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Erin Jo Richey

My Top 5 Books from 2015

4 min read

As 2015 was winding down, I went back through all of the books I'd read during the year. Most were non-fiction, many related - at least tangentially - to my work. I don't usually read much, but I actually managed to get through quite a bit (for me) in 2015. These are the top 5 things I read over the year. They are the books that I'm mostly likely to recommend or gift to someone. (Some I actually have given as gifts over the year.)

5. Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It
Marc Goodman (2015)

This is a BIG book. If you already work in technology or follow it closely, many of the stories here are not new. If you only loosely follow tech news coverage, this is more than just an overview, it's a textbook. If you've ever wondered casually, "I wonder if hackers could...", the answer is probably "yes". They can, they have, and there's a story about it here. Terrifying and fascinating at the same time; it's sci-fi in reality. This is what is possible and what is happening with the technologies that surround us every day.

4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Marie Kondo (2014)

A darling on Pinterest and Instagram, the KonMari method of folding and cleaning was everywhere in 2015. I first came across the book and author after reading a NYTimes article at the end of 2014. Am I really recommending a book on tidying up? Yes. It's precious, but also sweet, inspiring, and a motivating reminder to surround yourself with fewer, more meaningful things. Her next book, "Spark Joy," comes out tomorrow.

3. Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Edwin Catmull with Amy Wallace (2014)

This book is partially an insider's look at the history of Pixar and also a case study on leadership, innovation, and problem solving for creative companies. I found both valuable. Most of the stories and anecdotes are centered around the entertainment and movie industry. However, Pixar - with its roots here in the Bay Area and its ties to Steve Jobs - was its own, different kind of tech startup. The problems, challenges, and growing pains that Edwin Catmull recounts are the same struggles that growing tech companys face, and it felt good to see them from a slightly different angle. I would read this once for the stories and inspiration, then return to it for the practical wisdom and methods spelled out around leadership, decision making, and company growth.

2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Atul Gawande (2014)

I've liked other things that Atul Gawande has written, and this was no disappointment. "Being Mortal" is a look at what it means to die: care facilities, advanced directives, palliative care. When so many of us shy away from discussing - or even thinking about - death, Gawande makes the case for confronting the end of life experience head on. We should understand what medical and care treatments are available as we age and consider decisions that support quality over quantity. Recommended for anyone who is planning for their - or a loved one's - end of life experience, no matter how old or young.

1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Greg McKeown (2014)

There are poignant moments in this book that felt relevant to me in a number of areas. Starting a startup or new business? Work in technology or a creative field? Trying to be more productive? More passionate? More focused? Trying to do the right thing? This book wins for sheer relevance to so many elements of my life in the last few years.