My distractions

My Current (2019) Top Book Recommendations

written by Matthew Rensberry, MD MBA on 2019-02-28

I was recently asked by a friend for some book recommendations. As I was putting a short list together, I decided to go deluxe and break things out into categories.

My Current (2019) Top Book Recommendations ranked within each respective category:

Read these for knowledge:

  1. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
    • by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Non-fiction - NOT an easy read
    • This book explains much of why some are successful and others not. Who you should trust (why) and who you shouldn't. Don't read this first - it is great but builds upon his other books. I list Antifragile below - that might be better to read first.
  2. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
    • by Jonathan Haidt
    • Non-fiction - NOT necessarily an easy read
    • Excellent book that provides insight into why people come to the conclusions they come to and how you can have a productive conversation - even meaningful relationships/friendships - with those who hold drastically different views of the world from your own.
  3. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
    • by Jordan B. Peterson
    • Non-fiction
    • Written by a psychologist and the rules made me rethink much of my life and behavior. It is quite insightful especially if you listen to what he says and then self-reflect to see if and/or how it applies to you.
  4. Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life
    • by Amy E. Herman
    • Non-fiction
    • A book that uses art to demonstrate the power of being present in the moment and observation. I recommend reading the actual book and not an electronic version.
  5. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
    • by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Non-fiction - NOT an easy read
    • This book describes recognizing asynchrony in our lives and environment and learning how to minimize certain risks and what risks to maximize
  6. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves
    • by Dr. Dan Ariely
    • Non-fiction
    • A fun book from the field of behavioral economics. It discusses much about why we might think we think rationally, but we don't behave that way.
  7. The Coffeehouse Investor
    • by Bill Schultheis
    • Non-fiction
    • The book that transformed my thoughts on investing.
  8. The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide To Personal Finance And Investing
    • by James M Dahle MD
    • Non-fiction
    • A must read for any physician to help them understand their personal finances.
  9. Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
    • by Eric Shlosser
    • Non-fiction
    • Probably a little dated now, but a good book on underground economies that prop up the rest of our economy. A lot of what makes the world tick involves industries, actions, and other situations we don't necessarily like, want, or condone.
  10. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
    • by Michael Moss
    • Non-fiction
    • This book provides context for our modern culture. Much of what we have today is due to the progress in food processing helping us save time preparing food and use that time elsewhere. Now we struggle with obesity because of it. This book tells the story of how we got hooked on salt, sugar, and fat.

Read these for the story:

  1. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
    • by Michael Lewis
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story about a friendship between two brilliant men who changed economics and behavioral psychology at the same time. I love reading their work and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their story.
  2. Mozart’s Starling
    • by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story of Mozart and his pet bird. I enjoyed this story as I learned about Mozart, the people of the time, and how amazing Starlings are.
  3. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
    • by Daniel James Brown
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story of the American rowing team in 1936 Olympics. It is a great story of hard work, dedication, teamwork, and struggle.
  4. Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
    • by Blake Harris
    • Non-fiction
    • This is a great story of SEGA vs Nintendo. I loved reading it as I remembered playing the consoles during this console war!
  5. The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War
    • by Michael Shaara
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story about the 4 days of Gettysburg - an amazing tale of heroism. It also helps put the Civil War in some context, which is more often anymore getting lost in contemporary political noise.
  6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    • by Jonathan Safran Foer
    • Fiction
    • This is the story of a child who lost his father on 9/11/2001. It is a moving story that I saw as a metaphor of life, loss, and struggle.
  7. The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary
    • by Simon Winchester
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story of how the Oxford Dictionary came to be. It is just crazy that it is true. A fun read!
  8. Fromms: How Julius Fromm’s Condom Empire Fell to the Nazis
    • by Gotz Aly and Michael Sontheimer
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story of Germany leading up to WWII. I did not know that when I read it, I was hoping for a story about condoms. It turned out to be so much better. I learned so much about how a society can slowly but rapidly change and become animals towards their friends and neighbors.
  9. Once a Runner
    • by John L. Parker
    • This is ranked by many as the best running novel ever written, which is why I read it.
  10. Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death
    • by Jim Frederick
    • Non-fiction
    • A story of how bad decisions can poison a team. So many lessons here on leadership, teamwork, accountability, honesty, and more.

Read these because they are Medicine Related:

  1. The House of God
    • by Samuel Shem
    • Fiction
    • This is the story of medicine. A must read for every doctor. While fictional, it is real and relatable. It is emotional and funny. It is just excellent - I almost placed it in the Classics list.
  2. When Breath Becomes Air
    • by Paul Kalanithi
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story about Paul, an oncologist fellow, who finds out he has cancer, and his reflections on life, medicine, relationships. It is powerful, will make you cry, and help provide empathy with those you care for.
  3. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
    • by Steven Johnson
    • Non-fiction
    • Story about the begining of epidemiology - the search for patient 0 in a Cholera outbreak. I enjoyed this book as it describes how London was at the time - dirty, smelly, grimey, segregated. It took me on the journey imaging trying to live life in that scenario.
  4. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
    • by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    • Non-fiction
    • This is the story of cancer written by an oncology fellow. I loved this book because of all the history of modern medicine in it. I did not like this book because of how thorough (long) it is! I suggest listening to the audiobook.
  5. Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children's Lives
    • by Michael Ruhlman
    • Non-fiction
    • The story of pediatric cardio-thoracic surgery. This book is amazing, and its title truely describes what these surgeons do.
  6. War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line
    • by David Nott
    • Non-fiction
    • A story of a humanitarian physician with vast amount of experience in conflict ridden zones. Interesting read.

The Classics I like:

  1. How to Win Friends & Influence People
    • by Dale Carnegie
    • Non-fiction
    • This book gives great insight into reading other people, improving your communication skills, being persuasive, and being a good listener. Do not read a summary of it, read the real book. It is a long term best seller for a reason.
  2. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superatheletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
    • by Christopher McDougall
    • Non-fiction
    • The running classic. All runners must read this book. Non-runners who read this book will want to run
  3. Art of War
    • by Sun Tzu
    • Non-fiction
    • This book provides great advice that is applicable to war, games, business, life, etc.
  4. The Prince
    • by Nicolo Machiavelli
    • Non-fiction
    • Not always the way to live your life, but a good read providing insight into other people and how to come out ahead.
  5. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
    • by Mortimer J. Adler
    • Non-fiction
    • Wow - a tough read for me, but a classic book! This book teaches how to read a book, especially non-fiction books, for the knowledge. This book is work, and it will make what you read from other books stick much better.