Books are amazing. They are these small handheld items of compressed knowledge – some of them hold a lifetime of wisdom… others are engaging and creative stories that spring up as a result of many days of mental hard work.
In our modern connected world it is the power of video that gets the most attention. It’s not suprising though is it? We humans are hard-wired to take in information visually. If there is a smartly dressed and attractive person delivering the information it definitely gets our attention (be it the weather forecast on BBC or a YouTube video).
I acknowledge and enjoy the power of video but over the last few years I’ve started to make an effort to read books that are regarded as must-read or just those that I think will help propel me upwards on my journey of self-improvement.
I wanted to highlight some of these (and a few personal favourites) and why they have had such an impact on me… so read on!
* Guns, Germs & Steel (Jared Diamond, 1997)
This well known book by anthropologist Jared Diamond seeks to answer the question of why Europeans came and conquered the “New World” rather than the other way round.
This is a question, a “shower-thought”, that I had pondered for a while. I have this fascination with ancient history and why the world looks as it does today. If I had a time machine I think I would call up Jared Diamond first and invite him to visit any time period he chose (as for me I would fast-forward to the 24th Century to see if it really does look like Star Trek :)
They made a TV series of the book with Jared Diamond himself, however I urge you to read the book as it is very accessible and aimed towards the ordinary person.
* Bounce (Matthew Syed, 2010)
This highly-rated work was the very first audiobook I ever read (listened) and is absolutely fascinating look into the “Talent Myth” – this is the belief that some of us are born with innate talents that others do not posses.
It is not only engaging and interesting but also enthusiastically narrated by James Clamp. It might seem odd for me to mention the narrator but I found that some audiobooks are let down by the narration however not in this case.
In my field of Software Engineering I have come across colleagues who have seemingly magical abilities when it comes to writing software or picking up abstract concepts. After absorbing this book and from talking to some of these colleagues I now know better, it is not magic or some innate ability but the result of many hours of things you don’t see: personal learning & discovery outside work hours, writing non-perfect software that fails in production and then learning the lessons and learning from other more experienced software engineers.
* Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy (Timothy Zahn, 1991)
What the heck? I’m including an iconic bit of pop-culture in this list?! Yeah mofo, it’s MY list :)
I should say that I’m not a serious Star Wars geek but in the mid-1990s teenage me picked up these books one random weekend because I was amazed someone was writing stories set after Return of the Jedi (that was 1983). Turns out the author Timothy Zahn had crafted a wonderful story that captured the feel of the beloved movies perfectly. Every word the characters spoke were as if they were lifted from a real movie and spoken by the original actors.
I later learned that Timothy Zahn recorded the movies to audio cassette and used to play them back in the car for his son on long cross-country trips. Believe me, it shows in his writing!
“Thrawn” refers to Grand Admiral Thrawn, a character from the story who has since become so popular that he is now part of the official canon of Star Wars. After raving about these books to my brother, I promptly bought the rest of the trilogy and read them all in a week. You don’t have to even like Star Wars to enjoy them, it’s simply a good story set against a well-researched science fiction backdrop.
As a side-note I got in touch with Timothy Zahn on Facebook and he always replies promptly. One of my life goals is to meet him one day and get him to sign my copies :)
* Mr Money Moustache Blog (Peter Adeney, 2012+)
OK, I cheat a bit – this is not a book… but a blog by a wonderfully articulate, mild-mannered yet bad-ass retired Software Engineer living in Colorado, USA. However if you collect all his blog posts from 2012 onwards to present day they could easily be taken as a book of sorts.
Oh, and no it’s not just about money. The secret agenda behind it is to trick people into living the best life possible for a human being by developing something called “bad-assity” :)
This guys writings strongly resonated with me and put into words some nebulous thoughts, hunches and feelings I’ve had rattling around my brain for a while. I’m not the only one – his blog has a global audience.
For a British slant on this theme please check out The Escape Artist.
So that is my list!
For a more comprehensive list on what is highly regarded by people I regard as peers, I encourage you to check these lists:
…but now over to you – what has made an impact on you?