What I’ve read in 2018
My hunt for incredible/transformational books this year changed the way I see book reviews. I’ve come to realize that it is difficult to write a book review for others, since their enjoyment of a book is highly dependent on personalized factors.
A book that is incredible/transformational for one person can be boring and a waste of time for another.
For example, if I am at a place in my life where I need to hear profound, spiritual messages, certain types of books will resonate more with me. Conversely, if I am at place where I need some practical advice to solve a specific problem I have, I will need a different type of book or author.
In this context, I don’t think it is possible to create a useful, accurate book review that applies to all readers.
I have learned this by reading hundreds of book reviews in blog posts and through Amazon and GoodReads. What I read on these sites were wildly varying perspectives on the quality of a book.
At first, I was surprised that people had such different accounts of the same material. It is then that I realized that their perspectives were dependent on personal factors. Here are a few of those factors, along with examples of what you would see in a book review:
- The books they had read on this topic before (e.g. “The author doesn’t mention anything new on this topic.”)
- What they needed and wanted in their lives at the moment (ie. ‘I was looking to learn more on X topic, but the author focused on Y.)
- Their ability to overlook their own pet peeves regarding author’s style (ie. this book was too long or short, this author is too condescending, this author is trying to sell me something, etc.).
I’m sure we could build a much longer list of personal factors that impact a person’s perspective on a book.
Now that I’ve learned this, I changed the way I read book reviews. If I truly want to know if a book would be useful or interesting for me, I need to first filter the book reviews to find readers that care about the same things I care about.
This is not easy to do! Which is why I think book recommendations from people you trust, who understand you and what you need, are extremely valuable.
These insights have also impacted how I want to write my yearly post on “What I’ve read”. Since I no longer find it possible or useful to create a book review that will be useful for all, I won’t do it anymore.
Instead, I will try to write something more personal about each book. This could include what I took away from it, how it helped me or what else I needed that I didn’t find in it.
So, at the risk of becoming even more irrelevant to most (people with different needs than mine), but much more relevant to others (people with similar needs that mine), here are the books I read in 2018:
I read three books from Daniel Priestley at Dent that changed the way I see my business: 24 Assets, Oversubscribed and Key Person of Influence.
- 24 Assets: Create a Digital, Scalable, Valuable and Fun Business That Will Thrive in a Fast Changing World
Made a great case for why businesses need to continuously build assets to grow. Definition of an asset: Anything that would still be valuable if you weren’t around.
Very useful for a service based company that is looking to grow. A few gems I got from the book:
- Great businesses have assets.
- If you need to explain it, it’s not an asset.
- In order to have these, you need assets: income, scale, fun, being known, liked and trusted, predictability, finding.
- The core team you need to build: Key person of influence, Sales & Marketing (Creative and Data), Operations/Customer Service (Experience, NPS), Financial (Reporting).
- Address your asset deficiencies.
- Asset creation cycle: Concepts + ideas, briefing document, select suppliers, beta version, commercial version, remarkable version
I recommend this book to anyone building a small business, to help them understand the path forward. I know I really like a book when I think: “I wish I would have read this years ago!”.
- Key Person of Influence: The Five-Step Method to become one of the most highly valued and highly paid people in your industry.
This is specifically the path I think I need to take to grow SparkPath. I think I am personally suited for the role they described in their book.
I’ve been in touch with people at Dent to find out how I can learn more about this role directly through them.
- Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up to Do Business with You
Another great resource for service businesses. I learned about the importance of building your own group of loyal fans, and then treating them exceptionally well.
To serve your fans, you want to get to know them as much as possible (and more than they know themselves). You want to be able to surprise, delight, understand and care for them.
By treating your clients like aspirational individuals, you can help make them stars.
There are many concepts in this book that I need to review, as I haven’t mastered them yet: campaigns, subscribing people, etc. It’s definitely a book I will be revisiting.
- Vlog Like a Boss: How to Kill It Online with Video Blogging
I thought this book would give me the courage I need to start publishing my own videos. Unfortunately, it didn’t. But that’s not on Amy (the author), that’s on me!
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Great inspiration for those of us who face “The Resistance” in our creative work. This will be worth re-reading before or during the next time I write something important.
Quote: “Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.””
Great tools from an author with real-world experience helping men overcome trauma so they can be their best selves. I took quite a few nuggets away from this book that have impacted the way I see life.
- Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
I’ve already read, researched and experimented beyond what was included in this short book, so it wasn’t particularly useful to me at this time.
Could be a nice light introduction for others who want to change their perspective on eating. However, nutrition and eating need to be personalized, which makes it challenging to create food rules that apply to all.
- Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising
Marketing needs to be part of your product. Seth Godin has been telling me this for years. Ryan Holiday gives specific example of how technology is giving everyone the opportunity to do this.
I’m convinced: the digital tools I create for SparkPath will be built with organic growth and sharing in mind.
- Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses
This book reinforced the importance of creating content to build a business (ie. Content is king). It also gave me some ideas for things I could implement.
Unfortunately, after reading it, I felt like I just acquired a longer list of marketing to-dos. I still struggle to decide which channels to invest in.
I need to be decisive and experiment, and my inspiration to do that will probably not come from a book!
Books I’ve skimmed or revisited:
- Jung for Beginners. Helped me learn more about the origins of the famous MBTI personality questionnaire.
- Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type. I read about the value and the limits in using the MBTI to inspire students.
- Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work. Learned about the use of drawing to solve an important communication problem. We talk so much that we don’t think very well. Powerful as words are, we fool ourselves when we think our words alone can detect, describe, and defuse the multifaceted problems of today. They can’t-and that’s bad, because words have become our default thinking tool.
- Megaliving!: 30 Days to a Perfect Life — The Ultimate Action Plan for Total Mastery of Your Mind, Body and Character. I usually feel conflicted when I read inspirational books, especially when the recommendations provided contradict each other or are not evidence-inspired. I see a need to make time for and consume this type of inspiration, but it does take a lot for me to believe! Because of this, I can only accept a handful of the author’s recommendations.
In career development, coaches often asked clients: “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?” When I answer the question for myself, reading always comes up. I feel lucky that I get to read and I look forward to another year of learning and discovery.
What books inspired or transformed you this year?