2012 contained many words for me. Words I read and words I wrote. Many of my words were shared on this blog and on my 642 Things blog (as well as several guest posts here, here, and here).

I wanted to take the time to share with my readers the books I read in 2012. Late in the year I set a goal to read 75 books. I came close to meeting that goal and I expect to exceed it next year.

Without further ado, here’s the list of books I read along with my short review/summation.

Lying by Sam Harris – Fantastic short book on why all lies, even the smallest of white lies, are not good for you or the world at large. Definitely made me curious to dive deeper into the literature on honesty and deceit. Highly recommended.

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris – Another great book by Harris. It’s quite controversial but, as someone who’s been on both sides of the argument, a well-written and reasonably-rational discourse. Highly recommended.

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card – A fun fantasy romp about magical folks living in our common world. For someone who wrote Ender’s Game I expected a little better story quality, but I still enjoyed it. Recommended.

god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens – I love Christopher Hitchens and I love this book. An excellent polemic on religion, it is required reading for anyone who wishes to take the issue of religion in our world seriously. Highly recommended.

Naked! by David Wygant – This is an interesting nonfiction book on how to be more “naked” in your personal, professional, and social life. Written by a dating coach, I found it enjoyable if not entirely useful. Recommended.

Reclaim Your Dreams by Jonathan Mead – Less a book and more of a manifesto, the central idea of this work is to inspire you to define your life’s dreams and help you achieve them. This is a lead in to Jonathan’s main business. Recommended.

How to Travel Full Time by Colin Wright – I have a huge man-crush on this guy. This is a great nonfiction book, it’s very useful, and I will definitely refer to it when I start my traveling. Highly Recommended

Poke the Box by Seth Godin – I read this book twice this year because it’s that good. Seth is a well-known and successful marketer and businessman and this is just one of his many books about doing awesome things and getting people to notice. Highly recommended.

Networking Awesomely by Colin Wright – If the term “networking” brings to mind cheap connections and insincere people, this book is a big step towards changing that perception. Long story short: be real and make friends. Highly recommended.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – Steven is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and is an expert on battling the Resistance. This is a must read for anyone who wishes to do anything creative in their live. Highly recommended.

Start a Freedom Business by Colin Wright – Another good book on how to start a business that gives you the freedom of time. This could fall into the category of a lifestyle design books, but I found it inspiring. Recommended.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – Great book by a great author on how to be a writer. This is one of several books anyone aspiring to be a successful writer must read. Highly Recommended.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser – Same deal as “Zen”. Great book. Highly recommended.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek – Very interesting book about the mentality necessary to do anything well. People buy why you do something, not what you do. Highly recommended.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – This is the barefoot runners bible and it did a helluva job convincing me to go barefoot. 1 pair of Vibrams, Merrells, and Invisible Shoes later and I’m a convert. Highly recommended.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – Classic book on writing advice that is cited by many successful authors as being one of their go-to books. Highly recommended.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss – Do you have an opinion about the Oxford comma? What about the proper use of a semicolon? Then this classic and hilarious book about punctuation is for you. Highly recommended.

On Writing by Stephen King – Stephen is not a man of few words and his book on writing is evidence to that fact. Still, quite a good book for all writers. Recommended.

Free Will by Sam Harris – This short book will make you rethink all of your preconceived notions of freewill and whether or not we truly have it. I won’t spoil the conclusion. Highly recommended.

Write Good or Die by Various Authors – I got this book from one of the blogs I read and it’s a collection of essays from several authors about the art of writing. It’s main job was to inspire and it did that well. Recommended.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac – A classic novel from the most famous authors of the Beat generation. Warning: wanderlust may be a side effect. I want to go back and reread this as I felt I flew through it too quick. Highly recommended.

Life After College by Jenny Blake – Another blogger / author I follow. This book is all about how to live your life after you graduate. I didn’t find it particularly useful and I feel like there are better resources out there for young people. Not recommended.

Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina – A fantastic book by a very interesting personal development blogger. It offers a unique perspective on some of the basics of what makes a person’s life meaningful and full of positive growth. Highly recommended.

Animal Farm by George Orwell – One of the classics I managed to not read in my High School years. Loved it. Highly recommended.

The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell – A great small book for writers with very specific tactics. Recommended.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – This is a classic book recommended by many people. I found the story to be overly simple and spiritual even though I did enjoy it. Recommended.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – An excellent book that will awaken you to the psychological techniques everyone, marketers in particular, use to influence your behavior. Highly recommended.

God, No! by Penn Jillette – A hilarious nonfiction memoir by eminent atheist and magician of Penn and Teller fame. Not for the easily offended. Highly recommended.

Building a Life Out of Words by Shawn Smucker – A story of how the author committed to being a writer and succeeded. Too much religiosity for me even though I did enjoy the story. Not recommended.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin – An interesting, short book about how being remarkable is the key to getting attention. A good book, though it belabors the point a bit. Recommended.

Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens – A well-written how-to by one of the most famous contrarians. Hitch covers many topics in his usual biting and pithy manner. Highly recommended.

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman – Unfortuantely, I did not finish this autobiography. I fully intend to go back to it at some point in the near future. Highly recommended.

Fight Club by Chuck Pahlahniuk – Great book. Great movie. I’ve never read a book in which the movie follows it so close, almost too close. Highly recommended.

Bull’s Men Fiction by Various Authors – This is a collection of short stories compiled from a Kickstarter campaign I backed. I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue and have the second one sitting on my desk waiting to be devoured. Highly recommended.

Twilight by William Gay – No, this is not the Stephanie Meyer drivel. This is a fantastic fiction novel by an underrated author. Highly recommended.

You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins – Jeff is one of few people who have inspired me to consider myself a writer. This is a fantastic ebook about fully coming into that belief. Highly recommended.

Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon – This is about incorporating intermittent fasting into your diet. Granted, this guy isn’t a research scientist, but his assertions are well-cited and I found some value in this book. Recommended.

Iceland India Interstate by Colin Wright – This is Colin’s second narrative nonfiction novel. The dude lives a very interesting life and tells his story very well. Highly recommended.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – All about living in the moment. Eckhart may drive his point where you’d like to take the exit and get off his in-the-moment highway, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I plan to read his other works. Highly recommended.

The On-Purpose Person by Kevin McCarthy – An interesting take on how to create a life you love. Too much religious stuff in there for me, but it did have some worthwhile points. Recommended.

My Exile Lifestyle by Colin Wright – Colin’s first narrative nonfiction book. Not as well-written as his second effort (mentioned above) but I still enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommended.

Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield – This is a follow up to the War of Art. An excellent book for anyone who wants to do anything worthwhile in their life (creative or not). This is how you go from amateur to pro and I read it twice this year. Highly recommended.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi – I’ve followed this guy’s blog for a few years and his book is a seriously needed ass-kicking for personal finance. Great, evidence-informed advice. Highly recommended.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – I started this book but didn’t get into it fully. I was a bit burnt out on personal development books at the time. Will get back to it at some point.

Live a Life of Travel by Wandering Earl – Earl writes a blog about his extended travels (13 years and counting). This book is how he does it. Highly recommended.

The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine – This was a suggested read by my career counselor. It’s for people who have too many interests to pick just one. Interesting book that helped focus my work a bit. Recommended.

Wrecked by Jeff Goins – This is Jeff’s first traditionally published book. It’s a very religious book and there are many things I disagreed with and disliked about it. Still a great guy who writes a great blog. Not recommended.

Ikigai by Sebastian Marshall – A collection of blog posts that have been edited for book publishing. This guy will level up your life and get you to rethink the focus and commitment you have to your priorities. Highly recommended.

I Chose the Rails by Bradford Barrington – A redditor posted this narrative nonfiction story detailing his two month adventure traveling by rail across the country. I had to put it down because it loaded with too much detail and poor writing. Not recommended.

Let’s Write a Short Story by Joe Bunting – This is an ebook written by a blogger I met early last year. I never finished it all the way through but the goal is to get every reader to write and submit a short story. Good so far. Recommended.

Models by Mark Manson – An excellent nonfiction guide on how to attract women through honesty and vulnerability by the writer/blogger at Postmasculine. I love his blog and the book made some excellent points. Highly recommended.

Clockwork Angels by Kevin J Anderson – This is the novelization of Rush’s latest album of the same name. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age tale filled with Rush references and beautiful imagery. Neil Peart collaborated with Kevin on the writing. My recommendation may be a little biased here… Highly recommended.

Good Without God by Greg Epstein – Written by a humanist chaplain, this book summarizes much of the philosophy I’ve come to accept and discover on my own. I want to devote a lot of time after graduation to exploring and expanding on these topics further. Highly recommended.

So Good they Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport – Cal is a research professor and prolific writer. This book details how to find your passion and career: get good at something and create career capital to get where you want. Altered my thinking on a few things. Highly recommended.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut – Fantastic fiction novel written by one of the greats. I really enjoyed reading this and, much like his other books, it got me thinking about life and other deep themes. Highly recommended.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson – An intense, drug-fueled romp through sin city. This book is a wild ride and there were so many times I wanted to slap everybody and tell them to knock it off, but I was so wrapped up I had to just hold on and finish the ride. Highly recommended.

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens – This is the intense, emotional, and detailed journey of Hitch in the last part of his life as he battles with esophageal cancer. I cried after reading the final letter by his wife. Highly recommended.

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – I didn’t actually finish this. And I never really got started. As one of my friends said, “This is a book for people who read Harry Potter and wished there were more Dursley’s”. Not recommended.

Disrupting the Rabblement by Niall Doherty – This is a collection / re-imagining of Niall’s blog. Many of the themes and ideas I’d seen before, but I enjoyed it because I’ve been following this guy online for a while. Recommended.

Real Powers Part 1 by Colin Wright – This is Colin’s first foray into fiction and it’s fun trip. Fast-paced and well-written, I can’t wait for parts two and three. Highly recommended.

Earth Abides by George R Stewart – Written in the late forties, this is a classic sci-fi tale about what happens after the apocalypse and the collapse of society. It’s a well-paced book but it never feels slow or fast. It sort of plods along with it’s story to its moving conclusion. Highly recommended.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace – I discovered DFW through his commencement speech in 2005. This is his first book I’ve read and I’ve fallen in love with his writing. CtL is a collection of his nonfiction essays, all of which are great. Highly recommended.

Escape Plan by Mark Manson – Written by the guy who did Models, this is a travel book about how to get out of your life and incorporate travel. I’ve read similar books and this is on par with several others. Recommended.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir – One of the classic books said to have initiated the second wave of feminism, this is a massive book which I have barely scratched the surface of. What I’ve read so far I’ve truly enjoyed, both for the content and writing. Highly recommended.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – This was an interesting book. The first chapter was rough but I eventually was sucked into the story starting with the second. Stick with it: it’s worth it. Recommended.

The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss – I’ve been a huge fan of Ferriss’ work since the 4-Hour Workweek and 4-Hour Body. This continues the series and is focused on how to learn using the skill of cooking as a vehicle. Highly recommended.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – This book is a classic for a reason. I feel everyone should have to read this. Highly recommended.

The Best American Science Writing 2012 by Various Authors – I picked this up on a whim and have enjoyed it immensely. I’m still working through the whole thing, but it’s been an enjoyable journey. Recommended.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – I somehow managed to miss this book during my high school years and it’s a shame it took this long for me to read it. A classic for a reason, I loved the story and the writing is at a level I aspire to. Highly recommended.


I read 69 books this year. Two of them were so good I read them twice. 7 of them I didn’t finish or am still reading. 2012 was the best year ever for me in terms of reading and I feel I’ve learned, been challenged, and grown because of the books I’ve read.

My goal for 2013 is 150 books. The first 6 months will probably have a lower density of books because I’ll be reading and writing so much to finish up grad school, but the last six will be chock full of reading. I’m happiest when I’m reading and writing as much as I can and I want need to make it a priority in my life.

I wanted to end this post by picking three books I would recommend more than any of the others. This wasn’t an easy decision and there are many books I didn’t choose. Based on the number of “Highly recommended” books I read this year, I’d say I had a very high quality of book consumption. In no particular order, the three books I would recommend are:

god is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, Ikigai by Sebastian Marshall, and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Canegie. This books are life-changing in the best possible way.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite book of 2012 was. Happy reading in 2013!