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Tony’s Top 6 Books of 2018

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If you can believe it or not, 2018 is almost over. That means it’s time to release my favorite books I’ve read this past year. These are my Top 5…no…Top 6 books of 2018. If you’d like to see my Top 8 Books of 2017 (which was supposed to be 7) follow this link.

This year I also wanted to include a short description of my top books, why I liked them, and who I think will appreciate them most. In forming this year’s list, it came down to the value provided to me as a 34 year old father of two, business owner and coach. Books are personal, as they should be, so you want something you can connect with. This post is long, but I hope through the descriptions it helps you choose books you will like best.

Before I get into 2018’s top books, I want to take a second to talk about 2017’s list really quick. Even though I added an additional entry with a tie at #7 last year, I still had so many good books left off the list. And books can grow on you, or stick with you, I should say, making them more memorable over time. Two books that missed my top list were “The Obstacle is the Way” and “Ego is the Enemy” both by author Ryan Holiday. They are both pretty easy reads, we read one of them for our CrossFit Palm Beach book club in October, and for the time you invest in them, I promise you will get a ton out of them.

Having two kids doesn’t leave you a lot of free time to read. I’ve made it a habit to read every night before bed for 15-20 minutes, and listen to audiobooks in the car as I drive my son to school (20 minutes each way). I also rotate between a variety of books about business, leadership, self improvement, parenting, and nutrition. I categorized the 2018 book list accordingly with a full list of all the books I’ve read at the end.

In total, that was 29 books read this year. I sadly don’t have any self-published books to shamelessly promote this year. Maybe next year I will have a few.

So…in dramatic fashion…

The Top 6 of 2018

6. “Man’s Search for Meaning”
By Viktor E. Frankl and Harold S. Kushner
About the Book: Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
Who Would Like It: Men AND Women seeking self-improvement. It’s not just an overcoming tragedy or loss book. It is much more than that. If you ever put yourself or find yourself in mentally tough situations you will appreciate the lessons taught in this book.
Why I Liked It: I figured I had to get this one on the list even though it was written in 1946 in German… but I finally read it and I’m so thankful I did. If you’ve been putting off reading this one don’t wait any longer. Right away I had a greater appreciation for life today as I read about the gruesome stories of the WWII concentration camps. To see it through Frankl’s eyes as an accomplished psychiatrist, you get to learn so much more than any history book could teach. And the lessons ring so true to today’s world. I didn’t feel like I was reading a book that was written 72 years ago. This book really got me appreciating my being on this Earth and the purpose of why I’m here.
Favorite Quote: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

5. “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind”
By Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
About The Book: This book highlights the fascinating link between a child’s neurological development and the way a parent reacts to misbehavior. No-Drama Discipline provides an effective, compassionate road map for dealing with tantrums, tensions, and tears—without causing a scene. Defining the true meaning of the “d” word (to instruct, not to shout or reprimand), the authors explain how to reach your child, redirect emotions, and turn a meltdown into an opportunity for growth. By doing so, the cycle of negative behavior (and punishment) is essentially brought to a halt, as problem solving becomes a win/win situation
Who Would Like It: Parents, grandparents, educators. You kind of have to have a kid to like this one.
Why I Liked It: I’ve been a student of stoic philosophy for a couple years now and while not explicitly stating it, this book brings a lot of stoic principles to parenting. I’ve previously written about our struggles connecting with our son who was born on the autism spectrum. Our son’s growth has been tremendous and we owe a ton of that to his teachers, and the way we approach situations with him. Stoic philosophy teaches us that every situation and conflict is an opportunity to learn no matter how bad it may seem in the moment. By constantly assessing my reactions with my son and daughter, it’s made me a much better father. They don’t “test” me as most kids will do to their parents because they know they can get an over-the-top response out of me. I save those responses for when they do something great that I want to see more of. It’s also spread into other parts of my life and made me a better coach and business owner because I always go beyond the initial reactions of anger or whatever and try to learn or teach something from the situation.
Quote From The Book: “One of the quickest ways to communicate safety and the absence of threat is to get below the child’s eye level and put your body into a very relaxed position that communicates calm. You see other mammals doing this to send the message ‘I am not a threat to you. You don’t need to fight me.’ What amazes the parents just as much is that putting their bodies into this relaxed, non-threatening posture actually calms down the parents themselves as well. They report that this approach works better than anything else they’ve tried to keep themselves calm, and it leads to the best outcomes in how well they handle the high-stress situation.”

4. “Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well Being”
By Shawn Achor and Narrated By Shawn Achor.
About The Book: Achor shows that success and happiness are not competitive sports. Rather, they depend almost entirely on how well we connect with, relate to, and learn from each other. Just as happiness is contagious, every dimension of human potential – performance, intelligence, creativity, leadership ability and health – is influenced by those around us. So when we help others become better, we reach new levels of potential, as well. Rather than fighting over scraps of the pie, we can expand the pie instead.
Who Would Like It: If you like self-improvement books in the slightest you will really like this book.
Why I Liked It: Through the description, this seems like an abundance vs. scarcity mindset book. It is that, but it’s much more than that. I loved “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor and am a huge fan of his style of storytelling. I learn best through stories as most people do and Shawn always teaches with a story, and his delivery is often comical. Shawn secured a spot on my top list when he said that watching the news every morning was like taking a poison pill based on studies they had done seeing how people acted and interacted with others after watching the news. Like Shawn, I’m a strong believer in seeing things through a positive lens and being uncompromising when it comes to letting things get in the way of that lens.
Quote From The Book: “We spend the first twenty-­two years of our life being judged and praised for our individual attributes and what we can achieve alone, when, for the rest of our life, our success is almost entirely interconnected with that of others.”

3. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”
By Angela Duckworth
About The Book: I wrote a post back in March (you can read here) talking about all the great things this book has to offer. I called it a great companion book to last year’s #1 book, “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. This book builds on a lot of the growth mindset principles and once again gets into a conversation I love, talent vs. effort. Grit makes us appreciate the effort in contrast to praising the God-given talent of the seemingly overnight successes. Grit shows us that a combination of passion and persistence can help us succeed even through our toughest times. You can also take the Grit Scale test and see how gritty you are.
Why I Liked It: “If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture,” states Duckworth. This really resonated with me. Not because I helped create a gritty culture at CrossFit Palm Beach, but because an incredibly gritty culture at my gym created me. I show up every day and give everything I have as an athlete, coach, and business owner because I am surrounded by these hard working, gritty humans. Growing up I was always on some kind of sports team, 365 days a year. This made me a grittier person and I’m grateful I have the team of over 500 members at our gym to up my Grit scale score now.
Who Would Like It: Coaches and Athletes in particular. Anyone who ever saw themselves as the underdog and wanted to accomplish something they formerly thought impossible.
Quote From The Book: “To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”

2. “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen”
By Donald Miller
About The Book: Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services. Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.
Who Would Like It: Obviously those who own a business or work in marketing. So many businesses lack a clear marketing message, even if you are a low level employee or are involved in a family business, you can read this book and provide value to your business that could be exponentially valuable to the business and your role within it.
Why I Liked It: This book drove home the point to keep your message clear. I’ve already used it in my own writing as well as our marketing for our gym. The principles in this book are awesome, and my favorite is that the customer is the hero, not your brand. Sounds pretty obvious, but think about the best movies you’ve seen. There is almost always a protagonist or hero that you are rooting for, but more importantly there is always a guide to help them when they hit an obstacle. Your business/brand is the guide, not the hero. Treating my athletes like heroes and being incredibly satisfied to be their guide has made me a better coach. It has also made coaching way more enjoyable.
Quote From The Book: “The brain remembers music and forgets about noise just like the brain remembers some brands and forgets about others. Story is similar to music. A good story takes a series of random events and distills them into the essence of what really matters…We tell our clients the same thing my filmmaker friends told me when I was writing screenplays: anything that doesn’t serve the plot has to go. Just because a tagline sounds great or a picture on a website grabs the eye, that doesn’t mean it helps us enter into our customers’ story. In every line of copy we write, we’re either serving the customer’s story or descending into confusion; we’re either making music or making noise.”

1. “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones”
By James Clear
About The Book: Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving–every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results. Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible.
Who Would Like It: Anyone who wants to change something in their lives. I particularly think coaches, teachers, and parents (influencers) will get the most out of this book because they will find things to not only help themselves but help others too.
Why I Liked It: There were two really great points in this book that hit home with me. First, was how little daily habits add up to big results and why almost all of your focus should be on the tiny habits rather than the big goals. I’ve noticed how my lust for the big goal has gotten in the way of the habit. Second, we will perform habits that we see as in-line with our identity. You can’t change your habits unless you see them aligning with who you believe you are. It’s a powerful thing to have the willpower to not drink alcohol, it’s a whole other level to be someone who doesn’t drink. This identity alignment is a binding way to stick with the habits you want to be the person you want to be. I came out of this book with a greater appreciation for the habits I have formed over the past year (it’s easy to take these for granted) and the motivation to build new ones.
Quote From The Book: “We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.”

Audiobooks
I kept audiobooks as a separate category since they are a different type of media. An audiobook can be completely different than the book based on how well it reads and the person reading it.

For example, “Principles” by Ray Dalio (and narrated mostly by Ray Dalio) had a ton of great stuff in it, but listening to bullet point after bullet point got monotonous and boring at times. I wouldn’t recommend it as an audiobook but could picture it being a staple on a bookshelf you go back to often to reread parts of. I can see this being a very timeless book as well.

In contrast to that was Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Crushin It” which I loved listening to. Gary’s enthusiasm came through the speakers and I loved how he interrupts the reading of his own book to drop even more knowledge bombs and current updates. If you own a business or even yearn to be an entrepreneur at all, this book is for you.

One book that just barely got left off the list was “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” By Mark Manson. This book was way better than I expected. There were actually a lot of stoic principles presented in this book. Had it not been for the massive amounts of cursing, this book may have cracked the Top 6. While the message is great and brilliantly explained, I think a good amount of my gym members would be offended by the language. Also, the narrator does an amazing job reading this book. It’s very entertaining if you can get past all the f-bombs.

I also listened to:
“Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing – Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth” By W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

Kindle & Hardcover
The following books are listed by highest to lowest level of recommendation in different categories.

Business/ Self Improvement
“Legacy: What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business of Life”
By James Kerr
“Be Our Guest: Revised and Updated Edition: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (The Disney Institute Leadership Series)”
By The Disney Institute and Theodore Kinni
“The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups”
By Daniel Coyle
“Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance”
By Alex Hutchinson and Malcolm Gladwell
“The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness”
By Jeff Olson
“Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds”
By Carmine Gallo
“MONEY Master The Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom” by Tony Robbins
“Surge: Time the Marketplace, Ride the Wave of Consumer Demand, and Become Your Industry’s Big Kahuna”
By Mike Michalowicz
“Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Most are Five Minutes or Less)”
By S.J. Scott
“Coach the Person Not the Problem: A Simple Guide to Coaching for Transformation”
By Chad Hall
“Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business”
By Ramit Sethi

Nutrition
“Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You”
By Robb Wolf
“The Zone: A Revolutionary Life Plan to Put Your Body in Total Balance for Permanent Weight Loss”
By Barry Sears and Bill Lawren
“Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food by the Co-Creator of the Whole30”
By Melissa Hartwig
“The Whole30 Day by Day: Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success”
By Melissa Hartwig
“The Food Therapist: Break Bad Habits, Eat with Intention, and Indulge Without Worry”
By Shira Lenchewski
“Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food”
By Rachel Herz PhD

Parenting
“Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World”
By Raun K. Kaufman
“Healing and Preventing Autism: A Complete Guide”
By Jenny McCarthy and Jerry Kartzinel M.D.

I hope you start a new reading habit in 2019 and watch it improve many areas of your life. I love the Jim Rohn quote, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”  If that’s the case, spend some time this year with Victor Frankl, James Clear or Martin Luther King Jr.  I don’t need to tell you how lucky we are to live in a time where life changing information is free and waiting for you to consume it. Save 10 minutes of scrolling social media to read or listen to something useful each day.

Hope you have an amazing 2019,

Tony Frezza

As always, I’d love to hear your favorite books. Feel free to send me your recommendations.