40 Things I Learned from 20 Books in 2013

Shamelessly inspired by this list of Julien Smith’s. Also check out my list from 2012.

While I failed to stick with my goal of 25 pages a day the entire year, I did improve my speed reading ability drastically in 2013. This year also had me traveling more than ever before, allowing me to significantly up my reading rate compared to 2012.

I have been making an attempt to read more fiction, and thanks to awesome pages like this and this, my personal reading list has just about tripled in size. 

Here are 40 takeaways from the 20 books I read this year:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

(Hands down the most relateable book I have ever read and easily one of the top five most important I’ve read in my entire life. . .) 

1. “The most common—and damaging—misunderstanding about personality type is that introverts are anti-social and extroverts are pro-social. Neither formulation is correct; introverts and extroverts are differently social.”

2. “Introverts are better than extroverts at delaying gratification, a crucial life skill associated with everything from higher SAT scores and income to lower body mass index.”

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter- And How To Make The Most Of Them Now by Meg Jay

3. Post-college life can be extremely confusing and disorienting because our life is no longer divided into sizable chunks with a beginning and end, as in the case of our education system.

4. The twenties have become so glamorized and obsessed over by the media that it has led to their trivialization and for many to believe that these years don’t ‘really matter’, when it is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

5. Put trust in what you think is interesting, not what you think will work.

6. “Fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

7. Finishing a book (or any piece of art) is a little like putting an octopus to bed—tentacles (imperfections) will keep working their way out of the covers, but at some point you have to know when to stop wrestling with it and just walk away.

8. “[When writing fiction], you are going to love some of your characters, because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason.”

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

9. Learning the history and more subtle themes behind a book after reading it can make all the difference in a novel being unforgettable or just ‘good’.

10. If the amount of alcohol these characters drank is an accurate portrayal of their real life counterparts, they would put most fraternities to shame.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

11. The moment you realize you aren’t present, you are present.

12. “The mind is simply an organ, not unlike all your others. It is a tool and is there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down.”

Platform by Michael Hyatt

13. Posting at least once a week (ideally more) is one of the biggest determinants in a blog’s success or failure.

14. Building a successful platform requires a ‘home base’ (e.g., your blog) that traffic is directed to via your ’embassies’ (e.g., social media), all of which is monitored at your ‘outposts’ (e.g., Google Analytics, HootSuite).

Models by Mark Manson

15. For whatever reason, nothing says “let’s be friends” more than getting lunch on a first date.

16. “Vulnerability represents a form of power, a deep and subtle form of power. A man who’s able to make himself vulnerable is saying to the world “I don’t care what you think of me; this is who I am, and I am ok with it.”

Letters From A Stoic by Seneca

17. It’s amazing how little the human condition has changed over the last 2000+ years and how we all worry about the same things now that they did then.

18. Death is just not being—which is what we all were before being born. Therefore, we have all experienced what death is like.

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

19. If you have seen the movie, it’s impossible to not read this in Johnny Depp’s voice.

20. Hunter was better at describing people, places, and moods better than any author I’ve ever read.

Bright Lights Big City by Jay McInernery

21. It is probably incredibly difficult to pull off, but writing a book in the second person is a super-effective way to suck the reader in.

22. If nothing else, living in New York made me able to appreciate and relate to so much more literature and art.

No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover

23. A Nice Guy is one that acts a certain way out of expectation for something (be it attention, sex, or a problem free-life) in return.

24. Setting boundaries with a partner makes them feel secure. “In general, when women feel secure, they feel loved. She will also come to know that if her partner will stand up to her, he is also likely to stand up for her.”

On Writing by Stephen King

25. Stephen King was up to a case of tallboys a night when he was writing Cujo, a novel he barely remembers working on at all. Conversely, my attention span for writing disappears after two cocktails.

26. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should end in the reader’s.”

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

27. Product features are descriptive; benefits are emotional.

28. “To start a business, you need three things: a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. Everything else is completely optional.”

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

29. “Skill” is basically insulation that grows and develops around our neural pathways through repeated action.

30. “The nine most-recent world record holders in the 100-meter dash were the youngest or second youngest in families of three or more children- this pattern suggests that speed is not purely a gift but a skill that grows through deep practice, and that is ignited by primal cues. In this case, the cue is- you’re behind, keep up!

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

31. True wisdom cannot be obtained through teachings, but only through experience.

32. Any circumstance or event, good or bad, can be given meaning and turned into something of value.

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead by David Shields

33. If a book has a depressing-sounding title, it probably is a safe bet to assume that it contains a fair amount of depressing material.

34. According to Hebrew scripture, “when you arrive in the world as a baby, your hands are clenched, as though to say, “Everything is mine. I will inherit it all.” When you depart from the world, your hands are open, as though to say, “I have acquired nothing from the world.”

The Little Book of Contentment by Leo Babauta

35. Books like this are like a drug—they provide a high (“inspiration”) that you think could last forever, but for the most part you eventually come back down to where you were before.

36. “There are two kinds of knowledge seeking: the first is thinking you don’t know enough or don’t know the important things so you need to go out and learn, and the second is being content with what you know, but still being curious about other things, and appreciating your love for learning new things.”

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

37. If I have seen the Muppet rendition of a book before reading it, I am going to use that as a reference point for just about every scene.

38. Charles Dickens was one verbose MF’er.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White

39. The sexiest way to write a date is 27 December 2013, as it quickly grasped and avoids having too many numbers in succession.

40. It’s possible for me to love writing and everything about it, yet still find a book like this painfully dry.


  1. I agree with your opinion of Mr. Dickens in that he seems to use many if not an excessive amount of somewhat redundant descriptive words that somehow reiterate the same meaning in a way that at time is irritating due to the anticipation of the conclusive comment that he has already conveyed. (i.e. uses too many F’ing words).

  2. mark lee Reply

    Hi. I’m a book worm and I really love these kinds of books especially the book written by Ernest Hemingway the sun also rises.

    • andrewelsass Reply

      Thanks for the comment–I love that book, too!

Leave a Reply