This column provides what I believe to be the "best of the best" for 2016 -- the books that everybody should read before the end of the year.
1. Be Obsessed or Be Average
Author: Grant Cardone
Why You Should Read It Now: As we reach the holiday season and the end of the year, it's all too easy to get lulled into thinking that next year will take care of itself. It won't. Cardone's high-energy enthusiasm will get you motivated to commit to your ongoing success and do the planning necessary to make 2017 your best year ever.
Best Quote: "When you become unapologetically obsessed, as I am, you'll be at your very best: hyper-focused, persistent beyond understanding, creative to the point of appearing magical, and with an insatiable determination to win that not only attracts great talent but also brings out the best in others. This level of obsession doesn't mean you are selfish or self-centered; it means that you're finally operating at the levels you are always meant to and that you can pull others around you up to their full potential and possibilities."
Subtitle: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Author: Adam Grant
Why You Should Read It Now: Motivation is more than just getting energized; you have to respect your own unique way of getting things done. Once you've read Cardone's book, read Originals to get yourself centered and balanced, so that you can become successful in 2017 without driving yourself crazy, or making commitments that you can't afford to keep.
Best Quote: "T.S. Eliot's landmark work, The Waste Land, has been hailed as one of the twentieth century's most significant poems. But after publishing it in 1922, Eliot kept his London bank job until 1925, rejecting the idea of embracing professional risk. As the novelist Aldous Huxley noted after paying him an office visit, Eliot was 'the most bank-clerky of all bank clerks.' When he finally did leave the position, Eliot still didn't strike out on his own. He spent the next 40 years working for a publishing house to provide stability in his life, writing poetry on the side. As Polaroid founder Edwin Land remarked, 'No person could possibly be original in one area unless he were possessed of the emotional and social stability that comes from fixed attitudes in all areas other than the one in which he is being original.' "
3. Deep Work
Subtitle: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Author: Cal Newport
Why You Should Read It Now: As I've frequently pointed out, today's open plan offices and overly-collaborative business world tends to scatter people's energy. This book explains that innovation does not emerge from the hurly-burly of collaboration but depends upon solitary thinking and personal creativity. Your ability to succeed in 2017 will depend upon your ability to focus amidst the distractions of the workplace. This book can and will help.
Best Quote: "The ubiquity of deep work among influential individuals it is important to emphasize because it stands in sharp contrast to the behavior of most modern knowledge workers -- a group that's rapidly forgetting the value of going deep. The reason knowledge workers are losing their familiarity with deep work is well-established: network tools. This is a broad category that captures communication services like email and SMS, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, and the shiny tangle of infotainment sites like BuzzFeed and Reddit."
Subtitle: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
Author: Robert Cialdini
Why You Should Read It Now: Whether you realize it or not, your marketing and sales tactics are deeply dependent upon Cialdini's groundbreaking research, which permeates 21st century business theory. Cialdini is currently the world's most influential thinker on the psychology of selling and how sales behaviors function within the context of personal and corporate decision making. This book is thus a must-read-now because, if you don't master its contents, your competitors undoubtedly will.
Best Quote: "Researchers have been applying a rigorous scientific approach to the question of which messages lead people to concede, comply, or change. They have documented the sometimes staggering impact of making a request in a standard way versus making the identical request in a different, better-informed fashion. Besides the sheer impact of obtained effects, there is another noteworthy aspect of the results: The process of persuasion is governed by psychological laws, which means that similar procedures can produce similar results over a wide range of situations."
Subtitle: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness
Author: Gary Vaynerchuk
Why You Should Read It Now: Who says business books have to be dull? Vaynerchuk's amusing take on the insanity that's Silicon Valley is funny, idiosyncratic, and useful. Read this book by the end of the year because, well, you deserve to have a little fun.
Best Quote: "There are too many people who are average at what they do, and then confused by their average results.... If there's any advice I can offer that will change the entire trajectory of your career, it's to start pushing on both edges. Raise the bar on your business philosophy, dig deeper into your craft. You want to be an equally good architect as you are a mason. You've got to be able to simultaneously think at a high level and get your hands dirty."
6. Born for This
Subtitle: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do
Author: Chris Guillebeau
Why You Should Read It Now: Many people use the end of the year to reassess their lives and careers. This book guides you through making decisions that will uniquely express who you are and where you're headed. Get inspired and get committed to making 2017 the year where you truly pursue your best self and your biggest dreams.
Best Quote: "Have you ever lost track of time when immersed in a project you love? Have you ever taken on a role that was paid -- but you liked it so much, you would have gladly done it for free? We'll call this condition flow: the art of maximizing skill and getting lost in something you're really good at. This condition, like joy and money, is essential to the work you were meant to do. There are lots of things that we could do somewhat well, or even pretty well. Flow work is different. You don't do it somewhat well or even pretty well: You do it really well. It comes naturally and easily to you. When you do this kind of work, other people are impressed or even amazed by how effortlessly you seem to achieve great results. 'How does she do that?' they wonder."
7. Makers and Takers
Subtitle: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business
Author: Rana Foroohar
Why You Should Read It Now: The U.S. now lags the rest of the world in the number of startups and percentage of startups that prove successful. U.S. entrepreneurs will fight an uphill battle in 2017, especially now that we have a government of billionaires that will work to the advantage of other billionaires. While that shouldn't stop you from building your own business, it's wise to approach your career and company with the understanding that you'll be fighting an uphill battle.
Best Quote: "Finance loves outsourcing, for example, since pushing labor to emerging markets reduces costs. But financiers rarely think about the risks that offshoring adds to supply chains -- risks tragically evidenced in events like the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza textile manufacturing center in Bangladesh, which killed more than a thousand garment workers who spent their days stitching T-shirts and jeans for companies like Walmart, Children's Place, and JCPenney in buildings that weren't up to code. Finance also loves the cost savings inherent in technology. Yet high-tech financial applications like flash trading and computer-generated algorithms used in complex securities have resulted in repeated market crashes, wiping out trillions of dollars of wealth."
8. The Attention Merchants
Subtitle: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads
Author: Tim Wu
Why You Should Read It Now: If 2017 is anything like 2016, we'll continue to face a constant assault to capture our attention. Since lack of focus is a recipe for failure, the companies vying for your eyes and ears are the enemies of your future success. This book will teach you to hoard your time away from the barrage, a task that's enormously easier once you understand the motives of the companies that are stealing your attention away from what's really important.
Best Quote: "The winning strategy from the beginning has been to seek out time and spaces previously walled off from commercial exploitation, gathering up chunks and then slivers of our unharvested awareness. Within living memory, it was thought that families would never tolerate the intrusion of broadcasting in the home. An earlier generation would find it astonishing that, without payment or even much outcry, our networks of family, friends, and associates have been recruited via social media to help sell us things. Now, however, most of us carry devices on our bodies that constantly find ways to commercialize the smallest particles of our time and attention. Thus, bit by bit, what was once shocking became normal, until the shape of our lives yielded further and further to the logic of commerce -- but gradually enough that we should now find nothing strange about it."
9. The Revenge of Analog
Subtitle: Real Things and Why They Matter
Author: David Sax
Why You Should Read It Now: If you've been reading my columns and books over the past 20 years, you know I've correctly identified numerous trends that have changed the business world. I'm telling you NOW that the backlash against digital technology is real and that analog technologies and experiences will be the single hottest business trend of the next decade. The sooner you recognize the inevitable impact of this huge, over-arching trend, the more easily you'll be able to take advantage of it to build your business and company. So 2017 is not too soon to start planning.
Best Quote: "Surrounded by digital, we now crave experiences that are more tactile and human-centric. We want to interact with goods and services with all our senses, and many of us are willing to pay a premium to do so, even if it is more cumbersome and costly than its digital equivalent.... While analog experiences can provide us with the kind of real-world pleasures and rewards that digital ones cannot, sometimes analog simply outperforms digital as the best solution. When it comes to the free flow of ideas, the pen remains mightier than both the keyboard or touchscreen."
Subtitle: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Author: Angela Duckworth
Why You Should Read It Now: Finally, as you end one year and begin another, this book will remind you that it won't be your raw talent that will determine your level of success. Quite the contrary, your success will depend entirely upon your personal commitment to do whatever it takes to create your success. This book will inspire you to do the most with what you've got and be the best of who you are. That's a good read for any year.
Best Quote: "For years, several national surveys have asked: Which is more important to success -- talent or effort? Americans are about twice as likely to single out effort. The same is true when you ask Americans about athletic ability. And when asked, 'If you're hiring a new employee, which of the following qualities would you think is most important?' Americans endorse 'being hard-working' nearly five times as often as they endorse 'intelligence.' [However,] what we say we care about may not correspond with what -- deep down -- we actually believe to be more valuable. It's a little like saying we don't care at all about physical attractiveness in a romantic partner and then, when it comes to actually choosing whom to date, picking the cute guy over the nice one. The 'naturalness bias' is a hidden prejudice against those who've achieved what they have because they work for it, and a hidden preference for those whom we think arrived at their place in life because they're naturally talented. We may not admit to others this bias for naturals; we may not even admit it to ourselves. But the bias is evident in the choices we make."