2016 Book and Documentary Recommendations

Paul Sufka

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Painting: Renoir, Pierre-Auguste. (1880-1). Luncheon of the Boating Party, Washington DC: The Phillips Collection.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I initially set myself the goal of reading one book per week for 2016, and although a pair of books I’ll mention below kept me from reaching my goal, I was able to read (and thanks to Audible, listen to) a ton of great books this year. (Follow what I’m reading on Goodreads). Below are the best five books (and one documentary) that I came across this year.

Fiction

I’m not typically a big fan of fiction, so I only have one suggestion here. I heard Chris Sacca recommend How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid on two separate occasions, so I had to check it out. For this one, I listened to the Audible version, since it was narrated by the author. This is a novel written in the style of a self-help book, giving a dark, first-person account of a nameless poor boy who becomes a wealthy tycoon.  

Non-fiction: History and the Future

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari followed by Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom. These are the two long, dense books that kept me from my goal of a book per week, but it was completely worth it. Sapiens (464 pages) gives an overview of human history through the perspective of four different revolutions: cognitive, agricultural, and scientific, and will improve your understanding of how Homo sapiens have been able to survive, thrive and conquer. Superintelligence (390 pages) takes a look at the current state of artificial intelligence, how a superintelligenece will eventually form (it’s inevitable), and ideas on how we should develop these systems to maintain control.

Non-fiction: Personal Development

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.  In the author’s own words, Extreme Ownership: “explains the SEAL leadership concepts crucial to accomplishing the most difficult missions in combat and how to apply them to any group, team, or organization.” I suggest pairing this book with Ego Is the Enemy, which uses underpinnings in stoic philosophy and well selected stories to teach the reader to: “Forget yourself and focus on the work. Be humble and persistent. Value discipline and results, not passion and confidence. Be lesser, do more” (from Derek Sivers editorial review). 

Documentaries 

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Somm (available on Netflix and iTunes) follows four people trying to pass the Master Sommelier Diploma, a title currently only earned by 233 people in the world. Beyond the wine knowledge displayed in this movie, this documentary is also a look at what it takes to become the best of the best in a field, and resembles Jiro Dreams of Sushi in the depth of mastery displayed.