In 2012, when I started blogging, and Mr. G and I were getting ourselves into internet marketing, I didn’t know anything about running a blog or online business.
My degree in European studies, which got me an insight into European politics, proved of little use when it came to building websites and writing copy.
I figured that if I was ever to become a successful blogger and entrepreneur, I needed to school myself in the topics of my new pursuits.
Inspired by James Altucher’s article, The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Reinventing Yourself, I decided books would be my teachers.
That post now includes an overview of the first 27 books I read. The rest, the 73 books that I’m still to read, I’ll be adding right here on this page.
I’m continuing where I left off, at number 28, but in a different, lighter form.
I quite dreaded writing one-sentence summaries and half-reviews, and so I won’t be doing that anymore.
Instead, for each book, I’ll add a quote I like, and at times, a lesson or takeaway that I catch myself retelling to friends.
The links below correspond to a book’s Amazon page; however, unlike the URLs at thespinoffproject.com, these are all non-affiliated.
*My idea to read hardcore business books never really came off the ground. Instead, I chose to read books on subjects related to my online projects (and businesses), like photography and marketing. Right now, my focus is on writing, creative living, and web development.
👩🏻💻 I’ll republish this post each time I add a batch of finished reads.
#28-31: October 19, 2017
#32-36: January 5, 2018
#37-40: July 24, 2018
#41-42: January 6, 2019
#43-47: April 2, 2019
#48-55: December 22, 2019
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert (re-reading)
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
Next in Line
- Burn Your Porfolio: Stuff they don’t teach you in design school, but should – Michael Janda
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Cal Newport
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life – Scott Adams
- Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries – Peter Sims
- Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything – Joshua Foer
- Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
- The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr.
- The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure – Grant Cardone
- Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
- Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World – Timothy Ferriss
55. Digital Minimalism
🔗 Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World – Cal Newport
Humans aren’t wired to be constantly wired.
🎬 Takeaways I implemented: 1) Instead of using text messages to keep in touch with friends and family, I now try to leave voice messages more often. 2) I sometimes leave my phone at home when I go outside. 3) I spend more time in solitude and parks.
💭 An action that I’m considering: Conversation office hours. I want to schedule a couple of hours a week during which my friends and family can call me, knowing that I’ll be available.
54. Atomic Habits
🔗 Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear (🎧)
When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out these individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower or self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.
😌 Reassuring takeaway: If I haven’t managed to implement a habit yet, it doesn’t mean that I’m somehow flawed. It means that my strategy isn’t right. I can make any habit stick with the right strategy and by keeping trying.
💥 Paradigm shift: Both winners and losers have the same goals
🔖 Interesting learn: The Diderot effect. This effect states that if you buy something, which compared to your old possessions is out of place, it will likely lead to additional buys. Learning about this idea made me think twice about buying a new couch, lest I end up redecorating the entire living room, followed by the kitchen, bedroom–the apartment.
🦖 Listening memory: I’m out for an evening walk in the hood, bogged down with the blues. When I cross a familiar street from a new angle, some of the weight lifts.
Recommended to me by Camille, warrior-in-disguise
53. Art & Fear
🔗 Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking – David Bayles & Ted Orland
Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again — and art is all about starting again.
👩🏻💻 A cross-connection: The two times that I joined Le Wagon as a teaching assistant, I realized that I missed coding myself. When I read in this book about artists who become art teachers, and then stop making art themselves, it underlined for me what was missing. Although it would be easy for me to start teaching all over the world, I want to stay a hands-on developer. Combining both teaching and working as a developer, as one veteran developer once advised me, is a balance I enjoy best.
52. A Mind for Numbers
🔗 A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) – Barbara Oakley (🎧)
Persistence is often more important than intelligence. Approaching material with a goal of learning it on your own gives you a unique path to mastery.
🌳 An action inspired by this book: When I’m stuck with a coding challenge, I’ll discuss it with G on one of our walks. Trying to solve the problem by building out the solution “in the air” (and no screen or paper in front of us), is not only helpful but also inspiring and exciting.
👵🏻 Mom says: My mom taught me that I sometimes might need to spend more hours than others to learn the same. She told me that this shouldn’t discourage me, however, since that’s simply reality, and doesn’t mean anything.
Recommended to me by G, a wonderful man
Instead of trying to budget your time on the basis of existing commitments, assume that all bets are off. All previous commitments are gone. Then begin from scratch, asking which you would add today.
🔗 Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg Mckeown
Before I add a book to this list, I always go through my highlights and notes for it. When I reread the above quote, I realized I needed to revise my weekend plans. I found it so difficult to cancel some meetings, however, that I learned I rather not put myself in this position again. To minimize my chances of having to cancel events or going to them half-heartedly, I now don’t commit to social events much longer than a week ahead of time.
Recommended to me by Charly Martin, emoji-sender-in-crime, and creator of Mayoneese
50. Refactoring UI
🔗 Refactoring UI: The Book – Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger
Start with a feature, not a layout.
📐 The tip I used most recently: Hyphenate justified text. When text is justified (both left and right-aligned), it can create random gaps between words. By setting the CSS property
auto, I was able to reduce this.
🦖 Reading memory: I’m at Axil Coffee Roasters (50 Lonsdale Street) in Melbourne. I’m grateful to be part of the working crowd buzz, and yet alone with my coffee, absorbed in such a wonderful book.
49. This Is Marketing
🔗 This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See – Seth Godin (🎧)
A takeaway that I’m applying:
When we seek feedback, we’re doing something brave and foolish. We’re asking to be proven wrong. To have people say, “You thought you made something great, but you didn’t.” Ouch. What if, instead, we seek advice? Seek it like this: “I made something that I like, that I thought you’d like. How’d I do? What advice do you have for how I could make it fit your worldview closely?”
📖 A word I learned: sonder, n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk. From The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Recommended by Charly Martin, emoji-sender-in-crime, and creator of Mayoneese
🔗 Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin (🎧)
When you set down the path to create art, whatever sort of art it is, understand that the path is neither short nor easy. That means you must determine if the route is worth the effort. If it’s not, dream bigger.
Every time I hesitate to ship, that’s, to publish a post, send my newsletter, or share a coding project, I remember Seth’s advice on the importance of shipping. Then I squeeze my eyes, hold my breath, and hit that publish or send button.
🍒 Cheeky fact: Seth’s books tend to make me uneasy. I suspect this is so because they leave no room for my excuses.
Recommended to me by Silvia, my sister from another mother, peanut butter addict, and photographer
47. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
🔗 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (🎧)
The next time you ask an employee to go pick some low-hanging fruit —stop yourself. Respect the work that you’ve never done before. Remind yourself that other people’s jobs aren’t so simple.
❤️ Essays I loved: “The quality of an hour,” “Nobody hits the ground running,” “Benefits who?” and “No fakecations.”
🎓 Advice that I intend to follow for an upcoming project: “Narrow as you go.” I like the idea of the workload lessening as a deadline nears, not increasing. This means seeing pending tasks through and not adding new features and improvements last minute.
🔥 Wild ideas: I want to ask future employers and collaborators if they read It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. And if I ever start a company of my own, I’d like to build it on the principles in this book.
⭐️ Listening tip: When listening to audiobooks, I like to refer to the table of contents at the beginning of every new chapter or so. Seeing the title in print helps me to separate and reinforce the ideas of each part. Audiobooks, however, don’t come with a classic table of contents, so I Google it and save a screenshot (right-click to save) on my phone.
46. How To Fight a Hydra
Fear doesn’t mean you’re weak: it means you’re sane.
Unpleasant emotions do not dictate your actions.
In the chapter, “The Insight,” the heroine mentions that her journal serves as a reminder of far she’s come since the beginning of her quest. When I got my first freelance job as a developer, I began keeping notes of my coding milestones. I still do this and like to refer to these pages in moments of self-doubt.
45. The War of Art
🔗 The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Steven Pressfield
We get ourselves in trouble because it’s a cheap way to get attention. Trouble is a faux form of fame… The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work.
I never read anything by Charles Bukowski, except for his poem So you want to be a writer.
And ever since I read it, I’ve thought that I perhaps shouldn’t be writing. Because I do “have to sit there and rewrite it again and again,” and again.
The Art of War, however, has turned this narrative around. I experienced a personal paradigm shift when I read the chapter “How To Be Miserable.”
It made me realize that it’s not only normal to find writing (and creating) hard. But that it’s okay to feel half-miserable doing it and wanting to do it nevertheless.
I can work with half-miserable.
Because the words may not come out of me unasked, but the intention to share, to connect, does.
44. On Writing
🔗 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
The scariest moment is always just before you start.
📖 An action that I’m considering: To pick up an English grammar book and learn verb tenses and punctuation rules at last.
🤴🏻 Something that stunned me: At the end of the book, King shares a fragment of the first and second draft of his short story “1408.” It’s remarkable how complete his first version is and how little he has to change the latter–that, compared to my fiddling.
43. The Obstacle Is the Way
We’re crushed when what we’re promised is revoked–as if that’s not allowed to happen.
I read The Obstacle Is the Way during my first job as a web developer, a first that was brutal. Promises were broken; I was crushed from the start. Inspired by the book, I tried to see every obstacle as a learning opportunity. Although it wasn’t easy to do, and I collected some bruises, I did learn a lot by sticking around.
42. Tools of Titans
The one sentence that changed everything:
If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times a year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body. –Dom D’Agostino on Fasting, Ketosis, and the End of Cancer
🎙 Podcast recommendation: Ferriss largely adapted the profile chapters in Tools of Titans from interviews that he did on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. You can listen to these interviews for free online. Two of my favorite episodes are Scott Adams: The Man Behind Dilbert and Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life.
🥑 Related reading: Everything I Know About Fasting and Going Keto (and how I used both to purge precancerous cells)
41. The Daily Stoic
🔗 The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living – Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman (🎧)
The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout, or moaning and groaning with flulike symptoms, or crying tears of regret, just ask: Is this actually making me feel better?
🔌 A powerful reminder: Just because I don’t manage to do the right thing all the time, doesn’t mean the good days don’t count. It’s okay to break the streak and start again. (“20. Reignite Your Thoughts”)
The above realization reminds me of a quote that I like to share with my friends when they tell me that they’ve failed themselves in some endeavor, like quitting sugar or meditating daily. It comes from Julia Childs: “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”
In turn, giving advice to friends that I really should follow myself, brings another quote to mind: “On one level, wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.” –Sam Harriss, Waking Up
🎓 Other lessons I loved: “40. Did That Make You Feel Better?” “41. You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion,” “118. Things Happen in Training,” “124. Be the Person You Want to Be,” and “134. Kindness Is Always the Right Response.”
🛒 A purchase I made after reading this book: The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living. This is the journal that I’m using in 2019 for daily reflections and for practicing Stoic philosophies.
40. Show Your Work!
🔗 Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered – Austin Kleon
Strike all the adjectives from your bio. If you take photos, you’re not an ‘aspiring’ photographer, you’re not an ‘amazing’ photographer either. You’re a photographer. Don’t get cute. Don’t brag. Just state the facts.
❤ A detail I learned: In French, the word amateur, which comes from the Latin amator, means lover. (“Be an Amateur”)
💡 Two ideas I already implemented before reading this book:
1. Turning off comments on my blog (“Don’t Feed the Trolls”)
I did this around the time that my post 10 Reasons Why Every Girl Should Learn to Kiteboard went viral, which was rather early in my blogging career.
I turned the comments off because I didn’t have the emotional resilience to deal with people who would leave comments like “I think you should’ve called it 10 Reasons Why Every Woman Should Learn to Kiteboard.”
Sometime later, I would run into this post by Seth Godin: Why I don’t have comments. It reassured me that I had done the right thing in a time that turning off comments was a big blogging no-no.
2. Properly attributing the work of others (“Credit Is Always Due”)
I go all the way with this one: crediting the original creator and linking to the source where I found the work itself. Also, whenever I share a friend’s recommendation, I always include a hat tip.
🍒 Cheeky fact: I think it’s bad style to pass on a recommendation as a discovery of one’s own.
39. Do the Work
🔗 Do the Work – Steven Pressfield (🎧)
Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
🎓 Lessons learned and applied:
- “Research can become resistance,” so limit the time you spend on research, especially at the start of a project. (“The Beginning”)
- Get the first draft done as fast as you can: “Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything.” (“The Middle”)
- At the end of a project, keep your focus, and be prepared to go all in. It’s when resistance is most persistent. (“The End”)
👩🏻🎨 Encouraging insights:
- You’re not to blame for the creative battles you experience. Everyone experiences resistance, and “so did Picasso and Einstein.” (“Belly of the Beast”)
- Be grateful for your (creative) failures. They’re “the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines.” (“The End”)
38. The 48 Laws of Power
🔗 The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene (🎧)
An anecdote that made me smile:
One oft-told tale about Kissinger… involved a report that Winston Lord had worked on for days. After giving it to Kissinger, he got it back with the notation, “Is this the best you can do?” Lord rewrote and polished and finally resubmitted it; back it came with the same curt question. After redrafting it one more time–and once again getting the same question–Lord snapped, “Damn it, yes, it’s the best I can do.” To which Kissinger replied: “Fine, then I guess I’ll read it this time.”
🕵🏻♀️ A discovery I shared with friends: Mata Hari came from a little city in Friesland, Holland. Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. I never knew she was Dutch. (“Law 6: Court Attention at All Cost”)
👑 Something I enjoyed: The anecdotes about women in power like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I. I found it inspiring to learn about the lives and decisions of the great women in our history. I also realized just how few women role models I have in my life, and that I’d like to change that.
🔗 Mastery – Robert Greene (🎧)
It is time to reverse this prejudice against conscious effort and to see the powers we gain through practice and discipline as eminently inspiring and even miraculous.
When I picked up Mastery, I had just finished my coding boot camp and was at the start of my first freelance project as a web developer. I was eager to learn but also in a hurry to do so. Reading Mastery calmed me down and made me excited about being a beginner. I realized that although the journey in front of me was long, for the first time in my life, the path was clear. All I needed to do was enjoy the ride, and be the best student possible on my way to mastery.
36. The 4-Hour Workweek
🔗 The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich – Timothy Ferriss (🎧)
If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
❤ An idea I adore: Instead of taking time off for extended travel, relocate to a place of choice for a few months and work remotely. (“Mini-Retirements”)
🍒 Cheeky fact: Mr. G’s and my big escape of 2012 was in more than one way inspired by this book. Rereading it now made me realize that we cherry-picked only the most appealing ideas, which certainly explains why some of our (business) plans failed.
35. Don’t Make Me Think
Clear, well-thought-out navigation is one of the best opportunities a site has to create a good impression.
🔨 Changes I implemented to this website after reading the book:
- Added a hover effect to the links to emphasize that they’re clickable. (“Make it obvious what’s clickable”)
- Changed the line-height of the headings so that they don’t float anymore. (“Format text to support scanning”)
- Added a logo to make it clear that you’re on my site and not somewhere else and so that you can go back to the home page when you “get lost.” (“Now I know we’re not in Kansas,” “Just click your heels three times and say, ‘There is no place like home’ “)
- Added the page All Posts for better navigation. (“Street signs and Breadcrumbs”)
🔗 Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (🎧)
Sometimes, distractions can actually serve a purpose. Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, they warn us— when we feel ourselves regularly succumbing to them— that our work is not well defined, or our tasks are menial, or the whole project we’re engaged in is fundamentally pointless.
⚗️ An idea that I’ll be experimenting with: To be more flexible with my working schedule. I often end up working from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, even though I don’t need to. I’d like to see if I can mix up some of those standard working hours with working on the weekends and by starting my days around 6 am. (“Escaping 9 am – 5 pm,” “Thou shalt overlap”)
📚 A book recommendation I followed: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
🔗 Rework – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (🎧)
When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.
🕴 Three takeaways I’d keep in mind when starting a business:
- Make something that solves a problem you experience (“Scratch your own itch”)
- Find out what you stand for and stick to it (“Draw a line in the sand”)
- Don’t take any funding (“Outside money is Plan Z”)
🎓 Advice I successfully applied: When inspiration strikes, take immediate advantage of it and get as much work done as you can while the rush lasts. (“Inspiration is perishable”)
32. The Power of Habit
🔗 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg (🎧)
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit— unless you find new routines— the pattern will unfold automatically.
🥨 A habit that I’ll be trying to change: Whenever I fall below my ideal weight, I start eating more than usual until I tip back to just above ideal. Following the ideas in this book, the habit loop of my eating pattern looks something like this:
- Cue: Look in the mirror and think: “Wow, I look great!”
- Routine: Have an extra pretzel a day until I look a little less than great
- Reward: Maintain self-image of being the chubby kid I once was
To try and change this habit, I’ll be experimenting with different routines (have a cup of tea) and rewards (maintain an ideal weight, build resistance).
31. The 4-Hour Chef
It is possible to become world-class, enter the top 5% of performers in the world, in almost any subject within 6–12 months, or even 6–12 weeks.
🛒 A purchase I made after reading this book: Unicorn Magnum Pepper Mill 6″ (p. 112). You’ll want to add ground pepper to everything.
🍴 A restaurant tip I followed and loved: Limón Rotisserie at the Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco (p. 564). Have the rotisserie chicken.
🍒 Cheeky fact: During the 10-day silent meditation course that I followed, I wasn’t allowed to write. Using The Method of Loci (p. 99), however, I memorized my introspective adventures, which I was then able to recall when I wanted to write about them.
⭐ Reading tip: The 4-Hour Chef is quite a monster, and trying to read it from start to finish could overwhelm you. I recommend listening to the audiobook instead and referring to the written work when needed. Reading along for some parts is also nice. You can download The 4-Hour Chef audiobook for free after you subscribe to Tim’s newsletter.
30. Stumbling on Happiness
🔗 Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
If you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people.
😌 A takeaway that I’ve (unsuccessfully) shared with friends: The best way to predict if something will make you happy is to talk to people who already have what you want (or are who/where you want to be) and ask them if it’s making them happy. (“The Myth of Fingerprints”)
29. Steal Like an Artist
🔗 Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon
Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying.
🎬 A small action that I successfully implemented after reading this book: I now write my first drafts on paper instead of on the computer. This change prevents me from editing my work (and thus massacring it in the process), before giving an idea some chance of survival by writing it out in its entirety first. (“Step Away from the Screen”)
28. How to Win Friends and Influence People
🔗 How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.
🎬 A small action that I successfully implemented after reading this book: Making sure to call people by their name as soon as I learn what it is. I don’t do this for personal gain. I do it because it seems to make people’s day. (“If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble”)
You can find the first 27 books that I read at Read 100 (Business) Books · Part I.