Best Books of 2012

[simple_series title=”Top 10 Top 10 of 2012″]

Happy Sunday, and Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

Today’s post is about books — specifically my favorite ones from this year.

We’ll get to the list, but first let me clarify:

These books weren’t necessarily written in 2012 (though many were released this year); they were just books that I finally got around to reading this year.

Also, they’re not meant to form any specific genre or sub genre of books, although they’re all nonfiction. I decided that I could write a post about the best fiction books I read this year, but that it might alienate some out there who aren’t interested in the same sort of books as I.

Instead, these books are all the sort that I think are entertaining, helpful, insightful, or otherwise useful to the vast majority of my readership (authors, writers, bloggers, creators, etc.).

So, therefore, I give you The Top 10 Books of 2012 – style:

#10. Drop-Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

If you’ve never heard of A.J. Jacobs, drop what you’re doing and go find one of his books. As the editor at Esquire magazine, he is a seasoned journalist and writer, and each of his books are downright hilarious (on purpose). I’ve read most of them, and Drop-Dead Healthy was the latest for me.

As a certified self-declared “life hacker,” I try to keep a good balance in my life, and Drop-Dead Healthy is a great motivator. He works through each of the major areas of the human body, from physique to psychoanalysis, with each chapter taking the reader on yet another half-crazed self-experiment. Other notable titles among my favorites of his are The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically. You can probably guess what each are about!

#9. Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Monopoly by Alan Axelrod

I’m a huge Monopoly buff. Okay, fine — I’m a huge nerdy board game buff. Show me Risk and I’ll show you Settlers of Cataan; show me Carcassonne and I’ll ask to play Dominion.

Still with me? Anyway, I got to the point in my Monopoly games where I wanted to bring in more strategy than what I’d already picked up. For that, I bought two books — Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Monopoly and The Monopoly Companion. While the latter was definitely the most helpful for my Mono-skills, the former was a more interesting read.

The book uses anecdotes from well-known CEOs and businesspeople to relate to Monopoly, and while I first read it a few years ago, its permanent spot on my shelf lets me steal a peek when I’m waiting for a download or find a few spare minutes.

#8. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

What’s funny about this book when it first came out was that I was totally writing it first. I’m not accusing Michael of “stealing” it (he is, after all, a little bit more well-known than I), but I honestly was going to originally call my book Welcome Home (The Author’s Guide to Building A Marketing Home Base) Welcome Home: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. 

No joke. I thought of it first.

Anyway, the book is great — it’s a good overview of building an online platform, but it does lack a little depth and specificity in certain places. However, there are always other options if you would like more depth and specificity…

#7. The Conservative’s Handbook by Phil Valentine

Regardless of your politics, this book might be interesting to flip through. It’s a down-to-earth, by-the-numbers account of why a conservative is a conservative in modern America. It doesn’t attempt to “teach people how to think,” nor does it put down “alternative” political views — it just explains, in plain English, why most conservatives feel a certain way about the major political issues.

I put it on this list because it, along with The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, helped me form my own opinions about politics in American elections. The Conservative’s Handbook made the list because it’s extremely well-written and researched, and is easy to read (it’s written in layman’s terms, not political mumbo-jumbo).

#6. The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

Gabe paints a bleak picture of modern-day Christianity. To simplify, those Christians who remain faithful and live out their beliefs seem almost cultish or come across as prudes, while those Christians who live vicariously, claiming “it’s all okay as long as we repent” portray the exact opposite of what Christ preached and taught. The book examines the failings of the Church to preach in a way that’s at once accessible and simultaneously firm on scriptural law.

But he doesn’t stop there. Hailed as “massively optimistic,” The Next Christians offers a way to live as a real Christian in a world that seems to not want us around. We’re currently doing a study on the book at my church, and it’s proven to be as challenging as it is insightful.

#5. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

No matter your feelings about the man, it seems as though Steve Jobs has left quite the legacy. From Apple Computers to NeXT to Pixar, Jobs is hailed of one of the greatest minds of the modern era.

I’m a Mac fanboy, for sure, but regardless, this tome by Walter Isaacson is second-to-none in terms of completeness, organization, and thoroughness. A monster of a book, it’s well-worth every penny spent on it and every minute reading it.

#4. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

This is another book I read last year that now has a permanent “to re-read” spot on my desk or bookshelf. Dwight Swain was an absolute master of explaining the creative writing process in a down-to-earth, easily understood manner, and I continue to recommend it to new writers.

#3. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I posted earlier this year on the habit-setting (and breaking) process, and most of the material for that post came from this book.

Charles Duhigg uses scientific experiments and anecdotal research to elegantly wind a normally-boring subject into one that’s downright fascinating. I highly recommend this book just for the entertainment value, although I learned a considerable amount about how my own habits were set and mastered by reading it.

#2. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

I’ve been following Chris’ progress on the blogosphere since I downloaded his awesome manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success. That was sometime in 2005 or 2006, and I immediately subscribed to his RSS feed and mailing list, and watched him grow the blog to massive numbers and build a career around his “travel hacking” techniques.

He’s an accomplished entrepreneur with a heart for mission work, and so I jumped at the opportunity to read his own words on how to grow a business (for, what’s nice, in just $100). If it seems to good to be true, you should probably buy the book (take it out of that first $100) and find out how serious he is about it!

#1. Malcolm Gladwell: Collected by Malcolm Gladwell

If you haven’t heard of Gladwell, you’ve been living under a rock. He’s broken into the mainstream of what I like to call “popular economics” — the pseudo-science of predicting and explaining humanity’s biggest questions.

He’s one of the most amazing writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and he’s able to take something as mundane as museum art (yes, I know, I have no class) and make it into page-turning reading.

My parents bought me the boxed set of his first three books, Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point, and since there was no way I’d be able to choose my favorite, I decided to cheat and include them all. If you have to start with one, though, read The Tipping Point, then Blink, then Outliers.

See you tomorrow!

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