The Best Books I’ve Read in 2017

Honestly, I haven’t read as many books as I would have loved to in 2017. All and all I have finished only thirty or so, but for a very sound reason — I spent the first three months of the year finishing my book debut on freelancing and after it was published in late March, it quickly became an unexpected bestseller, which partially meant that a few more intense months went into its promotion.

Nevertheless, I was lucky. Some of the books below are the best I’ve read in years in their genre. There are both new and older titles that withstood the test of time. I don’t read classics for sentimental reasons and if I do (for instance reading Tolkien’s Hobbit to our son), I don’t include them in the annual Best of. I do however include books that clicked with me one way or another, some for their literary style and storytelling, others for their power and ability to influence my thoughts and behavior, such as…

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes is definitely my best and most powerful book of 2017. He presents his case against the overconsumption of sugar with scientific rigor and emotional persuasiveness, a powerful formula that works sensationally well, at least with me. Although I haven’t been eating much of that sweet stuff anyway, after reading Taubes I have reduced my consumption to almost nothing and feel better than ever before. What I love about this book is its discourse, the evaluation of the various arguments, stats, recorded cases and history. There are no straightforward dietary recommendations nor recipes, but it had a huge influence on my behavior anyway.

Liu Cixin’s phenomenal Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy consists of Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death’s End, the first part being only a prelude to one of the greatest epic novels I’ve read in recent years. This is the best writing I’ve seen in the science fiction genre since the golden age of Clarke, Adams, Bradbury, Asimov and others. Liu Cixin is definitely a writer to follow in years to come.

Open by Andre Agassi is a remarkable memoir of a tennis legend. Although it was published in 2009, it hasn’t aged a bit. Agassi teamed up with an elite ghostwriter, Pulitzer Prize-winner J. R. Moehringer, to produce a timeless masterpiece about his reaching for glory. He was helped along his roller-coaster carrier by a team of underdog superheroes: crazy immigrant father, self-made coach, renegade player/writer and other peculiar characters. The book is 100% free of bullshit and survival bias. There are no obvious lessons to learn, but there is humor, wisdom and tons of experience to ponder. I loved the way Agassi built up his team and addressed the mind-body problem known to all tennis players.

Brief Candle in the Dark by Richard Dawkins is not only the sequel of his autobiography, but also a love letter to science, equaling those of giants like Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan, who is also being referred to by the title. It is, surprisingly, also one of the most optimistic books I’ve read recently.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis explores the intertwined lives of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize laureate in economics and author of the phenomenal Thinking, Fast and Slow. Lewis is a superb writer and his narrative reads much better than Kahneman’s. So if you had a problem understanding (or finishing) Kahneman, try Lewis and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini is basically an evidence-based sequel to his influential bestseller Influence. No wonder this is (again) a must-read for professional negotiators, marketers, business owners and decision makers in any field or industry. Skip this book and you’ll pay for it.

The Art of Investing by John Longo is not a printed book but an “audiobook” from The Great Courses which I have bought on Audible. It is well researched and much less biased than a similar work by DeGennaro, How the Stock Market Works, from the same publisher. Longo covers more topics and his approach is not at all academic. His narrative is centered around the practitioners in the investment industry, both famous investors like Graham or Buffett and lesser known specialists who achieved astonishing results nevertheless. Truly a great course.

The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney is a rather thin photo book with pictures of children from all around the world on their daily journey to their schools. The conditions and pitfalls they have to overcome every single day made me shiver with compassion and awe for their courage.

Orbis Tweetus by Otto Bohus is the 1st Twitter book in the world illustrated by followers. An interesting concept that has been turned into a remarkable book full of Otto’s witty quotes visualized by 92 illustrators. The book is in Czech so you might not appreciate it that much without some insights into the Czech language.

And finally, The Economist is not a book but a magazine with the depth of a book. I have only been able to fully appreciate it after becoming a subscriber. This is by far the best magazine I’ve been following, matched only by those in science. The level of Economist’s journalism is amazing. Judging by how they write on the topics I have studied or practiced during my professional career, The Economist is almost always well informed, objective and skillfully written. Every headline, every lead paragraph is a piece of art.

If you are a reader, I guess you’ll have your own second thoughts after going through a list like this one. Of course you do. These are my best books of 2017, not yours. But I am eager to hear your suggestions and favorites, so don’t leave me hanging here. Give it to me straight in your comments ;-)

Business consultant, author of The Freelance Way and proud founder of Na volne noze — one of the largest national freelance communities in Europe

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