My Favorite Books of 2017

wereMy Favorite Books of 2017 | Howard HuangMy Favorite Books of 2017 | Howard Huang

In the beginning of 2017, I set a New Year’s resolution of reading more. So I made a commitment to myself to read an hour a day. I was empowered and gung-ho about it for the first 30 days, but like most New Year’s resolutions, I found it incredibly difficult to stick to. Even though I skipped some days, I did accomplish my goal of reading more. Below are my top favorite books of 2017.

Creativity, Inc.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could shadow some of the great leaders that currently run large successful businesses? It’s too bad that they are too busy running their businesses to let us tag along. Lucky for you and me some of these great CEO’s have written books on how they work, manage, and build their businesses.

The above reason is what primarily inspired me to read more this year. I wanted to get more insights about these great leaders. I wanted to learn more about the challenges they faced, what they had to do to overcome them, and what it takes to be succesful.

Creativity, Inc. is written by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. This book can be both categorized as an autobiography and a business management book. Ed tells his story by providing a linear career progression from working with Steve Jobs to eventually leading two very different and very successful animation studios.

It’s a great book about being empathetic, honest, and not letting your ego get in the way.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

This is one of the most popular philosophy books written in the 1970s. The book is based on true events written by the author with a split personality as he travels with his son across the US. This book was very hard to read as things were very abstract. Nonetheless, I finished the book feeling that I didn’t quite understand its deeper meaning, but perhaps that is what happens when I read philosophy books. Nonetheless, a book that challenged me to read more in other categories other than business.

The Long Tail

This book is about how the media distribution strategy has changed over the last 50 years and what the new business model shift is. Where are consumers going? And what makes Google, Amazon, and YouTube so successful and powerful. Essentially, the summary for the book is the new riches is in the niches. The content of the book started out first as an article that went viral which can be found here. It then expanded and evolved into this book.

On the Road

This book was written in the 1940s based on true events that happened with the author’s travels across the United States. He crissed crossed New York to San Francisco 3 times throughout his life. The book was about how to live in the moment and enjoy life. He would work just enough to travel into the next town. Once he got to the next town, he would stay there until he got bored. Then he would decide to continue onto the next town. Overall, the book was an easy read, that took me back to an era where life was much simpler.

They Call Me Coach

I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading this book given that I am not a sports fan at all. John Wooden was the head coach at UCLA and led his team towards 10 champions in a 12 year span. UCLA holds the record in number of consecutive games won during his tenure. He attributes his successes towards his approach to life, discipline, and being a good man. In summary, he believes that life, like basketball, is a game of skill, timing, and position.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be”

“I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent”

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do”

Understanding Exposure

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn more about how to take better pictures. It’s a book about the three pillars of photography: Shutter speed, ISO, and Aperture. Photography is about understanding these three pillars.

I learned how I can focus on a single subject while keeping the surrounding background out of focus. I also learned how I can shoot in low-light. Never again will my photos come out as too dark or too bright. A great book that has definitely took my photography to the next level.

The Design of Everyday Things

Dan Norman was the VP of Advanced Technology at Apple. He was one of the primary person in charge of defining product design for Apple’s most iconic products. It is a book about the psychology of design and all of the intricacies and considerations a designer has to evaluate when designing a product. I enjoyed this book because it had a lot more to do with the design of everyday things such as faucets, door exits, and stove top controls and a lot less to do with UI/UX design as it relates to digital. With that said, he made a lot of good parallels in how the design philosophy translates into digital.


As an effort to continuously grow my product development skills I picked up Hooked. It’s a book describing a Hook Model which breaks down the formula of how to connect your product’s solutions to customer problems. In another words, the author describes his framework in how to create a habit forming products. There are four major quadrants that make up the Hook Model. These include trigger, action, variable reward, and investment. A product must have all four to have a holistic closed loop experience that ultimately defines a good product.

The book provides case studies and examples of how some of the most prominent products implement the Hook Model. Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are some of the examples mentioned.

Cracking the PM Interview

If you ever wanted to learn how to get into Product Management and nailing the interview, this is the book to get. From reading this I’ve gained incredible insights on how companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon hire for strong Product Managers. This book outlines tips on how to approach interview questions and outlines frameworks to properly answer them.

The biggest takeaway I got from this book is learning how to approach and answer seemingly vague questions like How would you build an alarm clock for the blind? or How much does a school bus weigh? Strong product managers are able to provide an intelligent estimate with structured thinking often without data available.

The Plane That Wasn’t There

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8, 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia to Beijing, China. It has been widely concluded, without substantial evidence, that the aircraft flew south toward the Indian Ocean, ran out of fuel, and crashed. Having an aircraft of this size go missing without a trace grabbed headlines and I remember CNN covering the story for a long period of time.

The author, Jeff Wise, was one of the journalists covering this story and in this book he proposes a theory as to why we haven’t found anything. The book catalogs all of the information that have been released publicly and questions previously made assumptions that don’t quite add up. He then uses this to support and frame his own theory as to what happened. It’s an interesting read that further adds to the mystery.

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

AI is the hot new thing tech companies are chasing after. After I read Tim Urban’s article on Artificial Intelligence, I started to get more curious.

I was motivated to pick up this book when Elon Musk recommended it as a good read. I wasn’t disappointed because the book provided a framework outlining the state of AI today, where it could lead us in the future, and its potential pitfalls. Whether you think AI is hocus pocus or something that is very likely to happen in your lifetime, the book does an excellent job being inclusive from all perspectives. Additionally, I enjoyed this book because it easy to read while technical enough to make you more curious. I’ll definitely be reading more AI books for 2018.

Want more book recommendations from me?

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  1. Pingback: 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Entrepreneurs | What's Huang?

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