My Top 10 Books of 2016

Here are my favorite reads from 2016

I read, listened to, or referenced well over 100 books this year (you can see a sample of them HERE). This is the byproduct of being a student, teacher, commuter, and insomniac. I read from an eclectic shelf of books including sci-fi, business, history, theology, and biography. Nothing is off limits and I often challenge myself to read out of my own comfort zone. That is why the following list of books dosen't make any sense to you. It is also why the same list makes perfect sense to me: these are my 10 most favorite reads from 2016. 

I often challenge myself to read out of my own comfort zone.

What makes a book my favorite? It made me think, or I liked it, or it was... you know what, don't over think this least you ruin it. Lets go.

10. Abaddon's Gate

This is James A. Corey's next installment in the Expanse series. This is a classically fun science fiction thriller with killer aliens, space ship battles, and swashbuckling heroes. Corey is a prolific author who just had his series of books turned into a series on the Syfy network. It was an unexpected hit and season two is schedule to come out early in 2017.

If you are a science fiction reader you should check this series out. Did I mention that it's fun

9. The Master Algorithm

Pedro Domingos unpacks one of the hottest technology trends of the early 21st century in his book, The Master Algorithm. His take on machine learning is both humble and eye-opening. He serializes the unique approaches to artificial intelligence being pursued in the digital laboratories of today. What is artificial intelligence or machine learning? It is at the core of the multitude of "smart devices" that we are surrounding ourselves with including any gadget described by the terms assistant, smart, or connected.

I can only recommend this book for the geekiest of geeks. It is a deep dive into an emerging technology and I found it totally engrossing... when I could follow it.

8. The Passage of Power

This is an epic telling of President Lyndon B. Johnson's transition into the role of the executive officer of the United States of America. Robert A. Caro engages in one of the most ambitious biographies of any American President. It is a deep read and provides a profound look into mid-century politics and into the heart of our democracy. Johnson is a controversial character and his persona manages to overflow this voluminous text. 

I would recommend this as an audio book for the devoted historian or as a physical read for the clinically obsessed.  


7. The Island of Knowledge

I have a lot of geeky books in my top ten list this year and Marcelo Gleiser's, The Island of Knowledge is no exception. Epistemology is the study of what we know and a good epistemologist is keen to ask, how do we know what we know? An even better scientist will ask, how can we know what we know what we know? You get the point. Or do you? Read this book to find out.

I would recommend this to the more philosophically minded. Unless big ideas about big ideas keep you up at night, you might want to skip this one.

6. War and Turpentine

Hertman's War and Turpentine is a moving story of a grandson connecting with his grandfather through his war memoirs. The grand father and son of the story just happen to be the author himself. It is a very personal look at one man's life through the late 19th and early 20th century who survived the battlefields of World War I.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for a more high brow piece of literature that will make you a bit uncomfortable and to think a little more deeply about who you are and where you came from.

5. How We Got to Now

Steven Johnson breaks it down for you by describing six innovations that made the modern world. His book titled, How We Got to Now is a fun jaunt through history which always makes me think more clearly about our world today. To be honest, I love the idea of this book way more than I actually like the book. Johnson comes so close to achieving his goal but he was aiming really high. 

I would recommend this book to anyone mildly interested in history. Read this book, its simple, fun, and doesn't tackle too much (despite the title).

4. On Writing

This may become known as Stephen King's most famous books of all time. I am not particularly a fan of the author but I am a fan of his ability to produce. The man is a bit crazy but his ability to write is evidenced in many ways. This book, a sort of biographical-how-to, provides a great look into the mind of a master craftsman and I ate every word right up.

I would highly recommend this for any aspiring author or anyone interested in seeing a master at work.

3. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

I couldn't read this book fast enough and every page I was kicking myself saying, why haven't I read this sooner?! Steven Levy delivers an opus of the early days of the computer revolution. If you are a fan, or student, of technology you must read this book. It lays the foundation for our technical world today and helps the reader understand the underlying DNA of many tech companies today.

I highly recommend this to any geek or history buff. I found every page incredibly interesting and look forward to reading it again someday.

2. Humble Inquiry

Edgar H. Schein's book should be subtitled, the art of messing you up. That is exactly what this book did to me. From the first page onward I was totally convinced by the idea of listening over talking. I am such a talker and blah, blah, blag... see, there I go! Seriously, this book challenged me more than any other book I read this year. My list is short on personal development or productivity titles (and I read a lot of these). I think it is because Humble Inquiry set such a high bar and occupied so much of my mind-space this year.

You should read this book. Even if you are not a "big talker" you can learn how to ask better questions and draw people into a relationship before pushing them away. Read it!

1. The Etymologicon

*Trumpet Sounds* Mark Forsyth blew my mind with The Etymologicon. First, I can't even pronounce it. Second, it was so clever, so fun, and so funny. I was seriously grinning from ear to ear in every chapter. I read passages to friends, bought copies for co-workers, and even tried to get my wife into it (didn't work). This is a supremely nerdy book and added little value to my life other than to bring me joy. It was my most memorable reading experience of 2016 and one that I hope to experience again with a new author in a new year!

I would recommend this to anyone with a sense of humor, grasp of English, or desire to know the story behind all of the many things we do.

ReviewsBrent ColbyComment