I can’t believe it’s already been another year! When I was about 8 my dad warned me that time speeds up every year, and oh how right we was. Anyway, over the last 365 days I continued my journey to read at least a book every week (see my earlier blog post “Best Books of 2015”) and I hit 84 in 2016! As before, it was surprisingly easy and fun. All it took was reading for a half hour every morning while drinking my coffee, listening to audio books instead of the radio, and choosing to read in the small spaces in between other things rather than engaging in other time wasters. That’s it. And like last year, it was so incredibly fun! Maybe I’m a dork (Ok, definitely) but what I expected to be an endurance effort has become one of the most enjoyable and rewarding pieces of my life. Every author, every story, every perspective pushes me, opens windows, and leaves me changed.
So, without further ado – here are my 10 favorite books of 2016. I hope they touch you as they’ve touched me! (I agree, that sounded funny)
In no particular order...
1. City of Thieves (David Benioff)
This books was recommended by a client who proved to have very good taste. A little different than what I normally read, this is historical fiction at its finest. Set in WWII Leningrad, this is a brilliantly written adventure/coming of age tale that will make you laugh, cry, and scrunch up your face in thought – all at the same time. It also happens to be written by the co-creator of Game of Thrones. Need I say more?
2. Running with the Mind of Meditation (Sakyong Mipham)
I will concede that this is a seriously niche pull. I will also concede that I couldn’t really get into it until I tried reading it while attending a silence retreat (Try it - you’ll love it). With those two caveats out of the way, I have to acknowledge what an incredible treasure trove of life skills and deep thought this book contains. And it’s all told in the easy, welcoming manner you would expect from a Tibetan llama (which Mipham is). If you are interested in exploring your body, mind, or connection between the two, spend a couple days slurping this book up.
3. The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown)
Just a badass hero’s journey story – that happens to be true. This book chronicles the Washington Huskies crew (rowing) team and their quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Even if you’re not particularly into history or crew (like me), you won’t be able to put this down until you’ve turned the last page. You will feel the pain in your lungs as they strain with every pull, thrum with the energy of shared purpose, and bask in the glow of triumph every time they cross the finish line ahead of their competitors. Great read.
4. The Millionaire Course (Marc Allen)
Given to me as a gift by another client – and I enjoyed it so much that I gifted it to all of our trainers this year. While the name implies a focus on financial gain, the book is really about creating the life of your dreams (whatever those dreams are). And sure, this is something countless gurus have written about, but Allen employs a style and perspective that is unique and refreshing. This is both a quick, fun read as well as extremely dense (I have revisited the book many times) and literally packed with tidbits of actionable wisdom. Unless you are exactly where and who you want to be in life, I highly recommend this book.
5. The Blue Zones (Dan Buettner)
As a healthcare professional this book had been on my list for a while. And I guess I was dragging my feet on reading it because… the name doesn’t evoke excitement and the topic sounded like it could be dry? Well, I should have read it immediately. And so should you. It is not only an enjoyable and fascinating read, but it makes the prospect of getting older seem less daunting. Buettner takes you on a journey around the world to explore the small populations where people live the longest (and we’re not talking bed ridden, diseased people. You’ll meet 105 year old fire crackers who could beat you at arm wrestling and tell jokes that will curl your toes). How and why do they live so long and well? And how can you apply that to your life? Read the book.
6. Eiger Dreams (Jon Krakauer)
Most of you probably already know Krakauer is one of the best (Into the Wild, Into Thin Air), and this book doesn’t disappoint. A collection of mountaineering accounts that he wrote for various publications, Eiger Dreams takes a poignant look at the kinds of people who pit themselves against the Earth’s highest and most dangerous places; and does so with some top notch storytelling.
7. Running with the Buffaloes (Chris Lear)
Actually similar to The Boys in the Boat – except this book follows the University of Colorado boys cross country team during a breathtaking NCAA season in the 1990’s. I loved this book. Because I am virtually the same age as the main characters and am friends with some of them online. Because I am a runner. Because I can greatly identify with the struggle to push oneself to (and past) his or her limits. But mostly, because it is simply a great book.
8. Ahead of the Curve (Brian Kenny)
Baseball was my first love. For a long time I thought it would be my life. And then it turned out I couldn’t hit or throw (or probably anything else) quite well enough to make a living doing it. But it’s still fascinating to learn and read about. It is such an intellectual sport (which is why people enjoy it even when it looks like nothing is happening), steeped in so much tradition, and Kenny turns the whole game on its head. With facts, stories, and a wry wit, he offers a different way of evaluating and looking at almost everything in the sport. If you are a sports fan, definitely put this on your list.
9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)
I saw my uncle reading this on a backpacking trip, and then my cousin told me what a genius Gaiman is (for some reason I’ve never read a book by him before). A novel about a man remembering a dark and magical (literally) part of his childhood that had been taken from him, this book is both philosophical and yet wonderfully simply written. A fast, enjoyable read that will also appeal to your deeper humanity.
10. The Art of Learning (Josh Waitzkin)
This was one of the last books of the year, and I read it on a whim (instead of picking a book from my ever growing list of “Must Reads”) because an author I respect recommended it. What a book. Josh Waitzkin is the real life kid that The Search for Bobby Fischer was based on (a book that was actually written by his father). He was a chess prodigy for many years, and then switched gears entirely and became a Tai Chi Push Hands world champion. He realized in looking back on his life that he is not the smartest or most athletic person on the planet, but he is an expert at the art of learning. So he wrote a book about it. A great story, filled with actionable information. The kind of book that makes one amazed at what our species is capable of.
Honorable mentions (I can’t help it. Too many good books!)
A Cook’s Tour (Anthony Bourdain)
The Perfect Mile (Neil Bascomb)
Bossypants (Tina Fey)
The Ultra Mindset (Travis Macy)
PS – Please share this with your friends that love to read. Also, if you have a book (or books) that I should add to my “Must Reads” list, please let me know using the “Contact Me” at joshmathe.com. Thanks!
PPS - My next book i, Athlete: How to unleash your inner athlete and supercharge your life will be out any day! Look for it on Amazon or email me to be put on my "Advanced Copy" list if you'd like a free copy in exchange for a candid review!