At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 20 books this year – which was probably about 20 more than I read last year. :-) I know this isn’t the craziest goal in the world, but for someone who didn’t spend much time reading (yet wanted to), this was definitely a stretch!
The only way I saw this happening was to take it one small step at a time: I committed to reading 20 pages every day. Some days, it went really well and I read way more than my quota; other days, I was forcing my eyes to stay open as I fell asleep just to make 10 pages. So it all balanced out, and by August (with four months still to go), I had hit my goal!
It was so cool to have accomplished this, and to see it happen by baby step after baby step. And I totally enjoyed the books I’ve read this year. I’m actually hoping to break 30 books for 2010 – just need one more!
It was a challenge to pick the top 10, but here’s what I came up with (the full list follows).
What were YOUR favorite books this year? (feel free to comment below)
The Top 10 Books I read in 2010
Act One by Moss Hart
The first book I read this year – I had bought it when I acted in “Room Service” back in 2004, to help understand that period, but never got past page 5. Thankfully, I made a better attempt this time. Really wonderful autobiography from a giant in the theatre world (who, to be honest, I wasn’t very familiar with). He primarily recounts his life from his teenage years to working on what would become his first Broadway success (co-writing with his frequent collaborator George S. Kaufman). The amount of detail in this book is astounding – it felt like I was living in New York in the 1920s and ‘30s – a great read.
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
“You don’t have to live the life that other people expect you to.” That is the central conceit of this book and most of Chris’ writing. I’ve been a huge fan of his for over a year (on his site, under the same title). I firmly believe that the life I’m now living (working from my laptop anywhere in the world and purchasing one-way tickets for $5) wouldn’t exist without the AONC guidance. I even flew to Oahu just to meet Chris, paying only $2.50 to get there! As others have said, “if you’ve ever thought ‘there must be more to life than this,’ this book is for you!”
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Within 20 pages, I was already laughing out loud. Gilbert’s sense of humor just hit me right. And her fears before she traveled really resonated with me, but she made it look so FUN. In fact, it was while I was reading this book that I created my own plans for world travel. The book is a fun and touching account of one soul searching for happiness. I haven’t seen the movie, but I haven’t found one person who really liked it – get the book! And once you’re done, check out her brilliant TED talk [VIDEO]
The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
Listened to the audiobook version on my roadtrip to Seattle this year. Picked it up when I saw Chrichton’s name – I was only familiar with his later science fiction writings, but thought I would give this one a shot. So glad I did! The book recounts an actual crime in England during the 19th century, which is not remembered for the amount of the theft, but for the sheer impressiveness of the heist, and man it was impressive! Chrichton took the story from court transcripts, and does a fantastic job of making the tale come alive. I still have Simon Prebble’s voice in my head from the read. I’m sure the paper format is just as fun!
The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer
Read this later in the year and started to tell people, “if you only read one more book this year, make it this one!” Maurer helps us understand how our brains actually work against us when it comes to making changes in our lives, and then he provides easy steps of how we still forge ahead. An exceptional book packed with tons of great information of how laughably small baby steps will lead towards the giant changes you have envisioned in your life. Maurer explains that we’re conditioned to think that change is difficult, painful, and will take a lot of time. With this book, you’ll soon see that it doesn’t have to be; in fact, with dedication, it can be fun, easy & start today!
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
How do you describe a story that leaves you speechless? Simply: enjoy and wonder at the account of how a young boy survived a shipwreck for over 200 days at sea – with an adult tiger on board the small boat. The only other piece of information I’ll provide is that Pi is a real person, currently living in Canada. And as the writer mentions, “this story will make you believe in God.”
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I had no idea writing like this existed. And the fact that it was a translation absolutely blows my mind. It’s times like this that makes me wish I knew how to read Spanish! The language is so dense and so rich, I’m convinced that I couldn’t read this story quickly if I tried. But frankly, why would I? A beautiful tale of unrequited love, of passion, of infidelity, of anxiety, and of loss. This was easily one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Just at the point when I’ve begun to forget all the details, I look forward to picking up this book and reliving them all again.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” The first half of Frankl’s book details his account in a concentration camp during World War II. Frankl’s point is that no matter how horrible it gets (using his own story as an extreme example), one can always choose his or her attitude – how we will move forward in our lives. This bit of advice has helped me tremendously. I started to wonder, “what if I never lost my patience again?” That is totally within my control. The second half of the book deals with his logotherapy theory. Exceptional book that helps take the consciousness/mindfulness question to an extreme, but then also allows the reader to see its use in daily life. FILLED with amazing quotes like the one above.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I had the distinct feeling throughout this book that I had somehow skipped the first chapter. Ishiguro doles out the context of this story in such a subtle way that I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. But in the end, the world he creates is pretty amazing. I actually don’t want to provide too much information beyond that, because I think part of the magic of this book is to experience how the tale unfolds.
The Ramen King & I by Andy Raskin
I heard about this book from Seth Godin [HERO]
and it became one of the many books I plowed through during my backstage time of “Paradise Lost” earlier this year. Raskin sets out to obtain Momofuku Ando, the inventor of Ramen Noodles, as his spiritual master – and in the process, learns about his love life: his infidelity, his insecurities, and the pain he has caused. Really quick read, and the other reason I enjoyed this book so much is that Raskin incorporates tons of information about Japanese culture, which he so clearly loves. It was a fun way to experience and learn about a completely different lifestyle.
Ok, so this may be cheating, but the other book (or series of books) that has had one of the biggest impacts on my life this year is the PhilosophersNotes from Brian Johnson. This has been an incredibly powerful year for me, on many levels, and I know that it is because of what I have learned from writers like Marcus Aurealis [NAME], Wayne Dyer, Gay & Katie Hendricks, Paulo Coelho, Marci Shimoff, Don Miguel Ruiz, Pema Chodron, Joseph Campbell, Seneca, and many others. Brian has a brilliant way of distilling down each book into the Big Ideas & giving the reader (or listener) a taste of the amazing wisdom. If you’re interested in adding to your wisdom, I highly encourage you to check out this out – and if you need it, there are scholarships available.
The other books I read this year:
13 Steps Down by Ruth Rendell – very cool mystery/crime/suspense novel by an extremely prolific writer
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey – intense, intense, intense – and very good; I’m not interested in the whole Oprah debacle – it’s a great piece of writing
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt – always cool to hear a book read by the author; particularly in the case of a touching and lovely autobiography
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis – fun satire of 1920s Americana & business
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell – exciting suspense novel: a hitman-turned-doctor runs from the mob in his own hospital
Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim by David Sedaris – absolutely hilarious; even better if you can hear Sedaris’ voice in your head)
Five Plays by Clifford Odets (Waiting for Lefty, Awake & Sing, Paradise Lost, Golden Boy, Rocket to the Moon) – his dialogue totally captures the era, great stuff
Five Wishes by Gay Hendricks – easy read on how to change your life, very practical
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Feiriss – the product marketing didn’t hold my attention, but lots of good info in here on productivity, time management, and goal/life setting; also enjoyed the audiobook version, read by an actor I know – Ray Porter!
Gonville by Peter Birkenhead – amazing memoir of a tortured father who tortured his family
Idiot’s Guide to Chess by Patrick Wolff – helped me go from a beginner to a novice!
The Law of Success by Paramhansa Yogananda – great pocket-sized book with reminders that the keys to success are in our hands
Love by Leo Buscaglia – to have and sustain love, one must study it; taken from Buscaglia’s classes at my alma mater USC
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs – imagine the craziest childhood you can think of, then multiply that by 200. Fun memoir.
Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra – amazing book – will definitely change your life if you follow the laws
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo – took me a while to get into it, but an enjoyable story of a tough ol’ guy, his dead parents, and his daughter’s wedding all on Cape Cod
Tribes by Seth Godin – want to know how to create & sustain a group/following? Here’s how to do it
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – the writing itself didn’t grab me, but the attention to detail and historical elements really kept me engaged with the story
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs – wild account of one man taking the rules of the Bible literally in present-day Manhattan; fun to learn about what’s in there, what it means, and how many people still follow many of the rules to the letter