I appreciate that when most people put together a list of their favourite books of the year, its likely to be the new releases -or at least new discoveries- that they talk about.
I’m not going to do that, because in 2016 I didn’t read new releases nor did I make any discoveries. I went back to my favourites, to the books that had inspired, influenced or helped me in some way at various points in my life.
Reaching something of a crossroads in my life, it felt like the perfect time to return to the words written by mentors, guides and heroes that I would (probably) never meet, but who at some point were responsible for some period of growth that shaped how I live my life today.
In some cases, these were ‘self-help books’ or ‘how-to’ guides, practical instructions for breaking out of a funk and making some much needed changes. In others, they were memoirs or biographies, inspirational books that gave me just enough motivation to start dragging myself out of a period of poor mental health. Occasionally, yes, there was some fiction stuff thrown in there too.
As 2016 started to wind down, I began to feel an odd compulsion to go through the list of books I read last year and share a few words about them. It took a while, but I’m finally about to do just that.
Originally, I was going to include a description of every book I read in one single blog post, but then I realised just how many books I read last year, and decided it would be better for all of us if I broke this up in several installments.
What follows then, is part 1, covering the ten books I finished between January and May. Next Friday, we’ll look at those I read over summer, and finally, we’ll finish up with the ones I finished reading over the winter months.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
1: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda: Chant and Be Happy (The Power of Mantra Meditation)
I picked this book up on a whim sometime around Christmas 2015 and settled down to read through it in January. A relatively small volume, Chant and Be Happy offers a brief history of the Hare Krishna movement, the philosophy behind it, and a guide to chanting Hare Krishna as a meditative exercise / way of life.
The book also contains interviews with John Lennon and George Harrison, the latter of whom was a Krishna devotee for many years. Come to think of it, the inclusion of the two Beatles may have been a deciding factor when I came to pick this one up.
I found it an enjoyable book, and in my ongoing journey to make some sense of my own spirituality even learned to practice the Hare Krishna chant for a while. This led me to Youtube, and to much of the meditative / healing music that I mainly listen to today. It also led me to some pretty interesting spiritual teachers and some new concepts, many of which I’m still learning about.
On the whole then, probably one of the more important books that I read last year, and one that had a far bigger impact on me than I even realised right up until this moment.
2: Chris Guillebeau – The Art of Non-Conformity
This one of my favourite books of any genre, fiction or non-fiction, ever. I first read it several years ago when I was stuck in a job -and a life- that was seriously making me depressed. Reading The Art of Non-Conformity for the first time was the catalyst to me leaving that job, running a marathon. going to live in America for a while, and making some significant changes in my life.
Every now and again, when I feel like I’m stuck in a rut or that things are getting stagnant, I pick it up, go through it again, and usually end up making some further changes.
3: Tim Ferriss – The Four Hour Work Week
I remember that the first time I read Tim Ferriss’ groundbreaking book, I was impressed, inspired, but ultimately felt that the time just wasn’t right for me to implement many of his ideas.
In fact, I think the only thing I started doing differently after I originally read this book was to go on a serious media fast and stop consuming the news -at least the kind of news that would make me miserable and angry.
That first read was around the same time that I happened to read The Art of Non-Conformity, so it made plenty of sense to go back and read the same two books in the same order now that I’m in a different place in my life.
This time, I found that even more things made sense, that even more of Ferriss’ ideas were ones that I had to implement, and that -best of all- now was my time.
OK, so I didn’t follow Tim’s complete guide on creating a passive income business, but much of what he writes about continues to influence me months down the line, and I’m very glad that I went through this book again.
4: David Allen – Getting Things Done
It was around the time that I first started writing for Lifehack.org that I first became familiar with Getting Things Done and many of the concepts contained within this pioneering guide to stress-free productivity.
Admittedly, however, it wasn’t until a few years later -when I started my full-time freelance writing career, that I actually picked up a copy of the book itself from Waterstones.
As with everything on this list, I’ve read it several times since, the last during the spring of 2016, when it really helped me to focus my priorities, process more of my stuff, and get right back on top of things after a lull in my life.
Just thinking about this now, and looking around at the pile of clutter on my desk, I’m well reminded that I may just have to go back and read this one again in 2017.
5: Chris Jericho – A Lion’s Tale
March/April was ‘Wrestlemania Season,’ which gave me all the excuse I needed to leave the self-improvement stuff alone for a while and indulge my weird fascination with grown men play fighting in their underpants.
I’d received Jericho’s most recent book as a gift the previous Christmas, but before I read it, I wanted to go back and re-read what I consider to be one of the best pro wrestling memoirs ever written.
Charting Jericho’s course from a childhood in Canada up to the day he walked through the curtain for the first time on WWF Raw, A Lion’s Tale is everything you could want in an autobiography – it’s funny, inspiring, brilliantly written, and a pure joy to read.
I wrote a full review of Chris Jericho’s A Lion’s Tale on Retro Pro Wrestling, which you can read here if you want to.
6: Chris Jericho – Best in the World (At What I Have No Idea)
Feeling suitably inspired by A Lion’s Tale, I finally dove in to read Best in the World, Jericho’s third memoir in which he shares stories from his time as a world famous WWE Superstar and front man of heavy metal band, Fozzy.
Sadly, I was really disappointed by this book.
Having realised his dreams and now well and truly living them, the Chris Jericho featured in Best in the World comes across as a brash, arrogant prima donna, a million miles away from the young, hungry kid whose journey to chase those dreams made A Lion’s Tale such a riveting read.
7: Mick Foley – Have A Nice Day (A Tale of Blood and Sweat Socks)
Having finished Jericho’s books, I found myself in the mood for more wrestling-related reading material, and honestly couldn’t think of anything better than the original -and possibly the best- wrestling autobiography, Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day.
A New York Times best seller when it was first published at the tail-end of the 1990s, Have a Nice Day paved the way for every book written (or ghostwritten) by a professional wrestler ever since, and set the standard against which all subsequent wrestling books are measured against.
8: Mick Foley – The Hardcore Diaries
As far as I can remember, ‘Hardcore Diaries was one of only a few books that I bought in 2016 and read the same year. I bought simply because I realised that I’d read all of Foley’s other wrestling related titles, yet had somehow skipped this one out.
For the sake of completion, I got a copy from eBay and sat down to devour this book in a matter of days.
I was, I have to admit, disappointed with this one. Whilst I still found Foley to be a fascinating character who tells his stories with such admirable humour and humility, the way those stories were structured in this book left very little to be admired.
On the whole, it was an erratic, often confusing mess, and certainly not Foley’s best work.
You guessed it, I wrote a review of Mick Foley’s Hardcore Diaries on Retro Pro Wrestling, and you can read that one here.
9: William Regal – Walking a Golden Mile
Despite the fact that William Regal is one of the few British wrestlers to really make it into the mainstream, despite him growing up less than forty minutes from where I grew up, and despite him being one of the most entertaining pro wrestlers of the last few decades, I never really cared to read the man’s autobiography, which had sat -unread- on my shelf for at least a couple of years.
Don’t ask me why, I just never felt that compelled to do so, at least not until The Big Wrestling Book Binge of 2016.
When I finally did, I found it a reasonably enjoyable, though hardly spectacular autobiography, one that basically provides a quick overview of Regal’s career, drug and alcohol addiction, and recovery, without ever giving too much away about any of it.
A decent, quick-read, I reviewed Walking a Golden Mile on Retro Pro Wrestling. You can read that review here.
10: William P. Young – The Shack
With the wrestling stuff finally out of the way, we finish the first part of my 2016 Reading List the way it started: with a book about faith, spirituality, and religion.
This time, it’s a fiction book, one that received much acclaim when it was first published for its unique take on the Holy Trinity and for its very engaging writing style.
Knowing of my passion for exploring my own spirituality, a friend loaned this book to me in late spring, and I have to admit that I had a hard time putting it down.
Powerful, emotional, and uplifting, The Shack was one of the best books I read all last year.
Part 2 of my 2016 Reading List (all the books I read last year) will be posted on Friday, January 13th, 2017)