Sam Smith's Top 12 books from 2018

Sam Smith's Top 12 books from 2018

08 Jan

Sam Smith's Top 12 books from 2018

One of the pieces that I continually value for my growth both personally and professionally is reading. Amongst other aspects, there’s a common theme between people who reach the pinnacle in their given discipline and that is reading. Continual consumption of knowledge, insight, and a pursuit for growth. If there was one thing we could all improve upon for 2019, reading more. I challenge you to set aside time in your calendar each day to sit down, disconnect from the world, and read someone else’s thoughts. Aim to read a book each month for a full year. If you average 10 pages per day, you’ll get through a 300 page book each month. That’s 3600 pages in a year. To help you start that journey, I pulled together a list of my 12 favorite books (in no particular order) from this past year. I hope you enjoy my short synopsis of these books and my favorited quotes. Let’s make 2019 a year of reading and knowledge building.

Healthy Gut Healthy You
By: Dr. Michael Ruscio

As research continues to emerge showing how powerful gut health is for performance, mood, cognitive function, metabolism, energy, etc. it's only prudent that we spend time learning and understanding how we can manage and properly utilize that powerful system. Dr. Ruscio provides a great overview of all aspects relating to gut health backed by leading research within the field of gastroenterology amongst other fields. He finishes the book off with a 8 step plan for how to reset and reorganize our gut to allow for maximal growth and longevity.

Great quote from the book:

“The SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) is causing the constipation and bloating. The leaky gut is causing the fatigue and brain fog. And her overtraining is causing burnout / adrenal fatigue, which is causing her to have insomnia, fatigue, and cravings…she is not treating the problem; she is treating a symptom - the problem is not her adrenal hormones.”

God’s Hotel
By: Dr. Victoria Sweet

This was a fascinating book. If you treat symptoms, you’ll never get to the core of the issue. As in medicine, health, fitness, business you have to look at the whole picture. A great reminder that great principles transcend all fields.

Great quote from the book:

“…silent but listening, blind but aware, non interfering but observing.”

12 Rules for Life
By: Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

This was my favorite book of the year. I am a big fan of Dr. Peterson’s work so I’m a bit bias but life altering work, if the title didn’t give it away. Dr. Peterson gives a list of guidelines to implement in our lives that will allow us to carry the burden of life and overcome it through the pursuit of meaning.

Great quote from the book:

“Always place your becoming above your current being. That means it is necessary to recognize and accept your insufficiency, so that it can be continually rectified. That’s painful, certainly - but it’s a good deal.”

By: Marcus Aurelius

You could take an hour to read this, or a lifetime. One of the most prominent themes throughout the book was: acceptance. Despite the struggle, despite the failure, accept it and move forward.

Great quotes from the book:

“Aim creates our own realities. Accept that reality as you created it.”

“External issues/actions are never the problem, it’s our own perception of them, which you can quite right away.”

By: Alex Hutchinson

The mind is far more powerful than you think. This book gives deep insight into the far reaching limits of human performance. Quotes from the book will do it more justice than my short synopsis.

Great quotes from the book:

“For athletes, the simplest way of acquiring justified true belief about your capabilities is to test them; whatever you’ve done before, you can do again plus a little more…”

“We often think of races as ‘painful,’ but physical pain is completely distinct from the sense of effort - the struggle to keep going against a mounting desire to stop- that usually limits race speed.”

“Training is the cake and belief is the icing - but sometimes that thin smear of frosting makes all the difference.”

Why We Sleep
By: Dr. Matthew Walker

Wow. This book was extremely fascinating. In my opinion, this book needs to be required reading for everyone. Dr. Walker lays out first hand research showing connections with all things we would prefer not to have in our lives due to a lack of sleep: metabolic disorders, cognitive decline, poor body composition, and poor perception of stress (amongst others). At the end of the day, we must honor biology. Sleep is an integral part of our body’s ability to grow, adapt, and properly interact in the world. Challenge yourself, and others, to sleep a bit more in 2019. You might be surprised what happens.

Great quotes from the book:

“Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer…disrupts blood sugar level so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic…contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.”

“…a 60 percent amplification in emotional reactivity in the participants who were sleep-deprived…without sleep, our brain reverts to a primitive pattern of uncontrolled reactivity.”

By: Dr. Carol Dweck

A powerful book discussing Dr. Dweck’s work on the life altering difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. By orienting ourselves towards growth, we see the potential in developing, refining, and becoming a better version of our current self. Too many people fall victim to a fixed perspective where the outcome is set, the ceiling for growth is fixed and there’s nothing they can do about it. Continually strive for growth and the unrelenting pursuit of development.

Great quotes from the book:

“I could have been.” OR “I gave my all for the things I valued.”

“Becoming is better than being.”

“Did I make my best effort? If so, you may be outscored, but you will never lose.”

“If you don’t give anything, don’t expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it.”

Why do I do that?
By: Dr. Joseph Burgo

For us to understand those around us better, we must first understand ourselves better. Dr. Burgo’s book allows the reader to examine themselves, the defenses we have, where they might stem from, and how we can disarm them. This one will make you uncomfortable at times. But, you will come out the other side with a greater appreciation for how you tick and how to become more aware of those triggers cultivating a deeper understanding for yourself.

Great quotes from the book:

“The unconscious carries all the thoughts and feelings we either find too painful to bear, or which conflict with our morality and values and undermine our self-image.”

“None of use has finished learning about ourselves, and as a result, none of us has finished growing.”

By: Greg McKeown

Less, but better. This book is very applicable to all of us living in a digital age where technology runs our lives. Greg’s work helps the reader see how much time and value is wasted by saying yes to too many things, being hyper-connected at all times, and losing sight of what’s truly meaningful to us. By removing the non-essentials in your life, clarity and quality will start to envelop your work.

Great quote/diagram from the book:


  1. I have to
  2. It’s all important
  3. I can do both


  1. I choose to
  2. Only a few things matter
  3. I can do anything but not everything”
Deep Survival
By: Laurence Gonzales

Great story telling of people in the most dire of circumstances. When the only thing that matters is surviving to tomorrow, the mind changes. People start to show who they really are. Situations where those who have a why to live will bare any how.

Great quote from the book:

“Survival is adaptation, and adaptation is change, but it is change based on a true reading of the environment.”

“Ultimately, it is struggle that keeps one alive. What seems a paradox is simply the act of living. Never stop struggling. Life itself is a paradox, gathering order out of the chaos of matter and energy. When the struggle ceases, we die.”

By: Dr. Robert Sapolsky

This book was extremely fascinating. For someone who really appreciates behavior, this book was ice cream on a hot summer day. Sapolsky brings his lifetime of knowledge and experience in primatology, neurobiology, and neuroscience to break down how humans behave at our best and worst moments. Even though it’s a dense read, the material is so engaging, you won’t even realize you just read 50 pages.

Great quotes from the book:

“Often we’re more about the anticipation and pursuit of pleasure that about the experience of it.”

“It’s not great if someone believes its okay for people to do some horrible, damaging act. But more of the world’s misery arises from people who, of course, oppose that horrible act…but cite some particular circumstances that should make them exceptions. The road to hell is paved with rationalization.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“Responsibility is defused by anonymity.”

The Gene
By: Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee

This was quite the read. Beautiful writing and storytelling about the history of the gene. For those of us who don’t have graduate degrees in cell biology or genetics, the intricacies around the evolution of how the gene was developed, discovered, and where its utility is leading us are truly fascinating. We can all glean some insight into how big a part our genetic heritage plays in our ability to develop as a human. But, that should never be the sole determiner in one’s potential to achieve, see “Mindset” for more insight on this.

Great quotes from the book:

“Whether genes or environment-nature or nurture-dominates in influence depends on context. When environments are constraining, they exert a disproportionate influence. When the constraints are removed, genes become ascendant.”

“It sometimes seems as if curbing entropy is our quixotic purpose in the universe…”

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