• Video Essays by Adam Westbrook

After the success of last year's reading list, I have once again asked my supporters on Patreon and readers of my newsletter to recommend the best book they read in 2016. And once again, they didn't disappoint! I received 58 recommendations and I have added half a dozen of my own.

Some people have left twitter handles or web addresses with their recommendation. Feel free to use this to start a conversation with someone about a book!

Thank you to everyone who submitted a book. Bringing this little community together to share ideas and wisdom is one of the things I love most about this whole experience. Many of your books are going straight on my own reading list!


I've broken the list down into rough genres, completely dictated by your suggestions and we've got a wide selection from history to self-help. Apologies if any books have been misappropriated. To make it even easier to find recommendations, here's a table of contents. Also, sorry there are no links to the books on Amazon - it would have taken me too long to find and add them!


Our first book this year is recommended by not one, not two, not three, but four people! It's going to the top of my list!

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Recommended by Sheryl Garratt, Nirmal Thacker , Gaurav Chande and Paritosh.

A short, densely packed book that follows our species from its early origins to present day, with some speculating about our future thrown in. It's full of original, mind-blowing ideas that just stay with you and keep you thinking long after you've finished reading.-Sheryl

Anthropology is a tough science. It requires a combination of using evidence (which there isn't a lot of) and unbiased hypothesis. Meanwhile, there is great value in delving into a discourse of anthropology. Understanding why we began to do something or what caused us to initiate a certain paradigm, can give us context, mechanics to do similarly, as well as a glimpse into the future. Yuval does a broad sweep of humankind using a central theory that I enjoyed a lot. It sounds convincing and definitely controversial. This is a world-view changing book. I now look around me, tap into "Sapiens mode" and I begin looking at apes around me, doing bizarre things, but I understand why.-Nirmal

Best aggregation of entire history of Homo Sapiens, why things unfolded the way they did, including what kind of problems our species is likely to tackle in future. Riveting read!-Gaurav

Eye-opening book on how humans became the dominant animal species. Super take on so many things people believe in!-Paritosh

The War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

Recommended by Christopher Schaefer

Bacevich is a former colonel and historian whose son died in Iraq. He tells the story of the last several decades of US military interventions in the Greater Middle East. It's frustrating and enraging at times, but it's a story that needs to be told.

The Emporer by Ryszard kapuściński

Recommended by Mo Scarpelli

THE EMPORER is a careful and haunting account of how powerful and insular dynasties can beget terror, paranoia, chauvinism and eventually chaos. Its interviews are so potent they're shocking, relevatory and even humorous (sardonically) at times. This kind of journalism / study of a regime is rare in today's journalism. It's essential for understanding history and systems that repeat throughout history. While it's an old book, certainly not released this year, it's my favorite read of 2016.

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois

Recommended by Chantelle

This book is about the first and only successful slave revolution in the Americas, began in 1791 when thousands of brutally exploited slaves rose up against their masters on one of if not, the most profitable colony in the Atlantic world, Saint Domingue. I think you should read this because it is a great starting point to learn about the Haitian Revolution and it's influence on the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. The book is incredibly insightful, well researched and written, with detailed accounts of the conditions leading to the rebellion and eventual revolution.

Postcapitalism by Paul Mason

Recommended by Dan Wilson Craw

It makes sense of the current challenges facing capitalism in the context of its history as a series of waves, and makes some proposals for what comes next.


Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenecker

Recommended by Adam Westbrook

Confession: I am a total aviation nerd. I come from a family of flyers and still get excited when I arrive at airports. This book is a poetically written memoir on the day-to-day life of an airline pilot and if you're not interested in the technicalities of piloting an Airbus, it's still worth it for the wonderful descriptions of weather, currents and the world seen from the sky.

M Train by Patti Smith

Recommended by Danielle

It may as well have been copied directly from Patti Smith's diary. If you have a strange soft spot for the mundane like I do, or you want to know what life is like for an old single cat lady (count me in), you may enjoy this one.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended by Anon

Eye opening, articulates a world view and experience that can be difficult to understand if you are not connected to the african american community.

Letter's from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer

Recommended by Brian

A series of letters from a wealthy businessman to his son Pierrepont, spread over the son's twenties as he begins college through to his marriage, a father issues timeless insights to his capricious son, applicable to business and life, in a highly-readable and intellectually captivating way.

Barbarian Days – A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Recommended by Alex

The New Yorker magazine writer William Finnegan writes about his time surfing in untouched parts of South East Asia, the Pacific & the USA during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Its like a less pretentious, surfing oriented version of On The Road and isn't unnecessarily nostalgic.

When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer by James Currie

Recommended by Simon

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is dreaming of going on safari in Africa, or has an interest in wildlife conservation, or is just curious about the life of a game ranger and naturalist. The author has a gift for great storytelling, and will keep you mesmerized with tales of his exploits and insights into life in South Africa.


The Technological Singularity by Murray Shanahan

Recommended by Anon

How AI is moving quickly towards no longer being science fiction.

Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger

Recommended by Thiago Luz

It teachs you the power of our subconsciousness.

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space by Janna Levin

Recommended by Todd Buttenham

That it is possible to bend time.

Measurement by Paul Lockhart

Recommended by Kevin Marcelo

It introduces mathematics in a completely different way, discovering patterns in a jungle of shapes. It's for everyone, especially those who hated math in school.

DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Straussman

Recommended by Tosh

The scientific method is perhaps the single most useful way to understand nature and it's secrets. It has been squeamish to examine our relationship with psychedelics. This book attempts to play with "the full deck".

Self Help

Wow, so many suggestions in this category, you are all my kind of people. I think there's something for everyone in this list.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Recommended by Ali

I feel like its the most important piece of teaching I ever read, generally about life.

Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith

Recommended by Anon

ADS' Letters is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guide to finding your power in a creative life. I particularly enjoyed the audiobook, which is read by the author.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Recommended by Adam Westbrook

I picked up this book when I felt I was at a creative crossroads this summer. The essays are full of wisdom but Cameron's suggestion that you write daily 'morning pages' was truly transformative. Over a six week period I went deep into the woods through my writing and emerged refreshed and with greater clarity for the future. If you're feeling creatively stuck, I recommend this book, but strap in for an intense experience.

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Recommended by Jeremy Sherlick and Zheen

This book dispels the myth that you need passion to do great work, in favor skill building skills that motivate and energize you to do work that is fulfilling, rewarding, and meaningful.-Jeremy

Some of us aren't passionate about one particular thing so that we could pursue it and enjoy a satisfying career. This book explains why these people shouldn't try to search for their passion. It debunks "the passion hypothesis" and teaches you how to get a satisfying work life and how to make the best out of it.-Zheen

You Are The Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter by Dr. Joe Dispenza

Recommended by Sarah Tasko

Learning about how your thoughts affect your physical body and how you can use that to change your life and heal yourself has been mind boggling! This book gives fascinating examples of the placebo effect and scientific explanations about our brains, plus the tools to make changes ourselves via our own thoughts and the brain body connection. I was a skeptic when I first heard of this but it's definitely worth reading. It has a really positive feel to it; you feel you can truly make the changes you want to your life when reading it.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Recommended by Jess

Reveals a lot of the common misconceptions about the relationship between ego and success, and helps to guide the reader towards a more fruitful existence of achieving one's goals by conquering the ego.

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Recommended by Jonathan Barker

The authors approach self-help from the perspective of Industrial Designers. After I did some of the exercises to "Prototype" a few new life directions I came away with a great idea for a career focus. (I'm doing work around a central theme and I've already had a gallery showing.) The book is much more practical than some other self-help I've read. Highly recommended.

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Recommended by Sam Caudill

Dan Harris is an ABC news anchor and professional skeptic. In this book, he shares his own story about meditation and how he changed his perspective on this "hocus pocus" theology and turned it into a daily routine that anyone can use. I'm also a religious skeptic and found his story pretty fascinating because he shared a lot of the same reservations I have when it comes to meditation. His book cuts through the theology hogwash and gets to the meat of why meditation (slowing down the "monkey mind") is important for everyone.

Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Recommended by Q. Rodriguez

Memory seems to us to be a fickle and unpredictable part of life: we often can't predict what will remain in our memories, and what will be consigned to oblivion. However, there are certain ways to remember even the most trivial set of information, from the the names of all the presidents of any country, to an entire novel, to the first twenty-thousand digits of Pi. This book will make you discover the limits of your own memory and forgetfulness; it will show you that you are much smarter than you think; and it will encourage you to learn anything you want.

The Lonely City: Adventures In The Art Of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

Recommended by Anon

City and town life -- Psychological aspects / NYC / artists.

Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion by David Zweig

Recommended by Clair B.

This book changed how I think about work. It helped me rethink my position in relation to fame, visibility, and whether or not I really need them. This book reinforces that there's joy in the work itself and not on the acclaim. People who are motivated by the reaping of the reward itself, and not the recognition will appreciate the author's message.

Better Living Through Criticism by A.O. Scott

Recommended by Joshua Bartels

Film critic A.O. Scott artfully guides the reader through a winding trail of thought about criticism and its role in the world around us. Does it help? Should it have a voice? Obviously, Scott thinks so. And he thinks you should think so too.

Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray

Recommended by Joel D Canfield

Practical methods to help you create change in yourself or foster it around you by changing how you think. Smart, clear, non-confrontational, encouraging.

The Truth : An uncomfortable book about relationships by Neil Strauss

Recommended by Donreddy

Very insightful and informative.


Three uses of the knife by David Mamet

Recommended by Adam Westbrook

David Mamet's books on storytelling never run to more than 150 pages but are so densely packed with wisdom they're worth a dozen 'save the cats'. Here, Mamet explores the power of the three-act structure with typical clarity and sagacity.

Story by Robert McKee

Recommended by Severin Baschung

It really is an eye-opener for everyone who starts to write a story.

The Golden Theme: How to make your writing appeal to the highest common denominator by Brian McDonald

Recommended by Julie M.

This is for anyone whos ever wanted to write sympathetic characters in a story. But its not dry subject matter, the book goes into real life, feelingful anecdotes, that make the book feel richer. You're learning a lot but at the same time enjoying the experience of the book.

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

Recommended by Kent Sanders

The author goes into great depth about the hero's journey, popularized by the works of Joseph Campbell, and made famous by the first "Star Wars" movie. The book is incredibly valuable in helping writers understand why and how stories work.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace

Recommended by Jason Caryl

This book runs through Ed Catmull's theories on fostering creativity and how he has managed to bring the best out of people both at Pixar and Disney. Give it a read if you're interested in peaking behind the curtain at how Pixar is run or if you need a little creative boost in your everyday life.

On Film-making by Alexander MacKendrick

Recommended by Adam Westbrook

This is the last book I'll read about filmmaking for a long time. Hugely comprehensive and written by an old master who believed, like Hitchcock, that films should be primarily visual stories. It's hard to get hold of these days, but for filmmakers well worth tracking it down.

General Nonfiction

Cooked by Michael Pollan

Recommended by Mike

He uses Fire (BBQ), Water (Pot cooking), Air (Baking), and Earth (Fermenting) as the four main human methods of preparing food and tells the story of how he tries to master each method himself. The book has changed my way of preparing food, as well as eating what someone else has prepared, and my taste buds are loving it!

The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth

Recommended by David Robinson

A really quick, fun fascinating read - each chapter is only 5-6 pages long and focuses on one rhetorical technique with both modern and classic examples and ideas of how it can help you in your own writing.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Recommended by Olof

This book really makes you see social media in a new light and goes to show how posting something seemingly insignificant online has the potential to backfire immensely. It's a subject that everyone in this day and age really should consider, both from the perspective of posting stuff online yourself and from the perspective of consuming posts by others.

But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

Recommended by Zac Scy

This book allows us look at our lives today as if we were somewhere in the distant future looking back at history. History we're experiencing today. We get the opportunity to question and challenge ourselves, our assumptions, our biases, and prejudices. Which of our current beliefs or 'facts' will we look back at 50-100 years from now and wonder: 'How could we ever have believed that?'


So Far From Home: Lost and Found in our Brave New World by Margaret J Wheatley

Recommended by Philip Patston

The book describes the enormous complexity and emergence present in our world today. It provides a call to action to do good work for its own sake, without the expectation of a predetermined outcome.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Recommended by Jaume

It makes you pay attention to how you interact with people.

Thou Shall Prosper by Daniel Lapin

Recommended by Raymond Turner

Best business book I've read; NOT based not the common rehashed business jargon at all!! Easily readable, but very deep!!


These Heroic Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson

Recommended by Adam Westbrook

This gritty collection of short stories (all subtly connected if you read carefully) explores the effects of war on American soldiers and their families. Based in part on Mogelson's own experience as a paramedic and war correspondent, the characters are sculpted in intricate detail, no small feat for a short story. (Disclosure: Luke is a friend).

All the Light You Cannot See (audiobook) by Anthony Doerr & Zach Appleman

Recommended by Rose

Tender, hopeful, lyrical - great sense of place and time; WWII story about the effect of the war on 2 children on opposites of the conflict.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

Recommended by Demi

It's gentle introspective glimpse into the human psyche.

In The Light Of What We Know by Zia Haidar

Recommended by Sadi

Geopolitics and commentary on values.

Taiko by Eiji Yoshiokawa

Recommended by Chad Moulder

It personalized not only an historical figure, but also was written in such a way as to make it accessible to readers from any country or background.

Euphoria by Lily King

Recommended by Miki Johnson

Based loosely on Margaret Mead's time in Papua New Guinea, this is an intensely enjoyable read that also tackles big questions about gender, relationships, and objectivity.

Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter

Recommended by Holly

It's extraordinary - different and memorable, heartfelt, completely captivating.

Connectography by Parag Khanna

Recommended by Mark Duncan

Attempted to map out future of global civilization.

Inferno by Dan Brown

Recommended by Anon

Overpopulation, scarcity of rescources, we need to find a solution.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling

Recommended by Kshitiz Rimal

If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should read it.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami

Recommended by Anon

Easy read with great characters and a unfolding well developed plot.

On the back of the turtle by Thomas King

Recommended by Maaja Wentz

This fantastically imaginative and literary book takes on issues of environmental responsibility for individuals and companies. It features ghosts and pirates, magic, First Nations insights and a CEO that reminds me of Bonfire of the Vanities.

Verbrechen (or in english "Crime: Stories") by Ferdinand von Schirach

Recommended by Anon

“Crime” portrays a world in which “good” and “bad” are useless terms. The only word of interest here is “guilt.” But while moral judgment remains a distant notion to von Schirach the storyteller, there is another von Schirach — the narrator who stands in legal defense of some of the other characters, and he is marginally less dispassionate than the author. At the end of the story called “Self-Defense,” upon realizing the true background of a man he has recently helped release into the world, this defense lawyer lets loose a single muted expression of disgust, directed not so much at his client as at himself. He faces murderers, cannibals and pimps with empathy, but when he stumbles upon his own mistake, his composure cracks, giving us a glimpse of the humanity behind the persona that has devised these arresting stories.

Field One by Simon Winstanley

Recommended by Bob Clarke

Field One cleverly knits together multiple facts and true events from the last 50 years into a surprising new story which reveals their real purpose (and Field Two has just been published).

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez

Recommended by Laura Conde.

He won a nobel price for it. Trust me its worth it.

How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

Recommended by Phuong

It's post-globalization Great Gatsby.

Thank you all for your recommendations this year - see you at the end of 2017!