I've made a tradition of sending a list of my favorite books from the past year to my friends and family. It's fun for me to share and reflect, but it also keeps me motivated to read often and read a wide variety of topics and genres. PLEASE share your thoughts, questions and other book recommendations with me! A full list of the books I read last year is at the very bottom. Feel free to share this list with others as well. Happy new year, enjoy!
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
In an ever connected world, sometimes we neglect to realize the power geography has on our lives. Tim Marshall used 10 maps of the crucial regions to describe the geopolitics of modern society. Why was America able to be so successful so quickly? How were borders determined in the Middle East? Who rules the Arctic and why is Russia so involved there? Will peace last in Eastern Europe? These are just a few of the geo-political questions answered by Tim Marshall in this fascinating book. Available on Amazon here.
In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Perhaps no author has mastered the art of nonfiction storytelling like Erik Larson. His ability to build up a story and get inside the heads of the characters make for books that are impossible to put down. In 1933, William E. Dodd became U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The years he and his family spent in Berlin coincided with some of the darkest and perplexing in history, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Dodds daughter, Martha, has a particularly fascinating role in the story as she is very involved socially and sometimes romantically with the Nazi high command. The family's excitement, romance and curiosity are ultimately replaced by sheer terror as violence erupts all around them. The story gives us a fascinating perspective of the change happening in Germany leading up to World War 2. Available on Amazon here.
The Stranger in The Woods by Michael Finkel
Christopher Night walked into a remote section of the woods in Maine in 1988. He wouldn't leave the woods or have a conversation with another human for 27 years. He didn't leave his life alone in the woods by choice, he was arrested for petty theft of food and supplies of cabins near his secluded makeshift camp. In depth interviews with Chris explain how he survived, and try to uncover his reasons for spending the majority of his life alone in a tent. But it's much more complicated that that. Chris is complex, and the story is still somewhat unresolved. You'll find yourself very torn on a number of ethical and psychological quandaries. Available on Amazon here.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The only fiction on this list, this is absolutely one of my favorite reads of the year. The book is about about a blind girl from France and an intelligent boy from Germany whose paths collide in Nazi occupied France as they both try to navigate the horrors of World War 2. This is a story about people doing good, but also a glaring reminder that war is hell. The writing is beautiful and even though it's fiction, it's a well researched book that truly illustrates what it might be like trying to survive in France during the war. Doerr's style is captivating, as each short chapter shifts between the multiple stories. It's no surprise this book won Doerr the Pulitzer Prize. Available on Amazon here.
Business Adventures by John Brooks
Many titans of industry have declared Business Adventures by John Brooks the best business book ever written. Originally published in 1969, it has truly passed the test of time. The twelve stories include examples incredible growth, massive blunders and unbelievable fraud from companies and groups we all know such as Ford, Xerox, General Electric and even the New York Stock Exchange. The lessons learned are very applicable to the businesses of today. People working for huge companies and entrepreneurs alike will all find something in this book. Available on Amazon here.
With The Old Breed by E.B. Sledge
This one is personal for me. My great uncle, John Barrett, earned the Silver Star when he gave his life for his country during the battle of Peleliu. This memoir of the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa was written by E.B. Sledge of The 3 / 5 Marines, the same company as my uncle. At times this book is very hard to read, it's impossible to imagine the horrors young men on the front lines endured during these vicious battles. E.B. Sledge writes about the atrocities he saw on both sides, and the hate that developed. A WW2 battle read not to be missed. Available on Amazon here.
Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik
This is a book about ordinary objects: the glass in our windows, the concrete below our feet, the steel in our utensils and much more. In this wildly entertaining yet unexpected book, Mark Miodownik highlights the materials that make up our modern world. Mark Miedownik is a materials scientist and you can't miss his enthusiasm for the field. But even though the science is complex, his explanations are not, the book was written with the everyday reader in mind. Mark wants everyone to understand and enjoy the brilliance of our man made world, not just the scientists. Available on Amazon here.
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Trees are social, they communicate back and fourth. They raise their young, they share nutrients with trees that are sick or struggling, and they even memorialize the dead. It may sound like too much, but Peter Wohlleben's book is based off of groundbreaking science and years of studying and admiring trees. This will certainly make you think a little deeper next time you walk through the woods. We are part of the wild in this world, and sometimes appreciation can come through understanding. Available on Amazon here.
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman
Richard Feynman helped build the nuclear bomb, played in samba bands in Brazil, argued atomic physics with Einstien and Bohr, became a master safecracker, and won the Nobel Prize. Those are just a few of the outrageous adventures of Mr. Feynman's life. His approach to life is intoxicating, and his never-ending curiosity and sense of adventure pours from the pages. You can't help but to laugh along while reading. This isn't the book you would imagine from a top physicist. It's much better than that. Available on Amazon here.
Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson
I recently flew to Seattle on a clear day and was lucky enough to enjoy a birds-eye view of the Cascade Range. The Cascades are home to some of the continents largest and most active volcanos. It's been a long time since most of them have had a large eruption, besides for Mount St. Helens which erupted on a massive scale in 1980. From above, it towers above the surrounding country, however it looks as if a giant hand scooped out the entire middle and Northwest side of it, as a result of the violent eruption of course. Steve Olsen highlights the history of the region, the events leading up to the eruption, and the stories of the people who lost their lives in one of the most destructive natural disasters to occur on U.S. soil. Fascinating facts and an engrossing story for anyone who appreciates wild places and the earth's ability for destruction and creation. Available on Amazon here.
The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish
Ok, yes this is technically the 11th book on my list, but it's really more like a cookbook. If you follow me on snapchat, you probably noticed I eat a lot of pizza. Well, this book is the reason. With just a few simple tools, this book teaches you how to make "World-Class Pies at Home." And it's true! I've learned to make NY style, Neapolitan, Pan, Skillet, Chicago Bar, and many other types of pizza all from this book. It's very fun and absolutely delicious. Buy this book and start making pizza, your friends and family will thank you. Also, if you happen to enjoy sourdough baking be sure to message me. I have translated almost all of his dough recipes using commercial yeast to recipes using only the sourdough method. Available on Amazon here.
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