My reading list from 2005

Last night I was reading “25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself”:, a ChangeThis Manifesto by Rajesh Setty. In it, he councils us to read as much as possible. We learn he reads a book a week (!), and councils his business clients to read at least one per month.

I agree that reading is vital. My own personal breakthroughs are a direct result of all the knowledge I’ve poured into my head over the past couple of years. I think of my brain as a giant crock-pot: I pour the ingredients in, let simmer, and enjoy a unique medley of flavours. (I am keenly aware that I leave myself WIDE open by calling my brain a crock-pot. Let me spoil your fun by calling _myself_ a crack-pot ;))

I thought I’d list all the books I’ve read over the past 12 months. I’m surprised by their number. Had you asked, I’d have said that I’ve read maybe 10 or 12 books. My secret to getting through all of these is twofold: first, I love the subject matter. There isn’t a book here I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. If it didn’t sweep me off my feet, I put it right down. Second (and this is my secret weapon), I _listened_ to many of these.

Audiobooks are a godsend. Not only do I get to ‘read’ while commuting and walking the dog, I find my retention and comprehension of the subject matter is far greater. I have two theories about this. First, I listen when I’m awake. Reading science in bed? Not going to work for me. I’ll be asleep in seconds, with a bruise on my forehead from the weight of the book crashing down. Second, the narrator’s intonation and vocal colour help me get to the A HA! moment with far greater ease and regularity. The best audio books are narrated by the authors themselves. If you decide to try the audio approach, make sure to look for unabridged editions. Otherwise you’re better off with the paper version.

So, without further ado, and in absolutely random order, I give you my 2005 reading list.

h4. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night”:, Mark Haddon

Fiction. Wonderful story of an autistic boy’s search for order. A quick, entertaining, remarkably insightful book.

h4. “Bel Canto”:, Ann Patchett

Fiction. What happens when a group of backwards terrorists kidnap 70 VIPs (including an opera star) and hold them hostage in a luxurious compound? Not what you think. Warm, moving, funny…

h4. “The Red Tent”:, Anita Diamant

Fiction. A woman’s first person account of the time surrounding Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt. Wowza!

h4. “Hey Nostradamus!”:, Douglas Copeland

Fiction. I’ve got a real soft spot for Copeland. I’m a fan of his oeuvre, and this one doesn’t disappoint. As always, there is more to the story than meets the eye. I love how rooted in geography his work is. Having lived in the same city as this book (Vancouver), I can see, hear, and smell the same mossy dampness that permeates its pages.

h4. “The Universe in a Single Atom”:, His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Non Fiction. I’ve been thinking about the fact that modern neuroscience keeps butting up against the “problem” of consciousness, yet the scientific books I’ve read drop the subject like a hot coal as soon as it pops us. I was drawn to this books because it seeks to bridge the buddhist empirical study of consciousness and the empirical study of traditional science. It’s incredibly refreshing to find a spiritual leader so open to embracing modern thought and discovery.

h4. “Blog”:, Hugh Hewitt

Non Fiction. Not so much. Hewitt may have a point, but he so drowns it in his views on religion and science that it’s hard to draw out.

h4. “Across the Nightengale Floor”:, Lian Hern
“Grass for his Pillow”:, Lian Hern
“Brilliance of the Moon”:, Lian Hern

Fiction. Wow. Wonderful escapism. Beautifully written tale of love, honour, magic, and adventure set in mediaeval Japan. Great fun. A trilogy.

h4. “The Dream of Reason”:, Anthony Gottlieb

Non Fiction. The spiritual heir to Bertrand Russel’s A History of Philosophy, Gottlieb (the editor of The Economist) gives a remarkably in depth overview of the entire philosophical history, from the earliest pre-Greek thinkers to today. Despite it’s breadth and heft, this is a very accessible book, easily suitable to a philosophical novice like me.

h4. “The Fabric of the Cosmos”:, Brian Greene

Non Fiction. Jaw droppingly cool. Mind bendingly weird. Greene, “…string theory’s answer to John Cusack” has an amazing knack for rendering the insanely complex comprehendible. After reading this, nothing will be what you thought it was.

h4. “Getting Things Done”:, David Allen

Non Fiction. I’ve read this three times this past year, and I still don’t get it. It’s no fault of the author’s. His system works; if you can commit to it.

h4. “Creating Affluence”:, Deepak Chopra

Non Fiction. My first introduction to Chopra. He posits that in a universe ruled by quantum mechanics (ours), wealth is created at the sub-atomic level. Creating wealth, he argues, is a matter of understanding your role in the universe. After reading everything else on this list, I tend to agree.

h4. “A Short History of Nearly Everything”:, Bill Bryson

Non Fiction. A fantastic primer on the state of modern science, and great fun to boot. If you’re interested in getting up to speed on the breakthroughs of the past, oh, thousand years, read this. Even if you think you know it all, Bryson makes learning it again a blast.

h4. “On Intelligence”:, Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee

Non Fiction. Hawkins invented the Palm Pilot. Prior to that though, he studied the biological function of our brains. His Palm Pilot invention was merely a step on his road towards inventing thinking machines. In this book, he introduces his theory of how intelligence works. It’s a powerful, broad, straightforward model – one that intuitively makes sense. Read this and remember where you were when you did.

h4. “Coming to our Sense”:, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Non Fiction. A great introduction to living with our eyes open.

h4. “Awakening the Buddha Within”:, Lama Surya Das

Non Fiction. I know a couple of people who love this book. It didn’t do it for me the first time through. It’s on deck for a re-read.

h4. “Blink”:, Malcolm Gladwell

Non Fiction. Required reading. Enough said. If you’re in communications, and you haven’t read it, you’re not doing your self or your clients any justice.

h4. “E-Myth Mastery”:E-Myth Mastery, Michael Gerber

Non Fiction. The essence: work ON your business, not just IN it. Useful. I even tried to hire Gerber’s consultants after reading this. But they didn’t return my email.

h4. “Ender’s Game”:, Orson Scott Card

Fiction. Sci-fi. Go. Read. It. Now. It’s that good. How did I miss this one earlier?

h4. “Autobiography of a Yogi”:, Paramahansa Yogananda

Non Fiction. I listed to the audio version, narrated by the great Ben Kingsley. It’s a long, long book (just under 18 hours, narrated), but immensely enjoyable. Filled with joy and magic. It’s the kind of book that makes one want to jump out of bed to see what the day will bring.

h4. “Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot”:, Richard M Restak

Non Fiction. I’m only part way through this one at the moment. It’s useful, but I can’t help but feel Restak would be more comfortable talking to my parents than me. Give it to your 60 old friends.

h4. “A Brief History of Time”:, Stephen Hawking

Non Fiction. Recently updated on its 10th anniversary. The breakthroughs of the past decade in the areas of string theory are included in this seminal work. What a weird, weird world we live in. Read this, and try to keep it in mind the next time you’re struggling against something “important”.

h4. “Freakonomics”:, Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

Non Fiction. Like Blink: You. Must. Read. This. NOW. If nothing else, it’s a great read. Easy, fun. Jaw dropping.

h4. “Mind Wide Open”:, Steven Johnson

Non Fiction. Ever wondered “What’s going on in there?”. This is a fun, fast moving, first person account of the author’s journey through modern science to understand the hows and whys of his own brain. The breakthroughs in neuroscience of the past couple of years are succinctly and entertainingly explained. The perfect starting place to understand your own brain.

h4. “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell”:, Susanna Clarke

Fiction. Long. Very, very long. Clarke builds and populates a wonderful world, where Magic (capital m required) collides with 18th century Europe. At times longwinded, it gripped me enough to keep on trudging, then wouldn’t let go of my mind for weeks after I finished it.

h4. “Mind Hacks”:, Tom Stafford and Matt Webb

Non Fiction. The title sums it up perfectly. A user’s manual for geeks, organized into hacks, or tricks, to show you way our brains function by pointing out the flaws in our perception. Great for party tricks. Seriously.

h4. “PHP for the World Wide Web”:, Larry Ullman

Non Fiction. Starting from zero with my php knowledge, this book got me up to speed quickly. I bought it to read over christmas, when I was “off the grid”. It was immediately useful, and sits next to my monitor every day.

h4. “DOM Scripting: Web Design with Javascript and the Document Object Model”:, Jeremy Keith

Non Fiction. Yowsa! I had no idea it was so easy. Seriously. Keith does such a masterful job of walking us through basic javascript that you’ll be writing your own behaviours in no time. If you’re a web designer, this is required reading.

h4. “CSS Zen Garden”:, Dave Shea and Molly E Holzschlag

Non Fiction. I hate to say it, I really do, but this is the only book I regret buying this year. I was hoping for something a bit more advanced. Still, nice pictures.

8 thoughts on “My reading list from 2005”

  1. My god man, you’ve really been hitting the books, so to speak. Quite a selection of material there Peter, amazing!

    A little Stephen Hawking, some fictional Murder She Wrote type stuff, some Buddhist stuff….and you even squeezed in some time for the technical goodness.

    I’ve never been much into audio books, but you can certainly get through a “book” in a fraction of the time so that’s kinda nice. I finally read the Da Vinci Code (I know, I’m pretty late to the game) and it took me less than a week. When I get a book I’m stoked on, watch out man.

  2. Another great post, Peter. Some of these I’ve seen – others piqued my interest. In fact, I just went and spent $120 to buy some of them.

    For what it’s worth, I took a little time to comparison shop between Indigo and Amazon, and Indigo took the honours for price and availability overall. Wouldn’t always be the case, I suspect, but for this batch it took it hands down – particularly in the availability dep’t.

    Finally, I recently got CSS Zen Garden as well, and while I wasn’t blown away, I wouldn’t go so far as saying I experienced buyer’s remorse. Not a patch on Cederholm’s Bulletproof Web Design, mind you.

    Cheers, and thanks for the list.

  3. Jesse: guess I should have used that amazon associates link I signed up for ages ago! Enjoy the books, there isn’t one there I wouldn’t recommend.

    I don’t really regret buying the Zen Garden book – it’s been helpful for a couple of the folks at the office to make the leap to css based design. It’s certainly earned back what I paid for it.

    Justin: I understand where you’re coming from re the audiobooks. They’re not for everyone. Given a life filled with starting a business, two young kids, an active dog, and a wife I love to spend time with, audio books are better than the alternative

  4. Wow, that is awesome!!
    Anyone who is taking the time to read to grow their knowledge is on the right track. A friend of mine said a while back “that the reason you are where you are in life, is a result of your thinking.” And, he went on to explain that there is not a better way to improve your life than by improving your thinking by reading. You are definently improving your thinking and doing an awesome job of it. After reading the list of what you have read I am trully impressed.
    I have heard the quote, “Leaders are Readers.” And, I am curious if you have done much reading on leadership? Such as any books by authors such as John C. Maxwell, James Hunter, etc…?
    I am also curious if you have yet read the book, “Launching the Leadership Revolution” by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady? This is a fairly new book that has gained the praise of John Maxwell, James Hunter, Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen, and many others.

  5. What I meant to say is I haven’t gotten too into audio books….yet.

    I’m getting married later this year and just got a puppy (already have a 5 year old dog too), so maybe I should start reading, er, listening to audio books.

    Didn’t me to come across like I was dissin’ on audio books :)

  6. I love that Hearn trilogy! Not really into that kind of fiction, I thought anyway, but those books really caught me!

    You read alot last year… wish I could say the same, but I did read more than I’ve done in the past, so I’m hoping this year will be even better. Reading really open your mind to other cultures, new ideas, new facts and so on. There’s probably not one bad thing to say about reading, more than it takes time. Haven’t tried audio books yet, but maybe I should…

    Thanks for you great posts!

  7. Hans, re Hearn trilogy: me too! I picked it up on a whim, and was blown away. It’s not generally my cup of tea, which leads me to think I may have been missing out…

    I think I sense a post about audio books coming up…

  8. I spend a great deal of time in the car and audio books are a true god send, however they can be difficult to concentrate on at home while doing other tasks. So, if they just don’t do it for you at home, try taking them for a ride.

    Also, some books read better, some “listen” better. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell was so long and tedious that I gave up on reading it, but then found it on CD and it was a really great “listen”.

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