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My year in books 2017

In 2017 I read 65 books. That’s not as much as in 2016, but still nothing to be ashamed of. Here are some of my favourites.

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success is more useful, convincing and practical than the catchy, hyperbolistic title that is so typical of the self-help genre would have you expect. It’s basic premise is that by working hard and making lots of small decisions toward your goal will get you to big goals — as longs as you keep at it. Like they say: “most people overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Don’t read this if you want to learn how to get rich quickly.

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters really struck a chord with me. I have found myself thinking about it several times, long after reading it. Its basic premise is that we all long not for happiness but meaning in our lives, which we find in belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. The highlight of the book, for me, was its description of using storytelling to construct narratives of our lives.

Mao’s Great Famine by Frank Dikötter

Mao’s Great Famine: The History Of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 is a very well-written, gripping and touching account of the great leap forward — Mao’s catastrophic attempt to catch up with and overtake the industrial west, leaving 45 million Chinese dead. Chinese history is not a big topic in the west, and inside perspectives on communist regimes are scarce. Especially gripping were the accounts of the natural disasters and environmental damage that were a direct consequence of the great leap forward.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life may be yet another re-packaging of stoic principles, but it’s a good one at that. More than I expected it to right after reading it, it’s basic premise stuck with me: there are only so many fucks to give in this world, so you’d better give them wisely.

Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting by Noel Janis-Norton

With two little girls, parenting is not a topic I could avoid for long. Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting is a fun, engaging book with positive strategies and plenty of useful examples. From this book I have really learned to stop being an obstacle to my kids becoming self-reliant and confident. Required reading for any parent with kids aged 3 and up.

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Arjan van der Gaag

Arjan van der Gaag

A thirtysomething software developer, historian and all-round geek. This is his blog about Ruby, Rails, Javascript, Git, CSS, software and the web. Back to all talks and articles?


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