This past year I read a myriad of books that challenged my thinking on many different topics from economics to nutrition to finance to happiness to human psychology and much more. Here is a comprehensive list of the books I read in 2016 along with the most important helpful takeaways from each book:
Nassim Taleb is a writer who will absolutely cause your brain to think in ways you never have before. In this book he explains how “Black Swans” – events that are so unlikely to occur that we don’t even consider them – are far more influential than we could imagine. He also explains why we are so awful at predicting these events.
My favorite idea from this book is that there are millions of different version of history, but only one of them actually happens. That’s mind boggling to think about.
Jim Collins explores what separates good companies from great companies. My favorite two ideas from this book are:
- Great companies follow the “Hedgehog Concept” – only pursue business in which you can be the absolute best at. It’s better to become the best at one thing than be pretty good at a bunch of things.
- Overnight success does not exist. You must constantly show up day in and day out and keep “turning the flywheel” and win small victory after small victory until you have achieved greatness without even realizing it.
This is one of the most influential books I have read not just in this past year, but in my entire life. Jeff Olson explains how our daily habits literally dictate how successful we are in life. I have so many great takeaway from this book but among my favorites are:
- Every action you take leads to a result. But the results of these actions sometimes don’t reveal themselves until years later. Time is the great equalizer. It reveals both those who have been putting in work through disciplined habits and those who have been slacking.
- Don’t focus on the huge end goal. Focus on the daily habits that are required to reach that end goal.
This is a short book by Wallace Wattles but it packs a punch. Every line in this book is filled with something deeply profound and life changing. My favorite point that Wattles makes in this book is that to advance in any area of life you must first use the resources available to you to perfection before you can reach the next stage of advancement. The only reason people remain in the same place in life is because they are giving less than 100% of their earnest effort in some area.
Everyone should read this book. Victor Frankl recounts his experience in concentration camps and how he survived while all of his family and friends were brutally murdered. The main point Frankl tries to share with readers is this: You cannot avoid suffering in life. It is inevitable.
But you are always in control of how you cope with suffering and adversity. Everything can be taken away from a man except for his mindset and perspective on life. A man can have everything stripped from him and have everyone he knows brutally killed but no one can take away man’s willpower and inner attitude towards life.
Thomas Sowell covers everything in this book you could possibly want to know about economics. My favorite concept from this book is that economics is based entirely on incentives. Prices are set entirely based off supply and demand, which is based entirely on human wants and needs.
Ridley explains how the more connected people are, the faster ideas can spread, which encourages innovation to take place. He argues that the massive development of urban areas as well as the prevalence of the internet will only cause more ideas to spread and at a faster pace than ever before.
The natural result of the spreading of ideas is the advancement of human civilization, which is why Ridley believes the future for humans is much more optimistic than most people think.
Peter Lynch is one of the most successful investors of all time and in this book he outlines how boring, dull stocks often outperform “hot stocks” that are on everyone’s radar. Another interesting point Lynch makes is that just because a stock (or entire stock market) has gone up or down a certain amount doesn’t mean it can’t keep going higher or lower for several years to come.
My favorite part of this book about startups is: Even if you don’t plan on founding a startup, you should still focus on being extraordinary at something. Schools teach us to be well rounded, but the world actually needs people who are extremely sharp in one particular area.
Seth Godin makes an analogy about a kitten and a monkey in this book that has stuck with me strongly ever since I read it: When a kitten is in danger it must be rescued by it’s mother. When a baby monkey is in danger it must grab onto the back of it’s mother to escape or else it will be killed. One is rescued, the other is forced to rescue itself.
The industrial system, i.e. the labor system upon which the U.S. was built, treated workers like kittens – providing paychecks, retirement plans, and security. The connection economy, i.e. the internet age we currently live in, makes it easier to connect with people than ever before, which offers the monkey an opportunity to thrive and support himself if he chooses.
There are a couple huge points Joseph Dait makes within this book that stuck with me:
- We get more pleasure and happiness from making progress towards a goal than actually achieving the goal
- Strong social relationships are the best predictor of personal happiness. People who have strong relationships with those around them literally have a stronger immune system and better overall health.
Eric Weiner travels all over the world looking for the happiest places and comes to one eye opening conclusion:
- The greatest source of happiness is other people. Happiness is largely independent of geography and external factors.
One of my favorite quotes from this book:
“Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.”
My favorite takeaway from this book is the idea that adding randomness to our diets and workouts is hugely beneficial to our health. During workouts, focus on intensity instead of duration. When cultivating a healthy diet, try to eat a wide range of foods instead of sticking to a strict diet without any variety.
Daniel Gilbert explains how humans are awful at recalling how happy they were in the past regarding some circumstance and also how awful we are at predicting what will make us happy in the future.
One highly fascinating research finding in this book is that the two biggest things people think will make them happy but actually don’t are money and children.
Another great book by Peter Lynch in which my favorite quote was:
“This is one of the keys of successful investing: focus on the companies, not on the stocks.”
Carl Richards makes an awesome point in this book that I agree with wholeheartedly and have adopted into my core philosophy about personal finance:
Our financial goals should line up with out life goals. After all, that’s the whole reason we even have financial goals in the first place – to improve our overall quality of life!
Ramit Sethi writes a highly practical book on how any ordinary person can become rich over time. My favorite part of this book is the advise he provides on getting a new car:
Email 10-20 dealerships at the end of December when they need to meet quotas and tell them you’re prepared to purchase a certain car within the next 2 weeks and ask for the lowest price they can provide. Then use the lowest prices provided by each individual dealership to create a bidding war between them to offer you the best deal. Accept the deal online and go into the dealership only when you’re ready to sign the contract.
A major theme within this book is the fact that having a job actually has a lot of hidden costs – commuting, buying lunch potentially, work clothing, time needed to get ready and time needed to wind down, etc. Your actual hourly wage is much less than you think.
One of my favorite concepts in this book is the idea that you should always be striving to maximizes your Joy-to-Stuff ratio. You should be seeking to obtain a ton of joy from all the stuff in your life. If you don’t receive a ton of joy from something, get rid of it or stop purchasing it.
This book is a classic by David Schwartz. My absolute favorite idea from this book is this: Action cures fear. If you are scared of doing something just put yourself in a position where you can’t turn back. Do the thing. The fear will be conquered.
The most eye opening finding in this book is that humans spend far more with credit cards than they would if they only had cash because credit cards allow fast paced spending that make transactions unmemorable. This makes it hard for us to make the connection that money was spent, which leads us to spend more and more.
This is yet another hugely influential book for me. The main idea is that there are two types of mindsets a person may have: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset are scared of challenges, they hate to fail, they ignore feedback, and ultimately think that innate ability is entirely responsible for how successful a person can be.
Conversely, people with a growth mindset are open to challenges, learn from failures, welcome criticism, and are always striving to learn and grow. They know that goals can be achieved through continuous practice and effort over time. People with a growth mindset have no limit to what they can achieve.
Sign up to have my most recent articles sent straight to your email inbox for free
Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.