Our Favorite Books of 2015

Best Books of 2015

It’s that time of year again! Here’s our latest roundup of favorite books from 2015 that made us think, made us laugh and some that even made us diet.

This year we have a good mix of business, personal development, diet and fiction books that you might want to check out if you’re looking for a next good read.

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(With your hosts Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Drew Sanocki of NerdMarketing.com)

Andrew: Hey guys it’s Andrew here and welcome to the eCommerceFuel podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in today. And today at the tail end of 2015, we have to do some kind of end-of-year round up. If you have a blog or a podcast or show of any type, and coming on today, talk about our favorite books from 2015. And joining me to go ahead and talk about some of these, the man behind nerdmarketing.com, Mr. Drew Sanocki. Drew how are you doing man?

Drew: Good. How are you?

Andrew: Good, good. I just figured I’ll take a little bit of break from binge watching House of Cards to talk about the four, maybe five books I could scrap together I read this year.

Drew: I know that challenge too.

Andrew: I kind of hate to admit that I don’t know if I’ve read five books this year.

Drew: I got them.

Andrew: You got them? So should we tell us our favorite five books or the four-and-a-half plus the imaginary book that we had to come up with for the episode?

Drew: It was also depressing for me as you’ll see, depressing for me that they were all sort of productivity and business books. I just don’t read fiction anymore.

Andrew: That’s interesting. This year I actually…beginning this year I made a commitment. I was like, I want to start reading fewer business books because I feel like on the podcast I’m always plugged in. I read a lot of business books, and so actually was something I was able to get out of a little bit this year for the first time in a while.

Drew: I mean, that’s great. Maybe that’s my resolution for 2016.

Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

Andrew: Perfect. Well let’s get into it. Our favorite or perhaps only, depending on how you look at it, top 10 books from 2015.

So Drew, starting out, I think my favorite book of the year was a book called Essentialism by, I got a name, Greg McKeown. And the premise of the book on the surface is not something groundbreaking necessarily. His whole message is that we get so caught up in all the different things of life and doing lots of things and trying to please everybody. The essential things in our business, with our families, with our health, it all goes by the wayside. And so a lot of times with business books I found, just at a high level, a lot of times the concepts aren’t necessarily groundbreaking or Earth-shattering. But a really good business book will get you motivated and give you a framework and the mindset to really start to take things seriously and that’s what Essentialism does. So he talks about not only how to cut things out, how to identify what’s important, how to make margin in your life, but how to structure and set up your life in a way and your workflow in a way where your default position is a position to get the things done that really matter. And for me it’s had some big influences on the way I structure my day, the way I…what I’m pursuing in life and business. It was just an incredible book.

Drew: Yeah that seems like it’s a theme for our book picks. This idea…because I think two of my books have to do with that too. Prioritization, figuring out what the most…first of all, you got to prioritize and then figure out what the most important things are and really focusing on those and you’re going to get a lot more results than trying to multitask. I love that stuff and the two books I read this year in the same…basically I think say the same thing, really impacted how I led my life this year. And so I’ll have to check out Essentialism.

Andrew: Yeah it’s good, and Greg McKeown, he’s the author. He’ll actually be coming on the podcast in two to three weeks time, so stay tuned for that. But Drew, you read one really similar…

Drew: You going to ask him about eCommerce?

Andrew: I will. I’m going to have him come on and just throw super technical eCommerce questions out. “What do you expect? It’s the eCommerceFuel podcast, man.” Hopefully he’ll be able to get in his wheelhouse a little bit more.

Drew: So the eCommerceFuel podcast is moving beyond eCommerce?

Andrew: It is broadening out a little bit. I think there’s some implications for people listening. Made a big impact on me and I figured, “Heck man. Let’s dedicate an episode to it.” And number one book on the list this year. So I figured, “Let’s dive in.”

The One Thing by Gary Keller

Drew: It is my number one book also. My number one book is called The One Thing and it’s by a guy named Gary Keller and it argues pretty convincingly that humans are terrible at multitasking. And in order to be more productive you’ve got to identify your priorities and it goes one step further and says even within your set of priorities, there’s usually only one thing that you need to focus on at any one point. And if you focus on that one thing, everything else in your life will become easier or unnecessary. He really drives home that idea that every morning and really just having that awareness throughout your day, you should pause and ask that question. Like, “Am I working on that one thing right now?” And start every day with that one thing. So I thought long and hard about my one thing and it’s really helped me organize my day.

Andrew: That’s cool. I actually read that one too. Well, I listened to Essentialism and The One Thing, kind of both back to back on a trip. And I liked Essentialism. They were both really good. I liked Essentialism a little bit more. Maybe it was just because it was read by Greg McKeown who has a British accent and so I was subconsciously just…it sounded brilliant. But The One Thing was a good one too.

Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller

Andrew:Drew, you talked about getting away from business books a little bit and one I read this year was a book called Through Painted Deserts by a guy named Donald Miller. He was the author of Blue Like Jazz which I’m sure a lot of people recognize the name often. In typical hippie fashion, I’m a VW van owner. It’s about a roadtrip from Texas across the country, up into Oregon. And it’s an incredible read. It’s a classic roadtrip book which I think are really fun. But his ability to be able to take seemingly really mundane events like stopping in for lunch at a diner or something like that and turning them into really funny, interesting, fantastic stories is what I thought was really impressive about that book. So if you’re looking for a good roadtrip book and you need a break between Essentialism and The One Thing, I’d throw Through Painted Deserts in there by Donald Miller.

Drew: I’ll check that one out. Not going on any roadtrips but…I don’t have time to read anyway. And if I didn’t have kids or a wife and I was driving somewhere, I would read this book.

80/20 by Perry Marshall

Andrew: When you’re reincarnated again as a single 18 year old guy with no responsibilities, yeah I’d pick that one up on your roadtrip. Number four Drew, you had on the list 8020 by Perry Marshall.

Drew: Yeah. Perry Marshall is an old school online marketer. I think I learned how to do Adwords from one of his ebooks 20 years ago, 15 years ago. But he has this great book called 80/20 and it takes a lot of what we’re talking about focusing on the most important thing and put some science behind it and applies it to your business. So 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of the customers and even within that 20% there’s an 80/20. And within that 20% there’s an 80/20. So he argues pretty convincingly that your life will be a lot easier, growing your business will be a lot easier if you have that 80/20 mindset and can do a lot more segmenting out the 20% and focusing on that 20%.

Andrew: Man, that sounds a lot like a conference talk I just heard recently. Did you just lift your whole conference speech right from Marhsall’s book?

Drew: He gives it such great context and great examples in online marketing that are recommended for anyone who runs an online business.

Andrew: Very cool. And it’s not just…I mean he’s kind of the king of PPC. It’s just not PPC related. It’s much broader in scope, right?

Drew: Yeah. I mean, he argues for example, that everybody obsesses about re-platforming and redesigning their website but in reality, only a handful of pages on your site impact your revenue. So why not just focus on those four or five pages as opposed to reinventing the whole thing?

The Martian by Andy Weir

Andrew: Yeah. Definitely guilty as charged here. I’ll definitely make sure to read it. Sounds great. Number four on the list, and again I got a couple of these in keeping with the non-business theme for 2015, was The Martian by Andy Weir. And I’m guessing most people have probably heard of The Martian, either the book that was written or the movie that’s come out. But originally, I believe it was self-published and just blew up online. It was a novel and the premise is, it’s set in the not too distant future when NASA goes to Mars and through the course of a number of events, when the crew returns home, one person is left for dead on Mars. But they’re actually alive and they have to figure out how do they survive and get back to Earth when the next manned mission isn’t going to be for another four years or something like that. So a really fascinating read. It’s incredibly funny for science fiction which…the only other funny sci-fi I’ve ever read is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. Just an incredible book. Completely not business related but a fantastic read.

Drew: Did you see the movie?

Andrew: I did. I did see the movie as well a couple of weeks ago. It was great.

Drew: Good?

Andrew: Yeah. Not as good as the book. They never are but a solid 78 out of 100.

Drew: It looks…I mean the concept is really captivating, I think. I heard what the movie’s about, and the book, and I think it’s got to be great. So I’d love to read that book.

Andrew: It’s a type of cast movie, space adventure. It’s done so much. I think they did a really, really good job for it. For example, I don’t know if you saw Gravity the movie, but I thought that was a terrible movie. This was done so much anti-gravity. Probably offending half of our audience right now.

Drew: But I read that The Martian was also sort of scientifically accurate, that a lot of these things was…Is Andy Weir a scientist or an engineer?

Andrew: Good question. I would guess he is. And you’re absolutely right. All the ways that he gets off of the planet or does not get off, all the ways he solves a problem, yeah it’s all scientifically accurate in terms of his logic and rationale.

Drew: That’s kind of cool.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

Andrew: Which is really cool. So next book on the list. Drew this is yours. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Drew: I was struggling with writing earlier this year. I wrote a lot for my blog and I’m sort of happy with how the blog posts turn out, but they’re so long and it takes me…well they’re long in terms of word count but it also takes me a long time to write them, that I was looking for help on how to be a better writer or just how to be a more productive writer. And someone recommended this book to me and I loved it. And it’s all about…I think she argues that you’ve got to be number one, a great observer of life, of people, like always have that awareness. You could be in the middle of a very mundane scene but if you can sort of pick up on little details and convey them in your writing, your writing will be better. And then the second thing that has really helped productivity would be scheduling time every day write. If you do that, eventually your writing will get better and better. And so really blocking out the sacred time where you go to your writing place and just produce. None of which I’ve done, but no I know what to do.

Andrew: There is the book, The War of Art. Have you heard of that book?

Drew: Yeah, yeah. Very similar, right?

Andrew: Yeah and I read through that. That was the sixth book I read, the only one that didn’t make the list this year. But read through that and it was an okay book. I wasn’t as big of a fan as I thought I was going to be. But the one part I loved about that book was the part where he kind of outlines a number of things that set pros apart from amateurs. Most notably, he mentioned, professionals, they show up everyday, no matter what, to work on the work and what it is they’re going to work on. And 9 A.M. to 12 P.M . or 9 A.M. to 4. Whatever it is, every day, no matter if it’s snowing, they have no inspiration, whatever the circumstances, they show up. And that really stood out to me. It kind of sounds like a lot what she’s saying as well.

Drew: Yeah. I blocked off that time on my calendar every morning to work on my writing. And it’s not on the blog yet. I’m joking that I haven’t done it. But it’s worked. Like, I’ve been working on outlines and I’ve been writing a post and doing some podcasting, all in the morning. And I enjoy it. I’m getting more productive doing it.

The Virgin Way by Richard Branson

Andrew: Very cool. My next book. I’ll throw a business one in here as I probably should. It’s The Virgin Way by Richard Branson. And of course I’m sure most people are familiar with Sir Branson. This one, it’s a fun read. It’s a fun, short read but there’s a lot of practical items in there. Some things I took away from it. Really take notes when people are talking. He’s a huge advocate for taking copious amounts of notes. He really encourages you, to be frank, to shut up and not talk as much, to listen way more than you do. I think that’s probably against most of our instincts. One thing I realized was, he’s huge prankster. I had no idea about this. But back in the 70s or 80s, I think it was in the 80s, he bought an entire hot air balloon, had it converted so it looked like a UFO and he hired someone who was very, I’m not sure what the PC term is, but someone who was very small and had them paint themselves green. And then he dressed up as a martian as well. And he got in his balloon, flew it up over London, caused mayhem and traffic jams and he floated it down and set it in the middle of somewhere in England. And when he landed, there was like an entire battalion of the army that was around him. And he came out and they’ve lowered the plank and the little green man came out. Crazy elaborate pranks you would never imagine. So it’s funny. It’s practical. It’s got a lot of his stories in there and talks about the importance of hiring people smarter than you and really charging them with a mission. So a fun, great business read that doesn’t take too much time.

Drew: That’s awesome. Branson is such a cool guy and we don’t hear about him as much as we hear about other guys like Steve Jobs or Musk or any of the ones based here in the US, but he’s so good at PR too and I would suspect that a lot of these pranks are closely related to PR for whatever he’s working on. But yeah, I should check that book out.

Andrew: You talk about PR. He did one in the States and I may be remembering this incorrectly a little bi,t but had involved…maybe it was for the launch of his cola that I think ended up falling flat, no pun intended. But he drove a tank I think, into Times Square or somewhere in New York and it was a huge…Something, some crazy PR stunt with a tank. He’s the king of getting lots of PR with not having to spend a crazy amount on Superbowl ads, just blowing through your ad budget in 30 seconds. It’s cool. Drew your next one, The Ten-Day Detox Diet. What was that about?

The Ten Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman

Drew: Diet, but I really liked it. I’ve been paleo on and off for 15 years, I think. I feel great, healthy. So this is in many ways a paleo diet book. But what I liked about it is that he takes this holistic approach to nutrition. So there’s a lot in there about the sort of food complex we have in the US and how certain companies produce genetically modified food. It’s like the book version of movie Food Inc. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. But it really educates you about where your food is coming from. And then when he recommends a diet, he puts that within the context of a whole bunch of other things that’ll help support you in taking action on that diet. So it’s not just like, “Here’s the meal plan.” It’s, “Here’s the meal plan. And also you’ve got to incorporate these anti-stress activities, these meditation activities every day and these physical activities. I think you got to take that holistic approach because if you just go after the diet part, you’re more likely to fail. I really liked that book and I liked his intro, which is several chapters long on just where your food comes from and why it’s important.

Andrew: Anything in particular you stopped eating after reading the book?

Drew: Yeah. I wasn’t eating a whole lot in terms of processed foods, but I think I just reduced my processed food and sugar intake even more.

Andrew: Sugar’s a tough one. I’m a candy sort of guy.

Drew: Sugar guy? Yeah. Sugar’s the tough one.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

Andrew: My book number nine is Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Again, you’ll probably guess, another non-business book by Christopher McDougall. But I’m sure a lot of you have actually heard about this book and I heard about it from a ton of people. Not being a runner myself, I was like, “Are you kidding? Am I really going to commit to trying to read a book about running? That sounds incredibly boring.” But fascinating. Fascinating book. And if anything, it speaks to his ability, the author’s ability to tell a story. And just real quick nutshell, it’s about this tribe of people, the Tarahumara, that live in Mexico in kind of these canyons in Mexico, and they run just insane distances in bare feet or in almost very minimal footware. And we’re talking…slightly over 26 miles is a marathon, but they’re running a hundred plus, 200 miles I believe in some real extreme cases, without stopping. So how do they do this? How are they able to do it with none of the technology we have today?

Drew: Why do they do this?

Andrew: Why do they do it?

Drew: Is it a race or are they just…?

Andrew: They do yeah. They have…I think it’s a race. They do it for…It’s kind of part of the culture and then part of it is they have races where they race against each other and do it too. But it’s just fascinating. So it talks about him going down there, bringing people to the US to compete. It talks about.. He makes the case that he thinks humans are evolutionary optimized to run really well and he goes into details behind that. And so it’s just a really, really interesting read.

Drew: Yeah. There’s this whole group within the paleo movement, guys and women who are barefoot runners and wear footware that conforms to your feet. And they run around in Central Park. I see them with their barefoot shoes. They’re running around. I think a lot of it is based on this book.

Andrew: Yeah it is. And I live in Bozeman which is a fairly outdoorsy hippie town and for a while I heard about the barefoot running movement. And I was like, “Are you serious? This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. Only in Bosmon.” But after reading this book, I came away. I was like, “You know, I actually see why that maybe makes sense.”

Drew: You run differently, right? Like you carry yourself differently. You’re less likely to stress your joints.

Andrew: You’re less likely to get injured. All this kind of stuff, and it has some natural scientific merit to it. But beyond anything, don’t read it because of that stuff per se. But at its root it’s an incredible story. He does a really good job, turning it into a narrative that’s really compelling. So Drew, our last book on the list. This one is yours. It’s a book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister

Drew: Yeah this book got a lot of traction this year and it’s all about willpower. It starts off by critiquing that Victorian ideal of willpower where all you got to do is dig deeper and try harder and sort of dispels that myth and shows you how recent studies have shown that willpower is actually more like a muscle where number one, you can use your willpower and deplete it. So if you overuse it you get tired and you lose all willpower. In other words, I have a trying day in the office, lot of decision making has to happen. I’m much more likely to go home and fall off my diet. And then on the flip side of that, if it is a muscle then you can make it stronger and people who do work on their willpower and build their habits have a much better success rate when they try to do things like stick to a diet. So I loved it.

Andrew: Was there something particular in your life… I’m kind of putting you on the spot here but after reading this book where you feel like you were able to kind of use the principles to either be able to not do something as much or do something more frequently?

Drew: It really comes down to the power of habit. If you want to get something done, you got to think about your environment and think about your habits and really, really put the right environment in place to get it done. So you and I have both young kids at home. It just takes a lot of energy, a lot of sleepless nights dealing with them. For the most part our willpower’s going to be depleted. And if we want to do something, like if after dinner every night I have that bowl of ice cream, it’s asking too much to ask me to resist that. Just of and by myself if it’s in the freezer. Instead, what I should do is think about my environment. Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Don’t buy it in the first place. Something like do something else every night after dinner. But those kind of environmental constructs carry a lot of weight when you’re trying to accomplish something.

Andrew: I think maybe for next year, for 2016, maybe we can make a stretch goal and aspire to read seven books for the year so we don’t have…we have two that we don’t include in the list? What do you think?

Drew: You could do like, our top blog posts of the year episode, the only thing we read. Random blog posts.

Andrew: That might stretch to eight or nine.

Drew: Or top sports articles of the year. Things on ESPN we read.

Andrew: We’re straying more and more from eCommerce. In six months it’s going to be a show about NASCAR races.

Drew: The top tweets of the year. It’s five tweets.

Andrew: Maybe we’ll get a little bit broader next year from the books. But Drew, fun as always, man. Thanks for coming on to share. And yeah, excited for 2016. Looking forward to continuing on in the new year.

Drew: Going for seven next year.

Andrew: Seven. That’s the goal. Stretch goal. All right, see you Drew.

Drew: Take care.

Andrew: That’s going to do it for this week. If you enjoyed the episode, make sure to check out the eCommerceFuel private forum, a vetted community exclusively for six and seven figure store owners. With over 600 experienced members and thousands of monthly comments, it’s the best place online to connect with and learn from other successful store owners to help you grow your business. To learn more and apply, visit eCommerceFuel.com/forum. Thanks so much for listening and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

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Photo: Flickr/State Library of Victoria

Post tagged in: Lifestyle & Growth, News, Podcast

2 Comments

  1. I’m so glad “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” got a mention here – I read this long ago, and actually just reread it recently, and it completely changed the way approach things in life and how I manage my willpower (now that I know it’s a “resource” and not a “muscle”). I often find myself trying to devise ways to conserve my willpower, and it’s made doing things (such as dieting) and just being more productive in general a lot easier than if I had just tried the old fashioned way of gritting my teeth and “willing” through everything.

    1. Thanks Katie! Yeah, definitely a unique way to look at it. I was given the book a while back by a friend and haven’t had the chance to read it yet. Looking forward to finally diving in after Drew’s recommendation.