This article looks into and provides comment on all of the books I read in 2017. It begins in January and runs chronologically until the end of December 2017.
1. Peter Senge – The Necessary Revolution
2017 got off to a great start with this book. I was first nudged towards reading Peter Senge books because of a video series created by Jennifer Woofter, who recommended another Peter Senge book The Fifth Discipline. Peter Senge delivers a brilliantly well written and instructive offering with The Necessary Revolution. Definitely a must read.
2. David Ogilvy – The Unpublished David Ogilvy
There has been many times in my life where I have picked up and read books purely on the basis of their cover. So I am afraid that I just don’t agree with the saying that you should never judge a book by its cover. In 2016, I picked up and read Ogilvy on Advertising and immediately I was enthralled by David Ogilvy’s wit, charm and business acumen. The Unpublished David Ogilvy is an excellent book and includes lots of notes, memos and letters that shed light on this great man’s life. It is also packed full of life and business advice, so I would recommend buying rather than renting a copy, as if you are like me you will find yourself returning to it frequently.
3. Joel Raphaelson and Kenneth Roman – Writing That Works
This was a book that I picked up from a David Ogilvy memo titled How To Write. His first point of a 10 point memo was: “Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.” That recommendation was definitely enough to persuade me. There is great advice in here on how to write everything from business letters to memos. This is definitely a useful book to have in your house.
4. James Lovelock – The Revenge of Gaia
Full disclosure, I am an enormous James Lovelock fan. Unsurprisingly then, I really enjoyed this book. I was particularly moved by the chapter “A personal View of Environmentalism.” James Lovelock’s books should be a staple on anyone who works in sustainability or environmental management’s book shelves.
5. Tim Marshall – Worth Dying For
Who would have ever though that a book on flags would be interesting? Well Tim Marshall obviously did and the end product is remarkable. I was a huge fan of another Tim Marshall book Prisoners of Geography and I also really enjoyed Worth Dying For. The power and politics which lies behind national flags is exceptionally interesting if at times totally irrational. There is lots of information in here that helps you to understand the modern world.
6. John Elkington and Jochen Zeitz – The Breakthrough Challenge
I personally found this to be one of the most fist pumpingly excellent books on sustainability that I have ever read. This is part management book, part sustainability treatise and part motivational keynote speech. This book will have you flipping and turning pages until you get to the end. Definitely a must read.
7. Andy Maslen – The Copywriting Sourcebook
This is another book that I bought in a charity shop based purely off of the title and the cover. This book is a great reference tool for all different types of content writing. There is lots of good advice in here for headlines, emails, articles and websites. You don’t have to read it all in one go, although I prefer to read books that way. But I highly recommend that you source a copy of this book to dip into when you need help getting words down on paper.
8. John Elkington and Peter Knight -The Green Business Guide
This book provided the biggest surprise of all in 2017. I assumed that a business guide produced in 1992 would be interesting, but that by 2017 lots of the information contained within it would be out of date. I was shocked to find this book pressingly relevant as I read it. This should really not have been any surprise as John Elkington is one of my all-time favourite authors and Peter Knight co-founded the always impressive Context sustainability consultancy. If you can get hold of a copy, I definitely recommend this book.
9. Robert Cialdini – Pre-Suasion
I bought Pre-Suasion as soon as it came out because I am a huge fan of Cialdini’s other work Influence, which is a classic amongst sales and marketing professionals. I really liked the content of his latest book and I would definitely recommend all of Robert Cialdini’s work to anyone working in sustainability or environmental management. Being able to influence is a skill. This is a particularly important skill in a field like sustainability where you need to effect change in areas where people may feel that change is not needed. Pre-Suasion was very interesting in highlighting why some people are able to persuade where others are not.
10. Giselle Weybrecht – The Sustainable MBA
I really enjoyed this book. It is certainly a tour de force coming in at almost 500 pages. The attention to detail is simply phenomenal. Whether you know a lot about sustainability or you would like to know more, this is an excellent guide to help make your organisation more sustainable.
11. David Holmgren – Future Scenarios
I first became interested in permaculture whilst studying at the University of Leeds and the Permaculture Association national office is also based in Leeds. David Holmgren who is the co-originator of the permaculture concept has written a really approachable guide on how communities can adapt to peak oil and climate change with this offering.
12. Malcom Gladwell – Outliers
I was introduced to Malcom Gladwell’s work by way of recommendation. It did not disappoint. His writing style and his way of writing non-fiction with such stunning prose was really impressive. I was immediately converted to being a fan of his after reading this classic.
13. Michael Braungart and William McDonough – Cradle to Cradle
This book contains within it many powerful insights that are necessary in order to build a better world. Even the production value of the book is highlighted as having been undertaken to the highest levels of sustainability possible. It is a regular bugbear of mine when books on sustainability are printed in an ostentatious manner and not on FSC or PEFC certified paper. We need to create a more circular economy and this book contains within it the ideas to make that happen. Definitely a must read.
14. Paul Hawken – The Ecology Of Commerce
I had heard a great deal about this book before reading it. I had heard it was responsible for converting Ray Anderson of Interface and countless others to join the sustainability cause. The content and the writing style are simply phenomenal. The message is also critically important. Businesses are the only institutions capable of destroying the planet and they are the only institutions capable of preventing that destruction.
15. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein – Nudge
This was a great book and after reading it, I could see why Richard Thaler would win the Nobel Prize for Economics later in the year. There is a powerful section in the book on how you can nudge people towards more sustainable behaviours which I found very interesting. I definitely think there is a lot that sustainability could learn from the behavioural economics.
16. Bertrand Russell – The Problems of Philosophy
I found this to be a very interesting if quite challenging read. But I guess that is why I find myself coming back to Bertrand Russell’s huge catalogue time and time again because he challenges you to think differently.
17. Andrew Savitz – The Triple Bottom Line
I had a very enjoyable time reading this book. The strapline that accompanies it is: “how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social, and environmental success — and how you can too.” This book does exactly what it sets out to do. It is full of useful and helpful examples of sustainability in action. As a side note, there is always something that I like about books which are written by authors who have spent a long time in consulting. The writing is always crisp and to the point.
18. Tim Smit – Eden
This book was simply phenomenal. I saw Tim deliver a keynote speech in November 2016 and that prompted me to buy his book in 2017. In creating The Eden Project, he has reframed what is possible. The key takeaway from the book is that you only get one life, you only get once chance. Dream big, dream bold and try and make great things happen during your short stay on planet earth. Definitely a must read.
19. Seth Godin – Tribes
I had listened to Seth Godin audiobooks before, but this was the first physical book of his that I read. I thought it was really interesting, I loved the writing style and I was immediately converted to a super fan of his. It crystallised my belief that creating average products for average people is no longer a winning strategy. Rather, because of the internet you can now target far more niche audiences who will love rather than just like your product or service.
20. John Elkington and Julia Hailes – The Green Consumer Guide
I read the original 1988 version and I thought it was full of useful information to make shopping habits more sustainable. I will look to read the 2007 updated edition in 2018, but even that was released in 2007 so perhaps a second update is required from John Elkington and Julia Hailes.
21. George Marshall – Don’t Even Think About It
This was a book that I picked up because of a recommendation by Tim Smit in his keynote speech that I mentioned about previously.
This book contains within it some powerful insights on why there are many psychological barriers preventing us from tackling climate change appropriately. I was so moved by reading this book that I was motivated to produce my very first book review, which you can find by clicking the link below.
Overall, this is a fantastic book that sets out information on a key problem and finishes solutions to how we can solve that problem. Definitely a must read.
22. John Elkington – A Year In The Greenhouse
This was another book that I read this year that I did not have the highest expectations of that ended up blowing me away. It was great to be able to spend a year looking over John’s shoulder in 1989, which was a critical year for the environment. I was impressed with the amount of work that John packs into each working day. His work ethic is truly remarkable.
23. Alan Andreasen – Marketing Social Change
For me, this book provided the biggest disappointment of 2017. I was drawn in by the strapline of: “changing behaviour to promote health, social development, and the environment.” But I thought that the writing style was not particularly captivating and I finished reading it without many key takeaways or principles to keep hold of.
24. Jack Beatty – The World According to Peter Drucker
I love Peter Drucker so I was pleased when I came across this book on him. It did not disappoint at all. Peter Drucker has a great management philosophy that all businesses should use and internalise in order to be successful.
25. Bob Willard – The Sustainability Advantage
This book was another highlight of 2017. I did not have sky high expectations, but I did know that Bob had worked at IBM and was well thought of in the sustainability community. I was seriously impressed by Bob’s ability to quantify the business case for sustainability. You can tell Bob is a numbers guy and the quantitative work that has gone into this was simply incredible. Money talks and if you want to influence influential diction makers it is imperative that you go in armed with facts and figures.
Too often in sustainability we think that doing the right thing will be enough. But Bob has really done a fantastic thing with this book and the accompanying online resources to help organisations quantify the business benefits of sustainability. There is an updated version which I look forward to reading in 2018.
26. Malcom Gladwell – Blink
I bought this because of a keynote speech that I saw delivered online by Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Again, I was amazed by Malcom Gladwell’s writing style and I found the insights and presentation of information in this book really interesting.
27. John Elkington with Tom Burke – The Green Capitalists
This was another exceptionally well written book by John Elkington. For me, the main takeaway was what I learned about the oil and gas supermajors and the environmental experts that they hire to help make their operations more sustainable. That being said, I do still believe there is a flaw in their business model and unless they make a 180 degree turn they still have to be considered as a threat. This book was published in 1987 and the core business operations of these companies are still rooted in the extraction and sale of petroleum products.
28. David Grayson and Adrian Hodges – Everybody’s Business
This book was one I picked up because of a recommendation that I saw in Steve Hilton’s More Human which is one of my all-time favourites. This is definitely a powerful book on corporate responsibility and how it will shape expectations of businesses in the 21st century.
29. Judi Marshall, Gill Coleman and Peter Reason – Leadership for Sustainability
This was a book that I picked up from a charity shop based purely off of the title. It provides a very interesting insight into the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice that they run at the University of Bath. I really enjoyed the chapters that were written by alumni of the course and how they are putting the principles they learned on the course into practice in the real world. More universities should produce books like this.
30. Steve Keen – Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis
I really liked Steve Keen’s other work Debunking Economics so I was pleased when I saw that Steve Keen was producing another book for 2017.I was really impressed by this work and for a more thorough review, please click the link below as I produced a full book review with my thoughts.
31. George Friedman – The Next 100 years
I have been a fan of George Friedman’s political forecasting company Stratfor for some time. They put out a lot of free content in audio, video and written formats and they have a tendency to be right. This was the first George Friedman book that I read and I was really impressed with the writing style. His vision for the future is captivating and it definitely made for an interesting read.
32. Gary Firth – Salt and Saltaire
I was first introduced to Titus Salt and his utopian model village whilst studying at the University of Leeds. This was a book that I bought at the gift shop at Saltire and that I read whilst preparing for a project that I did on the area. I re-read the book in 2017 as I prepared for an article that I did looking at corporate responsibility through the lens of the life and work of Titus Salt. You can find out more about this article by clicking the link below.
This is a great book and it provides you with everything you need to know about the legend of Titus Salt.
33. Malcom Gladwell – The Tipping Point
Discovering Malcom Gladwell was a big highlight of 2017 for me. I thought the content of this book was really important for sustainability professionals and anyone who wants to make change happen. The writing style is phenomenal as Malcom weaves a story together out of a number of narratives. This is definitely a must read.
34. George Friedman – Flashpoints
This was another George Friedman book that I read because of how much I enjoyed The Next 100 Years. The content of this book is focussed on Europe. I really enjoyed reading the perspectives contained within this book and I would definitely recommend it.
35. Paul Hawken – Drawdown
I was really excited when I saw the news that Paul Hawken was editing a new book on solutions to climate change. I bought this as soon as it came out and it was every bit as impressive as I expected it to be. The detail is incredible and these solutions are important if climate change is going to be tackled sufficiently. I was so impressed that I produced a full book review which you can read by clicking the link below.
36. Frank Westell and Simon Martin – The Cyclist’s Body Book
I love cycling. But during 2017 I felt that the mileage I was undertaking was beginning to take its toll on my body. I decided to invest in this book and I was very pleased with its content. There is lots of good advice in here for pre and post workout stretches, nutrition and everything else you need to know to keep you moving on two wheels.
37. Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince
This book provided a big surprise in 2017. I saw it recommended on a best business book list on LinkedIn so I decided to buy and read it. I was really impressed with the content and I can see why it is a classic that has survived for so long. Perhaps sustainability needs a more Machiavellian streak if it is to breakthrough?
38. John Elkington – The Chrysalis Economy
This was another excellent John Elkington book that I read in 2017. The content was really good with lots of great examples of how companies can develop a recognised position on sustainability even if they have not historically excelled in this area. This is something I think is really important as globally we all move at the pace of the slowest mover. It is great to have sustainability leaders, but we need to ensure there is a pathway for sustainability laggards to become the sustainability leaders of tomorrow.
39. Mitch Meyerson – Success Secrets of the Social Media Marketing Superstars
I read this book in advance of a talk that I was giving on social media. You can always learn something new by reading a book and there was lots of great advice in here. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur, a blogger or a business owner, the online world is a great place to market yourself and to develop leads. This book is full of advice on how to do that.
40. Bertrand Russell – What I Believe
I really enjoyed this book by Bertrand Russell. It provides the sort of guidance that you would expect from an esteemed philosopher of his calibre. I would definitely recommend getting hold of a copy and reading this book.
41. David Holmgren – Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability
I read this book whilst at university and the content really struck me. I am always impressed by the vision of a sustainable future that you get from permaculture activists. Sometimes I can be disappointed by the modern sustainability movement, so I read this book to reenergise myself. Reading this book provided the inspiration for two articles, the links for which can be found below.
42. Geert Mak – Amsterdam
I was gifted this book as a present and I did not read it for some time. I was visiting Amsterdam in November and I took this book to read on the train there and back. I found it to be enormously interesting and I finished reading it with even more of an admiration for the city than I did before I started it. What struck me was the distinct personality that Amsterdamers have and that cities, whilst often thought of as being about buildings and infrastructure are really about the people that live there. They are what make cities special.
43. WCED – Our Common Future
In 2017 I decided to read Our Common Future, which was prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development as I realised that I had only read extracts of the book and not the whole thing from cover to cover. This is an enormously important book and I had an enjoyable time reading it. I enjoyed it so much that I created a 4 part book review which you can find links for below.
44. Seth Godin – The Dip
I thought that this Seth Godin book was great. It contained some powerful insights into why some people fail and other succeed.
45. Seth Godin – We are all Weird
I am a big fan of Seth Godin and I had an enjoyable time reading this book. Seth Godin hammers home his consistent message about how the game has changed and that marketers politicians and anyone else looking to influence should target a niche audience and not the general masses.
46. John Elkington and Julia Hailes – Holidays That Don’t Cost the Earth
This was the last John Elkington book that I read in 2017. I had a great time working my way through his back catalogue this year. I read this before going on holiday and I did think the book contained a lot of useful information to help people plan holidays that take less from the earth socially and environmentally. As with some of the other guides, this was published in 1992 and I think that a modern update would be a good thing.
47. Hunter S Thompson – The Great Shark Hunt
I read this whilst on holiday and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time reading it.
I have read a lot of Hunter S Thompson books and thought I knew quite a bit about him but this book was full of information about him that I did not know before. I would not recommend it as the first book of his to read, but for anyone looking for an interesting read that has read a few of his books, this is an absolute page turner.
As a side note, one of the main reasons that I became interested in reading books and eventually writing was because of Hunter S Thompson. One quotation of his was stuck in my mind throughout reading this book, it was his line about his companion Oscar Zeta Acosta being “Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
Whilst the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has done much to popularise Hunter S Thompson and his cult alias Raoul Duke. At bottom, he remains in my opinion one of the greatest writers of all time.
48. Rolf Potts – Vagabonding
I bought this book for my holiday after I saw it recommended by Tim Ferris. It was really enjoyable and for anyone who has never been travelling I would definitely recommend you get a copy of this book and then start planning your first adventure. Or for even the seasoned traveler this book has lots of great insights into how you can have a memorable trip.
49. William Burroughs – Naked Lunch
This was another book that I read whilst on holiday. I had heard it was a cult classic and so I had high expectations. My preconceptions of what the book would be like were totally shattered after the first ten pages. The book is simply stunning with the imagination shown by William Burroughs being simply incredible. I can now see why this book has carved out its own place in history as a literary classic.
50. Bertrand Russell – Icarus
This was the last book that I read in 2017. It was another by Bertrand Russell who I turn to for guidance and inspiration. This book contains some powerful information and I definitely recommend it to anyone.
What you need to know
This article looked into and provided comment on all of the books I read in 2017. It began in January and ran chronologically until the end of December 2017.
I had a really enjoyable time picking out and selecting the books that I read in 2017. I was very lucky in that they almost all turned out to be brilliant.
Reading is something that has helped me enormously in life and I definitely recommend that everyone tries to read at least one book a week.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What books did you read and enjoy in 2017?