The Best Books I Read in 2016

“I should read more…”

I found myself saying that a lot in previous years and finally stopped when my brother gave me a Haruki Murakami book and I’ haven’t stopped reading since. 2016 was my most productive reading year so far. I set a goal of reading 30 books and ended up at 29. Below is a list of my favorite books from this year.

There is a lot of content to read nowadays but the bar for getting published online is really low. I stuck with books because they require more research and deep expertise. When paired with citations and reviews by respectable figures, books are more likely to be worth the time investment.

If you look at my reading list, you’ll see that I read a wide range of topics. While some books ended up being a waste of time, others ended up being life-changing. I understand that it’s difficult to choose a book to read. That’s why I want to share the very best, must-read books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year.

If you decide to read any books in 2017, pick one of these up!

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday has been one of the most influential people in my life. From Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator and Growth Hacker Marketing, he has moved more toward philosophy. In Ego is the Enemy, Ryan masterfully conveys what it truly means to keep your ego in check. He tells the stories of history’s greatest, humblest, and (unfortunately) unknown leaders who demonstrated unparalleled levels of humility.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

My foray into Stoic philosophy began when I read Meditations in 2015. That’s when I began to understand and adopt the idea that most things in life don’t matter. Perhaps you’ve found yourself wasting time and energy on people and things you don’t truly care about. If that’s the case, this book puts many of those scenarios into perspective to help you be more intentional with your time in 2017.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

A common theme I’ve noticed during conversations with peers is loneliness – a lack of community. Some of the biggest social issues we face today: Depression. Political polarization. An ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor. Rather than a unified culture that creates a communal bond, we have division. It’s no wonder that war veterans feel alone and lost when they leave their tight-knit tribe in re-enter solitary civilian life. With the political climate we’re facing, this is an important book to read.

First They Killed My Father by Luong Ung

This was a personal book for me in my effort to learn about my family’s history. I grew up flipping straight to the index of history textbooks looking for any mention of Cambodia and the genocide that occurred in the 1970s. I was always disappointed to find that a genocide that killed over a fifth of the country’s population received no more than two sentences. I’m still learning about the politics of the war, what caused it, why it took so long for intervention, however, this book isn’t about any of that. This book is about Ung’s story of survival. A memoir of how she lived through the killing fields, watching her family die in the process, fighting against all odds and making it to the United States.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Understanding my identity required learning about my family’s history. My parents’ hardships, their memories, life before America, life in America and so on. Diaz tells the story of the De Léon family from Oscar and Lola’s generation to their mother’s upbringing, to their grandparents’ lifestyle under the dictator Rafael Trujillo. Their stories are tied together seamlessly to demonstrate the effect of one generation’s past on the next generation.

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman

It always surprises people when they find out I have a degree in chemistry. As I read this memoir, I wondered whether I would’ve stuck with chemistry if I had someone like Feynman to guide my thinking and nurture my curiosity. Throughout high school and college, students in the sciences often get bogged down by textbooks and exams, biological systems to memorize, and the correct formulas to use. This book put me in the mind of Feynman, his constant questioning, the lens with which he saw the world, and the endless curiosity he possessed that ended up in historical achievements.

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

From struggles with alcoholism and infidelity to the highest of highs of the honeymoon period, Levithan tells the story of a couple’s relationship through dictionary entries. Here are two examples: (1) “Ethereal, adj. You leaned your head into mine, and I leaned my head into yours. Dancing cheek to cheek. Revolving slowly, eyes closed, heartbeat measure, nature’s hum. It lasted the length of an old song, and then we stopped, kissed, and my heart stayed there, just like that.” (2) “Gravity, n. I imagine you saved my life. And then I wonder if I’m just imagining it.”

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I always ended up with a good night’s sleep each time I read an excerpt of this book right before bed. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of essays from Strayed’s anonymous advice column, “Dear Sugar,” on The Rumpus online literary magazine. In each excerpt, Strayed opens up her heart and tells deeply personal stories to provide the advice-seeker with reassurance, not necessarily that everything will be okay, but simply that they aren’t alone. A perfect demonstration of what I believe to be the type of true vulnerability that great relationships are built on.

If you’re busy and want to avoid wasting your time and money on a random, mediocre book, pick one of these up.

As Ryan Holiday recommends, go on a news diet. It’s surprising how much time I had when I stopped paying attention to news and online articles. Much of that content is just about getting eyeballs to a page so they can maximize ad revenue.

Instead of wasting your time on those articles, raise the bar for what you’ll spend your time reading.

Whether you decide to read fiction or nonfiction, instead of getting sucked into the mindless buzz shared on Facebook or Twitter, let’s focus on reading something we can truly learn from. Let’s spend our time reading great writing that helps us become more aware and cognizant of the world around us.

Let’s go from “I should read more…” to “I’ve been reading this book…” (:

Check out my full reading list to see if there’s anything else that might seem interesting.

What were the best books you read this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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Comments 2

  1. I love having discovered your website precisely with this article. I love reading and I’m not devoting it the time it deserves (although this year I also read a little bit, “The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao” is a coincidence!).
    Thank you for the recommendations and the inspiration, you just made me want to retake the habit.
    All the best!

    Adriana

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