For the second consecutive year, we’ve dedicated a show to our favorite books we read during the previous year. There’s a Top 10 list, a bucket for fiction, honorable mentions, unexpected surprises, books we reread, and books we did not like. We also make a bold prediction for one of our favorite books for 2023. How many books should you read? What’s behind a great book? Those questions are answered too.
The Top 10 Books
- Becoming Trader Joe and In-N-Out Burger (a tie for first)
- Twelve Mighty Orphans
- CEO Excellence
- Built to Fail
- The Business of Tomorrow
- The Intrepid Brotherhood
- Play Bigger
- The Amazon Way
- AlmostPerfect (belongs in the Unexpected Surprises Category too)
I”m not saying you have to throw away your Verne Harnish and Gino Wickman books (two guys who admire and respect one another), but the stories about Trader Joe’s and In-N-Out Burger reveal that you can 1) figure tricky and messy growth out on your own, 2) gain valuable insights beyond business books and consultants, and 3) continually stay close to your original strategy on finding, getting, and keeping customers for a very long time.Mark Gandy
In business circles, we don’t talk enough about fiction. I think that’s a mistake. I don’t like making ‘you should’ comments, but consider adding one or two novels to your reading list every year.
Here were our favorites during the past twelve months:
- East of Eden
- A Dangerous Fortune
- The Maid
- Trust (Heran Diaz)
- The Warehouse (Rob Hart)
- Stoner by John Williams is on my Do Not Like list
As Drew mentioned on the podcast, not everyone can crack the Top 10. Not everyone can crack my honorable mentions, either. It’s very difficult to crack this list.
- Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
- Corporate Turnaround Artistry – Jeff Sands
- Winning the Brain Game – Matthew May
- Unreasonable Hospitality – Will Guidara
- Negotiation Simplified – Jim Reiman
- Retail Gangster – Gary Weiss
- A New Way to Think – Roger Martin
- The Founders – Jimmy Soni
- Fourth Generation Management – Brian Joiner
- Vanderbilt – Cooper and Howe
- Bond King – Mary Childs
When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards, and I loved the St. Louis Cardinals. I loved opening a pack of those sealed wax packages hoping for a player wearing my favorite team’s uniform. Even as a youngster, I thought there was a conspiracy. Getting a Cardinals player seemed rare, but probably not so on either coast of the country. I thought it was the card company’s way of getting little kids to buy more of their product – and it worked.
Still, I remember that feeling of finding a brand new Lou Brock in my hand that I would treasure and then memorizing the stats on the back of the card. That vivid memory reminds me of unexpected good books. Each year, I encounter a few surprises. Here’s that list:
- Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton
- Maxims for Thinking Analytically
- Jimmy Stewart (Michael Munn)
- Outcomes Over Output
- Unstoppable (Maria Sharapova)
- Talent (Ram Charan)
- The Birth of a Building
I no longer have book goals, such as how many books I want to read each year. Instead, I focus on themes. One theme focuses on fiction which always includes at least one critically-acclaimed book and one of the classics.
In 2022, I placed a greater emphasis on books I had read or listened to in the past. Here’s that list:
- Smart Growth (Hess)
- The Boys in the Boat
- Extraordinary Circumstances
- Friday Night Lights
- Playing to Win
- Losing the Signal
- Three Signs of a Miserable Job
- 100 Baggers
- Cadence (Pete Williams)
A good book is worth talking about. A great book is worth rereading.Mark Gandy
Did Not Like
Many expert bloggers tell us to quit reading books we don’t like. I’ve never heeded that advice because if I don’t like a book, I quit reading it. Well, there are exceptions.
For two or three years, I subscribed to the Farnam Street membership, and The Power Broker was lifted as a great classic to read. I started it a few years ago, and quit after three hundred pages. Not because it was a bad book, but because I had too many other books competing for my limited time. This year, I decided I’d read it from beginning to end. Titan is on this list, too, because I’ve read more about him in short form than any books on him. Accordingly, I selected what I assumed was the best biography of him.
In short, these are titles I wanted to finish. I just did not like my return on the investment I made in these books.
During the interview, I was not expecting the question about 2023. The first book I completed in the new year is a gem, and the author is now someone I consider a hero.
Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley was a pioneer in the freelancing movement in the 1960s, where she placed women programmers in part-time gigs on a fee-per-project basis. Everything about this model was new and required continual tinkering. Steve’s story of arriving in England as a child is foundational to this story. I also appreciated the transparency into her family life (it appears she held nothing back). This book is educational and inspiring.
If you liked this episode, have you listened to our favorite books from 2021?