My Books of 2012

Here are the books that devoured my weekends and early mornings this year.


I loved Tom Robbins and Gillian Flynn this year, but didn’t see the fuss about Hilary Mantel and Wolf Hall. I relished every perfect morsel of Saki’s short stories for the sheer craft that they displayed. Old favourites such as Wilt and Flashman were returned to and still gave every bit as much enjoyment as when I first read them and I was privileged to read Maya Rodale’s fabulous romances before publication.

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

Flashman by George Macdonald Fraser

The Tattooed Duke By Maya Rodale

Seducing Mr Knightly by Maya Rodale

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

1Q84 by Haruki Murukami

The Vanished Man by Jeffrey Deaver

Wilt by Tom Sharpe

The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places: A novel by Gillian Flynn

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Year Zero by Rob Reid

In One Person by John Irving

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

The Complete Short Stories of Saki by Saki

The Racketeer by John Grisham (audiobook)


The Modern Firm and The Future of Management both gave good introductions to the new style of organisational design that is outcompeting traditional command-and-control structures. Predictable Revenue was an excellent introduction to how Salesforce built their inside sales team. Andy Grove is always good value and Marshall Goldsmith’s book was wonderful for its sheer applicability to some of the challenges I’m facing today.

The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation by Michael Malone

HBR’s 10 Must-reads on Managing Yourself by Harvard Business School

Little Bets by Peter Sims

On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross

CEOFlow by Aaron Ross

The Seven Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler

The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

Business Without Bosses by Charles Manz & Henry Sims

The Modern Firm by John Roberts

Making Things Work: Solving Complex Problems by Yaneer Bar-Yam

The Machine that Changed the World by James Womack

Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke

Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove

Open Book Management by John Case

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

The Future of Management by Gary Hamel and Bill Breen

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith


Everyone should read Donald Norman, it will make you look at the world differently and become more frustrated with door handles.

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter

History & Biography

I loved every history book I read this year. Stephen Clarke taught me something new about England’s relations with France when I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the rosbif-frog rivalry. The Swerve was a nice introduction to Lucretius and just how wonderful the ancient world was. A World on Fire was a wonderfully different perspective on the civil war and Crisis in Bethlehem shed new light on a town I spend a lot of time in these days. Finally David Bodanis tells the wonderful story of Emilie du Chatelet and Voltaire with aplomb: a must for any woman struggling in a male-dominated scientific establishment.

1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Baron de Jomini version)

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman

Crisis in Bethlehem by John Strohmeyer

Life of Marcus Cato the Elder by Plutarch

Passionate Minds: Emilie du Chatelet,  Voltaire and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment by David Bodanis


My interest in stoicism led me to explore Zen buddhism, Taoism and Shinto this year and I was fascinated by the parallels between Zen and Stoicism in particular. Alan Watts was a fantastic introduction to Zen and a superb writer and Seneca was a great compass to follow.

Darwin’s Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories by Adam Phillips

Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

One Arrow, One Life: Zen, Archery and Enlightenment by Kenneth Kushner

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

The Spirit of Zen by Alan Watts

What is Zen? by Alan Watts

Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryo Suzuki

Shinto: the Kami Way by Sokyo Ono


Astrophysics blew my mind this year and Neil DeGrasse Tyson was my dealer of choice. If you ever truly want to feel in awe of our universe, you should read his books. I also continued my interest in Ant and Bee colony development and found the Superorganism tough going but rewarding.

Death by Black Hole by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith

The Higgs Discovery by Lisa Randall

The Superorganism by E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldobler

Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley

Psychology/Sociology/The Internets

Thinking Fast and Slow had a huge impact in making me rethink the way in which I make decisions and how I can better engage my System 2 thinking. Taleb was at his grumpy best and Johnson is always thoughtful and diverting.

Too Big to Know by David Weinberger

Emergence by Steven Johnson

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemen

The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris

Fooled by Randomness by Nicholas Nassim Taleb

The Nature of Economies by Jane Jacobs


I’ve been a Hitchens fan for years but it’s only when I read his collected essays that I realised the sheer breadth of his learning and intellect. What a tragic loss.

Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

The Art of Being Unreasonable by Eli Broad

When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris



8 responses to “My Books of 2012”

  1. @rob, it’s just a list of books I’ve enjoyed this year. What you take from that is entirely up to you.

  2. Hi Tony, great list, I’ll be sure to look into some of them, especially the religion section is amazing.

    A quick question – you say “weekends and mornings”, do you mind sharing your morning reading routine – do you read straight when you wake up or during breakfast or else?

  3. Are you serious? That’s approx. 6 books a month.
    Honestly I don’t believe that you read that many books this year. Just doesn’t seem possible!

  4. @Leo On my ideal days (ie. when not hungover or lazy) I’ll wake up at 5am, exercise or do something creative from 5 to 6am and then read from 6 to 7am.

    @Ashwin I don’t have a television, and I live with a professional writer who reads much more than I do. It’s surprisingly easy and I feel like I should have probably read more this year.

  5. Good Lord, and I thought I read a lot! Well done on getting through all these, there are a few I’ve always meant to read as well.