The 10 Best Books I Read in 2015

2015 was the year which I had a major depression. It was also the year that I decided not to be an animator anymore.

In between these two big events in my life, I went to an entrepreneur incubator in Bali for a month. I also read a lot of business and productivity books.

First, I was feeling rather lost in my career and was looking for some inspirations from the books. I wanted to start my own business, but not sure how or what to do. Second, I thought it would be a good idea to write about productivity. But in the end, having depression is a blessing in disguise. It helped me rediscovered my purpose in life. I started teaching students and writing about self-love.

Follow What I Read:

In 2015, I started using Goodreads to track the books I’ve read and I read 26 books in the year. You can also follow me on InstagramGoodreads or Facebook to see what I am reading now.

My Top 10 Favorite Books: 2015 List

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1. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

When I was in Bali, one of my friends asks me what is the best book I’ve read recently. The book which immediately came to mind is The ONE Thing.

I love this book because it is to the point, short and simple. But what I really love about this book is the imagery and the diagrams used in this book. I’m a visual learner and it helps if the author allows me to “see” what he’s writing about.

I got the chill when I opened the book for the first time and saw this Russian proverb in the book: “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” Even though conceptually we know we need to focus, but having the image of trying to catch two rabbits at the same time really got the concept into my head.

This is just one of the many analogies used in the book. If you are a visual learner like me and love to learn how productivity can bring success, go get this book. There’s a lot of golden nuggets in this book.

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2. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

Like The ONE Thing, I love this book because it provides a lot of visual analogies to help me understand the concepts. My favorite analogy from the book is the one about finding your WHY-power.

He says if he puts a plank on the ground and gives you $20 to walk the length, you’ll do it. But if he puts the plank between two 100-story buildings and gives you $20, you probably won’t do it. However, if your child was in the opposite building and the building was on fire, you’ll do it regardless if you get $20 or not! This is the type of analogy that will get me to remember the concept forever.

The Compound Effect talks about making smart choices and building habits. With time, you’ll build a big momentum and make radical differences in your life. This book is suitable for anyone who wants to improve any area of their life.

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3. The Millionaire Master Plan by Roger James Hamilton

The entrepreneur resort which I went to in Bali, is created by the author of this book, Roger Hamilton. I started following Roger since mid-2014, and I love the information he shares about wealth and entrepreneurship. What I love most about his teaching is how customize it is to the individual.

Unlike other books which teach you how to make money based on their strengths and experience, The Millionaire Master Plan provides a natural path to wealth based on who you are and where you are now. Every one of us has a genius inside us. Some of us are great with ideas, while some of us are great with timing. Some of us are great with people, while some of us are great with systems. People with different genius has different ways to get to their wealth.

In this book, Roger also talks about The Wealth Lighthouse. It has nine levels of wealth and depending on which level you are at, you have to take specific action steps to get to the next level. This is the book I refer from time to time, whenever I get stuck in wealth creation.

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4. Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Rising Strong is definitely a book I needed to read at that time, when I had depression. In fact, the first breakthrough I had was when I watched Brené Brown’s TED-Talk video on overcoming shame.

This book is about falling, getting up and trying again. The author says that our first response when we are facing hurt feelings is to make them go away. We try to numb hurt with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, work, shopping and etc. We try to keep ourselves busy so we have no time to feel the pain.

The other reaction is to be quiet about it and keep everything inside. This is what I did until my body shuts me down with depression.

This is a good book for those who wants to understand how to get back up after failure. I highly recommend this book for those who wants to learn more about their emotions.

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5. Busy by Tony Crabbe

This is a hidden gem which I picked up from the library. I almost didn’t borrow this book because the cover is so plain, simple and unattractive. But I’m glad I did because there’s a ton of good concepts in this book.

Busy isn’t just a book about personal busyness. It also talks about business busyness too. For example, how to stand out from the noise in the market, how to make your brand simple and how to develop a strategic position.

True to his topic and message, he keeps his book “un-busy”. No extra things that distract the readers. There isn’t even a profile picture of himself! Even though I prefer books which authors share their personal stories, I cannot NOT rank this book high in my chart. Simply, because it’s a great book.

If you want to learn how to prioritize your work and sort out your overwhelming business life, read this book.

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6. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

In 2015, I read two books from Steven Pressfield. The other book is Do the Work. It’s also a great book and I highly recommend that too. But I have this rule to only put one book from the same author in my Top 10 annual list, so I choose the more popular one of the two.

The War of Art is a book about overcoming your resistance towards creative work. In both books, the author sees resistance as enemy for creating. He says resistance outwits the amateur, but the pro shows up daily. They don’t wait for inspiration. They just do their work.

I love how Steven Pressfield treats resistance as a real entity or a person in his book. This simple and easy-to-read book is suitable for writers, artists, entrepreneurs and anyone who creates. If you have problems with procrastination, this book is for you.

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7. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project is one of the first books I read after I recovered from depression. It inspires me to start my own Self-Love Project in 2016.

In 2015, I read two books from Gretchen Rubin. The other book is Happier at Home. In each of her books, Gretchen dedicates one year of her life to being happy. What different from other books is the author didn’t start her writing project because she is unhappy. She has a loving husband, two great kids and a writing career. She is happy, but she thought she could be happier.

I love this book because it’s very personal. When I was reading this book, it felt like I was with the author in her daily life. The author has a specific theme for each month and she draws lessons from her own experiments with how to be happier.

This book has a unique memoir, self-help, philosophy blend to it. It’s unlike most non-fiction in the market. I enjoy reading this book because it puts a smile on my face. If you want a book which inspires you to be happier, go read this book. It will certainly make your day.

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8. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I started reading this book back in 2014 when I was in Malaysia. As I couldn’t find any library near my rented house in Malaysia, I went to a bookstore nearby and read parts of it over the weekend.

The premise of this productivity book is simple — do what is essential. The author suggests we don’t have to do it all. Instead of holding onto the mindset of “I have to”, it’s better for us to change our mindset to “I choose to”. This book is about accepting the reality of trade-off and making it deliberate. Since we can’t have it all or do it all, the author asks us to choose the trade-off which we want to make.

One of my favorite example in the book is the wardrobe example. Most people have a hard time getting rid of the clothes in their closet. The author suggests a question to ask ourselves which I find it very brilliant: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?”

With other interesting concept, this book is suitable for people who have problems with time-management, decision-making and being productive.

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9. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

This book is introduced to me by a mentor in the entrepreneur incubator program. Shortly after I returned from Bali, I sank into depression and I wasn’t in the mood to read business books. But after I watched a talk by Simon Sinek online, I decided to give his book a try.

Most of us when we think about doing a business, we think about making money. But entrepreneurship is more than that. Clarifying the purpose or the WHY of a business helps the long-term growth of the business. Customers are more likely to buy from the company if they believe in the company’s purpose. Not only that, having a strong WHY, helps business to figure what needs to be done and how to do it.

Even though this book is marketed as a business book for leaders, I am able to draw concepts from it and applied to my own life. I realize I’m all about learning and growth. Teaching, writing and sharing insights are just different ways I carry out my WHY.

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10. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

This is the book I read when I thought of setting up a tech startup. After leaving the animation industry, my mind was messed up. I was directionless and I was trying a lot of different things. Trying to set up a tech company is one of my grand ideas, but I’m glad I never did. I was so lost then, anything I created wouldn’t be aligned with my purpose at all.

However, The Lean Startup is a good book. Even if you aren’t starting up your own business, it’s good for those who are self-employed, freelancer or nonfiction writer. The key concept about this book is being lean, meaning only create things which are of value to the customers and not waste.

To the author, waste are incorrect strategic assumptions. They are what we think our target audience would like and who we think our target audience are. Instead, he suggests to quickly build a MVP (minimum viable product) and test our assumptions first. Then, use these learning to plan and build the products.

As a writer, I applied the same concept too. I used blog posts as MVPs to test if there’s an audience for the topic before I begin writing books on the topic. Writing a book which no one wants to read is just too costly and time-consuming.

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Yong Kang

Yong Kang

Hey there, I’m Yong Kang, best known as Nerdy Creator. I’m an author of seven books. I write about spirituality, self-compassion, and mindfulness. I love reading books, especially non-fiction. The list above is a combination of what I have read and my research. Each year, I create a Top 10 list of my favorite books.