All of the Books I Read in 2023

In 2023, I read 4,389 pages.

This was a year with some marked life shifts that were followed closely by priority shifts. Consequently, my book count was down somewhat compared to 2022 and 2021. I make this observation entirely without regret, as the year was full of enriching experiences that took place beyond printed pages.

As always, I started many more books than I ever finished, and those listed here are the ones that kept me engaged until the end. Compared to previous years, many of these titles were a bit longer. I also spent much more time immersed in fiction.

Per tradition, I am sharing a one-sentence summary1 and a notable quote from each book.

2023 Reading List

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

This first installment of a three-part biography delves into the life of Theodore Roosevelt, chronicling his journey from a fragile young boy with precarious health to becoming one of the most influential presidents in American history.

Pages: 960 | Approximate listening time: 26 hrs, 36 min

It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come, he is ready to take advantage of them.”

Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

In this collection, the brilliant comedian Jerry Seinfeld shares his best stand-up comedy routines, offering a hilarious and insightful glimpse into his unique perspective on life.

Pages: 480 | Approximate listening time: 6 hrs, 19 min

“[As a kid] there’s a level of boredom where you simply cannot support your bodyweight … Adulthood is the ability to be totally bored and remain standing.”

The Kill Chain by Christian Brose

Brose provides a thought-provoking analysis of how modern conflicts are shaped and fought in the digital age by exploring the intersections of technology and warfare.

Pages: 320 | Approximate listening time: 9 hrs, 44 min

“This is the real source of dysfunction in our defense system – the fundamental lack of incentives and accountability for turning small-scale innovation into large-scale disruption – and it remains pervasive as ever …

If we are to prevent history from repeating itself, we need to abandon the belief that the same system that has contributed to our current failure will somehow get us out of it.”

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism is a guide to simplifying life and honing in on the core of what truly matters in pursuit of growth and fulfillment. (A lot of books aim to do this, but I liked McKeown’s framing of “the disciplined pursuit of less.”)

Pages: 288 | Approximate listening time: 6 hrs, 14 min

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

This 1960 novel chronicles the tumultuous journey of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a restless and searching young man, as he navigates through personal struggles, relationship woes, societal pressures, and the pursuit of meaning.

Pages: 288 | Approximate listening time: 12 hrs, 5 min

“There is this quality, in things, of the right way seeming wrong at first.”

The Enchiridion by Epictetus

This ancient guide provides practical wisdom and insights on cultivating inner strength, resilience, and ethical conduct to live a virtuous life.

Pages: 33 | Approximate listening time: just read this one

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

There and back again, an inspiring adventure with Bilbo Baggins as he sets out on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and treasure within, encountering fantastical creatures, overcoming great personal challenges, and building beautiful friendships along the way.

Pages: 300 | Approximate listening time: 10 hrs, 25 min

“I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

This thoroughly researched account explores the life and legacy of Genghis Khan, shedding light on his profound impact on shaping the modern world through conquest, governance, and cultural exchange.

Pages: 312 | Approximate listening time: 14 hrs, 20 min

“You may conquer an army with superior tactics and men, but you can conquer a nation only by conquering the hearts of the people.”

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Clear offers pressure-tested, practical strategies and actionable advice in memorable terms, empowering you to build habits which bring you closer to your aspirational self.

Pages: 320 | Approximate listening time: 5 hrs, 35 min

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

A Little Life* by Hanya Yanagihara

This novel follows the lives of four college friends as they navigate the beautiful and tragic complexities of love, friendship, and trauma, in a poignant and emotionally-charged exploration of human connection and resilience.

Pages: 832 | Approximate listening time: 32 hrs, 51 min

“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.

*I feel I have a duty to not recommend this book to anyone. Truly. It pulled me in from the beginning and I struggled to put it down, but it was earth-shatteringly tragic and depressing (and I think gratuitously so).

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin

The personal anecdotes and philosophical reflections of Rick Rubin, the famous American record executive and producer, exploring the nature of creativity and artistic expression.

Pages: 432 | Approximate listening time: 5 hrs, 45 min

“How shall we measure success? It isn’t popularity, money, or critical esteem. Success occurs in the privacy of the soul. It comes in the moment you decide to release the work, before exposure to a single opinion. When you’ve done all you can to bring out the work’s greatest potential. When you’re pleased and ready to let go.

Success has nothing to do with variables outside yourself.”

Hot Water by P.G. Wodehouse

A delightful and humorous tale woven in classic Wodehouse fashion with his signature wit and charm; a story of mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, and uproarious situations, captivating from the beginning. This was my second Wodehouse book (the first was last year), and it came recommended by my dad.

Pages: 256 | Approximate listening time: 7 hrs, 16 min

“One of the drawbacks to life is that it contains moments when one is compelled to tell the truth.”

As always, thanks for reading to the end.

Drop 2024 book recommendations in the comments below!

  1. Drafted with support from generative AI.

All of the Books I Read In 2022

2022 was a year of growth for me. I learned a great deal about myself and cemented these lessons through personal reflection and reading the voices of others.

I have a tendency to ready several books at a time and started dozens of books last year, some of which I am still working on and many of which I will likely never pick up again. There are too many good books out there to waste time reading the ones that don’t pull me in.

These are the books I read in the order I finished them. I’ve included a-one-sentence-summary along with a quote that stuck with me from each book.

2022 Reading List

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

A dialogue of forbidden love between two members of warring factions exchanging letters across time and space.

“There’s a kind of time travel in letters, isn’t there? I imagine you laughing at my small joke; I imagine you groaning; I imagine you throwing my words away. Do I have you still? Do I address empty air and the flies that will eat this carcass? You could leave me for five years, you could return never—and I have to write the rest of this not knowing.”

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

A guide for understanding the intricate games of seduction—political, romantic, professional, or otherwise—by studying their use throughout history and examining the successes and failures of famous (and infamous) seducers.

“There is too little mystery in the world; too many people say exactly what they feel or want.”

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Published in 1992, this cyberpunk novel was the first to coin the term ‘Metaverse’ and introduce a vision of an American future that is both thrilling and terrifying in its accuracy.

“Shit, if I took time out to have an opinion about everything, I wouldn’t get any work done.”

The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

An encouraging narrative and synthesis of lessons which can be drawn from the arc of human history, from great ideas to tremendous failures, written by two brilliant historians at the culmination of decades-long careers.

“The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding.”

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

If you are wrestling with resistance when trying to express your creativity or pursue your calling, read this book

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Beyond Order by Jordan B. Peterson

In the follow-on to 12 Rules for Life, Peterson shares 12 additional principles for embracing the chaos of our world instead of trying to control it and, in doing so, lead a more balanced and purposeful life.

“If you truly wanted, perhaps you would receive, if you asked. If you truly sought, perhaps you would find what you seek. If you knocked, truly wanting to enter, perhaps the door would open. But there will be times in your life when it will take everything you have to face what is in front of you, instead of hiding away from a truth so terrible that the only thing worse is the falsehood you long to replace it with.”

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s masterful primer on how to become an indispensable member of the organizations and teams you support by setting your intention, creating your path, and sharing your unique art with those around you.

“You are either defending the status quo or challenging it. Playing defense and trying to keep everything ‘all right,’ or leading and provoking and striving to make everything better.”

Risk: A User’s Guide by Stanley McChrystal

In this guide, McChrystal draws on his years of leading teams in the Army (for which he can be forgiven) and his experience advising business leaders to put forth a 10-dimension framework for managing risk.

“We have a tendency to expend all our efforts focusing on what we can’t control, and neglect those we have the agency to correct.”

Four Thousand Weeks – Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

Not just another self-help or personal productivity book, Four Thousand Weeks approaches the issue of our limited time through a philosophical lens and suggests that instead of worrying constantly about getting everything done, we can embrace our finitude and focus on building a meaningful life.

“Once you no longer need to convince yourself that the world isn’t filled with uncertainty and tragedy, you’re free to focus on doing what you can to help. And once you no longer need to convince yourself that you’ll do everything that needs doing, you’re free to focus on doing a few things that count.”

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis pulled back the curtain on what it was like to be a bond salesman on Wall Street in the frenzy of the 1980s at the infamous Salomon Brothers investment firm.

“For me, however, the belief in the meaning of making dollars crumbled; the proposition that the more money you earn, the better the life you are leading was refuted by too much hard evidence to the contrary. And without that belief, I lost the need to make huge sums of money. The funny thing is that I was largely unaware how heavily influenced I was by the money belief until it vanished.”

Very Good, Jeeves! by P. G. Wodehouse

A humorous collection of short stories featuring Jeeves, the loyal and witty personal valet to Bertie Wooster.

“The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number.”

The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business by Duff McDonald

A history of McKinsey & Company from its founding in 1926 to the early 2000s, including the Firm’s storied accomplishments and controversies.

McKinsey’s greatest challenge going forward — the true test of its genius — is no longer finding inspired solutions to its clients’ problems. The test is managing the complications that have resulted from its own stupendous success.”

The Last Lion, Volume 1: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory by William Manchester

Part one of a three-volume biography on Winston Churchill covering his first 58 years of life, from his upbringing in Victorian England at the peak of the British Empire, to his capture in South Africa during the Boer War, to his challenging tenure as the First Lord of the Admiralty during WWI.

“Even in the last weeks of 1918, when the popular slogans were ‘Hang the Kaiser!’ and ‘Squeeze them till the pips squeak!’ he repeated his watchwords: ‘In victory, magnanimity; in peace, goodwill.’”

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch

In this thought-provoking book, Deutsch argues that all human progress is made through the quest for better explanations and that progress has no bounds.

“An unproblematic state is a state without creative thought. Its other name is death.”

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

A neat solution for reducing mistakes in our increasingly sophisticated personal and professional lives, the checklist saves lives during surgery, enables the construction of massive skyscrapers, and helps pilots to land safely when they lose an engine.

“Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”

The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Boyd Varty

Boyd Varty takes a lifetime of lessons learned while tracking lions in the South African bush and translates them to practical wisdom for examining one’s principles and living in accordance with them.

“I don’t know where we are going, but I know exactly how to get there.”

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Rethinking our thinking and admitting our ignorance are critical to unlocking success in our individual and collective pursuits, and in this book Grant explores why we struggle to change our minds and how we can improve.

“When we find out we might be wrong, a standard defense is ‘I’m entitled to my opinion.’ I’d like to modify that: yes, we’re entitled to hold opinions inside our own heads. If we choose to express them out loud, though, I think it’s our responsibility to ground them in logic and facts, share our reasoning with others, and change our minds when better evidence emerges.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

In this half-memoir-half-manual, Ben Horowitz (of Andreesen-Horowitz fame) describes his journey as a startup founder during the dot-com bubble and shares lessons and considerations for the aspiring business builder.

“Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all your time to what you might do. Because in the end, nobody cares; just run your company.”

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

James Bond comes to life for the first time as the gentleman spy in this thrilling novel about a high-stakes baccarat game to dismantle an international criminal organization.

“Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.”

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

There is something for every reader in this highly tactical compilation of deep-dives into the practices of people who have achieved great success in their fields

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Practical advice for being a decent person and interacting with other people in a civil and productive manner.

“You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”

The Network State by Balaji Srinivasan

I won’t be able to summarize better than Balaji, so here it is straight from the book:

“A network state is a social network with a moral innovation, a sense of national consciousness, a recognized founder, a capacity for collective action, an in-person level of civility, an integrated cryptocurrency, a consensual government limited by a social smart contract, an archipelago of crowdfunded physical territories, a virtual capital, and an on-chain census that proves a large enough population, income, and real-estate footprint to attain a measure of diplomatic recognition.”

“Law is a function of latitude and longitude, so if you can easily change your latitude and longitude, you can change the law under which you live.”

On The Shortness of Life by Seneca

Wisdom for the art of living with a finite amount of time.

“But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.”

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

An earnest, nuanced look into the troubled childhood, adventurous personal life, and early professional career of Elon Musk, one of the most successful and controversial people of our time.

“If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules.”

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Hilarious, cunning, and ruthless, Bourdain details his (mis)adventures as an up-and-coming chef in New York and shares secrets of the trade in this witty memoir.

“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”

Invent & Wander by Jeff Bezos

A collection of Jeff Bezos’ writings, including thoughtful essays and Amazon shareholder letters from 1997-2019.

“We humans coevolve with our tools. We change our tools, and then our tools change us.”

Always Faithful by Tom Schueman and Zainullah Zaki

A true story of two men with vastly different backgrounds brought together by their profound courage and sense of duty to fight one of America’s longest and most complicated wars.

(Note: Tom is the founder of Patrol Base Abbate and a good friend of mine. For more, I recommend listening to his interview with Jocko Willink)

“The essential question comes of my time in Afghanistan, again and again, ‘Was it worth it?’ But that question is not even mine to answer. The state demanded someone go. I raised my hand and said yes.

Whether it was worth it or not is a question for the American people, for though some of the effects of war are borne only by a very few, the costs are shared across the whole of the nation. In Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1: Warfighting, the Marine Corps asserts, ‘War is among the greatest horrors known to humanity; it should never be romanticized. The means of war is force, applied in the form of organized violence. It is through the use of violence, or the credible threat of violence, that we compel our enemy to do our will. Violence is an essential element of war, and its immediate result is bloodshed, destruction, and suffering.’ Many of those costs are invisible to a public far removed from service. As a nation, we might be more reluctant to pay them if they were more manifest.”

Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

In this compilation of sage wisdom and life advice from some of the most brilliant thinkers of our time, Tim asks burning questions which get right to the heart of the problem you’re wrestling with in your mind.

“Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.”

Principles for Dealing With The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio presents a high-level analysis of the helical rise and fall of nations throughout history and provides a set of guiding principles for identifying patterns to see how the world works on a macro level and how one might navigate the uncertain future.

“Anyone who studies history can see that no system of government, no economic system, no currency, and no empire lasts forever, yet almost everyone is surprised and ruined when they fail.”

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

In an exploration of romantic relationships and the paradoxical tension between security and passion within them, Esther Perel will challenge your beliefs about who you are and what you are seeking.

“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?”

Thanks for reading. Drop 2023 book recommendations in the comments below!