Books I Read in 2014

Towards the end of 2013 I felt that my reading was getting crowded out by other activities and distractions. After a quick count I confirmed that I had read only six books in 2013. I resolved to change this in 2014, and set myself a goal of reading 24 books in 2014. It would have been better had I set a “process” goal like 30 pages every weekday, and 60 pages on weekends. But that is for another post.

Here is what I learnt from reading 25 books in 2014.

1. “Choose yourself” by James Altucher

  • Focus on your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health and everything else will follow
  • Invest in yourself
  • Read two hours a day; write 10 ideas a day
  • Prompt for reading this book: Read a few posts by James Altucher on Quora

2. “Start with why” by Simon Sinek

  • Beliefs govern action
  • Actions are taken in the hope of achieving a “feeling”
  • You can inspire people by sharing your beliefs
  • Prompt for reading this book: Had been on my reading list of a long time

3. “Hooked” by Nir Eyal

  • Consumers irrationally overvalue the old. Hence, new products should be 10x better. Products that require high degree of behavior change are doomed to fail
  • Foggs’s “core motivators” for action
      We are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain
      We seek hope and avoid fear
      We seek social acceptance and avoid rejection
  • Get your product to become tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a pre-existing routine (With great power comes great responsibility, so use this knowledge to create “badass” users)
  • Prompt for reading this book: I have subscribed to feeds from Nir Eyal’s blog. Hence, got this book for free. Thanks Nir, grateful.

4. “Drive: The surprising truth of what motivates people”  by Daniel Pink

  • Innate psychological needs: Competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When these needs are meet we are satisfied, motivated, productive, and happy
  • Praise effort and strategy (rather than achieving a particular outcome)
  • Was I better today than yesterday?
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Kathy Sierra in one of her talks

5. “Predictably irrational” by Dan Ariely

  • Humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. We focus on the relative advantage of one over the other
  • We do not know what we want unless we see it in context
  • Question repeated behaviors. Pay particular attention to the first decision in what is going to be a long stream of decisions
  • Prompt for reading this book: Had been on my reading list of a long time

6. “Crucial conversations” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

  • Ability to engage in crucial conversations, early and often enough is the key to overcoming problems
  • People get defensive when they no longer feel safe. Silence and violence are signs that people are feeling unsafe. When people are angry they are feeling a mix of embarrassment and surprise. When people are upset they are feeling humiliated and cheated
  • Only you are responsible for your emotions. You can act on them or be acted on by them
  • Just after we observe what other do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. We observe, we tell a story, and then we feel
  • Prompt for reading this book: Discovered this book on Amazon

7. “Spy the lie: How to spot deception the CIA way” by Philip Houston

  • When people lie to you successfully it’s often because they say things that manage your perceptions of them as it relates to an issue at hand
  • Catch-all question: “What haven’t I asked you that you think I should know about?”
  • Prompt for reading this book: Amazon recommendation

8. “The master switch: The rise and fall of information empires” by Tim Wu

  • Cost of entry of getting into business is what determines whether an industry is open or closed
  • The inventor gets the experience and the capitalist gets the invention
  • Guessing right about the next step and attracting capital to their guess, could be one of the approaches to opening a closed industry
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Jason Evanish

9. “Do the work” by Steven Pressfield

  • Research can become resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work
  • The last thing we want is to remain as we are
  • Do not think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted
  • Act, reflect. Act, reflect
  • Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Seth Godin

10. “Mindset: How you can fulfill your potential” by Carol Dweck

  • Don’t waste your time proving over and over how great you are, instead get better
  • Your passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it when things are not going well is the hallmark of the growth mindset
  • Failure is an action (I failed) not an identify (I am a failure)
  • Prompt for reading this book: Read an answer on Quora that referred to this book

11. “Mastery” by Robert Greene

  • The greatest obstacle to pursuit of mastery comes from the emotional drain we experience in dealing with resistance and manipulations of those around you
  • Life’s task is to express your uniqueness through your work
  • Masters have a strong inner guiding system and a high level of self-awareness
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Kathy Sierra in one of her talks

12. “The success equation: Untangling skill and luck in business, sports, and investing” by Michael  J Mauboussin

  • A quick and easy way to test whether an activity involves skill is to ask whether you can lose on purpose
  • One of the signatures of expertise is an ability to make accurate predictions
  • In activities strongly influenced by skill, feedback is generally clear
  • Keep a journal that tracks your decisions
  • Read-do checklists are useful to prescribe correct actions under stressful conditions when it is easy to forget things and make mistakes
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Tomas Tunguz

13. “Made to stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck” by Dan Heath, and Chip Heath

  • The way to get people to care is to be provide context
  • A person’s knowledge of details is often a good proxy for expertise
  • People remember things better because they evoke more emotion, not because they are more frequent
  • Your stories have a better chance of sticking by tapping into emotion, or by stressing a single point rather than ten
  • Prompt for reading this book: Had been on my reading list of a long time

14. “The startup of you: Adapt to the future, invest in yourself, and transform your career” by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

  • You are responsible for training and investing in yourself
  • If you are not receiving or making at least one introduction a month, you are not fully engaging your extended professional network
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by my sister

15. “The talent code: Greatness isn’t born, it is grown” by Daniel Coyle

  • Skill is a cellular insulation that warps neural circuits and that grows in response to certain signals
  • Most world class experts practice between three and five hours. What they are really practicing is concentration
  • Skills develop quickly when we combine long term commitment with high levels of practice. Also, a vision of our ideal future selves helps energize and accelerate our progress towards developing a skill quickly
  • Good way to motivate yourself: I want X later, so I better do Y like crazy right now
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Kathy Sierra in one of her talks

16. “The power of habit: Why we do what we do and how to change” by Charles Duhigg

  • Cravings are what drive habits
  • Belief is what makes a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior
  • Individuals have habits; groups have routines
  • Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change
  • Prompt for reading this book: Had been on my reading list of a long time

17. “The inner game of tennis: The classic guide to the mental side of peak performance” by Timothy Gallwey

  • Focus of attention in the present moment is at the heart of doing anything well
  • Focus, trust, choice, nonjudgmental awareness are tools gain access to Self2, and subdue Self1 that is capable of producing fears, doubts, and delusions
  • Obstacles are a very necessary ingredient to the process of self-discovery (discover and extend one’s true potential)
  • When we are in control it is impossible to feel anxiety about an event. The only thing we can control is our effort, hence give your maximum effort  to overcome anxiety (and do not get emotionally attached to results which we cannot control)
  • It’s not that I don’t know what to do, it’s that I don’t do what I know
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Kathy Sierra in one of her talks

18. “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl

  • Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way
  • Emotion, which is a suffering ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it
  • Life: Taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual
  • Logotherapy: Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather see a meaning in his life
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Olivia Fox Cabane

19. “The four hour work week” by Tim Ferriss

  • The timing is never right
  • Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you
  • There is no happiness without action. Opposite of happiness is boredom. Excitement is a more practical synonym for happiness
  • Conquering fear = defining fear
  • Prioritization: If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied?
  • Prompt for reading this book: Had been on my reading list of a long time

20. “The art of learning: A journey in the pursuit of excellence” by Josh Waitzkin

  • Hacks for staying in the present: Two or three deep breaths, splash cold water, sprint fifty yards
  • Muscles and minds need to stretch to grow, but if stretched too thin, they will snap
  • We have to be able to do something slowly before we can have any hope of doing it correctly with speed
  • Prompt for reading this book: Listened to his podcast with Tim Ferriss

21. “Charisma myth” by Olivia Fox Cabane

  • Core elements of charisma: presence, power, and warmth
  • Key to listening is presence
  • While our words speak to a person’s logical mind, our nonverbal communication speaks to a person’s emotional mind
  • Primary obstacle to charisma: internal discomfort
  • Prompt for reading this book: Listened to an interview with Olivia Fox Cabane

22. “Re-awaken the giant within you” by Anthony Robbins

  • Virtually everything we do is to change the way we feel
  • If we want to direct our lives, then, we must take conscious control over our beliefs.
  • All our actions are the results of our beliefs. Beliefs provides us with a sense of certainty about something. Certainty is required for action
  • Your destiny is dependent on the following decisions – what to focus on, what things mean to you, what to do to create the results you desire
  • Our greatest drive to achieve comes from our compulsion to avoid pain (far more than our desire to gain pleasure)
  • Your body language is a tool to change your state
  • Focus on where you want to go, not what you fear
  • Structure your life in a way where your happiness is not dependent upon something you cannot control
  • Prompt for reading this book: Visited the Tony Robbins website and got this book for free. Thanks Tony, grateful

23. “The obstacle is the way” by Ryan Holiday

  • Most of our obstacles are internal not external. To overcome obstacles you need perception, action, and the will. See clearly, act correctly, and endure and accept the world as it is
  • Don’t ignore your fear, explain it away
  • Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness are functions of our perceptions. We choose to give in to such feelings
    Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective
  • Our capacity to try, try, try is inextricably linked with our ability and tolerance to fail, fail, fail
    To whatever we face, our job is to respond with hard work, honesty, and helping others as best we can
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Tim Ferriss

24. “Money the game” by Anthony Robbins

  • The fees that mutual funds charge greatly impact your returns and time taken to reach your goals. Always better to invest in index funds – diversified portfolio, greater returns, lower costs (than actively managed funds) – especially over long periods (> 10 years)
  • Balance asset allocation based on risk profile of each asset (not on value). Stocks are three times riskier than bonds. Ensure you protect your capital at all times. Performance on an asset is dependent on “surprise”. “Popular” expectations determine “surprise”
  • Giving is living
  • The only way to become wealthy and stay wealthy is to find a way to do more for others than anyone else is doing, in an area that people really value
  • Prompt for reading this book: Listened to his podcast with Tim Ferriss

25. “Daily rituals” by Mason Curry

  • Despite a great variety in the habits (including excesses), some common themes that show up – they did not wait for inspiration, “showed up” every day, balance between various activities, exercise (usually walking), and taking regular breaks while working
  • Prompt for reading this book: Recommended by Tim Ferriss

Thanks to Jason Evanish for sharing his reading list on his blog. I was inspired by his list. Thanks Jason.

P. S. If you found this post useful, check out Hacks for Reading

Hacks for Reading

In order to read books at a steady rate you need to manage your efforts in the following areas: selecting a book to read, actually reading the book, and picking a couple of ideas/suggestions from the book and incorporating in to your life.

Making time: Since reading a book is a big commitment on your time, make sure you set aside some time everyday to read. Allocate a larger portion of time for reading on weekends and holidays. Where do you find the time? Stop watching TV (or reading the newspaper), listen to an audiobook on your commute (or read on your commute) or carve out short ten minute sessions between various activities of the day. I gave up on TV. Once you have decided on the amount of time you can spend on reading everyday, and when — write that down and add it to your calendar. You can always review and revise that later as you settle into a rhythm.

Getting started: Start small, really small. One sentence, one paragraph a day (or even holding a book everyday for a few seconds everyday). Do this till it builds into a habit.

Selecting a book to read: Maintain a list of books that you want to read. Add to this list by seeking recommendations from friends and people you admire (or follow their reading lists). I use’s Amazon’s wishlist to manage books that I want to read. I keep adding to this list from time to time.

Reducing friction (for reading ebooks): Get comfortable reading on different devices (tablets, smartphones, ereaders) — this will help you read when you suddenly find that you have time on your hands. Make sure you have your favorite reading app reading installed on all your devices. Buying an ebook is as frictionless as it can get. Occasionally you may find that a book is available only in print format. Make sure you download the book/s that you want to read/are reading to all your devices. Try different formatting options (font type, size, margins) to check what works best for you. Keep your preferred reading device so that that it is easily accessible and and in the same place — so that you don’t have to search for it when you want to read. I read before going to bed. Kindle is my favorite reading app (I recently got myself a Paperwhite)

Reading: Since you have done all the work associated with reading (like selecting, buying, downloading) you can focus the time you have set aside everyday — for reading. You do not have to finish every book that you begin to read, with time your selection will improve. If you do not find the book to be valuable enough or has too much fluff — move on to your next book. Spend time reflecting on what author has to say and make notes on how you can try out some ideas presented in the book.

Implement: Try at least one idea from the book, while or immediately after reading the book. Sometimes you may want to follow a thread/idea introduced in the book by reading articles or other books in that area or topic. Review your notes and highlights from your reading a couple of months later.

Do you have any interesting hacks for reading?

Related post: Books I Read in 2014