12A Quick Introduction to the List

I read 99 books in 2017. Most of them non-fiction, many of them good, fewer that really stuck. These are the 11 books I most enjoyed reading in 2017. These are the ones that kept me thinking, kept me entertained, had the words that I needed to read. These are the books I’m giving to my friends and family.

In 2018, I’d like to read more Fiction, so if you have any recommendations, please, let me know. And if you agree, disagree, or have any recommendations based on this list, also let me know!

Also, I got a lot of these books free from the library without ever actually going to the library. If you’re interested in this type of thing, I wrote out how to do it here.

11One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

by B. J. Novak

B. J. Novak, best known for the character Ryan on The Office, turns out to be a very funny writer. This may come as no surprise to Hollywood types who know that Novak also served as writer and executive producer on The Office, but the jump to funny prose isn’t an easy one. Still, Novak makes it look easy with his collection of 22 stories that make you laugh the whole way through. My friend and helluva funny writer Kyle Parulski mentioned that Novak did a live reading of the pre-release version book at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and reportedly took notes while hearing the audience reactions. This book is battle tested and ready to be laughed at. Easy to pick up and put down, and probably a great listen for a long drive.

10Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

by Yuval Noah Harari

It takes a special kind of book to leave you haunted, feeling like not only is your life unimportant, but so are the lives of every single person. That may not be the take away Harari was going for, but it’s what I got, and I loved it. For those who look at this tome and see 400+ pages they’ll never get through, the book basically says this, Human’s giving meaning to themselves has led to many achievements, like agriculture, language, landing a man on the moon, Snapchat. This is humanism, and humanism worships humans. So, Harari concludes if we’re worshiping ourselves all the time, we’ll relentlessly push for humans to achieve happiness, power, and immortality. And, as technology conintues to threaten our human ability to give meaning to our lives, Harari suggests we’ll one day replace humankind, aided by technology, with super-man, or “homo deus” (latin for human god). I don’t recommend reading this before bed, as it will lead to long bouts of crying into a pillow.

9Stores I Only Tell My Friends / Love Life

Love Life
Stores I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

by Rob Lowe

Don’t Get Me Started had an episode with Jeff Hiller talking about his love for celebrity biographies. One recommendation that came out of it was Rob Lowe’s book. And since I love the ol’ celebrity self-portrait, I gave it a go two whole years after first hearing the recommendation. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting. I devoured both his books back to back. Rob Lowe has lived a crazy life. He gives a long, and insane, and honest (at least what I presume to be honest) insight in to what it’s like to me a mega celebrity, and it’s fucking fascinating. From his climb to stardom auditioning with a young Tom Cruise for The Outsiders, to his disgusting and still sorta sexy trips to the Playboy mansion, Lowe covers it all.  We should all be so lucky to live Rob Lowe’s life, but since that is unlikely, reading his books will suffice.

8An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

by Elisabeth Rosenthal

I knew healthcare was a messed up system, but I didn’t know how messed up it was. An American Sickness is a long, wonky book. But, if you can get into learning about the ins and outs of just how fucked up insurance markets are, and the various ways doctors and private practice creatively screw over both their healthy and sick patients, this book could be for you. Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal brings two decades of experience writing for the New York Times deftly weaving together stories of people getting screwed by the system, doctors who exploit every loophole, lawmakers who sell out to monied interests, and insurance agencies that try to maximize profits. If you’ve ever gotten charged $10 for a tongue depressor and wondered why, this book has the infuriating answer.

7So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

by Jon Ronson

2017 was a year of public shaming. Good and bad, we as a society worked hard to tear down people. Now, I read this book before the “Me Too” movement of late 2017, before Harvey Weinstein, and Al Franken, and Roy Moore, so I may still be looking at it through a different lens than I would now, but I adored this book. Ronson starts with the tale of him gleefully trying to bring shame on an internet troll, but after humiliating his target, he decided to re-evaluate the internet’s public shaming. Deserved or not, Ronson examines how these public shamings arose, and what the fallout looks like. To maybe best understand the feel of this book, I recommend this interview with author Jon Ronson on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

6Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley: In Search of America

by John Steinbeck

I’m a Steinbeck fan. I’ve read nearly all his books. And when my friend Igor Hiller heard I hadn’t read My Travels with Charley he gleefully lent it to me. I’d never read a Steinbeck Non-Fiction to this point, and it was as delightful as reading East of Eden, or any of Steinbeck’s other great works. I find when I’m reading Steinbeck, I’ll come across a sentence and just have to stop and think, “that’s the truest thing I’ve ever heard.” Steinbeck makes you think, and reflect, and laugh, and feel sad. He’s always worth the read. Plus, it’s the story of a guy hanging out with his dog, what’s not to love about that?

5In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

by Michael Pollan

I’ve never understood food. Sure, I eat four square meals a day like any red-blooded American, but I never knew what is healthy. Which fats are good fats? Which cholesterol is the good cholesterol? Slimmer than his previous work, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food makes the eternal question of “How do I eat right?” easier to answer. Pollan starts by tearing down the myth that is nutritionism, which he characterizes as the obsession with nutrition, like getting the right percentages of vitamins and minerals, and proper macro proportions. He argues that the way we digest and how individual nutrients interact is so complex, we don’t really know what is right and what is wrong. What Pollan instead preaches is that we need to eat food. Not what most of what Americans eat, which he calls “imitations of food.” Food that our ancestors would recognize. The book serves as a helpful guide to find better things to eat. Sure, you still may face a Twinkie from time to time, but after reading In Defense of Food, you’ll remember these simple words to eat by:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

4Killing It: The Action Girl’s Guide to Saving the World (While Looking Hot)

Killing It: The Action Girl’s Guide to Saving the World (While Looking Hot)

By Joan Ford

Full disclosure, Joan Ford is a friend, and I’m acquaintances with the people who run Devastator Press. But holy shit, this book is so funny. As someone who’s seen a lot of action movies, Ford does an incredible job of deconstructing all the tropes, but doing it in new and innovative ways. The book is beautifully illustrated, and funny the whole way through. Hats off to this funny little treat.

3Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

By Tim Ferriss

I’m a Tim Ferriss apologist. Even when there are long chapters about making women have intense orgasms in the middle of a diet book, I tend to cut him some slack. He’s an innovator in the way of life, exploring the things that most of us don’t dare try, so we can more safely follow in his footsteps, for health, business, and making women have intense orgasms. Thanks, Tim. But, Tools of Titans is different than his other works, it’s the distilled tips and tricks from past guests of his podcast, and new guests that never went on. From decision frameworks, to practical purchases, to social skills, this book covers quite a bit from many, many great people. I was often surprised at whose words I was enjoying, people I’d never heard of, people I didn’t think I’d really like, people who were in lines of work I couldn’t care less about (you can see some of the quotes I saved here). If you only read the chapters from interviews with people you know and love, this book would still be worth it.

2Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

by Jane Mayer

Money rules politics. We all know that. We’re not stupid. But, do you know how much it’s been weaponized and leveraged over the past few decades? Do you know how many billions Koch Brothers are spending to try and get their way in politics? Do you know it’s working? In this brave and thorough exploration of the topic of money in politics, Mayer exposes the network of mega-rich who work with nearly limitless budgets to fundamentally alter politics as we know it. Instead of accepting that their views were unliked, these mega-rich worked to create organizations to control academic institutions, think tanks, courts congress, and hopefully the presidency. Hiding the money to fund this in devious ways, and writing it all off as tax-deductible philanthropy, these libertarians sought to spread misinformation so they could keep some money. If you weren’t already politically charged after 2017, then this book will light a fire under your ass to take back the country that these rich assholes are trying to buy from you.

1The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

 by Jon Ronson

Two Jon Ronson books in one year? Yes. Jon Ronson is a treasure. Read his work. The Psychopath Test dives in to the world of those people who feel no empathy. Those who are delusional manipulative, deceitful, and all the while charming. Ronson does us the favor of talking to several jailed sociopaths, getting their story from their chilling point of view. Not satisfied with just writing the lurid details of their misdeeds, Ronson also dives in to the history of trying to treat psychopaths, how to spot psychopaths, and how ordinary people have psychopathy inside. A haunting joy to read, you wont be able to put it down, and you’ll be looking over your shoulder for psychopaths everywhere.

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