2016 Book and Documentary Recommendations

Paul SufkaBooks, Hobbies

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.


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). 



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.