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!

***

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!

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. :)

Continue reading

What Is Growth Hacking? Getting to Know the Elusive Growth Hacking Marketer

Ryan Holiday’s Growth Hacker Marketing goes into great detail to describe what it is that a growth hacker actually does (my translation: he or she combines data with marketing and is able to ship, test, and analyze everything on his or her own).

What I found really useful was seeing what a growth hacker process might actually look like:

  • they merged marketing into their product development;
  • they kicked off growth with early adopters;
  • they added viral elements;
  • and then they relentlessly repeated these cycles, always guided by the data, with an eye toward optimization.

Cool! I can do that!

The book was super valuable for understanding the mindset of a growth hacker and also what growth hacking might look like in a startup or company. It feels much more attainable having read this. It feels right on point, too.

Continue reading

Writing With Rhythm: The Inside Analysis on Good Sentences

Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences really came together for me in the last chapter. I imagine the book has a little something for everyone—the basics of syntax at the start and some really cool advanced tips toward the end. The final chapter in particular had some amazing thoughts on rhythm, cohesion, syntactic symbolism, and stop consonants. I did my best to capture the best bits below.

Continue reading

What Old-Time Prose Can Teach You About Writing Content on the Internet

My short list of favorite writing booksAnne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing—has nothing of the sort like F.L. Lucas’s Style: The Art of Writing Well. Lucas was a Cambridge professor whose thoughts on prose and critical writing date back half a century. And yet, I absolutely adored his insights and perspective.

Not only adored but also found so relevant and actionable. Many popular writing books tend to approach writing from a fiction/novel angle, giving advice that seldom crosses over to my daily work with content and blogging. There’s a bit of that here in Style (and a lot of French, too, interestingly enough), but I’ve found more useful anecdotes and examples in Style—useful for the work I’m doing today, online—than I’ve found in most any writing book in the past several years.

Full of wit and quick takes, and pulling inspiration from a long list of legendary writers and authors, Style is a surprising, enjoyable, useful gem.

Highly recommended.

Continue reading

The Art of Compassionate Communication: How to Impart Love and Acceptance in Every Conversation

I very much admire the thoughtful, compassionate way that certain people speak to others, how they choose their words and impart the perfect balance of empathy and assertiveness. I imagine Marshall Rosenberg is one of those people.

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.

He speaks with such careful assuredness in the book, telling stories of how he used compassionate communication to work through some sticky situations—unbelievable stories, really, about chatting with angry, upset, disinterested, difficult people and somehow getting through to them with his combination of observations, feelings, needs, and requests.

His is a method I’d love to learn, to synthesize into my speaking with my wife, my son, my colleagues, and my friends. And maybe some day with Marshall Rosenberg! That’d be pretty sweet.

Continue reading

5 Writing Books That Have Made Me a Better, More Creative Writer

The bookshelf in my office holds a single shelf of paperback books that are very special to me. Amidst the nearby clutter of boxes and miscellany (I find the bookshelf is seldom used for books anymore) sits a row of my favorite writing books and reference guides, stacked chronologically from the time I bought them, each one brought down once a year or so for a fun refresher.

Some folks read the same novel multiple times for fun. I tend to read the same writing books for fun.

bookshelf

I’ve come across five favorites that have really meant a lot to me—either as sources of inspiration, sources of knowledge, or just plain good reminders that writing is a passion worth pursuing.

Here’s a list of my five favorites (plus a few extras that might make the list someday).

Continue reading

How to Write a Book in Three Months

Sorry, this is not one of those stories that’s going to tell you steps one, two, and three of how to write a book in three months. It’s a bit more existential than that.

You see, Stephen King believes you can write a book in three months.

I believe the first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.

And if you write like Stephen King, you undoubtedly can accomplish this.

So we’re in luck. Stephen King told us how he writes.

Continue reading