2018 Reading List and Recommendations

10 min read

From the 40 books I polished off in 2018 these are what I think you may want to add to your own lists and why. There's also a Do Not Read list to save you valuable time.

For some reason, I have this impression that the books I read in 2018 were less impactful than those I read in 2017, but drilling down on the list, that's not really true. The ones I did find amazing though were much more eclectic and a much less consistently thematic than my 2017 list. Probably the biggest problem I had in 2017 was reading books that other people or the industry raved about and which I thought were mediocre or higlhy derivative and a waste of my time. I also lament (really!) for the fact it's impossible to find what I consider a truly compelling programming book in any area I tried to learn more about.

2018 in Books

  1. Abundance by Diamantis
  2. Utopia for Realists
  3. A Brief History of Indonesia
  4. Why Dinosaurs Matter
  5. Radical Candour
  6. Never Split the Difference
  7. Words That Work
  8. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
  9. The Red Queen
  10. Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down
  11. Doughnut Economics
  12. The Bonfire of the Vanities
  13. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes
  14. Exit West
  15. Extreme Ownership
  16. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
  17. The Effective Executive by Drucker
  18. Ice Age
  19. La Bella Figura
  20. Active Listening 101
  21. The Fifth Season
  22. Power Listening
  23. Altered Carbon
  24. Bullshit Jobs
  25. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
  26. It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work
  27. Deep Work by Cal Newport
  28. Essentialism
  29. Multipliers
  30. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  31. Introducing Go
  32. Principles by Ray Dalio
  33. Skyward
  34. The Swerve
  35. Blood of Elves
  36. Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918
  37. The Lessons of History
  38. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  39. Kettlebell: Simple and Sinister
  40. All Systems Red

To Read

These are definite reads I'd add to my reading list if you haven't devoured them already. I either deeply enjoyed them, they challenged my existing thinking on things, were highly useful, or I enjoyed the story or writing. I really like books that make me feel smarter for having read them.

  1. Why Dinosaurs Matter
  2. Radical Candour
  3. Never Split the Difference
  4. The Red Queen
  5. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes
  6. Ice Age
  7. Deep Work
  8. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918
  9. Norse Mythology

Why Dinosaurs Matter

While it is possibly true anything with dinosaurs I would find a probable recommendation, I loved this book in defence of the dinosaurs as species maligned as evolutionary failures despite the fact they were arguably the most successful living creatures to populate the planet, filling every single evolutinary niche and swarfing the time of the mammals on the planet so forcefully. The book makes compelling fun, awesome, arguments and was just a super fun read. Was so glad I chose to pick this up.

Radical Candour

Written by the person who minted Apple's Leadership training program, I felt this book filled a very important hole in the market in terms of how to grow and progress people and had valueable frameworks, particularly for a tech company, for thinking about challengina and growing jiunior leaders and managers versus individual contributors. I stole liberally from it for my team's Progression and Career planning framework and it also had some nice executional hygiene that ended up becoming baked into our monthly processes.

Never Split the Difference

Written by a lead FBI hostage negotiator, this book challenges the traditional win-win business school neogitating idioms from such classic tomes as Getting to Yes and well, basically every other ngotiating book you've seen in either business or sales standards. Since a lot of my role (and I'd argue, at least a godo part of my success) has come down to good negotiation and deal making on any number of fronts, this book proved an intersting alternative to trypical negotiating strategies and taught me some valuable lessons and techniques (which I have ye tot properly incoirporate into my toolbox.). Still, an excellent book though I'd love to hear back how people who have actuallty taken to using some of its approaches have fared.

The Red Queen

Subtitled Sex and Evolution in Human Nature, this is just a fantastic read with the underlying question of "Why Sex?" and "Why Two Sexes?" from the evolutionary viewpoint. While I disagreed with a lot of things the book said or asserted (I personally find arguments around genetic determinism suspect), it necvertheless has some really amazing thinking and research on how most of the species on the planet (but not all!) became diploid, and why sex has been the driving evolutionary force for most of the successful species on the planet (again, but not all.). Fascinating, interesting reading and written very well. Highly recommended regardless of how much I disagreed with some of the things in it. A definite read.

Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was not just informative and facinating but gave me a huistroical persepctive on Islam and how it has related to the Western view of history, and how we've perceived ourselves, that I felt instantly more enlightned and hella smarter. Written by an Afghani who moved to the US in his teens and a contributor to multiple history textbooks, this is just a superb look at how Islam evolved historically and how it has perceived itself throughout the rise of the West. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Great read, fantastic insight into how Islam has percveived itself and in its internal and perceptive crises in relation to the Western view of history. It gave me so much insight and persecptive I had not thought about before. Just superb.

Ice Age

A short, tight read that is fascinating, describing how our current geological eopch of a glacier free planet (barring anthropogenic climate change) is an abberation and how even having a double ice cap at both poles might be something fundamentally unique in the history of our planet which not only led to the current conditions we see from pole to pole, but might have been what led to the rise of the human species and our culture. Super interesting argument based on deep geological time and the fact that we had never even had the idea of an Ice Age before about 200 years ago. Really enjoyed this as a mental exploration of deep time and its consequences. Again, highly recoemmended even if its issues are so far removed from the current problem of global warming we find ourselves in.

Deep Work

I actually thought this book would be a nebbish and snobby account of how makers needed to be left alone and more than a bit of new age knowledge worker entitlement, but have to admit I believe Cal Newport hit the nail on the head here noting that some work requires deep, susintained, uninterrupted thought imn order to be productive, and that society and thingfs constantly competing for your attention have been slowly stripping away the ability for peopel to accomplish this with interruptions, open offices, and digital expereinces that are dirven through attention stealing interactions. There is a lot to support his assertions and I have to admit, I started incorporating some of his ideas into my own work instantly since more and more I find the tyope of work I need to get done, I cannot get done as constantly being pulled off on urgent, interrupted tasks that do not necessarily support longer term goals. Great read. Highly, highly recommended if you are in any sort of role where you need to think in order to achieve longer term goals.

Flu

While I think this could have been a bit shorter and lost the plot a bit at the end, it still amazes me to fund out there was this huger worldwide pandemic that killed between 20M and 100M people that virtually no one knows anything about. A plague of historically unprecedented lethality and global scope. Crosby called it America's Forgotten Pandemic, but the fact is that if you know anyone still around from those times and ask them, they will have lost people to it. Despite lking to think I am a very well-informed individual had never heard naything about it really until Extra History (which is awesome btw) did a 5 part series on the pandemic in their ridiculously accesible style. While the book could have been better, I learned a a great deal about the flu virus, epidemiology, and the genetics behind influenza. Not the greatest, but made me smarter and you learn about something that history seems to have wanted to indluge in a collective, and potentially very dangerous, forgetfulness over.

Norse Mythology

I just plain enjoyed the reading this. I was smiling virtually the entire time. Short and cleverly written, this Gaiman syncredtic take on the Poetic and Prose Edda stories of Norse Mythology were a really fun read. And while I like Gaiman's writing style (and his humility as a "scribbler of tales"), I've often found his biggest issue is the fact he tells a great story, but they are often predictable, so already knowing the end of these myths let me revel in his writing style and made this eminently enjoyable. And being reminded of the stories we told ourselves to make sense of the world and as cautionary morality tales is always a good thing.

Might Reads

Interestingly, this category I started last year seemed quite popular amongst people reading the blog and at least one person told me they found my hmmmmm... recos more interesting for them being borderline than the ones I truly loved. So, back again this year, these are the books that might be interesting to you depending on what you've already read or what you're interested in.

  1. Utopia for Realists
  2. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
  3. The Effective Executive
  4. Altered Carbon
  5. Thinking in Bets
  6. It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work
  7. Essentialism
  8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  9. The Swerve
  10. The Lessons of History
  11. All Systems Red

Don't Reads

Once again, books that I thought were crap, overhyped, personality cult, or simply had such deep flaws or just seem to be in fashion for some reason that I was disappointed I spent time reading them. Many of them were management books, sadly. Save yourself the trouble, imho.

  1. Words That Work
  2. Doughnut Economics
  3. Extreme Ownership
  4. La Bella Figura
  5. Bullshit Jobs
  6. Multipliers
  7. Principles by Ray Dalio