What Books Changed Your Life in 2006?

Sitting here on the bed enjoying the un-naturally warm weather (is anybody else completely creeped out about the weather this year?). I wanted to share with you the most influential books over the past year. It is notable that most of the books I read this year were overviews of human history and the future. I think in times of anxiety we (I?) naturally turn to ‘the experts’ to see exactly what might be coming down the pike. I always have an eye on how these trends could possibly affect my business and the businesses of my clients. As Mark Twain mentioned, history doesn’t repeat – but sometimes it rhymes. Trends, patterns and events echo back to earlier times. This is also cultivated with my current obsession with the History Channel. Mark your Monday and Tuesday nights and save them for Engineering an Empire – a fantastic series with Peter Weller.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. As soon as I finished this book I knew that I want to read the entire thing again before the end of the year. I’m going to track down the PBS special once I’m done for even more nerdy enjoyment (it’s available on Netflix). The book chronicles the rise of human civilization and exactly why different groups developed modern habits like writing, agriculture or steelsmithing and why other groups remained hunter-gatherers well into the 20th century (and it has nothing to do with ethnic determinism). I’ve already got his second book (Collapse) on the shelf ready to go. If this doesn’t sound like your type of book, I still highly recommend that you peruse it at the bookstore or library – it might just suck you in.

 American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury by Kevin Phillips. Phillips was most noted for predicting the rise of a Republican conservative majority in the 1960s and here he details the three most important forces facing American politics and society: petroleum politics, fundamentalist religion and national/household debt. Before you get all Andy you crazy socialist! on me, know that Phillips is still a highly respected conservative writer – he didn’t ‘switch sides’: he’s outraged that the benefits he’d foreseen may be headed towards collapse. Regardless of your political affiliation (non-US folks might enjoy this as well for a blueprint to the current madness) the book neatly outlines the evolution of forces that might just take the economy down. Read part 3 first – it’ll scare ya.

A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. When I first heard Pink’s presentation on this book I thought it was way too glib. But as I read the book (twice now) I started to really understand the message that he was saying. Essentially: in an age of automation, outsourcing and the commodification of nearly everything, how do you stay competitive. His solution is creativity. This neatly dovetails into Seth Godin’s thesis on ‘story’ that weaves through All Marketers Are Liars. When you are considering a new business ask yourself: Can it be outsourced cheaper? Can a competitor do it faster? Is it in demand in an age of abundance? The second half of the book go fluffy for me but the first half is spot on. Andy’s mindmap and review

Revolutionary Wealth by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. Ah, the Tofflers. Way back when they predicted the concept of ‘futureshock’ where individuals and societies experience technological whiplash as they try to remember dozens of passwords, juggle multiple timezones and try to remember to BCC instead of CC on group emails. In Revolutionary Wealth, they take us through a detailed map of the current economic state of society (again, they start from hunter gatherers, like Diamond) and then move us all the way through the Industrial Revolution, through the current Information Age and Service Economy and into the realm of the knowledge economy. The book outlines the trend of ‘prosumers’ which you might also know as blogging, net roots and citizen journalism – that companies get out of the way of their customers and let them create, distribute and share media. Always optimistic and finally giving me a cogent example of exactly what ‘knowledge work’ is. A bit overlong but worth it. – Andy’s review and mindmap

Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea (Modern Library Chronicles) by Mark Kurlansky (foreword by the Dalai Lama). Is non-violence outmoded in a world of terrorism? Was it outmoded in a Cold War? Was it outmoded in a war against fascism? Was it outmoded in a war against colonialism? Kurlansky explains the troublesome history of the concept of non-violence. Especially troubling is the details on how each major world religion was gradually perverted from being peaceful and non-violent into justifying bloodshed for economic or social control. An especially sobering, potent and cogent primer – read it in short sips – it is from concentrate.

Blogwild! A Guide for Small Busness Blogging by You Know Who. This book changed my life in the past 2 years and I get daily emails from people that have discovered the book and, more importantly, discovered how blogging can change their business and their lives. I remain humbled and grateful to be a small part of the empowering of anybody anywhere to say anything. If you don’t have the book already, I hope you’ll buy a copy or give copies to your clients as holiday gifts or donate a copy to your local library.

And sorry, Thomas Friedman gives me hives.

Other books to check out: The McDonaldization of Society by George Ritzer. Before Fast Food Nation, before Supersize Me, before Mad Cow disease, sociologist George Ritzer dragged Ronald McDonald and Ray Kroc through the annals of Max Weberian sociological theory. I first read this book in college and it remains a guidebook to why nobody cares about business anymore or doing a good job or customer service or quality products. You shall be commidified and you’ll like it!

Small is the New Big by Seth Godin. Godin repurposes tons of blog posts, ebooks and columns into a book that must be browsed. Do NOT read it beginning to end. Put it in the – ahem – throne room of your abode to enjoy like you do Ye Olde Farmer’s Almanac. Fun book. I love love love No BS University.

The Great Formula by Mark Joyner. Skip the second half – it is mostly success stories written by others (kinda like that really long section at the front of Attractor Factor – doesn’t anybody write all of their books anymore?). The first half is great. Warning: it is a short book. Very skimmable but cogent and powerful.

The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore. Relating to the above books: How do you make your product a service or anexperience? How do you make it memorable or remarkable? Read the first few chapters – skim the rest. Theatre junkies will knod their heads in I-told-ya-so’s. The rest is a bit outdated (from 1999).

Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. Comprehensive and extensive guide on building your business. Cogent, relevant and life changing. You need it.

Money, Meaning and Beyond by Andrea J. Lee and Tina Forsyth. Everybody’s favorite businesses genii are back with a book that has good ideas tumbling out of the pages. Loved it. Love them.

Unstuck by Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro. I love the design of this book. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for solving business problems.

Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith and Spencer Johnson. Chris gave me this book to celebrate my being laid off and going out on my own 2 years ago. He’d heard my rantings at the Coachville Orlando conference near Disney (I was very pent up about the recently released Taguba report). Nice book to reflect on in bits and pieces.

I’m including some political books on my personal blog. I don’t think anybody, regardless of their political leanings or their nationality feel like they are getting a truly accurate coverage of the global picture from the corporate-owned media in any country. Most of my political reading usually includes media advocacy as well. If political talk gives you hives feel free to skip – but here’s the rest of my reading list from 2006.

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About Andy Wibbels

Andy is an award-winning blogger and author of the book Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Wired, Business Week, Forbes, and other national and international media. He was worked at several San Francisco startups including Get Satisfaction, SAY Media, InMobi, Keas, and Mindjet. Currently, Andy is Director of Marketing at Lucidworks. Tw · Fb · G+ · Li

22 thoughts on “What Books Changed Your Life in 2006?

  1. Erin Blaskie

    One book that changed my life in 2006 was Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think.” Although it wasn’t necessarily life-changing when it came to my personal life, it completely changed how I view my business life – particularly my website. He explores the anatomy of a website as well as what the average website visitor is looking for (and what they’re not) and how you can better help direct your web viewers to the areas of your site you want them to see.
    Lately I changed my website from a standard HTML based site to a WordPress blog site. I’m following a lot of the rules from this book and my page hits have increased (more than likely due to the site being a blog now) as well as my “visitors-to-clients” ratio has increased.

    Reply
  2. Michael Werner

    GREAT post, Andy, and you’ve given me a couple of new books to check and reminded me of a couple I’ve missed putting on my “must read” list.
    For me, this was a big year that I got back into historical fiction. I especially like good yarns about 20th-century Europe and am a real sucker for anything to do with things that happen to real people during World War II (not the battle stuff, just real, gritty in-your-face life as a citizen during that grizzly era).
    So, it was an incredible thrill for me to have discovered William Boyd. While all of his novels aren’t about Europe (one of my favorites is actually A Good Man in Africa, about a mid-level diplomat in an out-of-the-way African country in the early post-colonial period), my favorite Boyd is — ANY HUMAN HEART.
    If you love great fiction, good story lines, and sweeping 20th century stuff, this is a great place to start. I’ve put Any Human Heart into my Top 5er list.
    Keep up the great work, Andy.
    Over and out,
    Michael Werner

    Reply
  3. Jim Kukral

    Yep, Krug’s don’t make me think changed the way I thought as a web designer/developer and I believe is responsible for a lot of my success over the past 6 years. I’ve reread it every year since then and it keeps getting better.
    My other book I recommend is ‘Marketing Outrageously’ by Joel Spoelstra. This is “krug-type” level content that motivated me and changed my thoughts for the better. If you market online, you MUST read this book.

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  4. The Imp Lady

    The most significant book in my life in 2006 was “The Passion Test” by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood. And I read “tons” of books!
    I get so many creative ideas and seem to head off in many directions. This book helped me get clear on what I’m REALLY passionate about (Human Potential and Learning) and get on what I call my “passion track” (after feeling derailed.) 😉

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  5. Bruce Warren

    “Rooted in the Infinite – The Yoga of Alignment” by Rebbie Straubing
    Rebbie gives us a timeless and unique guide to finding one’s connection to the infinite. Even for those who have been meditating for years, as I have, Rebbie’s concise description and practical excercise steps leads one into a new realm. This is truly a must-read for any seeker on the path to knowing one’s Self better. Rebbie, a former chiropractor, has spent many years compiling this information, and she also has freely given of her time and efforts recently by offering special healings to those interested. She definitely “walks her talk,” as they say.
    I would certainly nominate Rebbie Straubing for “Woman of the Year.”

    Reply
  6. Kari

    Books that changed my Life in 2006???Without a doubt … “Rooted in the Infinite” by Rebbie Straubing. The book -her websites – her approach(es) – so simple- so true.

    Reply
  7. Monique Evans

    I read the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I know it’s been around awhile, but it really helped me to understand the importance of systems in a business and the role I need to play as a business owner to be successful, and also the role I should not do myself.

    Reply
  8. Penelope Peiser

    One book that changed my life in 2006 was Rooted In The Infinite by Rebbie Straubing. As a result of following the sequential guidance of its content, I have for the first time been able to realize deep meditation–being rooted in the infinite.

    Reply
  9. Sherry Lambert

    the 2 books I read this year & find myself constantly thinking about are “Where Spirits Ride the Wind” by Felicitas Goodman & “Rooted in the Infinite” by Rebbie Straubing

    Reply
  10. Jeremy Weiss

    I guess the book that caused the most change in my life this year was The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer.
    The ‘funny’ part was that I just happened across it in an airport giftshop when I was in Chicago back in October while looking for something to read on the plane.

    Reply
  11. Michelle Huse

    Barbara Sher’s book:
    Refuse to Choose! A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love
    really helped me. I’m a natural “idea” generator — I’ll have a breakthrough or a million dollar invention pop into my head every 5 minutes. It’s challenging to choose something -anything!- and get it done.
    The book did two things for me. First, it really helped me appreciate (instead of curse!) this part of myself. Second, the book provided several helpful, real-world solutions that have worked well for me. I’ve been much more focused and productive – and therefore happy! – since.

    Reply
  12. Dr. Bill Dyment

    Two books changed my life in 2006.
    First, Jeff Gitomer’s: Little Black Book of Connections which gave me a roadmap for personal branding and building an online presence.
    Second, Michael Michalko’s: Thinkertoys. This great resource lists scores of brainstorming tools to help you solve any business or personal challenge. Why didn’t I know of this book sooner? It’s the last word on creative problem-solving!
    Best wishes to all in 2007,
    Bill Dyment, host of “15 Minute Advantage.”

    Reply
  13. Robert Monteux

    Goal-Free Living by Stephen Shapiro was a major paradigm shifter for me this year. The book talks about shifting your perspective from a goal driven, future oriented life to a living with a compass, a sense of direction, and enjoying where you are right now.

    Reply

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