What Books Should You Get for Christmas? (25 Reviews & Recommendations)
People are always asking me: "Read any good books lately?" And my answer is normally "Yeah! What are you in the mood for?"
I'm a big fan of constantly reading. Not everyone can publish a book, and even fewer can craft a Bestseller. So reading books can be a great, inexpensive way to learn from the best.
Reading has also been proven to reduce stress. So if I can learn from the very best without paying an arm and a leg while reducing my own stress, how can I go wrong?
That's one of the reasons I'm a huge advocate for making reading a priority. Aside from that, reading is also enjoyable! For most people.
It's a form of entertainment as much as it is educational. Just give me a cup of coffee, a good book, and a rainy day with no obligations, and we're set!
Now the question for you is, "What should I read?" Since Christmas is getting closer (about a month away as I'm writing this), I wanted to make sure and get out my year's reading list, complete with my 2 cents and links to get your own copy, should you want to.
Or you can always forward this post so someone else will get you all the books you want (wink wink, nudge nudge). Let's get started! Here's what I've read over the last year, and what I think of each book.
1. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling
It's a delightful collection of wizard fairy tales and stories for children. Even as a twentysomething male, I really enjoyed them. Plus it gives a bit more insight to what Mrs. Weasley used to read to her kids when they were younger.
If you're a fan of the Harry Potter universe (which, dear heavens, I hope you are), this is a good choice and a quick read.
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
These are always fun and relaxing. Though, I didn't make it through the whole series this time. Sometimes it's difficult for me to read a lot of fiction back to back.
5. The Virgin Way, Richard Branson
Richard Branson is everyone's crazy uncle who just happens to be a self-made billionaire mogul. Virgin is, of course, the name of Branson's umbrella company, and most of the enterprises beneath it. (Hopefully you knew that. Otherwise, you might have had a very different impression of what I choose to read.)
The Virgin Way is a jovial telling of Branson and his company's experiences. It's half memoir, half how-to management.
I learned a lot through this book, and couldn't help bursting out in laughter several times! I'd definitely recommend it.
6. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
This is hands down the most interesting book about relationships you'll ever read.
Modern Romance isn't about how to score a hottie, or even a critique of what's going on these days. It's an impressively thorough sociological story, told by a comedian.
If you've seen any of Aziz' standup (or his show Master of None), you'll notice the book reflects a good portion of his routines. The book is a lot of "Have you ever noticed...?" and "This is what usually happens," mixed with research studies and first-hand testimonies from all over the world.
I keep recommending it to anyone under 30, because it does a great job of being relatable while providing you with a ton of information. And if you're single, it might actually help you build a solid relationship.
7. Growth Hacker Marketing, Ryan Holiday
Was it a good read? Absolutely. Would I read it again? Probably not.
"Growth hacking" is more or less the process of getting exponential growth from every decision your company makes, whether it's in sales, marketing, product development, customer service, or anything else.
Ryan has done a great job of that with American Apparel and other companies he's led. And the book is basically an introduction to the concept. It's something like 75 short pages, and is full of actionable tips.
If you're in business and you're not already familiar with growth hacking, I'd recommend this to you. If you are already familiar with it, I wouldn't bother.
8. David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell
If I've said it once, I've said it 134,000 times: I love anything that Malcolm Gladwell writes.
David and Goliath is a book all about "battling giants." And it goes through how underdogs throughout history have approached going up against the big dogs - in war, in sports, in just about everything.
In most cases, we're amazed whenever the little guy wins, but, as Gladwell explains beautifully, we should often expect the little guy to win. I highly recommend this to everyone.
9. Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon
This was actually a book recommend to me by a good friend. It's basically Kleon's 10 rules to being incredibly creative. It's short, sweet, and told mostly through simple cartoon drawings.
I found it particularly interesting, because I read it at a time when I was figuring out each of these 10 little rules. How crazy is that?
For me, this book confirmed the theories I was molding at the time. And I think it's a great book for any struggling or emerging creative.
10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
11. The Coffeehouse Investor, Bill Schultheis
I've read through this book twice in the last few years. It's enjoyable. It's helpful. And for many it can be paradigm shifting!
Most people heavily involved in the stock market want to talk about hot stocks. About winners and losers, and about keeping up with everything that goes on.
Bill says this is crazy (he's right). Because the market is so thoroughly unpredictable, the best thing to do is to take a "set it and forget it" approach to the stock market. Instead of trying to beat the stock market, you should try to "approximate the stock market average."
This was also rule #1 when I worked in financial planning. Sadly this simple, stress-free approach is too often overlooked.
If you're someone who tries to keep up with the stock market and make bold moves or whatever, you should read this. It's a good change of pace. Plus, Bill is a generally interesting guy who seems to actually care about people.
12. Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth, Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
If you can't imagine how this title could apply to you, you probably shouldn't read it. If you can imagine how this title could apply to you, or if you're in any kind of entrepreneurial or customer acquisition-type role, you need to read this.
At times it might feel a bit technical for those who haven't been in the tech sector, but the concepts and the personal stories from some of the nation's biggest successes will certainly be helpful.
The fast and short is that it's a thorough book on marketing in a digital-first world. If that interests you, buy it.
13. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Reis and Jack Trout
This was probably a really good book 25, maybe even 15 years ago.
Most of the "immutable laws" only apply to Fortune 500 corporations, but they don't even seem relevant today!
It's a very quick read, and there are a couple of nuggets. I mean, the two authors were certainly big players back in the day! It just doesn't seem to be applicable these days.
Many of the tips they give, in my opinion, would likely hurt you more than help you these days. And actually, some of the great case studies given have backfired in the time since this book was published! But feel free to get a copy and tell me I'm wrong.
14. Yes, My Accent is Real, Kunal Nayyar
Since you probably don't know who this guy is by his name, he's the Indian guy on The Big Bang Theory.
He's young, so I don't know if you could count it as a memoir, but that's basically what it is. I really enjoyed reading this (I think I read it over a weekend).
It's quick, it's humorous, it's insightful. And it's really interesting to read a first-hand account of someone who came over to America and made the dream happen. Plus there are plenty of embarrassing stories.
15. The Song Machine, John Seabrook
I think I described this book to my wife as the "the most boring telling of the most interesting information."
John's been a journalist for The New Yorker for decades. He's good. I really enjoyed a couple of his articles on the behind the scenes of the music industry. But this book - man - it was difficult.
It's fascinating information! And it's a look that I haven't seen anywhere else. But the writing is dull.
If you're big into music, you need to read this, just because you need to read this. If you can get over dry storytelling for interesting detail, go for it. Otherwise, maybe give this one a pass.
16. What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell
What the Dog Saw is a collection of Gladwell's favorite (best?) articles from his years at The New Yorker, minus those that are covered in his other 4 books.
Again, I love everything in here. I don't always agree with him where opinion is laid, but even 20 years ago, the man knew how to tell a good story!
If you enjoy being starting conversations with "Did you know..." or "Well, actually..." you need to read this book. There' a lot packed into it!
17. Orange Is the New Black, Piper Kerman
I'm still trying to figure out why they named her Piper Chapman in the Netflix series, but this is - I thought - a great story for anyone to read.
Piper and her editors are, by some miracle, able to share every uncomfortable detail that goes into America's prison system without being grotesque.
In fact, this story, paired with the 3 Strikes Law and everything that's come as a result of it, could easily enrage you on how terrible our criminal justice system is.
Did you know that in many states the cost of incarcerating one person for a year is more than the average family income? I'm infuriated just typing that sentence!
I digress. I'd be happy to recommend this book, but if you don't read it, you're not missing out on too much.
18. On Writing, Stephen King
If you're a writer of any sort, you absolutely need to read this book. If you've ever enjoyed a Stephen King book before, read this. If you're generally interested in origin stories like I am, pick this up.
King talks a lot about writing, but it's not a how-to book. Like, any person can pick it up and generally enjoy it. It's a memoir.
But as a writer (who admittedly had never read a Stephen King book until this one), I found it invaluable. Every time I can learn what steps a successful person went through to get where they are, I'm happy. That's a lot of what this is.
It's Stephen King talking about life and growing up and how writing played a role in that. If you're not offended by a bit of strong language, definitely get a copy for yourself.
19. Gunn's Golden Rules, Tim Gunn
I'm a huge fan of Tim Gunn. As Heidi Klum says, he's "the consummate gentleman."
Tim Gunn is an interested story, because he was not some kid hellbent on success. He loved design, had no idea what to do with it, and somehow became a college educator for 29 years, working his way up through Parsons School of Design in NYC.
A few years before he stopped teaching is when Project Runway started, and everything took off from there! Anyway, this book is a collection of stories of how Tim's had to "make it work" throughout his life.
As you might imagine, there are also a handful of insights into the fashion industry - another interest of mine. Truthfully, whoever you are and whatever you do, you could enjoy this. That's why I'd recommend everybody read this.
20. In the Name of Gucci, Patricia Gucci
If you thought the Kardashians were crazy, you haven't seen anything!
So, Patricia Gucci is the granddaughter of Guccio Gucci, the founder of the storied leather goods brand, and the daughter of Aldo Gucci, the man who made Gucci an international sensation and icon.
First, these folks are Italian, right? So everything's inherently more dramatic. But the story! You couldn't write this unless it actually happened! There's big love, big business, big fights, and big twists in every chapter.
Admittedly, it might be one of the most poorly written books I've read, but the story itself is amazing. I don't want to give anything away, I just think you should read it for yourself.
21. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
I picked up this book, because I kept hearing big names like Tim Ferris, Edward Norton (I think?), and others recommend it. But it was terrible.
Well, maybe it wasn't terrible, but I enjoyed no page of it. Pressfield, who failed as a writer for something like 10 years or more before he ever made a dime from it, takes a very emotional, head-in-the-clouds approach to creativity.
If you know me at all, you know I'm too practical for that. I mean, he's published several books and has probably made a pretty penny. But don't think you can read this as a struggling creative and suddenly have everything figured out.
22. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Read it. Read it twice.
The Cursed Child is a play, right? Unlike the Harry Potter novels, the Cursed Child is crisp. It's quick. And it's encapsulating.
The one thing that I think all HP fans will admit is that the novels are at times slow. We enjoy the wondrous world and all the detail it contains, but sometimes we just want to get through the actual story. That's what the Cursed Child does, and it does that so well!
23. Contagious, Jonah Berger
I liked this one well enough that I recommended it to a friend, and then we did a podcast about it.
Contagious is the practical guide to why we share things with each other. We're always sharing things on Facebook, or recommending products we've used or movies we've seen. We're social creatures and we're always sharing something.
This book breaks down the science of why we do that. It's interesting for any person, but it's particularly interesting for those in marketing and business (like myself), who are actively trying to get people to share more.
Contagious is also referred to as "the practical companion to Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point." If The Tipping Point answers how things spread to become big ideas, Contagious answers why they begin spreading in the first place.
24. Sick in the Head, Judd Apatow
This book is not for everyone.
Judd Apatow has had a very successful career making comedy films (Heavyweights, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, among others). And this book is a collection of interviews he's conducted with other big names in comedy since 1983.
It's really impressive who all is in here. But it's 500+ pages worth of interviews.
It's the kind of book you keep on your coffee table to read 15 pages at a time every now and then. I found a lot of it interesting - I always enjoy learning what big names actually think about such and such.
It also took me a couple of months to work through it.
25. Everybody Writes, Ann Handley
If you're a beginning writer, you should probably read this. If you're an experienced writer, it won't hurt you to read it. If writing is part of your job, but you don't think of yourself as a writer, you definitely need to read this.
I don't agree with everything in here, but Ann's been very successful working with MarketingProfs (and other reputable brands), and this book does contain a wealth of knowledge is easily digestible pieces.
Will I read it again? Probably not. Will I keep it on my shelf to reference as needed? Absolutely.
Thanks for checking out my year's reading list! Who do you need to share this with?
If you've thought of a book you think I should read, let me know about it in the comments! Thanks (and please subscribe)!