Here at Simplicity 2.0, we love books. We love our electronics, too, and will forever commemorate October 31, 2013, as the date we could continue using our electronics on planes even during takeoff and landing. But there’s still something about a book. Maybe it’s all the nights spent curled up under the blanket with a flashlight when we were supposed to be sleeping.
That said, it’s a time-honored tradition in December to compile a list of books of the year that we should either have read, or at least pretended to have read. That way, we can make conversation during the holiday cocktail parties.
The Circle made lots of best lists, including Gizmodo’s, which said about it, “Beyond the social critique, it's also just good read, a nimble plot guided by a more than capable craftsman. Yes, it can be heavy-handed at times. Then again, so can Google+.” Of course, we were ahead of the curve and reviewed it earlier this month.
Naturally, a lot of people suggested The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, and Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, about the founding and success of Amazon and Twitter, respectively. In particular, a number of business leaders had The Everything Store on the Bloomberg list of “best books of 2013,” while Forbes said that Hatching Twitter showed that Twitter had as much backstabbing and infighting as any other company.
How could we not mention Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, which made the Washington Post’s list of 2013 books every leader should read? The book was critiqued by some; as the Post itself says, “It was not without controversy: The book was criticized for putting the onus for change on women rather than institutions and society, among other things.” But it was enough of a talk-show staple that it entered the zeitgeist for the year.
Bill Gates, whom we already know is quite the reader, listed Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday. We’re always happy to read anything Diamond publishes, and this one -- basically “best practices from hunter-gatherer societies” -- is particularly intriguing. For example, in what he calls traditional societies, dispute resolution doesn’t just involve a lawsuit, but also ways to repair the relationship between the two parties -- something our own system not only leaves out but actually works against.
As with Diamond, you can’t have a “best of” book list without Malcolm Gladwell. His book this year was David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. “Gladwell’s latest documents ways in which successful people turn their disadvantages into advantages, resulting in an inspiring, and surprisingly moral, call to arms,” writes the Globe and Mail, which put it on its list of top 10 books of 2013. It, too, has come under criticism for a lack of rigor, with the New Republic calling him “America’s best-paid fairy-tale writer.” (Don’t have time to read it? Read this hysterical 600-word summary instead.)
A number of lists, such as the annual list from the Highlands Forum, included Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. “[Authors] Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier aren’t uncritical cheerleaders for big data,” notes reviewer Howard Rheingold in a Strategy + Business piece. “They know that processing some of this data ore -- the data connected to what we previously thought of as privacy or anonymity -- may have toxic results.”
Finally, we already alluded to Simple earlier this year, but how could we resist a book with that title? It too was listed by Strategy + Business, which also reviewed it, as one of its best business books of 2013. “Any company can whittle down its contracts, but achieving true simplicity, like every other major change initiative, requires buy-in and support from the top,” writes Catherine P. Taylor. “It takes vision to infuse an organization with a more simplified approach, which in its highest form affects the way a business operates, how it markets itself, and how it creates great customer experiences.“ Of course, we couldn’t agree more.
Happy reading, whether it’s a book or a Kindle.