Three Books I Loved in 2016

2016 was a pretty great year of reading for me. I finally got back in the habit – especially in the last two months – and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I like to read non-fiction – specifically, books about lifestyle design (think Tim Ferriss), philosophy, economics, history, and politics. The books on this list have helped me in a lot of ways this year – from helping me conquer my anxieties and my ego, to helping me improve as a small business owner, to making me the happiest I’ve been in years. I hope these books can do the same for you.

#1 Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Holiday is a fantastic author and a believer in stoic philosophy. I’ve read two of his other books – “Growth Hacker Marketing” and “The Daily Stoic” – and both have been really helpful in my day-to-day life.

“Ego is the Enemy” is the book I wish I read 10 years ago, before I started my career, before I finished school. I initially purchased the audiobook from, but after listening to it twice, I had to purchase a hard copy – where I’ve marked up almost every page, as this book is full of tremendous insights.

As Holiday puts it, armed with the lessons in this book “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.” If you’re a long-time high-achiever like me, who has had a hard time understanding why things haven’t gone better for them, this book is going to set you free.

#2 Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is the best-selling author of “The Four-Hour Workweek”, “The Four Hour Body”, and host of “The Tim Ferriss Show.”

It’s hard to describe what Tim Ferriss does – “lifestyle design” is part of it – but I would recommend Tools of Titans to basically everybody. Over the past few years, Tim Ferriss has interviewed 200 of the most amazing people on the planet – from tech titans like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, to Hollywood icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Foxx, to extreme athletes like Shaun White and Triple H.

Tools of Titans is a nearly 700 page tome with his notes from those interviews, which outline “the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers.” I’ve learned more from this book than every other book I read this year combined. It’s full of stories that will help you improve your life. And the best part is that if you’re not completely convinced, you can get a ton of his awesome for free on his blog or through his podcast. Trust me – you’ll want this book!

#3 Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of PayPal. He’s a billionaire investor (the first outside investor in Facebook) and a noted political activist who was recently named to the executive committee of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

“Zero to One” is a compilations of his lectures on start-ups at Stanford University, prepared with the help of his student Blake Masters. It’s a wildly optimistic book that examines how we can build a better future. It provides his brilliant insights on the dot-com crash, on competition and monopoly, on how we can control our future, and ultimately how to build a successful start-up.

I think my favourite part of this book is how unconventional his advice is. So much of it flies in the face of conventional wisdom – but it works. I would highly recommend this book to anyone searching for a “big idea” or a way to change the world, and it’s absolutely mandatory reading for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Other great books

I’ve read a few other great books this year, listed below in no particular order. If you have any questions about these books, or have books of your own to share, please leave them in the comments!

  • Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
  • Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games are Won by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
  • All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories by Seth Godin
  • The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

Dean Tester


2 thoughts on “Three Books I Loved in 2016

  1. #1 Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson

    This tells the story of a group of largely backbench MP’s who fought appeasement, brought down Neville Chamberlain, and helped ensure that Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. In my opinion it contains important insight for aspiring Members of Parliament on the need to do what is right even when it is unpopular. The book also highlights the dangers of appeasement, a weak foreign policy, and low defence spending.

    #2 I Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves

    These two works of historical fiction chronicle the life of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Claudius was born physically disabled leading most to assume that he was a half-witted fool. This perception of weakness allowed him to survive the assassinations and various murders of many other members of the imperial family and eventually become Emperor. The second book deals with Claudius largely successful reign as Emperor of Rome. Despite being written nearly a century ago the books hold up well to contemporary works. These books and the miniseries inspired by them would be of interested to anyone who enjoys historical political drama.

    #3 Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

    This book is a riveting account of the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster which claimed the lives of eight climbers in the spring of 1996. The book describes the lure of climbing Everest, its commercialization, and the constant danger that exists there. Those who died in this disaster included commercial clients as well as some of the most experienced mountain climbers in the world at that time. One of the more interesting aspects explored by the book is the impact of oxygen deprivation on decision making and judgement.

    Other books I read this year:

    -The Road to Stalingrad by John Erickson
    -World War Z by Max Brooks
    -A Kim John-Il Production by Paul Fischer
    -The Gunslinger by Stephen King
    -Canada’s Navy: The First Century by Marc Milner
    -Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen

    1. Thanks for sharing James! I also read Boris Johnson’s biography of Winston Churchill this year — it’s a great read. I’ve also had The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester come highly recommended to me.

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