The best books I’ve read in 2017

One of the most common topics of conversation I find myself engaged in is what book I’m currently reading. My friends, many of whom are like me and seeking constant self-improvement, are always hungry for more good books to consume. I’ve “read” many books in 2017, primarily due to the fact that I started an Audible subscription. Some of you will disagree that listening to an audiobook is the same as reading it, but when you work in a field like mine, when you travel as much as I do, it’s either listen to audiobooks or have very little time and read very few books. I’ll take the audiobooks, thank you.

Many, if not most, of the books I read in 2017 come at the recommendation of someone whose opinion I respect and value. I don’t have time to mess around with fluff; I want books that are worth my time and money. If you’re like me in that way, I hope you’ll find value in these books that I’m recommending.

These are not all of the books I’ve consumed in 2017, not by far. You will find only one fiction book on the list because I’ve only read one fiction book all year. I did begin some other books, but since I have not completed them I’m not recommending them just yet. If you find this list of value, please share it with someone you know who could benefit also.

All of these books are available as audiobooks and you can get one of them for free by trying out Audible.

In no particular order:

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

This is the year that I discovered the magnificent man that is Jocko. There have been a lot of resources that have contributed to my self-improvement journey over the year, but maybe none more impactful than Jocko’s podcast. When I found out that Jocko had written a book with his friend and colleague, Leif Babin, I jumped on it.

Jocko focuses a lot on the topic of discipline. When asked how one can become more tough, he surprisingly replies, “Be tougher.” When questioned on how to be more disciplined, he responds, “Be more disciplined.” It’s shockingly simple, and yet really makes you hungry to hear more of what he has to say. Extreme Ownership is the push I needed to get me on the path towards taking responsibility for myself and my improvement. No more excuses, just hard work.

If you’re looking for something that will make you want to go “get after it,” give this book a read.

Resilience by Eric Greitens

The theme you’ll see in the books I’ve read this year is that many, if not most, of them focus on some area of self-improvement. That’s because this is the year I decided to take action to become a better man, a better husband, and a better father. Part of that decision involved the recognition that I needed more mental toughness, more grit.

Resilience was recommended to me by multiple people, so I had to read it. It’s interesting because it’s just a book so much as it’s a compilation of letters written from the author to his friend, a former Navy SEAL. While that may not seem appealing to you, I suggest you read it anyway. I first listened to this as an audiobook, but there were so many times that I wished I could underline what was being said that I purchased a paperback copy as well. It is as underlined as I imagined it would be.

The author speaks to his friend that is going through a rough time transitioning from military to civilian life about what resilience is all about. The main thing I noticed is the continual theme of resilience being built through struggle, that struggle is necessary for growth. As someone who has long been more likely to find a way around struggle than to go through it, I needed this message.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

This is actually a re-read. The Ragamuffin Gospel had a profound impact on my life as a young man who was still pretty new to the Christian faith. Having grown up in the church, but still not quite understanding that God loves me no matter how much I fail, this book struck me in the heart – in a good way.

When Brennan Manning passed from this earthly life a few years ago, I grieved because he had such an influence in my understanding of God. My life is not the same because I read The Ragamuffin Gospel in 2002. How many books can you say that about?

So this year I decided to revisit this book, this time in audio form. It still gave me chills, still caused me to tear up at points, and reminded me of that young man who was so touched by Manning’s words the first time around.

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

I actually avoid books that “everyone” is saying to read. I’m not into the next great thing that all the people say I’m missing out on. There came a point, however, when I caved on this one. After some very respected people in my circles talked about The 5 Second Rule, I gave it a listen. I listened to it in one sitting. Granted, I was returning from a long road trip that took hours longer than planned, but still, I listened in one sitting.

In my journey of self-improvement and my work towards mental toughness, I knew I needed to kill the hesitation part of my brain, the paralysis by analysis part. Mel Robbins shares a simple yet profound tactic for ending hesitation that has helped me so much. I’ll let her tell you about it, though.

Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop

Don’t be too concerned by the title of this book. It definitely caught your attention, but if you’re worried that it’s laden with profanity, you need not be. That’s not to say that there isn’t any swearing in this book, but many of the self-help books I’ve read have adult language.

Better than Gary John Bishop’s catchy title is the meat of his book. So many self-help books do very little to actually help you improve yourself. That’s because there’s still something going on in your own head that needs to be fixed before you’ll ever make any actual progress. Bishop doesn’t offer affirmations for you to recite or a bunch of worthless steps to take. He does offer actionable insight as to how you can stop limiting yourself through your own thoughts. I’ve benefited greatly from this one.

Mindset by Carol Dweck

I’ve only recently discovered the idea of growth mindset vs fixed mindset, but as soon as I heard of such a thing I knew I needed to find out more. I’m one of those people who finds identity in the things people say about me. It’s been that way since I was a child. People told me I was smart, so when I failed at something I thought it meant I was dumb. Turns out there’s a term for that. Fixed mindset. Tell me more.

Carol Dweck not only helped me to understand the concept of having a growth mindset, but also how it’s obtained. No one book has helped me to actually achieve this, rather several resources have partnered together to get me on the path towards growth mindset. This book is a huge contributor to that progress.

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting by Brené Brown

If you don’t know who Brené Brown is, I suggest you Google search her immediately. Her books and speaking have enlightened me to the importance of vulnerability and the power of shame.

We’re so quick to beat ourselves up as parents, but when we look at things the right way, with a growth mindset, we can learn from our parenting mistakes, forgive ourselves, and become better parents. It’s in the mistakes we make that we actually benefit.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

You may not be interested in learning from the Stoic philosophers. If reading about wisdom gained from such minds does not strike you as something you’d be into, I’d pass on this book. I, however, found so much good stuff here that I have to recommend it to anyone that can handle learning from people who have been dead for centuries.

Ryan Holiday finds a passion in digging into Stoic philosophy and he shares it in a way that shows how relevent it all still is today. I’ve read more than one of Ryan’s books, but this is the one I’m recommending. In my journey towards more resilience and mental toughness, I needed the message that is delivered by the Stoics, that the struggle is necessary to get to the growth.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Another book with an F-bomb in the title? Unlike the previous book, if you’re easily offended by language, this one is not for you. Mark Manson does make use of adult language in this one.

While the title may fool you into thinking that this book teaches the reader to stop caring, that’s not the case. Manson’s point isn’t to stop caring, but rather to access what we are caring about. To focus on the things that are actually worth caring about. To stop focusing on the things that don’t matter. It’s great advice.

Raising Men by Eric Davis

I may or may not have become obsessed with Navy SEALs this year. You’ll notice a few books on my list of recommendations that are written by SEALs, but there are even more that I read and didn’t include in the list. You see, I’m interested in the Navy SEAL approach to leadership, to learning, to success, and in this case…to parenting. I had to know what a Navy SEAL had to say about applying the SEAL way to family life.

Davis discusses a blend of discipline, leadership, adventure, and grace. This interesting approach taught me a lot about what I can do differently in my own family life. Even Davis’ comparisons of parenting to training dogs gave me something to think about more.

11.22.63 by Stephen King

Finally, here is the one fiction book on my list for 2017. I usually don’t like reading a book after I’ve already seen the movie, but after watching the Hulu miniseries based on this book, I had to know what more was included in the novel. I was surprised how different the book actually is from the miniseries, but I was gripped from the get-go. King’s writing is obviously above average, as evidenced by the tons of books that he sells every year, but this novel in particular had my attention even more so that his other works. Whether you’re a fan of Stephen King or not, I think you should give this one a chance.

Well, that’s what I’ve got for this year. What do you think of the list? What books have you liked this year?

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