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.

If you’re ever curious to see what I’m reading, I keep track of everything on Tumblr and in my Amazon wishlist.

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

Dark Matter

Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

The Machine Stops


Einstein’s Dreams

Children’s books

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

Hallelujah Anyway

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

Shoe Dog

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The San Francisco Fallacy

Sticky Steps to Creating Killer Presentations

Deep Work

The Road to Recognition

Monetizing Innovation

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


Against Everything

The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead

Civilwarland in Bad Decline



El Deafo

Robocop vs. Terminator

Coffeetable books

Classic Penguin, Cover to Cover

Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions


Time Travel

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

Posted by:Kevan Lee

VP of marketing currently living in Boise, Idaho. I work with the lovely folks at Buffer. You can join my email list to get an inside look at marketing and branding and team-building in tech.

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