All The Books I Read This Year

Written By John Sonmez

I read or listen to the audio version of a lot of books each year.

It's really important to always be learning and trying to expand your mind with new ideas.

Since we are getting close to the end of the year, I thought I'd do a post listing all the books I read this year and give a few thoughts I had about each one.

I tried to figure out exactly what all the books were, but I may have left off a few. I took a look at my Amazon digital history and my Audible account history to come up with this list.

Also, whenever I get the chance to meet someone who is very successful, I always try to ask them what one book they would recommend I read. Many of the books on this list have come from asking that question. In fact, many of the books were recommended by many successful people.

If you're reading to quickly learn concepts and skills, do take a look at my course: 10 Steps to Learn Anything Quickly.

How did I read so many books?

Before we get into the list, you might be wondering how I was able to read so many books in a year.

In fact, this list isn't 100% accurate, because I listen to most audio books at least two times and some three times.

So, with all the other things I am doing, how the heck do I find time to read over 30 books in a year?

There are two major hacks I use—look for a YouTube video from me on this topic in the next week.

First, I walk on the treadmill on a high incline every evening for 45 minutes. I spend most of that time reading on my Kindle Voyage—which I love.

This allows me to burn a bunch of extra calories and get some reading done at the same time—without much effort at all.

The other thing I do is listen to a lot of audio books while I am either lifting weights, running, or driving in the car.

I have a subscription with and I find it to be some of the best money I spend each month. You can sign up for an account and pay a monthly fee for a certain number of credits you can use each month to buy audio versions of books. The best part is, if you don't like a book you can return it, no questions asked.

By the way, I am an affiliate for Audible. If you are interested in signing up, I have a good sign-up deal I can offer you:

Download an audiobook for only $7.49! Get 50% off your first 3 months of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan and receive your free audiobook credit each month. Pay only $7.49/month for 3 months then only $14.95/month thereafter and continue to receive 1 audiobook credit each month! Choose from over 100,000 titles.

Another Audible tip: I was able to listen to so many books, because I listen at 3x speed. It took some time to be able to do this, but now I can easily listen at this speed and I don't feel like I end up missing anything.

The books

In no particular order:

New Psycho-Cybernetics

This book is very long, but it contains a huge amount of valuable information about how your mind works and how to reprogram it for success.  This version is the new version that has been updated by Dan Kennedy. This book taught me how powerful our own self-image is and how to alter that self-image to achieve positive results. I really highly recommend this book as one of the best books I've ever read. I will certainly be reading it again.

The Alchemist – 10th Anniversary Edition

A short read, but a fantastic and inspiring story that mixes self-help, motivation, inspiration and fiction all into one. I believe I was so hooked on this book that I sat down and read it in one sitting. I literally could not put it down. There is so much to learn about life, success and determination from this book.



A really good book that talks about how to run a small business the right way. It totally bucks traditional business advice, but does it in a way that isn't fantastical, but is instead practical. I found myself nodding my head over and over again while reading this book—which looked pretty strange, since a large portion of the time I was sitting in an airport waiting to board a plane. Also a pretty fast read.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

This kind of book is not normally my cup of tea, but enough people recommended it that I thought I should at least read it. I can honestly say it was well worth my time. It is a bit of a strange book, and I don't agree with everything in it, but it really made me think about how I was constantly failing to live in the present moment. Since reading the book, I can honestly say, I've had a lot more happiness in my life, just by applying some of the principles in it. Again, strange book, but worth the read.

Superhuman by Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a Time

I've been following the author of this book's blog for quite some time. The best way to describe him would be extremely disciplined and wise. This is a very short read and not a traditionally published book, but the advice in here is golden. As I read the book, I found that I had already been doing much of what Tynan suggests—but, I still gained quite a bit from reading it. This might be the best book on habits I have ever read, because it has so much practical, actionable advice.

Meditations: A New Translation

This book isn't really a book, but rather the personal writings of Marcus Aurelius. (Make sure you get this translation, as the other ones are a bit difficult to read.) I really enjoyed this book and got a lot out of it. It's a bit hard to read, because some parts are scattered and it flows much like a steam-of-consciousness, but if you are interested in stoicism—which you should be, this is a must read. Marcus was a very wise man and much of his wisdom is contained in these writings.

Letters From A Stoic: Epistulae Morales AD Lucilium (Illustrated. Newly revised text. Includes Image Gallery + Audio): All Three Volumes

Again, not a book, again from a stoic, but this might have been the best thing I've ever read. Seriously. If you want to grow in wisdom, read Seneca's letters. It is not an easy read—by any means—but there is so much gold in here, so much advice on how to be happy in life and to become a better version of yourself, that I can't even begin to do it justice in what I write here. I read all of these letters on the free Wiki site that had an older translation, but I just discovered this new book was posted to Amazon last month, so now I am going to read them again. Really, really, really good. I can't say it enough. If you read anything, read this.

Watch out for different versions of this in book formats that are only a selection of the letters and not the whole thing. The one I linked to appears to be the only book form that I have found that has them all.


Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition) (Voices That Matter)

I kept having people recommend this book, so I finally decided to check it out. Lots of really good tips about how to create an engaging presentation. This book shattered many of my ideas on how presentations and talks should be structured—especially in regards to PowerPoint slides. Plenty of great examples in the book as well.

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

If I wrote a book on productivity, it would look pretty close to identical to this book. I learned a few new things from this book, but almost all of the 21 tips in this book were things that I figured out after years of struggling with procrastination and being productive. I wish I would have read this book many years earlier. I could have saved myself quite a bit of time and trouble. Excellent tips, solid practical advice. I would call this book a must-read, if you want to be productive.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

I really liked Gary Vaynerchuck's book: CRUSH IT!, and I heard some pretty good things about this book, so I decided to give it a try. I have to admit, there were some good things in the book—the whole concept of giving a lot more than asking, is how I do marketing—but, overall I wasn't as happy with this book as I was with CRUSH IT! I felt like there were a few too many examples that wouldn't really apply to me. With that said, someone running a social media campaign for a major brand would probably get more out of the book.

The Boron Letters

I wanted to improve my copy-writing chops, so I decided to read this well-recommended book from one of the masters of direct sales marketing and copy-writing. This book is a collection of letters that Gary Halbert wrote from prison to his son. Really interesting content in the letter. Pretty essential reading for learning copy-writing. I learned a lot from the book and would certainly recommend it.

Scientific Advertising

Another copy-writing book classic. I found this book to be a bit dry—but with the name “Scientific Advertising” what did I expect? Still, though, lots of useful information in this book. Made me think about how often we advertise something without really measuring its effectiveness.


The Legend of Bagger Vance

What? Did I read a fiction book? Yes, I did. Why this one, when I don't even play golf? Well, it is because it was written by Steven Pressfield. The War of Art is one of my favorite books of all time—not only was the information extremely useful, but it was perhaps the most well-written book I have ever read. I thought I should check out one of Steven's fiction books, so I decided to read this one. It was not disappointing. The story really sucks you in. Definitely a good read.

The War of Art

I'm putting this one on my list, because I've listened to the audio version of this book perhaps 10 times or more. I first listened to it last year, but I've listened to it at least a couple of times this year. One of my top books of all time. Definitely recommend this book. If you are doing any kind of creative work or struggle with being productive, this book will kick you right in the ass. I recommend anyone who wants to conquer procrastination to read this book. It's also pretty short and very entertaining.

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More

A short, but excellent read. Lots of great information about how to structure a sales funnel for selling a product by focusing on the 20% of things that gives you the 80% return. The book is completely filled with practical information. I learned quite a bit from this book and will probably be revisiting it in the future when I try and optimize my sales funnels.

Atlas Shrugged

Quite a few people I know recommended this book and I had heard about it for quite awhile, so I decided to finally read it this year. This book is long. When I say long, I mean, really, really long—like over 1,000 pages long. But, I really enjoyed the book. I know that some people really hate this book—and I can see why—but, I'll admit it makes the list of one of my top books of all time. Despite some dry parts—including a huge speech that goes on for like 50 pages—I thought the book itself was a very engaging and interesting story and I agreed with many of the ideas about how a person should not have to work for the benefit of another, unless they choose to. After reading the book, I felt like the world we live in today is strangely similar to the fictional world of this book—which is kind of a scary thing.

Regardless of what you have heard about the book, or what you think about Ayn Rand, this book is well worth a read if you have never read it for yourself. You might not agree with everything in the book—and that's ok—but, the book still has a lot to offer.

The Fountainhead

After reading Atlas Shrugged and enjoying it so much, I had to of course read Ayn Rand's next most famous book: The Fountainhead. This book was actually written a lot better than Atlas Shrugged. The depth of the characters in the book was amazing. It is a fictional story about a young architect who fights against the world of sell-outs and truly focuses on his craft. I felt like the story was very engaging. I could not put this book down. Highly recommended.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

This book is all about how having a regular job might not be the safest thing to do in life. Had I read this while I was still working for corporate America, this book would have had more of an impact on me, but since I am already out on my own, I really just nodded my head while I listened to the audio version of this book. I felt the book was good, but not great. I'd still recommend it for anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur.

The Irresistible Offer: How to Sell Your Product or Service in 3 Seconds or Less

Another marketing book, but a really good one. Some very practical advice in this book that focuses on how important the offer you give for a product or service is to your sales. This book changed how I thought about marketing, because it made me realize that all the good copy in the world was worthless if you didn't have a good offer and that you need to really focus on making an offer that someone can't refuse if you want to have the most success marketing a product or service. The offer that Domino's Pizza had for a long time, was one of the things that stuck out to me from this book: 30 minutes or less or it's free.

Three Feet from Gold: Turn Your Obstacles in Opportunities (Think and Grow Rich)

This book is essentially a book about a book. I'm a big fan of Napolean Hill's classic book “Think and Grow Rich” and this book is sort of a modern take on that book set in a fictional story. “Think and Grow Rich” can be a bit of a difficult read and the concept somewhat difficult to grasp, but this book shows the concepts in real examples. Lots of really good advice from a lot of successful people in this book. I definitely recommend it. This is one of those books that can change your life.

Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha: A Real World Guide to an Unreal Life: Build More Muscle. Burn More Fat. Have More Sex

Ok, yes, I know the title is cheesy. The first few times I saw this book, I thought “are you kidding me?” But, people started recommending it and I realized that Arnold Schwarzenegger had written the foreword for it, so I decided to give it a read. (I have utmost respect for Arnold. He accomplished so many things in his life that many people would never even dream of.  Seriously, watch this video:)

Anyway. The book is full of a lot of bad language and hype. It has plenty of bad reviews on Amazon, but if you can look past all that, I think you'll find a lot of useful information. Honestly—despite all the junk in the book—it really is one of the better books on diet and fitness that I have read.

The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results

Another highly recommended, classic book. I'm a big time optimist and I believe in positive thinking, so this book was right up my alley. I found this book to be really good and inspiring. I think this book is applicable to just about everyone and it is well worth reading.

Do the Work

Since I liked “The War of Art” so much, I thought I should read this book as well. But, this book wasn't quite as good as “The War of Art.” Don't get me wrong, still a good read, but many of the concepts in the book were similar to what was already said in “The War of Art.” This book does focus more on the process of writing a fiction book, so if you are interested in writing fiction, this book will be of great help. I still highly recommend it, but if you have to choose between “The War of Art” and this one, pick “The War of Art.”

The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies

Overall an excellent book, but geared more towards larger businesses rather than entrepreneurial start-ups. There were some really good concepts in this book, especially in regards to training sales teams. Lots of great advice about automating your sales process and even some productivity advice mixed in. I definitely recommend this book, even though some chapters might not be all that useful to you unless you are running a sales team.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

A fantastic book about willpower and self-control. Much of this book resonated with me. I found many things I was doing in my life already, but this book backed them up with scientific studies that showed why they worked. I would recommend this book to everyone, because we all could use a little more willpower and self-control.

The Magic of Thinking Big

This is one of those books that could also be a life-changer. For me, though, I felt like I had already discovered a lot of what this book had to say. Again, I would have liked to have read this book 10 years ago. Regardless, though, I still highly recommend this book. Very much a book about the power of believing in yourself—which is such an important concept. You'll find that many of the really good books on this list are books that focus on how powerful the mind's beliefs are in achieving success.

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

This book had me with the title alone. I have always felt that obstacles and challenges in life make us stronger and that we shouldn't avoid them, but instead embrace them and plow through them. This book definitely did not disappoint. The book focused on many stoic principles that are exhibited in modern language, but also through many classical examples throughout history. I actually listened to the audio version of this book three times. I even did a review on YouTube, since I liked this book so much:

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

I really enjoyed this book. Peter Thiel, the author was one of the Paypal founders. In this book, he shares his story and what he believes makes start-ups successful. He really pushes forward the idea that we aren't thinking about big enough ideas today and that the way to really be successful is not to follow others successes, but instead to go after a huge world-changing goal. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in starting a company.


Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 Book 1)

Yes, another fiction book, but this one is a fiction book for programmers—how cool is that? I'll admit, at first this book started out a little strange and felt like it might be… well… lame. But, I quickly got into the book and was hooked. I listened to the audio version and the voices for the characters were awesome. I really enjoyed this book. It had a really good story, the technology aspect was sound and interesting and it definitely got me thinking. Looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle

So, this wasn't actually a book. It's actually a course from the Great Courses series. After learning about stoic philosophy and Seneca, I also became interested in Greek philosophy and realized I didn't really know a lot about the famous Greek philosophers, so I decided to get the audio version of this course. I found this course to be fascinating. It's very long (over 18 hours of content,) but packed with tons of historical information. I feel like I have a good grasp on ancient Greek philosophy now. I also felt like it wasn't just a history lesson, but the course also really got me thinking about some of the deep matters of life. Plenty of practical wisdom to apply from these philosophers of old. Much of what they talk about is just as relevant today as it was back then. This is also a great deal, since you can use your Audible account to buy this huge course which is normally like $30-$60.

Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable–Includes new bonus chapter

Another Seth Godin book. A pretty quick read. Plenty of good advice about standing out in the marketplace. Also filled with some really good examples of companies that created their own “purple cows.” Overall, I thought the book was good, but not great. I felt like the concept of the book was really good, but that there just wasn't that much to say about it, so it felt a little stretched out.

Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business

Finally got around to reading this one after having heard multiple people recommending it and knowing that I need to stop doing so much of the work at Simple Programmer myself. The book definitely had some great advice and pointed out some of the problems that I was facing. Really good information for deciding what kind of work to outsource and how to manage outsourcing that work. Very deep dive into all the aspects of managing and hiring a virtual team. I felt like I got a lot out of the book and would definitely recommend it.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Something about this book just rubbed me the wrong way. I thought it had some good advice, and I liked the historical approach, but I'm not sure I agree with the overall message and some of the science behind the claims seemed very open to interpretation to me. I actually ended up returning this book to Audible after I finished it, because I just didn't agree with the author.

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping – Now Revised and Updated

Another book that I ultimately returned after listening to. Don't get me wrong, the book had tons of science about the human body and our stress management systems, but I felt like the author was really trying to push his agenda with the book and tried to make everything in life into a series of chemical reactions. Whether you believe that is true or not, I don't think it is very helpful in real life situations. I can't say it was a bad book, because it was so well researched, but it just wasn't one that I liked very much.

The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body

Was excited about this book after hearing that the one-meal-a-day thing I am doing was something that someone else had already discovered, but overall I felt like the book was long and drawn-out and some of the things in the book were based on some pretty big assumptions about how things worked. The historical part of the book was pretty interesting and the idea of the diet makes a lot of sense, but I'm not too sure about the book in general.

Why are there no software development books on your list?

You might be wondering why I don't have any software development or programming books on my list of books I read this year.

The biggest reason is because I tend to not read technical books when I am trying to learn a new technology. My approach is usually to look for examples on the internet or look for documentation and then learn and experiment on my own.

That doesn't mean that has to be your approach—there are plenty of good technical books out there that can help you learn a technology.

Well, hopefully you found this list helpful and maybe it has given you some ideas on what to read next.

If you have some suggestions for books I might like to read next year, please leave them in the comments below.

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