“The best books to read are not the ones that think for you. Rather the best ones are the ones that make you think.” – Quote”
This year, on one of my Whatsapp chat groups, my beloved colleague from California, shMohammed Faqih, posted this fascinating question: “What books are you planning to read in 2016?” That made me stop and think. I had never actually ‘planned’ my reading schedule. I went about it serendipity style, whatever I found myself interested in, at the moment, I would seek out a book on the topic.
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
So the thought of actually mapping out what I would read in this upcoming year roused my interest. If you want to treat me to a candy shop, then drop me off at a bookstore. If you want to buy me a fail-proof gift *ahem*, then buy me an Amazon gift card.
Mixed with this thought, I wanted to end this year’s blog post with a ‘year in review’. And I wanted it to be personal, yet in sha Allah, something that you, the reader, find beneficial. People often ask me, “So Muhammad, what are you reading these days?”
So here you have it. The top 10 books I’ve read in 2015 that left lingering brain-morsels that I observed myself chewing on long after closing the back cover.
Book 1: The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Author: Daniel J. Levitin
Big Lesson: I love how the book explained the way in which our mind stores information. I often find myself mentally overloaded when I have to multitask, and this book explained what was going on and why multitasking sucks. Since reading this book, I’ve started going offline and using simple index cards and pen whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Book 2: Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity
Author: Joshua Wolf Shenk
Big Lesson: I spend a lot of my time on creative work; thinking up creative and innovative solutions. So I loved how this book dispelled the myth that creativity is an art fulfilled in isolation. More accurately, creativity happens with the clash of two great minds. Since reading this book, I’ve redesigned my creative process to include others.
Book 3: Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way
Author: Richard Branson
Big Lesson: I’m not really into biography books, but this one was exceptional. I loved the entrepreneurial journey, struggle, and success that Richard Branson vividly reveals. His story covers decades (he’s 65 years old now). For the entrepreneurial spirited, this is a great read that’ll teach you what it means to aim higher and push further.
Book 4: THE MUQADDIMAH: An Introduction to History
Author: Ibn Khaldun
Big Lesson: I was reintroduced to this classic when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg added it to his monthly reading list. Although it’s heavy, there’s a sweetness to the heaviness. The oft-repeating lesson I got from Ibn Khaldun is that when people and nations amass luxuries and stop growing – stop being hungry – they perish.
Book 5: Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body
Author: Michael Matthews
Big Lesson: Originally, I wanted to read “Engineering the Alpha,” as recommended by my friend Belal Khan (shout out to Belal :). But I found the reviews for it weren’t stellar. Many people in the comment section recommended “Bigger Leaner Stronger” as the superior alternative. So I bought it instead and loved it. Straight forward muscle building advice backed by science. I love science, not opinions. And I enjoy the weightlifting workout Matthews recommends. It’s quick, doesn’t leave you aching or doing silly things.
Book 6: Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal
Author: Oren Klaff
Big Lesson: I got the opportunity to attend a seminar by Klaff, and was blown away by how cool he was. Afterward, I investigated him more and found he wrote this book “Pitch Anything” that details that business seminar. For example, I love his lizard brain framework – how people immediately try assessing if you are a threat or not. I think a lot of what we see in the media and the widespread Islamophobia could benefit from understanding Klaff’s explanations. If you ever have to pitch an idea to someone, this is a go-to book.
Book 7: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Author: Michael Moss
Big Lesson: Let’s just say you won’t look at a spoon of ice cream the same way after this. Laboratories engineer our insatiable desires for their processed foods, exploiting our built-in cravings for fat, salt, and sugar. This book details the incredible history of how we got hooked. I found the research contained in Salt, Sugar, Fat, to be curiously empowering.
Book 8: The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life
Author: Timothy Ferriss
Big Lesson: Make a commitment contract when you’re learning something new. Make a commitment to try it at least 4 or 8 times (before throwing in the towel). Typically people never start or, if they do start, quit after the first try. With the 4-Hour Chef, I got a serious crash course on how to cook. I highly recommend all my bros out there to learn how to cook. Knowing how to cook is liberating.
Book 9: The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom
Author: David Kupelian
Big Lesson: If you don’t know where you’re going in life, others will take you for a ride. This book was an eye-opener. We are all aware that there is a dominant force behind the marketing of vice. But how does it get done? This book will show you the foundations of how various interests flood us with vice, strategies that have been decades in execution.
And here’s one of the fictional books that I enjoyed this year. Truth be told, it isn’t that beneficial. Still, I find reading fiction that’s light and fun (yet still intelligent) grows one’s reading muscles for the heavier book lifting.
[Bonus Fiction Book]
Book 10: Signal: A Sam Dryden Novel
Author: Patrick Lee
What I enjoyed about it:
I love books that twist your mind and make you think long after you’ve read the last page. Signal is a fun read with an intriguing premise: a radio that can play for you the crime news stories many hours before it happens.
Founder and President of DiscoverU, an Islam-based personal development institute. Muhammad Alshareef graduated Islamic Law from Madinah University and holds a Masters Degree from West Virginia University. Canadian, ethnically Egyptian, and a true citizen of the world. He writes about Islamic solutions to popular personal development questions.