2016 Review: Books

At the beginning of the year I resolved to keep a list of every book read in 2016, and for most of the year I did. Despite starting a new job and moving, I managed to keep the list. From that list, I’ve narrowed down the Top 5. books I read in 2016.

Top 5 Books

Number 5. Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles by David Thompson

Among the many talented actors, directors and storytellers Hollywood has produced, few have ever reached the skill and status of Mr. Orson Welles. This biography, written by a film critic, perfectly tells a cinematic story of a man who’s skill was overshadowed by his arrogance.
Through the book you learn about how a man who directed and starred in Citizen Kane at the age of 25, and spent the rest of his life doing lesser work. It is a compelling and fascinating story and worth anyone’s weekend afternoon.

Number 4. The Gift of Good Land by Wendell Berry

If you search anything related to “agrarianism” you’ll find Wendell Berry’s name pop up. He’s written numerous articles and essays about agriculture and it’s future. This book is a collection of his essays related to the basis of agriculture, it’s land.
People, even farmers, can easily forget the importance of the soil that starts the food chain.

What is most striking is that the issues he writes about seem like things happening in the last year, even though they were written in the early 70’s.
It is a great book for anyone curious at what the word “agrarian” means.

creativity inc

Source – Amazon.com

Number 3. Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces The Stand in the Way of True
Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Ed Catmul is the president of Pixar and the head of Walt Disney’s animation studio, it would have been enough had he written a simple history of Pixar Studios, but instead he went further. He also wrote about the elements that have made Pixar a creative culture that encourages innovation and creative storytelling.
Throughout the book Mr. Catmul relates the various methods Pixar has found useful to subvert the unseen forces that attempt to stifle the creativity of their company and employees.
This book is ideal for anyone involved in creative businesses or even the average film fan who wants a peak behind the screen.

Number 2. Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Rather than taking the typical path of discussing humility, Mr. Holiday took the opposite route, presenting Ego as the enemy. Through the book he covers the various stages of success and failure and how your ego can subvert you at each turn, keeping you from learning from failure and sabotaging your successes. This is done with historical examples ranging from William Hurst, Elenor Roosevelt, and General William T. Sherman.

The entire book is thought provoking, reminding us why Pride remains a stumbling block to the ambitious and humility remains the grace of the great.

Number 1. A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles
gentleman in moscow

Source – Amazon.com

It is normally difficult to select a top book of the year, much as it is to say what movie or book you’d want on a desert island with you. Fiction, though enjoyable, rarely makes appearances on my lists, but this title was so well written that it instantly became my favorite of the year.

A Gentleman in Moscow has all the elements of classic literature, the story of a man condemned during the rise of Soviet Russia to live under house arrest in Moscow’s finest hotel. A former Count, the protagonist, Alexander Rostov, spends years watching the Russia he knew change, the world he knew change, and himself change.

desk-gentleman in moscow

By far this was my favorite and most thought provoking read of the year, Mr. Towles peppers the novel with thoughtful insights, clever dialogue and memorable aphorisms – My personal favorite is this one, “A king fortifies himself with a castle, a gentleman with a desk.”

If you are looking for a more recently published piece of literature, this book is the perfect choice. It is a story you won’t want to drop, and a life you cannot forget.

Honorable Mentions

These are the books that almost made my top five list, but for one reason or another, didn’t quite make the cut. They are all however, excellent reads and even became the starting point for several articles.

10 Ways to Win a Girl’s Heart by Kris Wolfe
The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It…. Every Time by Maria Konnikova
Lip Service by Marianne LaFrance
The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval Levin
My Adventures With Your Money: George Graham Rice and the Golden Age of the Con Artist by T. D. Thornton
Hello Everybody! The Dawn of American Radio by Anthony Rudel

Other Assorted Reading

Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting by Benjamin Errett
Focus by Daniel Goldman
A Good Talk by Dan Menaker
Into the Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov by Larry Loftis
A Guide to the good life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
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