Nathan Tanner

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2015

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

We regularly hear about the importance of reading books. Despite the many benefits (here are six that are science-backed), so many of us fail to make it a priority. For years I fell into this camp, always making excuses for why I didn’t have time for books.

In early 2014, I was issued a challenge by an MBA professor to read 30 books in a year. After accomplishing that, I set the same goal for 2015. In the process, I rediscovered a passion for reading I hadn’t felt since I was a young boy. By the end of the year, I had completed a total of 60 books. Not all were business-related, but the lessons I learned were priceless. Here are the 10 best books I read in 2015.

10. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

The author of the Dilbert comics writes a practical and hilarious career guide. I love his advice about using systems (e.g., learning to eat right) instead of goals (e.g., losing 10 pounds). Much of Adams’ advice is counterintuitive, and he provides a fresh perspective for those searching for the right career path.

9. Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google by Laszlo Bock

Google’s Head of HR shares the key practices that have made Google so successful. While free lunches and shuttle buses are not financially viable for many companies, the majority of Bock’s suggestions are free. The countless gems throughout this book make it a must read for HR professionals, managers, executives, or anyone else interested in making the workplace more innovative.

8. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

I love biographies of successful entrepreneurs and this one did not disappoint. Bezos started Amazon more than two decades ago and has grown it into one of the most valuable companies. But the most impressive thing about Bezos is that his company has continued to innovate despite its massive size and success—no easy task.

7. The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh

The employer-employee relationship is broken. Gone are the days of lifelong employment, but the free agent approach we frequently see in the modern workplace is a poor alternative. The Alliance teaches how to rebuild the employer-employee relationship, and by following its principles, I learned how to have more direct, productive conversations with my managers.

6. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t compare, but this memoir tells a remarkable story. In short, Solomon Northup was a free-born African American from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Within a year of gaining freedom, he wrote and published a firsthand account of what he endured. Northup is an incredible example of determination, resilience, and hope.

5. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I was initially perplexed why my business school professor would so heartily recommend a book on love written by a marriage counselor. But after reading the first chapter I learned why. Success in relationships doesn’t come from treating others the way we want to be treated, but in treating them the way they want to be treated. The Five Love Languages helped me better understand how to do that.

4. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

A multi-level biography that tells the story of University of Washington oarsman Joe Rantz and the other boys who defeated the Nazis at the 1936 Olympics. Rantz was abandoned as a child and endured the hardships that came from living through the Great Depression. His story is inspirational, but even more inspirational is the intense unity created among his teammates as they pursued Olympic gold.

3. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk has been referred to as the next Steve Jobs, though some argue he’s already surpassed him. Musk’s story is far from complete, but this biography provides a well-written account of his life to date and his audacious plans for the future. I give a slight edge to Musk’s bio over Bezos’, partly because of the writing, and partly because Musk is the more fascinating figure.

2. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

For many, including me, creativity does not come naturally. I read this shortly after publishing my first book, and I wish I would have read it years before. I now keep a copy on my desk for quick reference. Chock-full of simple yet elegant insights, Steal Like an Artist is a short, wonderful read for anyone seeking to be more creative.

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Many colleagues had praised this book, but it wasn’t until I saw it on my wife’s wish list that I started reading it. My goal was to better understand one of my children, but this book became even more relevant when I scored much higher than expected on the 20-question introvert test. Thankfully, Quiet goes well beyond the basic, black and white introvert stereotypes that are all too common. It is very well-researched and an engaging read. Rarely do I read a book that so dramatically changes how I view those around me and how I view myself. And for that, I list Quiet as the best book I read in 2015.

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