Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

A Year in Reading: 2015

Reading is one of my most engrained habits. I love to read, and I read everyday.

At any given time, I’m reading about 3-5 books actively. I try to read at least one fiction and one nonfiction at a time. I enjoy reading long books on historical figures and try to study about two or three major figure per year.

I read for learning. I read in order to gain experiences. Through reading, I have been able to learn much. I also reading as a way to lower my stress and help me sleep better.

In 2015, I read 47 books, according to my 2015 reading tracking. I even read one book twice (“The Martian”), so you might round that up to 48.

This past year I read a lot of great books. So, if you are considering a book for 2016, which ones would I recommend?

Favorite Book of the Year: The Martian

This book starts off super strong and doesn’t let up. The narrator is highly entertaining. I’m a detail-oriented guy, so I really enjoyed how “The Martian” went into scientific considerations while pursuing one man’s survival on Mars. Both the Audible and book versions are great. The movie is great too!

Favorite Book on Productivity and Self-Improvement: The Organized Mind

I organize my tasks and work process based on Paul Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) and believe it is a very strong system for bringing sanity to a cluttered and bad-busy workspace. With “The Organized Mind” you get many of the basic principles of GTD but with a heavy dose of neurology and cognitive sciences to back it up. Plenty to digest here, so read it slow. Definitely a book I’ll re-read as well.

“Manage Your Day-to-Day” was an eclectic book with insights about personal productivity, time management and creativity from an array for people. Learn a lot here and not preaching, merely recommending personal adjustments for self-optimization.

Science Fiction & Fantasy:

I read a lot of great science fiction and fantasy novels this past year, including two series: The Maze Runner (so, so but addictive) and Old Man’s War (awesome and highly recommended).

As a one-off novel, I really enjoyed Neil Stephenson’s Seveneves, which starts with a wild premise: The moon just exploded. How are we as a species going to survive and create a space-bound society while the Earth gets ripped up. It’s wild thought experiment about the human into the future.

Startups & Business:

This past year I read several books recommended by my fellow startup buddies, including:

  • “Traction” is a great book to help startups find and target customers in order to grow.
  • “Zero To One” by Peter Thiel pushes you to think about true innovation and businesses that aren’t marginal improvements but paradigm shifts.
  • “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” is a special kind of book. Instead of focusing on the mythical story of business successes, Ben Horowitz tells the story of how he thought and fought through huge challenges and managed to save his companies.

You are a business builder, then you should take the time to read and understand these three books soon.

Favorite Historical Fiction: All the Light We Cannot See

This was a pretty amazing story and writing style. It’s about a blind French girl and her survival journey during World War II. I truly loved this book and cannot recommend it more. It’s emotionally deep book, so make sure you are prepared to be absorbed when you start this novel.

History and Contemporary Figures:

I read a number of books about historical figures that I enjoyed. This year I dove in the lives of Napoleon, Elon Musk, Wright Brothers and Deng Xiaoping. All of these were great reads and brought fresh perspective on these particular people and times as well as personal insight on how to live an epic life myself.

I also got more into the Maker and Hardware Startup movement this year. “Zero to Maker” and “The Makers” were especially helpful reads to provide historical context and journey from newbie to DIY hardware startup-er.

“Boys on the Boat” was another great historial read that talk about the amazing rowing races before World War II and the collegiate battles to qualify.

Reading Goal for 2016: 45 books.

For me, reading is a lifelong habit, so it is not really something I have to put any mental effort to do. It’s a pleasurable maintenance goal. That said, I’ve set a 2016 goal of reading 45 books. This will include a mix of novels, history & biography, and books on productivity, business and other areas.

Here’s to more great reading in 2016! You can follow my progress on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/markwkoester.

What were your favorite books of 2015? What books should I read this next year?

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