My books of 2015

In 2015, I got the chance to read 54 new books, though they seemed to fall into narrower fields than in previous years. I’ve divided them into categories and the starred books at the top of each are my top picks.

History and Biography

*Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
*Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
*A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Gonzo: A Graphic biography of Hunter S. Thompson by Will Bingley & Anthony Hope-Smith
An Astronaut’s guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael

2015 was the year of Alexander Hamilton and there was no way I couldn’t read the Chernow biography, which is both a fabulous biography of Hamilton and a nice counterpoint to the more positive view of Jefferson I read in the Meachem last year. As someone who wasn’t educated in America I came to Zinn late but he blew my goddamn mind. Sapiens is a book in the Guns, Germs and Steel vein and is the one that most people recommended I read. They were right.

Philosophy and Psychoanalysis

*What is Ancient Philosophy by Pierre Hadot
*A Book forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age by Steven Nadler
Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity by Rebecca Goldstein
Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Problems by Jules Evans
The World Beyond your Head: On becoming an individual in the age of distraction by Matthew Crawford
The Art of Zen Meditation by Howard Fast
Psychoanalysis: the Impossible Profession by Janet Malcom

Pierre Hadot confirmed his place as my favourite writer on philosophy this year and I continued to geek out about Spinoza who must have been one of the most fascinating and honorable men to walk this earth. He was a major influence on Locke who was a major influence on the Founding Fathers. Malcom’s book on Psychoanalysis I picked up to try and understand that world a little better and how it differed from CBT which has more of a basis in stoicism. I came away thinking that while freudian analysis cetainly helps some people it is a deeply weird approach.

Science

*The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in our Time by Jonathan Weiner
The Accidental Universe: The World you thought you knew by Alan Lightman
What if?: Serious Science Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilisation in the aftermath of a cataclysm by Lewis Dartnell
The Universe in the Rear View Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality by Dave Goldberg
How we got to now: Six innovations that made the modern world by Steven Johnson

The Beak of the Finch was the standout science book I read this year. Its story of the work of evolutionary biologists in the Galapagos is utterly fascinating and shows you just how much evolution is continuing to shape and adapt the environment around us.

Business

*Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to make Groups Smarter by Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie
*The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge
*Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom De Marco, Tim Lister
Kaizen Express: Fundamentals for your Lean Journey by Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement by Gen Stanley McChrystal
Targeted: How Technology is revolutionising advertising and the way companies reach consumers by Mike Smith
Inside Cisco: The Real Story of Sustained M&A Growth by Ed Paulson
Opposable Mind: Winning through integrative thinking by Roger Martin
Inspired: How to create products customers love by Marty Cagan

Wiser was an excellent business book in that it leant on data not hyperbole to make its case, thus separating itself from 90% of its brethren. I’ve long been a fan of what Mark Roberge achieved at Hubspot (I’ve even tried to poach his people in the past) and this was one of the better books on sales management out there. Finally, Peopleware is a classic I only now got round to reading and it reminded me of just how many things I’m doing wrong. Again. Special shout out to Mike Smith who wrote what is the primer on the ad tech world and somehow made it all very readable.

Fiction

*Middlesex: a Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
*Submission: A Novel by Michel Houellebecq
*A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Privileges: A Novel by Jonathan Dee
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Gilead: a Novel by Marilynne Robinson
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra
Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Wool Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey
The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The best of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl
Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King
The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
Absurdistan: a Novel by Gary Shteyngart
I am Pilgrim: a thriller by Terry Hayes

2015 felt like a great year for fiction for me. Middlesex was a profound and inspiring look at transgender identity. A Personal Matter was a beautiful and depressing book about a new father’s struggle to cope with new and immense responsibility. The fabulous Submission looked at a world where France becomes an Islamic state and by the end I couldn’t help but be reminded of Dr Strangelove.

Miscellaneous

*Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow Schüll
*The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
*Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
The Power of No by James Altucher, Claudia Altucher
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison, Craig Walsh
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
Letters of Note: An Eclectic collection of correspondence deserving of a wider audience by Shaun Usher

I didn’t start the year thinking I would read an entire book on Machine Gambling addiction but I’m glad I did. A great book that goes into the detail of how casinos design themselves to encourage addiction and just how emphatically it can take hold. Pinker’s Sense of Style is a worthy successor to Strunk and White and with the exception of a couple of turgid chapters is beautifully written itself. Scott McCloud gave me a completely different perspective on comics, an art form I think I’ve been way too dismissive of in the past.

One Reply to “My books of 2015”

  1. In 2015, I was fond of philosophy. Among the books I read was “Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning” by Aleksandr Dugin.

    Also, “Infinite Deadlock” by Dmitry Galkovsky, but it seems this philosophical novel is only in Russian.

    “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche it’s classic. It is best to study philosophy with such authors.

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