Favorite books of 2018.

Out of all the books you read in a given year, what percentage do you LOVE?

My rate was pretty high this year, higher than past years. I also read more than I ever have before: 105 books. My keys to reading a lot kinda seem like cheating: 1) read a big variety including graphic novels and kids’ books, 2) read short books to keep up your momentum, and 3) quit a book when you’re not enjoying it. Nevertheless, I made it through 100, and liked and loved a majority.

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All the books I read in 2017 and five of my favorites

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.

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The Chasm

I just finished reading Crossing the Chasm, a book about marketing for high-tech products. And wow, if you ever wanted to know exactly what your customers might be thinking, this book seems to have it figured out.

It’s magic. I’d love to tell you more about it.

First, the book introduces the concept of the High Tech Marketing Model, pictured below:

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We Are All Weird

we-are-all-weirdWe don’t like the advertising that’s not for us, not about us, not interesting to us. But talk to me, directly to me, about something relevant and personal, and I love you for it.

^^ Seth Godin

I might need to make it a personal calendar appt to read a Godin book every six months. Poke the Box was great, this one’s rad, too.

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Several Short Sentences About Writing

several short sentencesEverything you notice is important.

Let me say that a different way: If you notice something, it’s because it’s important.

^^ Verlyn Klinkenborg

I’ll read just about any writing book I can, and I tend to have a pretty short list of ones I find worth marking up. In Several Short Sentences, the several short sentences are a very literal thing as the way Verlyn Klinkenborg writes breaks up sentences into their own line and there’re no chapters to speak of in the book. It was a fun read, and I found plenty of good takeaways and encouragements here to heartily recommend giving this one a look.

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My Favorite Books of 2015

What a fun year of reading!

Here’re the books I loved most. Would love to know what you’ve enjoyed this year, too!

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style the art of writing wellSTYLE: THE ART OF WRITING WELL by F.L. Lucas

One of the most relevant content marketing books I’ve read in years, written waaaay before the time of content marketing.

Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether books would not gain if their authors had first to telegraph them at their own expense.

Far From the Tree by Andrew SolomonFAR FROM THE TREE: PARENTS, CHILDREN AND THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY by Andrew Solomon

Powerful, crushing, eye-opening: The first few chapters of this book transformed me into a kinder, more empathetic person—and (I hope) a better parent.

Most of us believe that our children are the children we had to have; we could have had no others. They will never seem to us to be happenstance; we love them because they are our destiny. Even when they are flawed, do wrong, hurt us, die—even then, they are part of the rightness by which we measure our own lives. Indeed, they are the rightness by which we measure life itself, and they bring us to life as profoundly as we do them.

divine conspiracy book coverTHE DIVINE CONSPIRACY by Dallas Willard

I haven’t stopped thinking about the heaven chapters since I first read them 9 months ago.

Love does not exalt itself, is not vain, does not do stupid things, is not acquisitive, is not easily irritated, does not dwell on what is bad. Love is not happy because of evil but rejoices in what is true. Love holds up under anything, has confidence in everything, hopes no matter what and puts up with everything imaginable

^ Willard’s translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4–7

The Art of Stillness

THE ART OF STILLNESS: ADVENTURES IN GOING NOWHERE by Pico Iyer

One of my shortest reads of 2015. Best impact-per-word ratio. :)

How We Got to Now

HOW WE GOT TO NOW: SIX INNOVATIONS THAT MADE THE MODERN WORLD by Steven Johnson

The most interesting, informative history lesson I’ve had in quite some time. I didn’t know I wanted to know so much about ice cubes!

One and Only Lauren Sandler cover art

ONE AND ONLY: THE FREEDOM OF HAVING AN ONLY CHILD, AND THE JOY OF BEING ONE by Lauren Sandler

I keep coming back to this book as one of the most powerful resources for one of the biggest decisions that Lindsay and I have made.

The emotional lives of our families are amplified.

The love undiluted.

non-violent communication book

NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION: A LANGUAGE OF LIFE: LIFE-CHANGING TOOLS FOR HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS by Marshall Rosenberg

Oh, if only the whole world could have this book!

Nonviolence means allowing the positive within you to emerge.

Be dominated by love, respect, understanding, appreciation, compassion, and concern for others rather than the self-centered and selfish, greedy, hateful, prejudiced, suspicious, and aggressive attitudes that dominate our thinking.

We often hear people say: This world is ruthless, and if you want to survive you must become ruthless too. I humbly disagree with this contention.

Yours? I’d love to hear them!

Jack Kerouac’s Essentials for Prose (& Online Content)

Author and poet Jack Kerouac was the master of improvisational prose, which is to say that he enjoyed a fluid writing process, heavy on the process. For those in the world of content, we’re keen on refining that process—an act that Kerouac would surely shirk at.

Still, there’s a sense of camaraderie among all us writers, and there’s a bit to be learned from every approach, especially one as successful as Kerouac’s. He was gracious to share a bit of his process in a list of 30 guidelines he called “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose.”

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

(via)

I’m not sure I can relate all of them to online content (truthfully, I don’t fully understand all of them even), though there are plenty here to make for some really great advice and encouragement for anyone who writes, any which way.

Here’s my translation:

  1. Study your topic deeply, fully, and joyfully — Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Help others, know how to help by listening — Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. When the time comes to write, Just Write — Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  4. Use clear language — No time for poetry but exactly what is
  5. Be descriptive and complete in your detail — Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  6. Believe in yourself. You will do great work. — You’re a Genius all the time

genius

How Upworthy Does Content: 3 Quick Lessons, Beyond Headlines

Many people know Upworthy as the originators of click-worthy headlines, some might say clickbait even.

And sure, headlines are a big part of what Upworthy does, but in a very strategic sense. I admire them for thinking outside the content box in a lot of ways, challenging themselves to write 25 headlines per blog post, coming up with cool SlideShares like these:

I had the pleasure of coming across even more of their cool tactics in Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown’s Startup Growth Engines.

Here are  some snippets:

While editor-at-large Adam Mordecai cites their very low success rate in making things go massively viral as proof that virality is unpredictable, this flow chart produced by the company displays a level of growth-oriented thinking that isn’t common among other media outlets.

 

 

Upwrothy viral flowchart

 

Meaningful metrics

Upworthy understands what it takes to go viral, and then goes out to test and find the best combination of elements to drive that virality. Their primary signals are both shares per view and clicks per share.

To calculate shares per view, take the total number of social media shares and divide by unique visits to the content. Do the same for clicks/share, replacing uniques with clicks.

Facebook A/B tests for headlines

Here’s how they do it: First, they pick two promising headlines for the same content and create a bit.ly url for each—one with url?r=A and one with B. Next, they find two cities with similar demographics and populations amongst their Facebook fans and share one bit.ly with each city. They set a timer and wait for the clicks to roll in. When the time is up, they add a “+” to the end of the bit.ly and compare stats. The title with the most clicks is the winner. And they don’t just test clicks—they also compare shares per view to see which headlines results in the most reshares.

Summer Reading: My 2015 List of Books (So Far)

Summer Reading List

I have the amazing opportunity to focus on self-improvement at Buffer and, by extension, to focus on reading. Books are baked right into the culture—all new hires get a Kindle and any ebooks they’d like. I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to focus on reading more and to learn from the amazing authors who put together such influential books.

So far this year, I’ve read through a few dozen books on a wide variety of topics. I thought I’d share them here in case they inspire any summer book reading for you!

Let me know if you want to chat about any of these. The comments are open. :)

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