Dan’s top 10 books of 2021
From stage illusionists to mid-century poets, these are the best books Dan read this year.
You know by now that I think braincare is important, but it’s not all just hydration and vitamins.
Filling my mind with ideas, insights, wisdom, and power from people who’ve taken the time to write their knowledge down—well, that’s the power of neuroplasticity, and it helps me in my quest to become 1% better every month.
Here are the top 10 books I read last year, for those that are interested. I’ve been writing and keeping a top 10 list for years—you can see those here.
10. Happy—Derren Brown
Great magician. Also, it turns out, a very good author. Derren Brown delves into the worlds of ancient philosophies and modern literature, wrapping it up through the lens of someone whose entire career is set up to deceive you. He manages to tell the story of the narratives of happiness in a piercing, witty and meaningful way.
9. Siddhartha—Hermann Hesse
I try to read at least one classic book a year—this year’s choice, Siddhartha, was great. It’s an oldie but a goodie, telling the story of the Buddha in a roundabout way. Sometimes slow, sometimes confusing, sometimes frustrating. But in the end, you learn that it was all intentional, and that both the journey of reading it and the destination have been equally rewarding.
8. Think and Grow Rich—Napoleon Hill
Another classic, and one of the most cited and famous books in the realms of manifestation and business verticals. There is an utter brilliance and simplicity that comes from reading a book written over 100 years ago that still makes perfect sense today. You could swap out Edison and Ford for Musk and Branson—the power of determination is as inspiring today as it most likely was then.
7. Indistractible—Nir Eyal
I need books like this because I (like many) am highly distractible, and always struggling to focus.
“You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what you’re being distracted from.” One of the many excellent lines that, in context with the examples and lessons in this book, have helped remind me how to stay focussed… Or at least, a tiny bit more than usual!
You can listen to Nir on the Braincare podcast here.
6. A Manual for Being Human—Dr Sophie Mort
Psychologist Dr Sophie Mort shares her perspective of the human condition in her witty and inspiring debut work. She covers how we think, why we feel, and what normal looks like, and celebrates the individual minds that keep us human.
You can listen to Sophie on the Braincare podcast here.
5. Happy Sexy Millionaire—Steven Bartlett
I’ve known Steve for about a decade so I might be a bit biased—in fact I was one of the first people to be gifted his book—but it would be on the list anyway. For a debut by a 28 year old, it’s remarkably wise, profound and extremely easy to read—there’s a reason it made the Sunday Times Bestseller list. Great writing from a future global megastar.
4. Breathe—James Nestor
Breathe is exactly the kind of book I love and devour,—full of notes and new insights. Author James Nestor brings his own charm and cynicism to both the spiritual and the scientific marvels of breathing, and travels the world in pursuit of understanding the depth to which changing the way we breathe can extend our lives. A must read.
3. The Power of Now—Eckhart Tolle
I started this audiobook on January 1st 2021. It took me a week to read, not because it’s long, but because I found every sentence so utterly genius that it cut through my soul.
However, it’s not for everyone, including old me. I had tried to read it before, and thought it was absolute garbage, but I’ve since been on a journey trying to understand my mind and sense of self. Perhaps it was worth another shot.
Just, wow. By far the most notes I’ve ever taken in a book. You might think it’s garbage too, but if you don’t, it really could be life-changing. The book does what it says on the tin—it’s all about one single point in time. Kind of unconventional, but if you are willing to listen to the words—wow.
2. The Untethered Soul—Michael Singer
This was the second book I read last year (right after The Power of Now), and again, there I was taking lots of notes.
If you can’t get into Eckhart Tolle, there’s a good chance this is for you. Singer is exceptional at speaking on a level you can relate to, with good humour and, most powerfully, analogies that really click into place. There were at least three in this book that have stuck with me. I’ve recited them to others, and they’ve helped me understand the mind, from negative self talk, to trauma, to being overwhelmed. He just… gets it. Well worth your time!
1. A New Earth—Eckhart Tolle
In some ways, this is a ‘who-am-I-what-is-the-universe-and-how-does-it-all-make-sense’ kind of book. It’s a huge topic that requires ambition to take on, but the way Tolle connects it all is seamless.
I was reluctant to read this because I thought he couldn’t top The Power Of Now, but this blew my mind on a whole new level, to the extent that I did something I’ve never done in my life—I finished it and started it again immediately the next day. It’s not comparable to The Power Of Now because that’s about one point, whereas A New Earth is an entire philosophy, where the insights from the former would make up just one chapter.
If you are even moderately interested in connecting to your inner self, and connecting to the utter wonder of life on earth and what it all means, this is the book for you.
On a personal note—
In case you wonder how I get through so many books (between 25 and 50 in a year), I don’t actually ‘read’ them at all. I listen on Audible, and take notes on my phone while walking.
And if you’re wondering what I’m planning to read this year, I’ve restarted The Power of Now to see if I can start the year with a sense of calm and acceptance. After that, I’ve queued up 4,000 weeks by Oliver Burkeman, The Bhagavad Gita (an ancient spiritual text) and Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.