1. Kutath

Get Kutath on Amazon.

This was the first book I finished in 2015, and I finished it on January 1st. No, I didn’t read 99% of it in 2014 and wait until January 1 to finish it — I actually read 80% of it on January 1 because I spent the whole day reading the other 20% was done in 20142

Kutath is the last book in the Faded Sun trilogy and ends the story of the Mri, Regul, and Humans. We are on the home planet of the Mri, and Duncan our Human -> Mri convert talks to the ship of humans, kills a Regul, almost kills a Mri kel’anth (chief warrior) and desperately runs back to the tribe of Mri that won’t kill him while being pursued.

In the end we get treachery from the Regul, many Humans die but the Mri homeward is spared and the Mri turn out to really be explorers and strike up a deal with Humans to be the sharp end of their exploration of space.

I have loved the Faded Sun Trilogy for a long time and have read each book more than once. My only regret is that the books are not available on Kindle so I have to keep the paperback copies around.

2. Divergent

Get Divergent on Amazon.

Yup, I read the teen focused book that the movie was based on, and I even enjoyed it mostly.

My biggest hang up is author Veronica Roth’s writing style. It just feels ponderous to me. I think there was more emotion in the movie characters.

So I’d give this 3 stars. It was good, but I won’t be running back to read it over and over as I have with other books, like Kutath above.

For those who haven’t seen the movie — or the move trailer — the basis of the story is that humanity suffered some big calamity and now the remaining population lives in a single city, with people split into factions.

There are 5 factions and each one embodies something special like Dauntless, which is brave, or Candor, which is honest to a fault.

Our hero (Beatrice who goes by Tris) transfers from the selfless faction Abegnation to Dauntless and we get to watch her become strong and brave.

Then she and Four find bad things happening and stop mass killings, but as a result have to escape the city to live factionless.

3. Book Yourself Solid

Get Book Yourself Solid on Amazon.

This is my fourth or fifth time going through Book Yourself Solid, but honestly only my third time doing the work in the book. For all the awesome information it offers it’s a lot of work.

The entire premise of Book Yourself Solid is revealed in the title. The goal of the book is for you to learn how to get booked solid.

The author begins by helping you build a ‘velvet rope policy’ where you identify your ideal clients and then build a process to only let those clients through your velvet rope to work with you.

The latter part of the book is all about marketing. How do you write to bring prospects into your sales funnel? What about using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Ever thought of speaking as a way to bring in customers?

Author Michael Port goes over all of that for you. His advice is to pick a few strategies and actually do the work, unlike many business owners that just hope business comes in.

4. Insurgent

Get Insurgent on Amazon.

This is the second book in the Divergent trilogy from Veronica Roth. Here we meet Tris and Tobias, who have escaped from the city and are now outside the wall with the Amity faction. They learn of more plotting within the Erudite faction to kill people and keep information away from the population.

Of course, by the end, Tris and Tobias partner with the ‘factionless’ and storm the headquarters, releasing information to the public.

Again, in this book Tris just feels…stupid. She continually makes straight-up dumb decisions and acts flaky, harming her relationship with Tobias. Anytime she sees Tobias (Four) she becomes a mushy pile of jelly and can’t think straight.

For all the ‘strength’ the character has, I found her weak; she doesn’t feel like a real person to me. Actually, few of the characters in the book felt real to me.

I’ll finish out the series, but really just to see what happens. I’m not really that impressed.

5. Allegiant (Divergent 3)

Get Allegiant on Amazon.

So this is the end of the Divergent series. In this book, we get outside the city and find out that it’s a city where genetically broken people are ‘fixed’ but some people don’t believe that’s really a thing.

I’ll avoid any more spoilers and just say that the whole story felt ‘hollow’ to me. I do believe the premise is decent and there is lots of possibility, but it felt like it was merely that through the entire book — a possibility of greatness.

Divergent wasn’t a bad series. I mean, I read it over 13 days so at some level I was certainly into it, but I doubt I’ll go back and read it again. Certainly not anytime soon.

6. Write and Sell Your Damn Book

Get Write and Sell Your Damn Book on Amazon.

This is a super short guide on writing a book. I mean so short I started reading it after dinner, stopped to bathe the baby and put up a towel rack, and still finished the book before 8 p.m.

Is it worthwhile? Yes, if you want a very high-level overview of what it means to write a book. If you want detailed advice on how to write a book, then you’re better off reading APE (which I read and talked about already).

7. This Could Help

Get This Could Help on Amazon.

This Could Help is a collection of short essays by Patrick Rhone, a well known productivity/simplicity author and the creator of the Dash/Plus Productivity System.

Way too often we equate length with value, an idea that may stem from our own stance on money. Obviously if something costs more it must be worth more. Obviously if someone earns more they must be more successful.

But this isn’t true, and the length of this book should not give you any preconceived notion about its value. Yes it’s short, but there is a lot of value packed in here.

Perhaps, the fact that you were able to raise, push, or stretch is proof that these things were not there in the first place?

Patrick’s essays cover a range of topics. The quote above is an example, where he explores how we choose to limit ourselves — how spreading your focus across many tasks but doing them poorly is no substitute for a laser-like focus on a single task, doing it with a level of craftsmanship unattainable when we multi-task.

In turn, we all write our own eulogies. We write them with the way we live in each moment.

He also delves into the deeper topics of how we live our lives. Are you living your life like your eulogy? You’re writing it right now as you read this.

Will what you’re accomplishing today be a part of the eulogy you want to have?

This Could Help is a pleasurable read that calls us to be better people. People with more focus and more intention. People that lead because we quietly do great work and are creative because of the things we opt not to do.

The truth is, we don’t need the Internet. The Internet needs us. Because, it is mostly made of us and the things we put into it.

We’re called to be people who are productive because we choose to do the most effective things with our time.

It calls me to be the kind of person I want to be.

8. Start with Why

Get Start with Why on Amazon.

If you’ve been reading about running a business or listening to podcasts on running a business you’ve most likely heard of Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It’s up there with books like Good to Great (which I’ve reviewed) or Getting Things Done.

It totally deserves this place.

Start with Why explores WHY you actually run your business, or why you do anything in life. Yes, you run your business to make money, but that’s not what this book is about.

To get a better idea let me tell you my WHY.

I build websites and teach about business to help other people get the success they want and live the life they want to live.

I can trace my why back to teaching rock climbing and being way more excited about the success of a student than my own success.

I taught to help others succeed at their goals.

This book explores many companies that are succeeding and some that aren’t, and relates their success/failure back to sticking with the WHY for that business.

One of the comparisons near the end of the book is Walmart vs. Costco. One of the big things that Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, believed in was treating his employees right. His salary at Walmart was just over $300,000 a year, which is a lot but nowhere near what any comparable CEO was making.

He still drove a basic pickup truck and wore a trucker’s hat. He embodied the WHY of Walmart.

Compare that to later Walmart CEOs, steadily increasing their pay to match CEOs  of other large corporations. Add to that the continued battles at Walmart around employee mistreatment and lawsuits over shortage on overtime.

Walmart is no longer an organization about the WHY it was founded on, and because of that, they’ve damaged much of the credibility they built with the environmental focus in many of their stores. No, we tend to see Walmart as one more giant company hiding poor behaviour behind some nice environmental slogans.

Now look at Costco, which also has a WHY revolving around treating its employees right. Costco employees earn about 30% more than the competitors’ employees. Costco was actually later to the the market with environmental upgrades to stores, yet it gets more credit for them because we understand the WHY.

It takes care of its employees.

That’s just one example and comparison. You’ll see mentions of Apple and Microsoft, Southwest Airlines and a myriad of other businesses.

So the big takeaway is, what is your WHY? WHY do you do business? WHY do you choose the activities in life that you do?

Now how does your WHY show itself in your life every day?

The only caveat I give to this book is that it does repeat itself. A number of the examples could get cut and you’d still get the same value out of the material.

9. The Martian

Get The Martian on Amazon.

This is the most riveting piece of fiction I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever. The basics are that humans are exploring Mars and there is a big storm. All but one of the crew escapes and the rest of the crew — and NASA — think he’s dead.

Well he’s not, and this is a story about him trying to survive and NASA trying to rescue him.

Watching him solve problems as they come up is totally awesome. Watching NASA and the world pull together to save him is also awesome.

The book is just all around awesome. Yes it’s science fiction, but it’s more science than fiction and the science doesn’t get boring — it just makes things more interesting. There are also a bunch of great lessons we can put in to our business.

That’s my list for January 2015. Stay tuned for the next list.