Saturday, January 02, 2010

Favourite Books Read in 2009

For the past couple of years I have summed up my personal top 10 list of books read in previous years. If you're curious, here are my 2007 and 2008 blog posts on this subject.

In 2009 I managed to read 43 books -- no, it's not a lot, but I'm a pretty slow reader so hitting 40 is a pretty decent attempt for me. Of course, there's always a giant "to read" pile to tackle, so I'm forever trying to increase the number of books I read.

Here's my list of the top 10 books I read in 2008. (Disclaimer -- the books didn't have to come out in 2008, I just had to have read them in that year for them to make my top 10 list)

Nine Dragons - (Michael Connelly)

The latest Harry Bosch novel, as always, offers a tightly written story, great plot twists and a life-altering change to Bosch's life. I'd actually read 3 of Connelly's books in 2009 and was tempted to put at least one more here (The Scarecrow), but instead stuck with the last one I finished.

The Tipping Point - (Malcolm Gladwell)

I read Gladwell's Outliers this year, which I loved and which inspired me to pick up this earlier and equally compelling Gladwell book, which beautifully illustrates his ability to bring together facts in an interesting and intriging way. Not surprising that this book has been on and off bestseller lists for years.

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - (J.K. Rowling)

Finally got to this 6th book in the series so now I can see the movie. This one, more than the previous books in the series (which, though I liked, weren't as unique as this) kept me on the edge of my seat. It's the best book in the series so far, and I'm about the start the 7th which I suspect is as fun and suspenseful.

Trust Agents - (Chris Brogan & Julien Smith)

Brogan and Smith offer an excellent approach for marketing and establishing your business or services within the social networking space; it's not about blanketing these platforms with "sales pitches" but about offering value and becoming an agent of trust. Insightful and inspiring.

Crush It! - (Gary Vaynerchuk)

With a passion for his job and career that is absolutely contagious (it practically leaps off the page when you're reading it), Vaynerchuk sets a new example of the old maxim "do what you love and the money will follow." This seems to me to be a great book to put into the hands of a young person finishing school who isn't quite sure what path to take, or perhaps an older person who is bitter and hates their job and career.

Six Pixels of Separation - (Mitch Joel)

Joel's ability to convey to the layperson the social media landscape and what it has to offer for marketing at many levels is not only a fantastic introduction to social networking, but also a refresher in personal branding and connectedness. His style and ability to stick to the basics is as smooth and straightforward as his adaptation of the "six degrees of separation" concept into the digital realm.

Fear the Worst - (Linwood Barclay)

Barclay takes a common everyday fear of parents (in this case a missing child) and masterfully turns it into a very readable, compelling and thrilling story. Barclay has been on my "buy at first site" list for years for very good reason. Similar to my feelings about Michael Connelly, I also read another Barclay novel this year (Too Close To Home) and was tempted to include THAT here too.

Permission Marketing - (Seth Godin)

Ten years after it was first published, this book still hits home beautifully and illustrate's Godin's incredible ability to be thinking into the future and be where we'll all eventually get to. After reading this, I read Tribes (also a good book) then made a list of all his other books which I'll be reading.

The Book of Negroes - (Lawrence Hill)

This is not only a phenomenally touching and heart-wrenching story of a woman's life and struggles surviving the slave trade, but also illustrates Hill's incredibly fine ability to craft words. Hill grabbed me on the first page and wouldn't let go until the end. (FYI, in the US, this same novel is published as Someone Knows My Name)

Me Minus 173: From 328 Pounds to the Boston Marathon - (Alicia Snell)

Snell's incredible story is matched only by her enthusiasm, utter honesty and ability to inspire others. Here's a great example of the fact that, though I'm not a fan of reading biographies, this one grabbed me and held me spellbound. Snell proves that, if at age 40, she can turn her life around dramatically by making two simple changes, if you want to change things and improve yourself, then YOU can do it too.

Whittling my list down to 10 was difficult, especially because I quite enjoyed so many more books than are on this list. So, that being said, here are 4 more contenders who almost made the list.

Non-Fiction Contenders:

Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise - (Andy Nulman)

Not only a unique and interesting approach to marketing, and quite unlike any other business book I've ever read, but this book literally offers an incredible "three-dimensional" interaction with the author that does hit you between the eyes.

Free: The Future of a Radical Price - (Chris Anderson)

An intriguing and in-depth look at various different models of "Free" and how, over the decades, they have served business needs and led, sometimes intuitively, to great income opportunities.

Fiction Contenders:

The Gargoyle - (Andrew Davidson)

Davidson's compelling prose moved me through a story that normally wouldn't interest me and held me captive to the end. He hooked me on inspirational stories of love through the ages and ultimately moved me with his unique sense of dark humour and tale of tragic love.

Red Snow - (Michael Slade)

Slade writes with a relentless cut-throat approach and virtually no sense of character preservation. This heart-stopping thriller brings back a major recurring foe of the Special X team and concerns a "terrorist" attack taking place just before the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The book seems well researched and certainly kept this read on the edge of his seat.

Well here's an interesting discovery I made about myself upon quick reflection about this list -- for the longest time, at least as far back as I can remember, I've ALWAYS been a fiction afictionado -- why, then, are 6 of my top 10 selections non-fiction books?

Am I possibly expanding what I'm reading?

Not necessarily.

I just went back and did a quick summary. Of the 43 books I read in 2009, 30 of them were fiction. I suppose it was just that the non-fiction titles I read this past year seemed to have had a greater effect on inspiring me.

What books that you read in 2009 had that effect on you?


Georganna Hancock M.S. said...

Hey, Mark! Pretty impressive list. I can't even remember all the books I read in the last year. I don't keep a list of the ones I read for pleasure, only the ones I review!

However, of those, I chose a huge nonfiction, "The Hindus" by Dr. Wendy Doniger, as my favorite because I learned more that was meaningful for me from hers. The one I just reviewed on Blogcritics, "Pull" by David Siegel is a very close second. Also nonfiction.

I think books we can use make more of an impression than books that just entertain us.

What do you think?

Georganna @ A Writer's Edge

Mark Leslie said...

Thanks for sharing your faves, Georganna.

In terms of books we can use over books that "just" entertain us is a tough one. I agree that the ones we use come back to the forefront of our minds, but a great escape into a fictitious world can make just as lasting an impression on this reader. I believe that entertainment is one of the great strengths of either a story or non-fiction (ie, those books we read to "use" often carry an entertainment value through the power of the way the author conveys it to us)

So, if forced to choose between the two, I'd have to side with fiction read for pleasure. I truly cherish the stories and characters who have moved me through the enjoyment of great fiction I've read. Fiction, of course, can be a phenomenal mirror held up to reality (that's certainly what great speculative fiction does), so it does the best of both worlds -- it entertains while often offering us a message or something to learn.