for reading and nothing else. To achieve this, I would turn on the Airplane Mode on my phone and removed other distractions from my surroundings.
By the summer of 2016, I had already read more than my total from the previous year. Was it not for the breaks I took mid-year and during the Christmas period, I could have added another book or two.
It’s really about allocating the time and building a habit. After a few months, I no longer had to remind myself to open a book at those particular moments.
P.S. This schedule was also used to read saved blog posts, research papers as well as Hacker News discussions.
In no particular order, here’s the list of books I’ve read this year:
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
I had to buy this book after listening to Dr Duckworth on Freakonomics podcast. It is better to substitute your need for novelty with nuances when learning something that seems difficult. This book helped me become grittier. I wish I could send a copy of this book back in time to myself during my formative school years.
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins and David Silverman
General McChrystal is a retired four-star US Army General who resigned from his role as Commander in Afghanistan back in 2010 after the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which he had made disparaging remarks on the Obama Administration. In this book, he and his co-authors write about the unpredictability of the Afghan battlefield. The book shows you how leadership and strategies implemented on the battlefield can be used in a corporate environment.
Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code by Michael Lewis.
Another Michael Lewis book on my reading list. What can I say? I’m a huge fan. This time I’ve managed to get Michael to sign my copy at our company event in Los Angeles. Michael takes the reader into the world of High-Frequency Trading, a form of Algo-Trading. Like all of his previous books that I’ve read, this one was no exception.
Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning by Guillem Balague
I read the second edition of Balague’s biography of Guardiola. It includes his sabbatical in New York and the three years in Munich. Overall I learnt more about this football genius from a small Catalan village. His obsession with football tactics and his visions for the beautiful game.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A Norman
Isn’t it annoying when you grab a door handle expecting to pull only to realise that you need to push in order to open the door? I’m a huge fan a good product design. The best product designs for me are those that don’t make me think. The book gives you some exciting example of good designs in everyday objects and it explains why these objects work so well. I highly recommend this book.
Strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart
Although I’ve never been in the Armed Forces or ever been tempted to enlist, I’ve always admired the discipline and strategies employed in battle. I gravitated towards this book because I wanted to improve my strategic thinking skills and I was not disappointed after reading this book. I’ve also gained a better understanding of the strategies used in World War 2.
Ask The Dust by John Fante
I picked up this engaging novel as a last minute purchase before boarding a long-haul flight. The book follows the journey of a dreamer in the City of Angels. I can imagine so many people in LA relating to Artuto’s ups and downs. Los Angeles can easily become a city of broken dreams. This is my first John Fante novel and I plan on reading more from him in the near future.
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
In American Football, most Quarterbacks are right-handed so this makes their left side (the blind side) vulnerable. Opposing pass-rushers often take advantage of this weakness. I occasionally watch American Football but I don’t fully understand the intricacies of the game. In addition to the powerful story of Michael Oher’s deprived upbringing, the book also examines the evolution of offensive football strategy. I haven’t seen the movie adaptation of the Michael Oher storyline but I’ve heard good reviews.
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
I bought this short book a few years ago but kept moving it down my reading list. This is probably because achieving a balance of body and mind was never a priority of mine. We follow the experiences (physical and spiritual) of Eugen Herrigel, a German Professor in Japan as he studies the art of archery under a Zen master.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Freakonomics is the product of a partnership between a Journalist (Dubner) and an Economist from the University of Chicago (Levitt). One of the highlights from the book for me is this — In a given situation, if you can figure out what the incentives are for the other person, you can almost predict their behaviour. Although I do not agree with everything they’ve written, Levitt and Dubner present some intriguing arguments and make it easy for the reader to understand their arguments.
I highly recommend the Freakonomics movie for anybody captivated by this subject.
Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine by Antonio Garcia Martinez
I love reading anecdotes from people in Silicon Valley. Whether on Social Media or in biographies. Antonio’s recollections from his days at various organisations including Facebook are certainly hilarious as well as enlightening. In the end, this book read like the author’s last words. I’m not sure he will be easily welcomed in many top organisations in the Valley after this public outburst.
Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, buy, Lie or Die by Eric Siegel
“We have the math; they have the myth”. These were the words of Obama’s 2012 Campaign Manager Jim Messina. Their internal data showed them comfortably winning the election yet the Romney campaign and the Media were predicting a tighter race. Whether it’s predicting an election outcome, user purchases or human behaviour, predictive analytics is important in almost all organisations. I’d encourage anyone interested in Predictive Analytics to read this book. Just don’t expect to read the Mathematics involved in Predictive Analytics.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens is a thought-provoking coverage of human history from the prehistoric ages to what the author believes is the possible future of the human race (the singularity).
My copy of The House of Silk will arrive in a couple of days. I can’t wait to start another year of reading. I enjoy reading suggestions from other people so don't hesitate to add your suggestions in the comments below.