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Ask HN: What was the best book you read in 2016?
74 points by andreygrehov 173 days ago | hide | past | web | 69 comments | favorite

Of the books I finished in 2016, I'd nominate a couple as contenders for "best of 2016":

1. Mastering the Compex Sale, by Jeff Thull. If you're interested in B2B selling, I highly recommend this book. Thull's approach is dramatically different from the old-school "Alec Baldwin rant in Glengarry Glen-Ross" stuff you may have been exposed to. He encourages a model where you act more like a doctor, or a detective, and practice "Always Be Leaving" instead of "Always Be Closing".

2. It's Not The Big That Eat The Small, It's The Fast That Eat The Slow by Jason Jennings. The title is a good summary. Jennings makes an argument for the importance of "speed" as the primary driver of competitive advantage. There's more too it that that, so just read the book.

3. Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold. If you didn't take, or have forgotten, classes like Computer Architecture or Digital Logic, this is a great book for getting your head around the low level details of what's happening in side a digital computer. Petzold starts from VERY basic examples (using a flaslight to morse code messages to your friend across the street) and slowly builds up to a full-fledged (if somewhat minimalistic) CPU.

Edit: some unlucky soul commented Atlas Shrugged and got downvoted / flagged / whatever to death. I didn't read AS in 2016, but I have read it, and I do recommend it to everyone. It has its issues, but it's absolutely a book everyone should read, whether you agree with Rand's ideology or not. And if you aren't familiar enough to Rand's ideology to know if you agree or not,that's all the more reason to read Atlas Shrugged (or The Fountainhead).

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss.

Wonderful fantasy that treats the reader as an adult and doesn't over explain. It has perfected world building, doing so organically rather than through exposition as is common in the genre. A lot of people I know came out of the woodwork as fans when I posted about this book. They mostly wanted to lament the delay of the third book, something I wasn't aware of when starting #1!

They mostly wanted to lament the delay of the third book

Yeah, waiting for book 3 of this series is starting to remind me of waiting for book 4 of Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series back in the day. :-(

Anyway, at least he isn't up to "waiting for the next Christopher Snow (by Dean Koontz) book" territory.

I really enjoyed _A Burglar's Guide to the City_ - https://www.amazon.com/Burglars-Guide-City-Geoff-Manaugh-ebo...

The premise of the book is a study of high-profile heists and how the crimes themselves were heavily influenced and determined by the surrounding infrastructure. Where it shines though is driving home the fact that the infrastructure of a place is meant to define how that place is used & criminals are often people who use it in a way other than the way it was designed to be used - such as burglars who choose to enter through a ceiling or maneuver through the HVAC system like hallways.

It's simply the best non-technincal description of hackers and IT security I've ever seen.

2016 was the year I ended up reading most books that I have ever read in any year of my life so far! These are the ones I liked the most:

1. The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch. It makes a bold claim that we will always be at the beginning of the infinite progress that lies ahead. History has proven again and again that whenever people said all progress has been made, so much more progress unfolds. I liked this book so much that we gifted this book at my startup to the entire team of 170 people!

2. The Innovator's Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor. This is a sequel to the popular Innovator's Dilemma book. I like the sequel much better because it tries to give solutions to the dilemma. The book packs tons of counter intuitive insights. Highly recommended.

3. The Big Picture by Sean Carrol. The best cosmology book I have read in a long while

4. First break all the rules. If you are a first time manager, I highly recommend reading this book.

5. Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book changed my working habits and life. I was constantly distracted before, and now I am able to focus a ton.

6. Feeling Good. This classic is again a must read. Even if you are not depressed, it will help build your mental immunity against future depression.

7. Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark. A very interesting book that makes the claim that our universe is actually just mathematics. No physical reality exists because physics and mathematics are interchangeable.

There were many other interesting books I read (I read a total of 60 books in 2016!) For those who are interested, here's my entire list of books that I read in 2016: http://shelfjoy.com/paraschopra/books-ive-read-in-2016

Came here to mention Deep Work by Cal Newport specifically, and glad someone else already has. If anything it should be a required reading for everyone in the current society imho. While it does not explain anything ground breaking that has not been written before, it does give a perspective as to how much the digital world and our addiction to it distract our lives. Many people are guilty of this without ever realising it.

Yanis Varoufakis "And the Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future"

Varoufakis fascinates and inspires me in that he studied math and mathematical statistics at a high level and moved into Economics at a high level (he's a professor and recently he was greek finance minister) yet resists the tendency to reduce everything down to a shity mathematical model.

He does a better job than most at exploring the factors that contributed to our current political and economic situation (the book was published before trump's win but deals with analogs in greece and europe).

And it opens with his childhood memories of hiding under a blanket to hide the sound of democratic radio from fascist ears.

Since I started the thread, I'll name my best read first. It was "Mastery" by Robert Greene.


Mastery by Robert Greene, just looked at that link and I'm putting that on my reading list!

Thanks Andrey

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Evidence-packed investigation of how the War on Drugs and mass incarceration have been leveraged to disenfranchise and oppress black people in America. It is infuriating and upsetting and inspiring to read (and provides excellent context for Black Lives Matter and the protests over police brutality).

More than anything else, the statistics Michelle Alexander bring together make the racism behind the system incredibly plain. If 6.4% of whites and 6.4% of blacks use illegal drugs in any particular year (and similar numbers for other minorities), and people tend to purchase drugs from people of their own race, it's insane that black people are incarcerated at a rate over 6x that of white people.

The chilling part is that, once you are convicted of a felony, you essentially become a second-class citizen. In 31 states, ex-felons cannot vote (or it's very difficult to do so). 13% of African American males are disenfranchised for this reason.

This is a pale summary of her book, I highly recommend reading it.

Resilience - Eric Greitens

Pretty much changed a lot of things about how I view my motivation and self discipline. You'd think it's just another "Navy SEAL" book, but it's actually very philosophical and motivates you in different ways.


Didn't realize the soon to be governor of Missouri was an author.

"The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Life" - It connected a lot of interesting dots and provided for me what I consider the first plausible process by which life could arise out of the soup. There is an interesting twist about the 'one thing' that, had it not happened, we'd probably still be separate bacteria cells.

And adds an interesting twist to the more provocative Buckminster Fuller question which is whether or not we actually exist or are we just a bunch of co-operating cells. Sort of the ultimate bee hive where our constituent worker cells are constrained to hold on to each other rather than fly about.

My linear algebra was rusty so I bought "Linear Algebra and Its Applications" by David C. Lay. from a college student. The book is amazing, I highly recommend it.

Side note, the 4th edition is exactly the same as the 5th, so it's much cheaper to get that on Amazon if anyone's looking to get it.

Great book that explains the major concepts concisely.

Helen Keller's Teacher - https://www.amazon.com/Helen-Kellers-Teacher/dp/B00411LE6S/r...

I can't remember if I read this in 2016 or late 2015, but it's the best book you're not going to see on a recommendation list in one of these threads.

It's for children, and it tells the story of a little girl who catches a disease largely forgotten in the first world and loses her eyesight, then is sent to to the literal poor house as a child. I don't want to spoil too much, but the thing that makes this book so good is that it tells a story that is deeply deeply tragic in language that is plain and simple so that a small child can understand it. Taking this in contrast to the sheer horror of what the protagonist is experiencing makes it a harrowing spiritual experience.

I found it volunteering for a booth giving away books to kids at an event. The line got slow and I didn't have anything to distract myself with, so I rummaged through the books and picked out something that looked interesting. The booth didn't get much work out of me after that because I couldn't put it down, reading it all day and into the night until I was finished.

I'd recommend it to anybody, especially people who like to reflect on the bad old world we've largely escaped from.

I realize the topic says "book" not "books" but I've got two:

"Hard-Core: Life of My Own" by Harley Flanagan

I've been a huge fan of the Cro-Mags for a long long time. I've had the extreme pleasure of seeing them about eight times now. But never with Harley. And until I read this book I never really knew why he wasn't there. I mean, you hear people talk, but they weren't there, they don't know what went down. This book is an absolute must read for anyone who has even a passing interest in punk. It's a look into the life of one of the most colorful and talented musicians the genre has produced. It's written in a very casual conversational style and consists mostly of string of anecdotes told from Harley's point of view as he's remembering his life from his toddler years up until early 2016. Even if New York Hardcore isn't really your thing I still highly recommend it. He manages to capture in a very raw and visceral way the NYHC era he is largely responsible for ushering in. And if you've never heard "The Age of Quarrel" pause whatever you're listening to now and go find it on YouTube or something.

"The Dark Forest" by Cixin Liu

I would include the first book in this series, "The Three-Body Problem", but I read that in December of 2015. All I want to say about this series of books is that you should go into them without knowing anything. Don't read a plot synopsis. Don't even read the little blurb on Amazon product page. Someone recommended I go into it blind, only telling me "It's good.", and I'm so glad I did just that. The moment you find out what the title is referring to gave me goosebumps.

Seveneves - Neal Stephenson

Loved that a thinly veiled Neil deGrasse Tyson was the hero out to save earth.

You forgot to say Spoiler Alert!

That's really not a spoiler. It's apparent as soon as the character is introduced and the plot takes off in the beginning.

Im not saying if he succeeded or not. :-) And you'd know that a few pages in.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari


My favorite books I read in 2016:

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure - Grant Cardone

Hack Upwork: How to Make Real Money as a Freelancer - Danny Flood

What are your favorite books of 2016 Andrey?

> How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

Great book. The advice is rather obvious but it really gets you thinking about how you interact with people. For example I've learnt to be vastly better at people's names now, it still take conscious effort but it is fairly habituated now.

Have you seen any positive things in your life after reading Dale Carnegie's book?

Subjectively yes, I feel more confident. I've re-listened to the book every couple of years as it helps me focus on continuously improving what I see as an important skill set.

Have you put what you read in Danny Flood's book into practice? I'd be interested in hearing your potential success story if you'd care to share it.

Pale blue dot - Carl Sagan

Fundamentally altered my worldview and the way I perceive stuff.

Three Body Problem trilogy.

This extended my boundaries of what a 'big problem' encompasses by several orders of magnitude. It also paints a terrifying picture of society, one which is entirely alien to my culture. Specifically the narrative of 'if we can't live everyone should die' / anti-escapism was both shocking and bizarre. My christian cultural tradition dictates that the proper reaction to near-extinction is to build an Ark. My sci-fi experience has numerous examples of this trope, and to find it so rigorously and repeatedly rejected was disturbing to say the least.

I second this. The first book was a little slow but the second and third were two of the best and most thought provoking books I've ever read.

same here.

Here are some kids books that I enjoyed reading. Getting a book that a child will want to read again and again, and that the parent won't hate, is impressive.

"The Book With No Pictures" by BJ Novak is fun. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-No-Pictures-B-Novak/dp/0141361...

"Pirate Diary" (Illustrated by Chris Riddel) is fun and has the right amount of gruesomeness to encourage my kid. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pirate-Diary-Histories-Richard-Plat...

"Maps" (Aleksandra Mizielinska, Daniel Mizielinski) is a fun sort of atlas, especially if you combine it with Youtube etc clips. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1848773013

My current strategy to find books is look at illustrators who've won the Greenaway award, or writers who've won the Carnegie award, and then look at their other books or books that amazon recommends alongside these.

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

(and also the second book in the series - Freedom)

Excellent present day info sec realism. Deeply explores the concept of technological disruption in several interesting and unique ways.

For various reasons I didn't read as many books in 2016 as I normally do, but "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis was a standout.

2016 is the year I began focusing my reading on subject histories and anything that places the western canon in clearer context, so reading Ceasars journal, Plato, stoics, and later writings from Hobbes have been influential.

Histories of accounting (Double Entry, a history of accounting, probably the best thing I read this year), general math (Taming the unknown, a history of algebra), management (A history of management thought) statistics (The lady tasting Tea), computing (The Innovators) education (anything John Taylor Gatto) and recently business law.

The change in my reading from latching onto whatever is new/popular/recommended to delving into the development of basics is one of the better changes I made to my readings, it's creating a richer, more clear, much more useful mental model of the world over the onslaught of articles and books that have X amount of tips on doing Y.

Grokking Algorithms by Aditya Y. Bhargava (I believe he's on HN). Highly recommend, easy read and really enjoyable.


The Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante was some of the most beautifully written fiction I've ever read in my life.

1. Industrial Society and Its Future. Ted Kaczynski, 1995 (https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/fc-industrial-societ...).

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, Benjamin Bratton.

This is a great one to remind us that we help to shape the world that politics have to operate within. We are not just subject to politicians.

This looks great, thanks. I look forward to the future books that talk about technology from a geopolitical pov.

Catch-22. I read it once back in high school and didn't really understand it, but I read it again a few days ago and found it to be both an absolutely hilarious and sobering book.

Favorite of the books I read in 2016:

1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

2. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson - What was interesting for me to learn was that even though he was a great scientist, he was very humane in other aspects - and you can easily relate to.

3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Fun read which is also deeply philosophical at the same time. Got me interested in science fictions as a genre.

4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius - Great intro to stoic philosophy

Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari discusses what the war on drugs has caused all over the world, with a focus on Central America and Europe. Learn about the origins of the drug wars in the USA, how that flowed around the world, and promising developments on what to do next.

Spoiler alert: let's stop the war on drugs.

Work the System, by Sam Carpenter.

Put into words what I intuitively tried to grasp: That a business (and our lifes, really) is comprised of systems that can be optimized independently of the rest, allowing for kaizen-style incremental, steady improvement of everything.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine.

I found this book on HN. It talks about an ancient philosophy to live life; how to stop seeking and be complacent with what life already offers oneself. It made me a happier person.

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro

If you're interested in the complex history of LBJ, the Senate, or America during that time, I'd recommend this (or really, any) Robert Caro book.

Space-Time Structure, by Erwin Schrödinger. Great read to understand complex systems, manifolds and tensors.


A History of Warfare, by John Keegan. Great analysis of various cultures and how they have approached war across history.

Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy.

I bought a used copy and reread it for the first time in about fifteen years. As soon as I finished, I turned around and reread it again just to enjoy the detail.

I will name two: Remote and Rework, books by BaseCamp founders

I didn't read many things packaged as books in 2016, but I did read Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters which was interesting.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Incredibly well written, touching and also an insider look at a period of American music that I'm really interested in.

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz 2. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance 3. Inspired by Marty Cagan

The Scapegoat, René Girard.

Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail in '72.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.

I'd love to see The Righteous Mind as required reading for HN! I picked it up originally for its subtitle: aptly subtitled Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Probably had the most impact on me of any book I've read in the past few years.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Disrupted by Dan Lyons

Confident Ruby


Hackers And Painters - Paul Graham

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