What I Learned from My First Two Books of 2017

I was really surprised to learn a few months ago that 27% of American adults haven’t read a single book in the past year. When I saw that stat, I felt a bit proud to reside safely in that 73% column of those who read books. Until I thought back on 2016 and realized: I’m in that 27%?!

I, the bookworm growing up, occasional creative writer and genuine lover of books, hadn’t read a single book in a year’s time. To quote a well-known Twitter-er: sad.

It’s easy to make excuses about why I hadn’t read: travel, laundry, work, hobbies, grocery shopping, relationships and social media distractions. My only saving grace is that I’d installed Pocket on my phone and had consumed hundreds of articles while riding the subway to work using the app.

Excuses and apps aside, I hadn’t read a single book in 2016. No bueno.

I reached out to Twitter and LinkedIn, consulting my network of (hopefully) avid readers for suggestions of books to read. They came in droves and I soon had a list of books to read so I hit Amazon and ordered a half dozen books to start. I loosely set a goal of one book per month, but hope to double that as reading becomes part of my daily habit.

So what did I start with?

Book #1: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn – John C. Maxwell


Consider me a skeptic in regards to most any book that can be classified as self-help, but this book came highly recommended, as did John C. Maxwell as an author and a thinker.

What struck me most as I read is Maxwell’s ability to walk the line establishing himself as wise and qualified while simultaneously proving his imperfect humanity with personal anecdotes (and not examples like leaving the stove on one morning, but leaving a loaded handgun in his luggage as he tried to pass through airport security– which led to his arrest).

I appreciate the candid nature in which Maxwell describes his mistakes and the subsequent lessons he learned from them; I can think of few “influencer” types who wouldn’t want their flawed human side to be published, lest they lose credibility.

On top of that, Maxwell makes the case over and over that failure is not only an option, it’s inevitable throughout our lives. Failure isn’t a flaw, death sentence or an indication of a deformity, but an eventuality– and likely more common the braver we become in taking risks. In fact, it’s an indication of forward momentum.

But he makes no qualms about failure or mistakes being “good”. Without a lesson learned, without wisdom gained a failure or a mistake can be a slippery slope. With a lesson learned, we know how to assess risk, make decisions, advise others and live full lives.

The first people who come to mind when I think of Maxwell’s tone are Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross. There’s a gentleness and a kindness in this book and if you’re one of 7 billion people on earth who have failed or will fail, it’s exactly the right tone.

If failure is a fear of yours, you’ve failed, you’re failing, you’re about to take a big risk or you’re looking for a good pick-me-up, order Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.


Book #2: Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion – Gary Vaynerchuk


If someone spends longer than three minutes with me, they’ll probably hear me mention Gary Vee. Maybe it’s growing up as a Millenial American and the contrasting attitude he brings to how my generation came up, but his immigrant mindset and no excuses approach is highly motivational and inspiring.

Crush It! debuted in 2009 and, if you’ve paid any attention to marketing or social media, things have definitely changed in the 8 years since it was written. There is, of course, no mention of Snapchat or, if memory serves me correctly, Instagram. The analytics and features of social media have changed. It’s not a how-to book and one could argue that Gary got in so early on the social media/YouTube trend with Wine Library that his success in the industry is partially due to timing.

Yes, social media has changed. Yes, there are new platforms. Yes, maybe it’s down to timing. But you can’t take away the fact that he had the foresight to invest so much time, energy and cash into his social media presence as an independent wine store when most BIG brands were still trying to figure out what these kids are “tweeting” about. Gary saw an opportunity, took it, produced valuable content– and it wasn’t exactly 10 second long Instagram videos. It took months of almost unwatched content before any traction happened. That kind of patience can’t be taught, bought or found.

And can anyone be held liable for being an early adopter? Throughout the book he talks about the future of video in social media and a number of other predictions that ended up playing out through Vine, Instagram and Snapchat.

No, it’s not a how-to guide. Instead, this book is perfect for the social media novice, perhaps someone in their 60s who feels their resume should include a Twitter account or someone looking to make a career change who needs to build connections and a great network. Some of it, of course, should be ignored (please don’t start a MySpace!) but it plants the seed that having no social media presence in 2017 makes you out of the loop, irrelevant and invisible.

It’s not all stick and no carrot. Having a social media presence opens you up to new connections, new information and keeps you updated to the worlds outside of yours. If you’re in the boat of trying to figure out where to start online and exactly what is a Twitter, Crush It! can be supplemented with online courses, some YouTube videos and a little more reading.

What books will you be reading or recommend reading? If you’ve read these books, what were your takeaways?



2 thoughts on “What I Learned from My First Two Books of 2017

  1. Those two books look great! I really like to read nonfiction books that teach me anything.

    I stumbled upon on the fact that 27% of people didn’t read last year too! I used that, along with another fact about how many books the average CEO reads, for a little lecture about the importance of reading.

    If you are interested, that lecture type post is on my homepage. I write book reviews for the kinds of books that you listed here as well, so you might find a new book to read while you’re over there!



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