Best Books 2017
Best Books 2017? Over the past decade – since I started Book Rapper – I’ve often been asked by friends and colleagues to recommend my best books to read.
During this time, I’ve read over 450 books fuelled by an annual goal to read 50 books. This year (2017) I made it to 53. From my best books 2017, I’ve selected my top ten and my ultimate choice as the Book of the Year.
Mostly I read whatever appeals – almost all are non-fiction books. This might range from business to sport, from psychology to Buddhism. And I think my Book of the Year this year will surprise you – it surprised me. Naturally, I picked it up because it looked interesting. The big surprise was the impact it had.
1 Frank Ostaseski – The Five Invitations
Frank Ostaseski’s The Five Invitations is my Book of the Year for 2017. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in the past decade.
They say that if you want to get people talking ask for an opinion about religion or politics. And if you want to silence a room, talk about death. We all dread our own mortality.
This book is by a co-founder of a Buddhist based hospice in San Francisco. His day-to-day work is to help terminally ill people come face-to-face with death and dying.
I’m happy to admit that I’ll cry during a good movie but almost never from reading a book… Except for this one. I cried numerous times – including in public while riding on a train! And they weren’t sad tears. On the contrary, this book is beautiful. It’s uplifting, inspiring and liberating. It will touch your soul and let you reconnect with humanity.
Read this book if you want to love life.
2 Kelly McGonigal – The Upside of Stress
I’d seen Kelly’s TED talk a while back and it barely scratched my crusty exterior. However, when I read this book the lights were finally switched on.
Firstly, it updated my old thoughts about mindsets and the power of instant and lasting change from a simple shift in the head.
Secondly, it has had me re-interpret what is happening everyday. That’s huge! Like many people, I had bought into the popular view that stress was killing me. Now, life’s an adventure filled with breakdowns. That’s an incredible shift. If you’re struggling with stress, read this book for a new outlook on life.
(Postscript: From reading this book, I created my ‘Year of Adventure’ in 2018 which resulted in giving away 80% of my possessions and beginning house-sitting on a permanent basis – 18 months later, I’m still living this way.)
Read this book if want to set yourself free from the stress monster that’s running your life.
3 Roy Peter Clark – Four Books (Yes Four!)
To read three books by one author… Well, I’ve probably only done that a handful of times. To read three books by one author in one year… Well, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Plus, this author’s fourth book (How to Write Short) was #6 on our list of best books for 2016.
Roy Peter Clark is one of the top writing coaches in the US and I’m claiming him as my writing coach too. The Art of X-Ray Reading exposes the art of some of the great works of literature. Writing Tools and Help! for Writers are similar – both filled with tips and tricks for making more elegant words more easily. How to Write Short… Well, I guess the title says it all.
Want to improve your word skills? Start here. Each book has a workshop full of exercises for you to complete as well. Buy any of these to be a better wordsmith.
Read any and all of these books to become the best writer you can be.
4 Caroline Adams Miller – Getting Grit
This book was a slap in the face to me. I had designed Project Done in the belief that it was all about motivation.
Yes, that’s important to get things done and sometimes the basic time-honoured tradition of rolling up your sleeves and apply some honest grunt is the only way to go. Together they’re a dynamic duo.
Even better, I had read a handful of other books on resilience and it was this one that punched through deep enough for me to take notice. The highlights of this gem are the deep reflective questions asked at the end of each chapter. This book might just change your life – like it has mine!
We rapped this book over at Book Rapper as True Grit and we included it in our Get More Done productivity bundle.
Read this book to stick at things for longer (and give yourself a much greater chance of success).
5 Alexander Manu – Transforming Organizations
The future is in this book!
Manu is one of the leading business strategists on the planet. He maps current trends and directions because, as he suggests, the future is already here and we simply need to look for the patterns. This book presents a compelling case for all organisations wanting to lead in the digital world.
Read this book if you want to know how to transform your organization in the digital world.
(Thanks for the gift of this book James!)
6 Bill Bryson – The Lost Continent and Down Under
You might have heard of Bill? He’s one of the most popular writers on the planet and now I know why. He writes damn good books. They’re funny – you probably heard me giggling at your place as I read these two.
The Lost Continent is a trip through the US and for an American to be taking the mickey out his own country that’s a big thing.
Down Under – as you might have guessed – is about his travels across Australia. The thing that really stood out for me was the wads of research he did to write these humourous tales.
These two books made my Best Books 2017 list because I thought I knew my own country, and in Dow
n Under, Bill found things about Australia I didn’t even know. Read these if you want some insightful laughs. He has over 20 books to enjoy.
Read this book because you want to learn more about the US or Australia and have a good chuckle along the way.
7 Lisa Cron – Story Genius
Almost… Almost… This book was so good it almost had me writing my first novel by the end of it.
Lisa Cron is a US writing coach. I love her earlier book Wired for Story and this one is even better. This is a great peak inside the writing process – deliberately so! The goal is for you to write a great novel and Cron gives you the structure you need to succeed. Had I not been writing my book Done at the time, I could easily have written a novel and this book would have finished up as my Book of the Year. Maybe next year…
Read this book if you want to write a great novel – or just want to be a better writer.
8 John Bruna – The Wisdom of a Meaningful Life
We’ve been using this book as our guide for the fortnightly Mindfulness group that I attend. Bruna is a former Buddhist monk who overcame some addiction issues. It’s a humble AND rich book. In the manner of many Buddhist books it is simply written and relies on everyday stories overlaid with a framework of principles you can immediately apply to your life. Read it once, read it twice and you’ll probably still come back for more.
In particular, read this book if you want to get in touch with your natural self and not the hyped up, stressed out one you know today.
9 Stephen King – On Writing
Up until I had read this book by Stephen King the score was 6-0. I had seen six of his movies and read none of his books. Now, the score is 6-1.
This book was the first of the ‘writing’ books I read this year. While it wasn’t the best of them, it did spark a whole new interest in reading others. This book is a curious mix of King talking about his life story. And somewhere toward the end he shares a little about the way he gets his writing done. Perhaps the one point that I took to heart is this: To be a better writer, read better writers.
Read this book if you want to learn from a master. He’s clearly doing something right to be so popular.
10 Ken Mogi – The Little Book of Ikigai
This book was a revelation. Most books on purpose only focus on the big picture – a traditional western approach.
This book presents an alternative eastern worldview that is based more on mindfulness, attention and the little things in life.
It’s filled with an array of Japanese stories that were refreshingly new and different. And best of all, it will have you think about your work as a new source of happiness, joy and purpose.
Read this book to explore the nuances of life and build an inspiring purpose.
This book was included in the Book Rapper issue Purpose.
Summary: Best Books 2017
This list of Best Books 2017 is dominated by writing books – I read at least ten books this year for writers wanting to make better words as I aim to improve my own writing. (My books are here).
Simply reading Bill Bryson inspired me to add more simple humour into my words. The others are (as usual) an eclectic bunch and there are some connections here that might not be so obvious.
My Book of the Year The Five Invitations is about living and dying – which relates well to The Little Book of Ikigai. And The Upside of Stress gave me the courage to tackle life as an adventure.
The Wisdom of a Meaningful Life (combined with my mindfulness and meditation practice) has calmed my nerves also. This also means two Buddhist based books made my best books 2017 list.
Getting Grit taught me to simply stick at things for longer. My Grit Score has risen 42% since reading this book. It’s now 3.7 and rising.
Transforming Organizations was the big business strategy book I just had to read – we all need at least one of these jolts every year to keep ourselves up to date.
What are your best books 2017? Add a comment below.