Funny enough, I didn’t read books until I started working at Buffer four years ago. I read a lot of magazines (and still secretly want to start my own someday), but books never quite held the same allure for me. I guess I have a lot of ground to make up. This year I read 85 books.
Here are a few of my favorites, as well as a full list of everything I read.
Goodbye, Vitamin (Amazon)
This is a story about a thirtysomething woman who returns home to help care for her father who is going through the early stages of dementia / Alzheimer’s. Yes, it’s definitely a sad story, but there are so many sweet moments between the family and I found a lot of it resonating with my own experience of grief and loss — and that funny in-between when you’re grieving in the midst of losing.
Here is one example of a sweet moment between father and daughter:
Today I looked glum, I guess, and you told me it was perfectly normal. “It’s called ‘the fall,’ my love,” you said.
Salt Fat Acid Heat (Amazon)
Is it weird to put a cooking book on a Best Books list? Probably. That’s precisely what this book is, but I couldn’t help myself: I enjoyed it so much and learned so much from the author’s simple and straightforward explanation of cooking concepts. I honestly felt like I had just been through an intro to culinary school in only a few hours. For instance:
Incorporating ingredients delicately is important for the same reason – if you go to great lengths to whip air into your fat, then carelessly combine the cake’s dry and wet ingredients, all at once, you’ll lose all of the air you whipped up.
I always carelessly combine those ingredients, and now I know why I shouldn’t!
The first half of the book is explaining the “why” about cooking (all the things that no one ever tells you, that they just expect you to follow the rules) and the second half is all recipes. I liked the book so much, I’m going to buy a hard copy just so I always have the recipes on hand.
On Death & Dying (Amazon)
Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body. Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment.
To the Bright Edge of the World (Amazon)
This was the first book I read in 2017, back in January, and it remains one that I’ve loved all year. It’s been hard to top. It’s a story about the Alaska wilderness back in the 1800s when the U.S. was just starting to chart the territory. The story is told from two perspectives: 1) the man who blazes the trail through the wilderness and 2) the wife who stays behind.
It is something I love very much about him. He goes not in search of obstacles, only the paths around them. Anything seems possible.
Days Without End (Amazon)
Just like in the story above, Days Without End is based in the late 1800s. It’s told from the perspective of a U.S. soldier and details the life he lives in and around the Civil War. One of the things I loved most is the way it’s written: the author wrote in the unique, consistent dialect of a semi-educated man in the 1800s. Wonderful.
You could expect a child that has seen all that to wake in the night sweating and she does. Then John Cole is obliged to hold her trembling form against him and soothe her with lullabies. Well he only knows one and he does that over and over. He holds her softly and sings her the lullaby. Where he got that no man knows not even hisself. Like a stray bird from some distant country. Then he lies on her bed and she pushes in tight against him like you might imagine bear cubs do in the winter hide or maybe even wolves. Tight in, like John Cole was that bit of safety she is trying to reach. A harbour. Then her breathing slowly lengthens and then she is snoring a little. Time to come back to bed and in the darkness or the helpful dim of the candle he looks at me and nods his head. Got her sleeping, he says. You sure do, I say. Not much more than that needed to make men happy.
Everything I read in 2017, by category
(I hesitate to list all the books I read because, above, I listed my favorites. It is such a huge accomplishment to write a book — such a labor of love, effort, time, energy — that I feel awful speaking ill of anyone’s writing, even if the ill being spoken of is insinuated by my leaving a book off my “favorites” list. Nevertheless, I’m pushing through the awkwardness in hopes that maybe you and I will have both read one of the same books and we can talk about it. Besides, I really really loved several on this list, too, and I won’t say which ones so that I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings any more than I have already.)
A Gambler’s Anatomy
Life After Life
Happy All the Time
Lincoln in the Bardo
Under Major Domo Minor
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
World, Chase Me Down
Sci-fi and fantasy
The Obelisk Gate
All the Birds in the Sky
Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt
Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
The Machine Stops
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine
Winnie the Pooh
The Song Machine
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels
Barking Up the Wrong Tree
History and politics
The Real American Dream
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?
Strangers in Their Own Land
The Elephant in the Room
Faith and inspiration
Proof of Heaven
Till We Have Faces
Hope in the Dark
The Four Agreements
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Things Are What You Make of Them
Business & Management
The Signal and the Noise
The Only Rule Is It Has to Work
The 4 Disciplines of Execution
Crossing the Chasm
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
The San Francisco Fallacy
Sticky Steps to Creating Killer Presentations
The Road to Recognition
Your Strategy Needs a Strategy
Tools of Titans
Yes to the Mess
The Coaching Habit
Biography and memoir
Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
On the Move: A Life
Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers
Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jesus: A Biography From a Believer
Born Standing Up
But What if We’re Wrong?
Ninety-nine Stories of God
Fine Fine Fine Fine Fine
Some Possible Solutions
The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead
Civilwarland in Bad Decline
Robocop vs. Terminator
Classic Penguin, Cover to Cover
Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions
I Contain Multitudes
I don’t even know
The Interrogative Mood
This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better
The Perfect Pass
The Book of Endings