Book List for 2021

Recently Read Books in 2021

I love reading and I read a book about every 2 weeks.  Here is my recommended book list for 2021 along with a little review and my take of the book.  There are also links to Amazon to make ordering the book easier in case you want a copy too.

I tend to binge read certain topics so you will usually see a theme in the book selection.  Some of these are eBooks, Audio, and physical books depending on the book.


The Man on the Mountaintop

By Susan Trott, (Libby Spurrier – adaptor)
Audiobook Finished 1/7/21

Adapted from Susan Trott’s best-selling novels, The Holy Man and The Holy Man’s Journey, The Man on the Mountaintop tells the story of Holy Man Joe, a humble and unassuming 72-year-old man who lives in a hermitage at the top of a mountain.

Thousands of hopefuls line the single-file path leading to his door, seeking his wisdom. The pilgrims bring a multitude of modern-day problems, sorrows, and grievances. From the arrogant and wealthy man intent on cheating his way to the front of the line to the alcoholic who gradually builds the physical and mental strength needed to quit his addiction, The Man on the Mountaintop is an uplifting parable full of life lessons, powerfully told with compassion, wit, and humor.


The 3-Day Effect

By Florence Williams
Audiobook Finished 1/14/21

This was an interesting book but not ground breaking.  The 3-Day Effect is a look at the science behind why being in the wild for a minimum of three days can make us happier, healthier and more creative. Personally, away from the grind in nature sounds like a fantastic way to spend time and we all know it will destress most people.

This is appears to be a podcast turned into an audiobook but it doesn’t take away from the lesson, actually it makes it better.  Her narrative makes it personal, and more intimate, like I am talking with a friend on a camping trip.  Nice!

The bottom line, will it encourage me to take more walks in the woods, and maybe go hiking and camping?  Very likely, and just hearing the story makes me yarn for some nature time.


Good Leaders ask Great Questions

By John C . Maxwell
Audiobook Finished 1/23/21

John Maxwell has written many excellent books on leadership and this one is one of his bests.  Most people may not agree with me but I love teachers who approach a lesson with a question.  It allows me the student to think, similar to solving a puzzle, and is personally a better way to learn for me.

One negative is each one of these chapters could be a different topic in its self and John only touches the surface on most of these.  Not all these questions need 10,000 words to better explain it, but some need more context.

I have noted the book outline below (not on my blog, too large) containing some of the questions presented in each chapter, as well as some of his inspiring quotes.  Some of my favorites are:

  • Richard Thalheimer, the founder of Sharper Image, once asserted, “It is better to look uninformed than to be uninformed.”
  • Successful people do always what unsuccessful people do occasionally.
  • Am I investing in myself?
  • Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead.
  • Don’t leave something, go to something.
  • All change does not represent progress, but without change there can be no progress.
  • The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive, the hope that we can finally find our way through to a better world.

The Theory of Everything

The Quest to Explain All Reality

By Don Lincoln, The Great Courses
Audiobook Finished 2/6/21

This was the longest book I have tried to tackle in some time but after about 6 hours, I realized I got as much out of it as I wanted and it was time to move on.  It was very good, but there were a lot of references to visuals that are lost with the audio version.

Overall, it was pretty good, but not great, as there is a thing of getting too detailed and missing the overall point.  Yes, this was a book of a large collection of physic’s lectures, but not really what I was expecting or needed to get from a physics lesson.


The Burnout Generation

By Anne Helen Petersen
Audiobook Finished 2/11/21

I was pretty disappointed with this book.  It starts out talking about the authors experiences with burnout and how stressful life can be, especially for the younger generations moving into a difficult work force.  Then moved to her interviewing others experiencing the same stresses and experiencing burnout.  But lacking is the answer for what others like me can do about controlling or avoiding burnout, or better, how to recover from it when it happens to you.

The last few paragraph talks about all the knows ways to battle burnout like mediation, mindfulness, and hobbies to name a few, but it is clear those are not the cure.  These methods are just ways people can take small breaks from their burnout lives.  At the end of your hobby or mediation break, you end up back in the fire of your own life.

In most cases, burnout is the death of caring about your job or future.  It just about giving up and looking for happiness outside of the cause of your burnout.  The book ends much like how most people feel when they burnout, unsatisfied.  I suspect there is no answer to the problem which is why there is no clear conclusion.  Given the corporate culture of profit first, people will continue to be exploited more and more every year until burnout becomes normal.  Then workers will be replaced by robots or something worse, changing the world forever.

I know because after 25 years of loving my work and multiple company layoffs every year, I learned I could never depend on someone else to provide me stability, and I went out on my own and started my own business.  For the next 6 months, I was happy.  I was building a business (with just a fraction of the income I needed to survive), but was much happier not having to deal with the corporate world.  This was my cure, hope in a future that was free of corporate stress.  But most dreams are not meant to last.


Crushing It!

How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too

By Gary Vaynerchuk
Finished 3/10/21

The not so ground breaking advice from the book is simply to find something you are passionate about and work tireless until you reach beyond your goals.  Then promote your work through social media and build your special brand around it.  The new and expanded version has samples of other people’s success.

Personally I didn’t like the book and I was hopeful it would be so much more.  Not sure what I expected but the book miss the mark on so many levels.  Maybe I am just tired of other people’s greed or their ego’s.  If I wanted this, I could just watch the news where greed and ego rule.

On to the next book where I will hope for inspiration and advice on how to truly improve my life.


Neurodharma

New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness,

By Rick Hanson
Audiobook Started 3/10/21, Finished 4/4/21

Good book for both knowledge of the benefits of mindfulness and lots of lead meditation practice.  A difficult read if you are working out to it but for cooking dinner or just relaxing at the end of the day or at the beach, a great book to relax to.

There were a few lessons I took away from the book including the importance of mindfulness and mediation everyday.  I have set aside practice only 2 days a week but I see I really should do it everyday.

Hanson presents a framework of seven practices tied to the Buddhist process of awakening:

  1. Steadying the mind
  2. Warming the heart
  3. Resting in fullness
  4. Being wholeness
  5. Receiving nowness
  6. Opening into allness
  7. Finding timelessness

Overall, a good book that I can recommend for anyone thinking about clearing the mind and to help find purpose in life, as a central thread of the book is to live your best life today, and it shows you how!


You Can Thank Me Later

By Kelly Harms
Audiobook Finished 4/5/21

I liked this book way more then I thought I would.  Its about how a family changes over 3 years when they meet at Thanksgiving each year.  It is written from the point of view of a women who is a chef of her own restaurant and she hosts the dinner each year.  The story goes from this perfectly planned gathering to something quite different 3 years later.

From my perspective, it related all back to my idea that life will always change, and change doesn’t have to be bad, even when it clearly is not good.  By remaining focus in the moment you can true appreciate what is happening around you, and let go of your ideas of control, and enjoy time with family and friends.

A pretty short book that I was able to finish in a day, I highly recommend it.  It is funny, sad, and filled with lessons, even if it wasn’t really meant to help me. 


It’s Not What it Looks Like

By Molly Burke
Audiobook Started 4/6/21, Finished 4/10/21

This book was not really my cup of tea.  It was written in such a way to be cute but I couldn’t relate to it.  It was about a bling girl from Canada looking for herself, and finding it as a YouTube creator.

Part of the books purpose is to teach other people what’s its like to be blind and it was very successful, at least to me.  She taught me plenty of things I never knew blind people face everyday, and I for one will never distract a working dog again. 

Overall, other then the few things I learned about life as a blind person, the presentation was not my personal style, and the book was just OK.


The Two Towers

Book Two in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

By J. R. R. Tolkien, Narrator Rob Inglis
Started 4/10/21, Finished 4/21/21

I have watched the movies but the books are so much better, and the audiobook with the fantastic narration the best of them all. There is no one better then Rob Inglis when it comes to voices and he is incredible to put to life this fantastic tale of adventure.

A very long 11+ hour book filled with adventures and humility that it is no wonder why Tolkin is considered on of the best writers ever. The time, effort, and creativity that goes into these novels is a treat for all who read them and take a break from the day to day realities of their lives.

Very surprised with the ending that leads so well into book 3 and this was not the ending in the movies. Overall, fantastic but on to something different and will save book 3 for another time.


The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit

By Michael Goldsby, The Great Courses
Audiobook Started 4/21/21, Finished 5/23/21

I didn’t expect to take much from this book but I actually took plenty of notes while also following along in the PDF. It really is a complete course on starting a business.

The book was very long and took me a month of almost daily reading to get through it but felt it was really worth it. Great examples of how other great entrepreneur’s started and ran their companies.

I learned I never want the headaches that tend to go along with running a large company. I am very happy with my small business focused on helping people with their computer problems. Taking people away from what they love, and make them managers in their business, is why 7 out of 10 businesses fail. Some self reflection is needed before taking action towards growing your business, as not all businesses need to grow.


Treasure Island

By Robert Louis Stevenson, Marty Ross – adaptation
Narrators: Philip Glenister, Daniel Mays, Catherine Tate, Owen Teale
Audiobook Started 5/23/21, Finished 5/29/21

What a great classic and presented in an entertaining way. I read this book several times over the years but this ‘version’ was both fresh and new to the adventure. The main character, Jim, has complicated relationships between the captain, the doctor, and long John Silver. Its interesting to see how he maintains his character among such men.

I highly recommend the classics to everyone and this is probably one of the easiest ones to get through. Understanding each character and their social economic status still holds true today. People are always blinded by greed and maintaining your character will be challenging even for the best of us.


Decluttering at the Speed of Life

Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff

By Dana White
Audiobook Started 5/30/21, Finished 6/3/21

Not really a favorite. It was interesting to listen to and slightly motivating but not really worth the cost to buy or time to listen too. Since minimalizing is a major goal of mine this year, I didn’t give up and read it to the end.

One good takeaway for me was the question of “where would I look for this item when I need it?” This is important to me because while decluttering, you realize you are living in an over-whelming mess and the “sort’ is the first logical step. Put like items together, then keep the best, remove the rest.

The idea that your house is just a container, like everything else in your house and life, and there is only so much space in that container. Once filled, the rest will need to go. One issue is you can decide on the size of your container by deciding when the room is filled. This is not ideal as it doesn’t impose limits and how hoarders are made, because they set the threshold much higher then a minimalist.

Her ideas about moving are good where you buy the number of boxes for the house you are moving too instead of leaving (assuming you are downsizing) will be helpful to avoid moving and storing the clutter. Other then these points, I didn’t learn much from the book.


Zen in the Martial Arts

By Joe Hyams
Audiobook started 6/3/21, Finished 6/6/21

Interesting book full of lessons on the martial arts and Zen living from that perspective. Since I have studies martial arts for over 30 years, I could very well relate to the teachings of the masters and took away plenty from it. IT was like I was back in the dojo taking the mental lessons all over again, without the exercise that often came with the regular classes.

I am not sure the book would be well received by others who do not have a background in martial arts and it will never be a replacement for proper lessons. Often in life, you need to experience the lessons of your teachers, and not just read about them. For many who have experienced it but have forgotten over time (like me), it was a great way to relive and restore those lessons taught so many years ago.


I Hear You

The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships

By Michael Sorensen
Audiobook Started 6/6/21, Finished 6/10/21

A good skill to develop when listening is learning how to validate. Simply put, it is often better to validate the other persons feelings and position instead of providing solutions and your opinion. This will improve your ability to connect to other people.

I hate to say it but in a way, to validate is simply just being an echo chamber for the other person, but the key is to validate their feelings. Being listened to and understood are very important to the person talking. Validating back to them really shows you heard them and understand their position, emotions, and that’s its OK for them to feel the way they do.

The book really does live up to its title and I learned a whole new way to listen and connect to other people. I plan to practice these skills and steps in every conversation I have going forward. Highly recommended book.


Pont Neuf

By Max Byrd
Audiobook Started 6/10/21, Finished 6/18/21

The author tells a compelling tale of the last day’s of WWII in Belgium through the eyes of an infantry soldier, an intelligence officer and a war correspondent. It describes not only the armaments and maps of the final battle in Historically accurate detail but its physical and psychological impact on three different people.

Their story begins and ends on the beautiful Pont Neuf, the oldest and best-loved bridge in Paris. For Annie, every bridge connects two different worlds; to cross a bridge is to make a choice. For her, crossing Pont Neuf means choosing one man over the other, one life over another. It is a haunting love story with a surprising ending.

Good change from my normal reading genre bur prefer my normal topics of self help, business, and finance.   Plus the ending was not what I expected.


Lean Ultimate Collection

By Jason Bennett, Jennifer Bowen
Audiobook Started 6/18/21, Finished 7/2/21

This book is filled with pretty good information but the narration is making it near impossible to get anything out of it.  It almost seems like a computer is narrating and is too distracting to learn the lessons.

I am learning enough about Lean and the other new management processes to know I want to read additional books on it to actually be able to have good take-aways.  Overall, I wish I never bought the book and cannot recommend it.


Measure What Matters

How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

By John Doerr
Audiobook started 7/2/21, Finished 7/13/21

The book reads in between an autobiography and a “how to manage” book.   At the core of the book is all about objectives and key results, or OKRs for short. One interesting thing to note is these OKR’s are not just limited to business and managers, and can be apart of everyone’s personal goal setting system.

Back in the day, I can see this idea being ground breaking but today, its just common sense.  First, you set your objectives, or your longer-term goals. The second part is the key results, or the small results along the way to get you to your objective.

The next part, and where the system could break down, is measuring your progress.  This is the part where in real life the results are often distorted depending on your perspective.  In the book’s defense, it spends a lot of time talking about ways to measure correctly and honestly.

The next part of the book talks about aiming big and creating stretch goals.  The concept is if you fall short of a big goal, you are still way ahead.  Modern thinking confirms this is not true and its better to have several small, obtainable goals, so your success keeps the momentum going well beyond the KR.  But I am still a fan of big goals when divided into smaller reachable goals and those goals become your primary focus.

Overall, I was not a big fan of the book and cannot really recommend it.  It is too distracting with all the self promotion and professional examples.  Too much fluff for my likes.


Indistractable

How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

By Nir Eyal, Julie Li
Audiobook started 7/14/21, Finished 7/21/21

The first part tells of the book teaches us about the problem of distraction.  The book is full of research and interesting facts that it made taking notes difficult as I was always looking for a way to write something down, no matter what I was doing otherwise. Good research and good, very funny writing, which gives us a number of clues as to how we can overcome distraction.  The second part of the book is full of actionable advice. 

The Root Cause of Distraction

The root cause of all of our behaviors is the desire to relieve discomfort. Distraction is an unhealthy escape from reality. If we want to master distraction, we must learn to deal with discomfort. This can be done in four steps:

  1. Look for the emotion that precedes every distraction. Try to figure out your internal trigger.
  2. Write it down. Include details like the time of day, what were you doing and how you felt then.
  3. Explore the negative sensation with curiosity instead of contempt; You’re only observing now.
  4. Be extra aware of liminal moments: Transitions that moves us from one thing to another throughout our day. Like opening another (distracting) tab in your web browser because you got annoyed at how long the first tab took to load.

Reimagine Your Task

Instead of running away from your discomfort, try to pay close attention to your task (Be mindful) and find new small challenges you didn’t see before. Make it more fun and treat it like a game.  Break through the boredom and monotony to discover its hidden beauty.

Be your own Friend

Rather than telling ourselves we failed because we’re deficient, we should be kind to ourselves when we experience set-backs. Self-compassion makes us more resilient to letdowns. Talk to yourself the way you might talk to a friend.


The Power of Self-Compassion

By Laurie J. Cameron
Audiobook Started 7/21/21, Finished 8/15/21

Self-compassion means treating yourself with the same understanding and kindness that you would offer someone you love. Dr. Kristen Neff, discovered that there are three parts to self-compassion:

  1. The recognition that this is a hard moment.
  2. That hard moments are part of being human, and everyone goes through them.
  3. These moments require extending kindness to yourself.

I know that the Amazon reviews are a little hard on this book, but I enjoyed it and I read it at the right moment in my life.  I am not overly stressed and driven to success like most of her examples, but her idea of self compassion goes hand in hand with self confidence, which is something most people try and take away from you.

There are many books that go through how to give loving kindness to other people, but most skip over extending that kindness to yourself.  This book just makes sure that you love yourself just as much as you love other people.


The Minimalist Way

By Erica Layne
Audiobook started 8/16/21, Finished 9/5/21

I have read many books on minimalism and can say without any hesitation this is by far the best book on the topic I have ever read or even heard about, and knowing she has 4.5 stars on Amazon is of no surprise.  I am in no way connected to the author but I am now a fan and will subscribe to her podcast for additional insights and wisdom on minimalism.

I loved this book, and am reading it a second time already to get more from it.  I read about 25 books a year and pick 1-2 to go on my all time favorite list (if 1-2 qualify) and this book easily makes my all time favorite list.

Why?  Erica Layne goes to the roots of Minimalism to help us to live our life on purpose, instead of by default.

The book is packed with clever questions, exercises, and strategies. She took the best of minimalism: concept, tips and tricks, mindset, and lead us through how to apply them in the different areas of everyday life (home, work, family).

I love that the goal is always to find something that works for me (and only me), and not to give a one-size-fits-all view of minimalism.

I had already read books, listened to podcasts, and watched YouTube videos on decluttering and minimalism, and I’ve started half hardly to implement this in my life. And yet, I’ve found on this book many tips, exercises and fresh ways to look at things that I am itching to start applying. They give me answers where I was getting stuck in my journey.

I find the value tree is really powerful, in particular because the author encourages us to go back to it each time we address an area of our life.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to improve their lives in any number of areas and ways.