‘Tis the season for end-of-the-year lists. But why let the MSM have all the fun?

Herewith, arranged alphabetically, are my ten favorite books of 2009.  All of these are great, and many of them make me proud to be a writer. (Note: These are books I read in ’09. A few were published in other years.)

await_your_reply_lAwait Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Somehow Chaon managed to create a lock-yourself-in-the-bathroom-to-see-how-it-turns-out thriller that’s also a nuanced meditation on the fluidity of identity. Oh, and it’s three separate narratives that slowly intersect. A tour de force. Link

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

How did a tribe of  tunic-sporting, sandal-wearing, alcohol-swilling canyon dwellers become the greatest distance runners of all time? And why might running shoes cause more harm than good? You’ll find answers to both questions in this rollicking nonfiction tale. Link

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon

A collection of essays about being a 40-something white guy who grew up in the 1970s and now has a smart wife and a passel of kids. Strangely, I could relate.  And, man, can Chabon write a sentence. Link

Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

A fascinating look at the science of parenting that overturns many old verities about raising kids. This one wins the prize for the most underlined book of the year. Link

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

A cogent, and surprisingly entertaining, look at several aspects of behavioral economics. Understanding Ariely’s distinction between social exchanges and market exchanges changed the way I see the world. Link

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Although this novel came out in 1962, I’d actually never heard of it until this year. A genuine classic (unlike the movie, which was disappointing.) Link

Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber
Espresso shots of insight by one of the smartest business minds around. Link


The Art of Osamu Tezuka, God of Manga by Helen McCarthy

Osamu Tezuka is probably the most extraordinary cultural figure most Americans have never heard of. He essentially invented manga. In Japan he’s a combination of Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Elvis. This is a beautiful book, too. Link

9780374165734The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

WaPo reporter Finkel spent nearly a year with a battalion of U.S. infantry soldiers serving in an insanely dangerous area of Iraq during the 2007-2008 “surge.”  This book broke my heart and made me question what the hell we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Link

Careful readers will note that I’ve listed only nine books. The year ain’t over. Other books on my pile that I haven’t gotten to yet, but that just might qualify for that coveted final spot are: In Fed We Trust, DeKooning, The Lunar Men, The Talent Code, Say You’re One of Them, Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want, The Informers, The Healing of America, Free, Sag Harbor, and The Fourth Part of the World.

Meantime, what’s on your list? Feel free to add your favorites to the comments section. I’ll collect a sampling and repost.

28 Responses to “My 10 favorite books of 2009”

  1. Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

    An irreverent occupational guide which inspires confidence in the weirdest of ways.

    Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

    Candid first person accounts of design thinking efforts with a theme of paying attention to the outliers to attain breakthroughs.

    Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

    CK refined the ‘metathinking’ genre; an entertaining read for someone who thought they knew everything about Back to the Future and Weezer.

  2. Avatar photo Dan Pink says:

    @ryan — great choices. i really enjoyed the first two books you mentioned — and i’ve always like klosterman.

  3. Thanks for the list! I was just talking about behavioral economics this morning and I was interested in your reference. One of my all time favorites on human behavior is “Power vs. Force – The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior” by David R. Hawkins.

    Other books this year that were great “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan, “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner, “Nothing to be frightened of” by Julian Barnes.

  4. Tony says:

    Really find it unbelievable that you did not include the links to Amazon for these respective books. I understand you direct us to the publishers to get more scratch for the authors, but seriously – if you´re going to put time into creating such a masterful list as this one, why don’t you include the Amazon links also and let your readers decide who they want to buy from?

  5. kyra cheremeteff says:

    Justice, by michael sandel, may prove to be a good one….have just received it and about to crack it open.worth a peek. Kyra

  6. Avatar photo Dan Pink says:

    @tony — There’s a method to my madness. I didn’t want to favor one book retailer over the others. If I put Amazon links to all these books, that would disadvantage B&N, Borders, and all the independents. (That actually works against my self-interest. I’m an Amazon affiliate, so I would have made a few bucks by including those links.)

    I figure that anyone savvy enough to read the Pink Blog is savvy enough to put a title in Google and track it down. My only goals here is is that folks will check out these excellent books — whether they buy them online, in a store, or just borrow them from the local library.

  7. Kurt Berger says:

    “Connected” by Christakis and Fowler. A great background read on social networks for anyone looking at how to apply social media.

  8. Scott Smith says:

    Choosing Dan Chaon’s ‘Await Your Reply’ was inspired. John McNally turned me on to Chaon (and taught me to pronounce Chaon like Sean). McNally wrote ‘Ghosts of Chicago’ and has a new novel coming out in March next year, ‘After the Workshop.’

    Full disclosure: McNally is an old friend. He’s a helluva writer.

    You mentioned Richard Yates, which made me think of Richard Russo’s ‘Risk Pool.’ A terrific old novel. Sadly, I didn’t think much of his latest book.

    PS: My teenage step-children enjoyed Bunko.

  9. Mindy says:

    I read a lot of books this year in an attempt to hit a lofty books per year goal. I failed in reaching the goal but learned a lot in the process – particularly about slowing down and absorbing what I read rather than frantically trying to hit my weekly goal.

    The nonfiction book that stood out the most for me was “The Open Mind: Exploring the Six Patterns of Natural Intelligence” by Dawna Markova. I always knew that people process sensory information differently, but this book truly gave me the opportunity to really walk around in someone else’s shoes for a while. It spurred a lot of interesting conversation in my household. It was published in 1996, and while it had slight hippie leanings, it was very engaging.

    I just finished Po Bronson’s book “What Should I Do With My Life?” earlier this week. Can something be even-handedly inspiring? I felt both inspired and cautioned at the same time.

    Thanks for the list! I look forward to checking out these books.

  10. Great list Dan!

    I’ve spend my days this year stuck in the clouds with the following great books.

    Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse (Great spiritual journey)
    Business as Unusual – Anita Roddick (Birth of The Body Shop)
    Social Entrepreneurship – Andrew Mawson (Making communities work)
    Inside Larry & Sergey’s Brain – Richard Brandt (Googlology)
    The Power of One – Bryce Courtney (Journey of growing up!)

  11. Ted Wright says:

    A series of books actually, collectively known as 33 1/3. Civilians and under published professional writers with a serious passion for one particular record album write a 100 +/- page book about it. There is a whole “cult” around these books – http://www.33third.blogspot.com/. If you love music or a particular band, these books are super fun. My favorite was the one about Murmur.

  12. Brian Reich says:

    Dan – I’m not sure if you are a basketball fan, but Bill Simmons “The Book of Basketball” is quite incredible — not a page-turner, cover-to-cover type read, but more of a reference for fans (even the most casual) who are looking to connect things that don’t always seem to make sense. I thought you might enjoy, whether you enjoy the game or not.

  13. mike says:

    Every year the Mayor of the City of Denver chooses a book for all interested to read, and the local libraries get a bunch of copies. The first selection, several years ago, was
    – “Peace like a River”, (Leif Enger) an easy read and wonderful book.
    This year the Mayor let the populace vote for based on a short list. The chosen:
    – To Kill a Mockingbird. As a (somewhat) dutiful citizen I picked up a copy and read (or maybe even reread it). What stuck me strongly involved race relations. Comparing life then with life now, we have made a lot of progress. Yes, there are still many problems and issues, but progress has been made. So that made me reflect on how did change happen and what could this tell me/us about other pressing issues: poverty, Middle East peace, … I do NOT have any answers but reflecting on the past and seeing how we got to NOW has been interesting.

    (sorry I used your book list for a rant)

  14. Tom says:

    I would like to add:
    “Think & Grow Rich” N. Hill
    “Outliers” M. Gladwell
    “The Esssentials Series” T. Peters
    “Re-Imagine” T. Peters
    “A Whole New Mind” by some guy named a color or something.
    Hopefully when it evetaully comes out another book by the same fellow called “Drive”.
    Thanks for the list Dan.

    Best Regards,

  15. Arpad says:

    As a Hungarian Publisher, who published A Whole New Mind, and hopefully we will publish Drive (if we receive the rights 🙂 too…

    1. Sense of Urgency – J.P. Kotter
    2. Panicology – Briscoe-Aldersey
    3. Free – Chris Anderson
    4. The Evolution of God – R. Wright
    5. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs – C. Gallo
    6. Dear Undercover Economist: Priceless Advice on Money, Work, Sex… – Tim Harford
    7. Tribes – Seth Godin
    8. Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism – Akerlof-Schiller
    9. Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan – J. Adelstein
    10. Instead of Advertising – Cs. Manyai


  16. Paul Cornies says:

    I have written down your picks of Nurtureshock and Predictably Irrational for my next visit to the bookstore. Thanks.

    May I suggest a wonderful read for me this year: Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! Why NOW is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion. This book has really got me thinking about pursuing what lies deep within. Of course, he’s making millions through his Wine Library TV shows but there’s more here than simple money. It’s the creative and entreprenurial spirit which shines through in practical ways.

  17. Mark Smith says:

    Daniel, just watched your video. Very compelling and great presentation. I will be buying your book.

    My book faves:
    1. Awakening – Anthoney DeMello
    2. Good to Great – Jim Collins
    3. Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
    4. Tipping Point – Malcom Gladwell
    5. Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean Auel
    6. The Law – Frederick Bastiat
    7. The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz

  18. Joe Spake says:

    Trust Agents – Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
    The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt
    were my 2 favorite reads of 2009

  19. André Branco says:

    #1 so far in 2009 was Lies We Live by: The Art of Self-Deception, by the Brazilian economist Eduardo Giannetti.

    Blending science, philosophy and psychology, Eduardo Giannetti makes a rigorous yet accessible attempt to explain precisely what goes on in our minds when we (try to) deceive ourselves, why we do it, to what extent we should indulge in it, and its consequences. Giannetti, whose mastery of the words makes his style quite poetic, is a very lucid and knowledgeable author which I had the pleasure of reading before.

    The others that I most enjoyed and could recomment are:

    The Art of Learning — Waitzkin
    Fooled by Randomness — Taleb
    Flow: The psychology of optimal experience — Csikszentmihalyi
    Steppenwolf — Hesse
    Slaughterhouse Five — Vonnegut
    The Man Who Swam the Amazon — Strel
    The Manipulated Man — Esther Vilar

  20. Donovan Shand says:

    Just finished Trade Off by Kevin Maney. Highly recommended! Very interesting perspective on the balance between high fidelity and high convenience.

  21. Jo Cooper says:

    I just reviewed my 2009 booklist, and my hands down favorite for the year is… your book, A Whole New Mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and talking about it. I somehow managed to fit it into nearly every conversation I had for a month. I even read it out loud to my 14 year old son (he enjoyed it!), and gave a copy to my 21-year old son (my 17-year old son only escaped because he’s in France for the year). I was in the grip of your book for many reasons- because your thoughts on right-brain thinking are fascinating, plus the appeal of redemption. I’ve made a living as a designer for most of my life (first a landscape designer and now a marketing director), and am a poet and photographer on the side. I love the vision you have of the future, where design rules! Why shouldn’t life be beautiful and amusing and incredibly, deliciously clever, too? Many thanks.

  22. Thanks for the very kind words about my book, Daniel. Tezuka’s work is full of passion, playfulness and life – even though he died 20 years ago, he left behind such a record of his creative spirit that my research for the book felt like three years in his company.

    Like Jo, I really enjoyed A Whole New Mind – I’m a designer as well as a writer and I love the energising and cleansing process of making new work. Your book ties in superbly with Tezuka’s attitude of truly living every second.

  23. Jeri says:

    “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain. (1873) ~ Louisa May Alcott ~
    Cheers to that “right brain” champion for an inspired and “inspiring” list! Dan your blogspot has become yet another great Read! The books that were offered up are inspirational. Each of the contributors to this list has offered a passionate example of the contiributions of writers in our world! (BTW, for Mike on his musings about racial perspectives try reading – Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall – for interesting perspectives on slavery in its more modern forms in America, and the importance of personal contact to truly affect change.)

  24. Hope says:

    We read What Strength Remains, by Tracy Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains) and everyone agreed it was one of the best read of our book group picks.

  25. Hope says:

    I forgot to include The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson. Next to your book, Mr. Pink, A Whole New Mind, it’s my ‘other’ bible.

  26. Sheldon Bouchard says:

    I loved “A Whole New Mind” and cannot wait for “Drive” so in no particular order because I loved them all for different reasons:
    Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson
    The Shack by Paul Young
    The Leader in Me by Stephen R. Covey
    Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
    A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille
    grown up digital by Don Tapscott
    Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw
    Out of Our Minds by Sir Ken Robinson (loved The Element

  27. Great list! Also recommend Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

    And I love this line: “Espresso shots of insight by one of the smartest business minds around.” – one of the best descriptions of Alan Webber’s book I’ve read!

    Alexa | @alexa

  28. Darin Mirante says:

    The Best Books I Read in 2009 (* I had not finished “Drive” yet!)

    1 – THE WOUNDED HEALER by Henri Nouwen (ministry)

    2 – THE PASTOR AS MINOR POET by Craig Barnes (ministry)

    3 – AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD by Barbara Brown Taylor (spirituality)

    4 – SILENCE by Shusako Endo (novel)

    5 – COUNTERFEIT GODS by Tim Keller (spirituality)

    6 – A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS by Donald Miller (spirituality)

    7 – THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE by Kevin Roose (culture)

    8 – LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET by Rainer Rilke


    10 – THE ELEMENT by Ken Robinson (creativity/education)

    11 – SWITCH: HOW TO CHANGE WHEN CHANGE IS HARD by Chip and Dan Heath (psychology)

    12 – REAL CHURCH by Larry Crabb (spirituality)

    13 – MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS by Michael Chabon (Memoir)

    14 – FORGOTTEN GOD by Francis Chan (spirituality)

    15 – WIRED TO CARE by Dev Patnaik (empathy in workplace)