I did one of these in 2013, so thought I’d do the same again this year. Following the convention used by Aaron Schwartz in his Review of Books, books that I thoroughly recommend are in bold, and those I haven’t finished yet are marked with an asterisk.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
Very likely the best book I read this year. The books offers a refreshing perspective on technology, entrepreneurship and economics and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in those fields.
Impro by Keith Johnstone
I initially read this book in parts because it was part of the set of books Palantir gave its interns as recommended reading. I was taking an improv class through work later so went back and reread the entire book and was surprisingly pleased by how broad the lessons one can learn from it are. I especially recommend it to anyone that works in a creative field.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
An interesting book on economic history that is thoroughly in-depth and relies on the heavy use of statistical analysis. I think it is very important to be familiar with the ideas presented in the book, though I acknowledge that reading the entire book is not for everyone. I would recommend it to anyone interested in some combination of history, economics and statistics. For the rest, I would recommend reading Vox’s guide on it.
The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier
A fascinating book on why the countries that make up the “bottom billion” of the population in terms of per-capita GDP aren’t making progress. Collier’s book is backed by research and provides a clear understanding of the problems faced by these countries and some policy recommendations which may help alleviate their problems.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
A classic on understanding human behavior. The book explains how to influence people through a number of lessons in social psychology which are accompanied by interesting anecdotes and case studies. Though it sounds like a book for a sales and marketing professional, I think it is much more widely applicable, and highly recommend it to everyone.
The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne (reread)
Sage insight into human nature from the man who popularized the essay as a literary genre
Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas M. Antonopoulos*
I wanted to get a better understanding of the details of bitcoin so I picked up this book recently. I’ve not finished it yet, but so far it’s done a good job about explaining the workings of bitcoin.
The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker*
I loved Elements of Style, so when I heard this book described as a contemporary version of it, I rushed to read it. I’m not done yet and it’s been a good read so far, but a fair warning to the non linguistically inclined that the book is a bit technical and contains a lot of sentence tree diagrams.
Cicero: Selected Works by Cicero and Michael Grant
A wonderful introduction to the works of arguably one of the most influential Romans of all time.
So all in all, just nine books read this year, though I did half-finish a few others which I didn’t mention, and probably forgot to mention a few others that I did finish since I didn’t go a good job of tracking the books I read this year (Would love to hear what people use for this!). Oh well, at least I read the equivalent of 40 books in Pocket…
I’d love to see others book lists as well and would love some book recommendations — I’m tanayj on twitter.