My Books of 2013

I missed my goal by four and read 56 books in 2013. Some I had to struggle through for a month (I’m looking at you Advertising Media Planning) and others left me speechless at their brilliance. I’ve put an asterisk next to the books I particularly recommend and given short notes about those and a selection of the other books on this list. (Disclosure: after being berated by my wife for not doing so last year, the Amazon links here are affiliate ones, do with that what you will)

Biography and History

Walden by Henry Thoreau

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

*The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

*General of the Army by Ed Cray

Are we Rome by Cullen Murphy

The Washington and Franklin biographies were both enjoyable reads, though I left with a poorer impression of Washington and a better impression of Franklin. However, the two biographies I enjoyed most were Morris’ biography of the early career of Theodore Roosevelt which indelibly shows you that you could be doing more in any given day than you are and Ed Cray’s biography of General George Marshall, which was truly excellent. Marshall is probably the greatest leader and manager of the 20th century and I took hundreds of notes.


AntiFragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Different by Youngme Moon

*The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker

Advertising Media Planning by Roger Baron

*The Feiner Points of Leadership by Michael Feiner

Competition Demystified by Bruce Greenwald

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

*Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert Sutton

If you want to get the core of pretty much every subsequent business book ever written, read Drucker. Everyone else is just repeating him. With that caveat, the Feiner and Sutton books were interesting guides to becoming better at being a manager (something I sorely need), while the Power of Full Engagement (yes a blech title) essentially told me to eat and sleep better. Taleb once again scared me away from investing in the stock market and Greenwald had me spellbound with his book on strategy up until he started saying Steve Job’s attempt to reinvent Apple was doomed.

Fiction & essays 

The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Pastoralia by George Saunders

*Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Phules Company & Phules Paradise by Robert Asprin

*The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis De Bernieres

*Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord by Louis de Bernieres

*The Troublesome OffSpring of Cardinal Guzman by Louis de Bernieres

The Magicians & The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

*The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Dune by Frank Herbert

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Tom Robbins

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

*The Wicked Wallflower and Wallflower Gone Wild by Maya Rodale

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Indecent Exposure by Tom Sharpe

If you haven’t read de Berniere’s South American trilogy, stop what you are doing and do so immediately. They are funny, sexy and magical. The Art of Fielding made me give a shit about Baseball for the first time and Winter’s Tale was one of those books that makes you realize you will never be as good a writer as Helprin (here’s hoping they don’t screw up the movie). Maya Rodale (ahem, the missus) captivated with wonderful romances in a brand new series too.


*The Inner Citadel: the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius by Pierre Hadot

*Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot

The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Musonius Rufus on How to Live edited by Ben White

*Dialogues and Essays by Seneca

Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity by Catherine Wilson

If you are at all interested in Marcus Aurelius, Hadot’s book is a tour de force. In fact, just read everything Hadot has ever written. Seneca is always good value too.

Science, Psychology and Sociology

Drive by Daniel Pink

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence Krauss

*The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Disappearing Spoon was a wonderful tour through my weakest area of science: chemistry. It made a subject I’d always avoided come alive.


*The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

*The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallway

Books tome is a beast but it puts forward one heck of a framework for understanding the common threads through English literature. I only care about tennis for two weeks of the year, so thankfully the Inner Game of Tennis was much more about performance and mental composure than anything else, it’s well worth a read even if you hate tennis.


One response to “My Books of 2013”

  1. I’m basically convinced that posting what you read online is a better reflection of someone’s character or personality than facebook or instagram. At least for people my age. Great list. I’m halfway through Braindead Microphone. Thanks for the Louis De Bernieres recommendation!