Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Book List

Wow, I can't believe I made it.  This year was busy, and fun, and if I may say so, successful. I set several goals for myself in 2017, and I hit pretty much all of them.  One of those goals was to read 52 books this year.  With everything else going well, I looked at my progress in October and realized that I was in trouble.  The last few months were a sprint, with the last week of December being almost constantly reading.  I will admit to a little bit of gamesmanship in the 11th hour as I cherry picked a number of smaller books to help me get there, but when I look at my overall average, I don't think this at all takes away from my goal.  Memory of Light, Way of Kings, Words of Radiance.... need I say more?

So on to 2018.  I will be setting the same goal again: 52 books in 2018.  My life was blessed by the books I read this year, and I look forward to the opportunities that will come from my efforts next year.  To enhance my goal, I want to set a few more parameters than I usually do.  In 2018 I want to read at least 12 religious books, 12 self help/business books and 12 fantasy books.  The rest can be from any genre, but I want to make sure I at least cover my bases in those three areas.  In 2017 my counts were roughly as follows: Self Help/Business (16), Fantasy (18), Religion (5).  Other notable categories were history, mystery, and general fiction.  This is the first time I have tried an additional breakout like this, so we will see how it goes.  I may amend it. The purpose is to maximize the value I get from this investment in reading, which is a combinations of new ideas, motivation and pleasure.

1How to Be a Great BossGino WickmanJanuary 7
2Married And Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second HalfGary ChapmanJanuary 11
3And Then There Were NoneAgatha ChristieJanuary 15
4The Gathering StormRobert Jordan & Brandon SandersonJanuary 23
5Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others DieChip HeathJanuary 27
6Towers of MidnightRobert Jordan & Brandon SandersonFebruary 17
7Memory of LightRobert Jordan & Brandon SandersonMarch 6
8The Legacy JourneyDave RamseyApril 3
9Cutting for StoneAbraham VergheseApril 4
10The Diamond ThroneDavid EddingsApril 14
11The Ruby KnightDavid EddingsApril 27
12Don't Call It ThatEli AltmanMay 3
13Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True InspirationEd CatmullMay 5
14The Sapphire RoseDavid EddingsMay 14
15The E-myth RevisitedMichael GerberMay 16
16Ready Player OneErnest ClineMay 27
17A Red Herring Without MustardAlan BradleyJune 4
18I Am Half Sick of ShadowsAlan BradleyJune 8
19The Dead in Their Vaulted ArchesAlan BradleyJune 19
20As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAlan BradleyJune 29
21Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'dAlan BradleyJuly 3
22Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon GreatnessScott JurekJuly 14
23WarbreakerBrandon SandersonJuly 19
24You Can Write a MysteryGillian RobertsJuly 21
25The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingMarie KondoJuly 31
26A Wise Man's FearPatrick RothfussAugust 4
27The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl Timothy EganAugust 9
28New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business DevelopmentMike WeinbergAugust 13
29Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a GeniusMarc SeiferAugust 30
30The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important GoalsChris McChesneySeptember 9
31ElantrisBrandon SandersonSeptember 19
32A Darker Shade of MagicV.E. SchwabSeptember 24
33A Gathering of ShadowsV.E. SchwabSeptember 28
34The CircleDave EggersOctober 4
35The Way of KingsBrandon SandersonOctober 31
36Words of RadianceBrandon SandersonNovember 13
37Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessGreg McKeownNovember 20
38David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsMalcolm GladwellNovember 26
39EdgedancerBrandon SandersonNovember 30
40To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving OthersDaniel H. PinkDecember 3
41Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are HighKerry PattersonDecember 7
42Ready Player OneErnest ClineDecember 21
43Born to WinTom ZiglarDecember 25
44Alcatraz Versus the Evil LibrariansBrandon SandersonDecember 25
45Worth the WrestleSheri DewDecember 27
46A Conjuring of LightV.E. SchwabDecember 29
47The Science of Getting RichWallace D. WattlesDecember 29
48Truth RestoredGordon B. HinckleyDecember 30
49Mere ChristianityC.S. LewisDecember 30
50Even the Prophet Started Out as a Deacon: The Power of Your Aaronic Priesthood OrdinationShane BarkerDecember 31
51Questions are the Answers: How to Get to 'Yes' in Network MarketingAllan PeaseDecember 31
52The Red Green Book: Wit and Wisdom of Possum LodgeSteve SmithDecember 31

The Red Green Book: Wit and Wisdom of Possum Lodge by Steve Smith

The Red Green Book: Wit and Wisdom of Possum LodgeThe Red Green Book: Wit and Wisdom of Possum Lodge by Steve Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a gift from years ago, based on a PBS show I used to enjoy watching in the evenings. I was looking for something quick and lighthearted to close out my reading year, and this was perfect. Some of it was dated, and none of it was informative or useful in any way. But I laughed. Several times I laughed hard. I read several passages to those who were around me, many of which were greeted with eye-rolls and exasperated questions of why I couldn't read that somewhere else. It was great.

I can't give this kind of book of plotless comedy, much of it lifted from scripts of the show, a 5-star rating. It would be insulting to my other 5 star reads, but I will give it 4 stars for fulfilling all of the promises it made to me for some lighthearted laughs and relaxation (and nothing more.)

Questions are the Answers: How to Get to 'Yes' in Network Marketing by Allan Pease

Questions are the Answers: How to Get to 'Yes' in Network MarketingQuestions are the Answers: How to Get to 'Yes' in Network Marketing by Allan Pease
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I acquired this book years ago when I was going through a phase of joining Network Marketing companies. It had been years since my last reading, and I picked it up off of my book shelf to see if it was as good as I had remembered. I had remembered this book as a practical sales guide, specifically toward closing techniques. Sales training is a current problem at my day job, so I thought this little book might remind me of some good tips or best practices.

I was wrong. I was disappointed to see that this book was written more specifically for network marketers than I had remembered, and that much of the advice was really advice on conversation manipulation. It is this kind of manipulation that I think has given network marketers, and in some industries sales as a whole, a bad name. If I altruistically think of sales as a way to help people solve real problems with a useful product or service, manipulating them into a purchase does not seem right. Nor does it build a positive ongoing relationship with that person who sold me "dreams" instead of real solutions.

If you want a targeted treatment of tacky sales manipulation, without any greater context of how to really help someone with real problems by offering useful products or services, then this book is for you. Otherwise, I recommend not bothering with this one.

Even the Prophet Started Out as a Deacon: The Power of Your Aaronic Priesthood Ordination by Shane Barker

Even the Prophet Started Out as a Deacon: The Power of Your Aaronic Priesthood OrdinationEven the Prophet Started Out as a Deacon: The Power of Your Aaronic Priesthood Ordination by Shane Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a great guide for the LDS youth, and as often happens, that makes it a great guide for the rest of us as well. This is written for the LDS (Mormon) market, so if you aren't in that group it might not make as much sense to you, but I still recommend it. I was impressed with the consumability of the message as well as the practicality of content aimed at young men from 12-18 years old. Which of us don't need a reminder to think of others first and take action? It also contains a succinct and specific summary of the duties of the Aaronic Priesthood, with examples. I enjoyed this book immensely and have recommended re-reading it to each of my sons.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Mere ChristianityMere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I don't agree with all of the doctrinal claims here, Lewis specifically mentioned that small doctrinal differences are not the point of this book. And that is both my favorite part, and the genius, of this one. He's making the general case for Christianity, and many of the salient points were interesting to me. And in the instances where I knew our doctrinal beliefs diverged, it was still helpful to me to know how other Christian denominations are likely to see it.

His recurring theme is to find where we agree the most. We should find where we agree, especially since we are most likely not far along enough in our individual progress for those differences to matter yet. I may have stretched that last statement a little, but that is how I interpreted it. And it is a stance I see a lot of value in.

Truth Restored by Gordon B. Hinckley

Truth RestoredTruth Restored by Gordon B. Hinckley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great short history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a member of the LDS faith, in just a few pages I covered a years worth of Sunday school lessons and the format was great. Often we talk about many of these events as isolated discussions, but it is valuable to go back and put them in context with a brief history such as this. I picked up a number of tidbits, and am glad I added this to my end of year blitz to hit my book reading goal for 2017.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles

The Science of Getting RichThe Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was filled to the brim with half-truths. Despite that, I liked it. If I try to wash out the falsehoods in philosophy, I find that there is a lot of basically good advice. Don't surround yourself with negativity. Be positive. Get rid of distractions and focus on what you want. Have a very precise picture of what you want. Take action today to get what you want. Work hard. Don't make excuses, such as blaming the government. Be grateful for what you have, and what you will have.

That is all good stuff, if you can filter those nuggets out from the talk about a formless substance that lets you ignore the facts of physical science blah blah blah. I went to the Bob Proctor seminar based on this book, and heard him speak in other venues. I like the guy, I just think this book (which he based a seminar on) has some weaknesses. But I'm willing to focus on the strengths and take it for the motivational, positive thinking tool it is.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book took me a long time to get through because I was doing a lot of traveling with family over this vacation, and this book had prominent immoral themes that kept me from listening to it on our road trip where my family would have to listen as well. For that it earns 1 star from me despite all of its awesome features.

Awesome features:
-Starting with the ending: I really appreciated that the author took the time to wrap up each of the story lines at the end, with one exception. (So Black London was really beyond help? Even with the foe vanquished?)
-Characters. The set of characters in this book was awesome. They were different, rich, and full of backstory, yet I never felt like we were stuck in an overly long backstory. We learned about them as we went.
-Creative solutions. The solution to the conflict involved some interesting features. I will avoid spoilers here, but I liked the final battle, again with one exception. The initial plan essentially worked. That never happens. While I am still satisfied at that outcome, I wonder if there weren't other opportunities there.

So, to wrap this up, this was a great book (and series) ruined by themes and situations I consider to be immoral. Yes, this is subjective, but that is the wonderful thing about opinions. I'm entitled to mine. I wish that that part of the book had been different (and it could have been), and I would have been trying to decide between a 4 or 5 star rating.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Worth the Wrestle by Sheri Dew

Worth the WrestleWorth the Wrestle by Sheri Dew
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I'll admit it, I'm at the end of the year and need to read a handful of books quickly to hit my goal. This neat little book was a gift from my wife to my son, and I pounced on it, seeing it as a quick read. Well, it took a little more than that. As a member of the LDS faith, this book was a reminder of so many of the tenets and beliefs that I hold dear, and I appreciated that reminder. On the other hand, as with many non-fiction books, I found my attention wavering from time to time. I was fine when there was a mental picture being painted, or a story being told, but once we hit a section of just ideas or concepts being laid out, I was good for about half a page before my mind started to wonder. Sorry Sister Dew. It is something I've commented on in the past though, and this book helped me understand myself more as a reader, in addition to the the religious insight it offered.

What did I learn from reading this? Asking questions is good, so long as you are able to hold to the truths you already know and understand while asking a new question. A missing puzzle piece does not destroy the puzzle, or erase the pieces of the picture you have put together, it is just a piece you don't have, or haven't found yet. (This is my analogy, not hers.) It is your duty to share what you know, to help others find answers to questions, or to offer peace to those who are working on different parts of their own puzzle. In the end, it all comes back to the Savior. He made every good thing in our lives possible, and we only have to keep inviting him into our lives to experience even more of the joy and peace he has to offer.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz, #1)Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the lowest score I've ever given a Sanderson book. The characters, plot, and magic system were all great. I loved the occasional comedy! The problem was the style. It was very much like the Lemony Snicket books (A Series of Unfortunate Events), just with a better ending. I made it through that series and thought that I could handle this one, but the unending interruptions of the story became too much. I'm sad to say that I may not finish this series. I'm not a fan of graphic novels in general, but that may be my best chance to get the rest of this story arc without the interruptions.

Born to Win by Tom Ziglar

Born to WinBorn to Win by Tom Ziglar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was the perfect end-of-year read. It is the summary of content presented by master speaker Zig Ziggler. Compiled by his son and read by a former friend and student, often in an authentic Zig style, it is part motivation, and part goal setting instructions. It highlights the roles of hope and integrity in success and is presented in a very consumable way. I appreciate any nonfiction book where I don't want to delete the last third of the book, and this was one of those books. Give this book some of your time, and then go out and win! (trying to channel the genius a bit...)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It isn't very often I re-read a book at all,  but it is even less common that I re-read a book in the same year.  But that is what happened this time. It wasn't of my own choosing.  My sons wanted to listen to it on a family road trip and my wife and I finally relented.  I love this story for the imagery,  the concept, and the nostalgia,  but the language and some of the content is a little much for us,  even though our teenagers probably hear worse every day in the halls of their high school (and now college for the oldest one...) So we relented on our family ban and tried to do some editing. The story was as great as I remembered, and the theme was positive.  Get out and live life.  Try to improve your community,  not just live selfishly. I do wish the language had been toned down a bit, and that he had skipped the "intimate" part with his haptic rig, but I can't have everything...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are HighCrucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I have read this book multiple times.  Here are my most recent thoughts:

I have read this book before, since it is one of the annual topics for study in our company, but I haven't had the opportunity to teach the content to others in about 3 years or so.  This reading was a great review for me, and the sessions that I conducted provided an even better review. I still appreciate the concepts in this book, although the application of them is a tall order.  Crucial conversations have a lot of latent value waiting to be claimed but are SO much work to instigate and do well at them.  This is not a complaint about the book, just a moment of whining about life.  I'm over it now.

So read this book. It is a must read. It isn't perfect, but I think it presents skills necessary for productive dialogue better than any other book I've encountered.  It is worth your time.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving OthersTo Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this "read" was not my finest moment. I was on a flight over the Pacific, and this audio book was available as an entertainment option. A few hours into it I was pretty beat, and I ended up finishing it after I arrived at my hotel, but overall I can say that I was of varying mental states during this one, so that is underlying my opinion here.

This book had a bit of a slow start, and a meandering feel to it. I liked the subject, the content, and the various ideas it brought up, but it just seemed to wander from story to story in an effort to make the intended points. It reminded me of the style of the books I have read by Chip and Dan Heath, and not ironically, Pink praises those same books (Switch and Made To Stick) in this one, so he obviously has an appreciation for their style, and has a similar style himself. I was also not as taken with either of those books.

About selling, I agree with Pink's assertions. Selling is about serving, the act is closer to improv, i.e. thinking on ones feet, than a scripted monologue. Also, I appreciated his ideas regarding problem identification vs problem solving. All of that was great. What was hard for me was the application of it all. Maybe it was due to my circumstances when I listened to it, but I feel like I would need to put a lot of effort into sitting down and deciding what to apply from this book and how to apply it. The best I can come up with is to suggest my VP of Sales read it, and see if he comes up with something actionable from it.

So overall, yes it is a good read, and the content is great. If you like the works of the Heath brothers, then this is right up your alley. Otherwise, keep a notebook and pen handy as you listen and try to figure out how to apply what you learn as you go, because you are kind of on your own there. (I'll edit this if I ever re-read it in a better mental state and find it to be different. YMMV.)