One of the first posts I made last year was about the books I had read in 2017.

This paragraph from it sums up why I believe so much in the power of reading.

Since I was a child, my dad always preached practically anything I want to do in this life has already been done by somebody before me – many of these experts have been kind enough to share their stories in books, which are always available for under $20. The way he phrased it, if we don’t read them, it’s our loss. This mentality has always motivated me to read books – I always wanted to know how the experts did it so I always make time for it. Books have been the single biggest asset to my growth as a leader and entrepreneur.

The answers to life are not necessarily in books, but in the way our brains establish connections and generate ideas drawing from the knowledge we gain from reading them.

At the beginning of last year, I put forth the time I usually spend reading to getting in the flow with my daily writing here. To say my year in reading started off slow would be understatement. I didn’t complete my first book until the first week in April!

Despite the slow start, I got into the flow and then some… It’s been my best year in reading ever. Last year, I fell 5 short of my goal of reading 26 books… This year, I surpassed it completing 33 books and starting several more (well over 10,000 pages in total) – a 10 day solo vacation and honeymoon helped 😉

In fact, I read so much this year I no longer look at books as daunting tasks that will take forever to finish, but instead as the several hour learning journey they are.

And while the 10,000 page figure may look daunting to you as books once looked to me 😉 it actually comes out to less than 30 pages each day.

While I will post the full list of books I read this year at the bottom of this post, here are my ten favorites with a short blurb about them each in case you want to pick one up!

As always, feel free to send your book recommendations my way anytime!

1/The Third Door

I gave this book out as my holiday gift this year. I’ve known Alex Banayan for years as the “kid who hacked the Price is Right and was interviewing the world’s most successful people to see how they launched their careers”, but I had no idea his book would be such an emotional rollercoaster of triumph and tribulation with learnings for all sprinkled throughout his adventure. Alex believes life is like a nightclub… You can wait for the first door or try to get in the VIP… But what nobody ever tells you about is the third door… Until now that is. And it’s waiting for you to discover it.

2/Setting the Table

With all the incredible books I read about the entertainment business, I would never have thought an entrepreneurial story about a cafe owner turned restaurant extraordinaire would be at the top of my list for favorite books of the year. In this book, Union Square Hospitality group founder Danny Meyer (best known for starting Shake Shack) explains the importance for setting a thesis for making decisions on what projects to move forward with. He also goes to great lengths telling stories of how he “set” the example for what service looks like in his organization. The way he communicates with and values all the stakeholders in his life (employees, customers, community, suppliers, investors in that order) is a masterclass in what it takes to be a great entrepreneur.

3/Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce Went from Idea to Billion Dollar Company and Revolutionized an Industry

I love books that take you on an adventure! That’s what these first three books have in common. In this one, Marc Benioff leaves behind his corporate gig to bring the world into the technology cloud from an apartment-turned-office via his once-upon-a-time start-up, Salesforce. His marketing tactics to create awareness for the company are brilliant and replicable by any industry. Marc goes into immense detail on his original vision, how he handled difficulties along the journey, and never let them get in the way of his desired mission, while creating immense impact along the way.

4/How will you measure your life?

How is it possible all students begin their freshman day of Harvard with the same goal – “to be super successful” – yet some live happy and prosperous careers with great families, while others are in jail for orchestrating the Enron scandal? Clayton Christiansen breaks down the importance of understanding your personal values and using them as a north star guide to navigate the twists and turns of life’s many phases.

5/Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEO’s and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

What would you learn from the best performing CEO’s of all time (measured by what $1 was worth in their company when they took over to what it was worth when they retired)? This book has the answers. If you’re interested in the way money can be leveraged in business, how value is ideated and created, or learning the best practices for navigating major business decisions, this book reveals the secrets behind the methods from the best to ever do it… Not because the press said so, but because the numbers over time can’t possibly lie.

6/Michael Jackson Inc.

I coincidentally read this one right after Outsiders and they almost belong together. Do you want to know what it’s like standing behind the 8 ball of the business of the world’s most successful entertainer of all time? Zack O’Malley Greenburg provides immense insight into the blockbuster deals and business decisions of Michael Jackson and his many advisors along his career, including long time partner and brilliant estate executor John Branca. The detailed tale of how Michael defeated other suitors to purchase the ATV catalog demonstrates the power celebrities can have when they exude their influence in business.

7/Measure What Matters

How many meetings do you go into where the leader gets you all amped up… And nothing changes? It happens often. In our fast moving detailed-oriented world, it’s difficult to set the framework to achieve our grandest goals. How did Intel do it? How did Google do it? How does Bill Gates do it? By creating and measuring OKR’s – Objectives and key results. John Doerr, long-time Intel executive who worked for years next to the Godfather of management Andy Grove (author of High Output Management) and first major investor into Google pulls back the curtain on how technology companies simply measure and achieve the Big Hair Audacious Goals creating many of our world’s greatest innovations.

8/Pour Your Heart Into It

This is Howard Schultz’s story of Starbucks. Within the first few pages, you’re reminded Starbucks was actually around for several years selling coffee beans before Howard came into the picture. Howard envisioned selling coffee by the cup. When the founders didn’t see the vision, he left them to start his own coffee cafe, only to buy Starbucks a few years later and bring the vision to fruition. Howard and his team created a cultural revolution fueling one of the most successful brands in the world. Product revolutions take brilliant thinkers and in this story, Howard walks you through every step of his thought process to execution.

9/How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

While I disagree with some of the personal views of the author, his advice on how to succeed at work and in life is too applicable not to be included here. He is extremely logical in his approach, while also understanding how random life can be… After all, Scott experienced it firsthand when one of his dozens of side projects, Dilbert, became a worldwide phenomenon. This book will save you from making career mistakes and fast forward your road to the top.

10/It’s a tie for 10th place…

Becoming Supernatural – Dive deep into the science behind the law of attraction and how what we think about enters our lives. Then, practice meditations to supercharge your growth.

Between the World and Me – What does it mean to be African American (or a minority) in modern America? How did we get here? Where do we go from here? Ta-Nehisi Coates letter to his son uncovers one man’s discovery on the meaning of race in his own life. As a National Book Award winner, several others, included myself, connected deeply with his story.

Power of Moments – Be remembered by crafting extraordinary moments for others – Tap into the four elements which dominate our memory perception: elevation, insight, pride, and or connection. From the book’s site, “Why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them?”

Since I know many of you love books, I will do a monthly recap of my “best” in reading instead of holding back until the end of the year to share all my favorites.

Maybe I will even figure out how to make a section of the site include all these short summaries 😉 happy reading!

In case you wanted to see what the year in reading looks like physically, here it is! Maybe 2020 will be the year I finally adopt the kindle 😉

Full List of 2018 Books (in the order I read them)
The Third Door
Art of Thinking Clearly
Power of Moments
Zero to One
Beyond the Cloud
How to Get Married
When Breathe Becomes Air
The Big Payback
The Song Machine
The Courage to Be Disliked
Purple Cow
Real Artists Don’t Starve
Setting the Table
The Mailroom
How Will You Measure Your Life?
The Korean Way in Business
Rhythm and the Blues
Between the World and Me
Michael Jackson, Inc.
Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEO’s
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Becoming Supernatural
The Greatest Salesman
Measure What Matters
Pour Your Heart Into It
The Autobiography of Gucci Mane
The Power of the Unfair Advantage**
48 Laws of Power**
The Essential Drucker*
*I did not complete, but plan to in 2019
**I did not complete and don’t think I will


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