Favorite Books 2018

by | Dec 31, 2018

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I always appreciate the recommendation of a good book and thus I really like year-end book lists. In that spirit, below are my five favorite fiction and non-fiction books I read in 2018. It was incredibly hard to narrow the list down to five of each! Note: these weren’t necessarily books written in 2018, merely ones I read during the year. They are not necessarily listed in order.

First, here’s a link to the 76 books I read this year (with short summaries and whether I’d recommend them): Books Read in 2018

And here’s a link to our firm’s book club listSt. Louis Trust Co Book Club List

Five Favorite Non-Fiction Books*

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols. An important book highlighting the real problem of laypeople being misinformed and not giving due credence to expert opinion. It is a diatribe on the view that everyone should be able to have their own opinion, regardless how uninformed or misguided. It is a guide for listening to experts, trusting experts, but also holding them accountable. It also discusses what sort of work is necessary to have an informed opinion. This book has had a beneficial effect on my thinking and analysis in a number of areas.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling. Dr. Rosling was a humanitarian doctor from Sweden who worked all over Asia and Africa in public health. This book was an eye-opening look at the world from a fact-based perspective. It is incredibly well written and I learned SO MUCH from this book. We all tend to view the world from our Western mindsets and live in bubbles with little understanding about how the rest of humanity lives. Dr. Rosling’s main point is that our views are distorted and there has been amazing progress in many important areas.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, By Trevor Noah. I listened to the audiobook version of this book, which was so great. Trevor Noah read the book himself and hearing the African languages and his dialect was really entertaining. Whether you read or listen to this book I highly recommend it.This book was really funny and but also had some serious messages. It gave a first-hand view into what it was like to grow up living in poverty and also under the racism of apartheid. I was thoroughly entertained the whole way through.

 Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover. The author grew up in a fundamentalist, survivalist Mormon family and did not attend school until college. She was not even home-schooled. She went on to get her PhD at Cambridge. This book is about her amazing journey and struggles. Really incredible story. This description doesn’t do justice to how much I loved this book.

Atomic Habits – Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, by James Clear. This book is all about how to create good habits and how to stop bad habits by blogger extraordinaire James Clear. Atomic Habits is well written and very well organized. It has great advice on habits peppered with great stories. I found this book to be much more useful and practical than the Power of Habit. James’ advice and recommended processes are based on research and science. We’ll see how implementing his advice works for me over the next few months.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carryrou. This was a book club selection at work and was dynamite. It is the story of Theranos, at one time a darling of Silicon Valley with a valuation of nearly $10 Billion. Theranos, led by founder Elizabeth Holmes, claimed to have developed a revolutionary technology that could run hundreds of blood tests simultaneously on a single drop of blood. Turns out that it was almost all lies. Wow. Bad Blood is the story of Theranos.

Five Favorite Fiction Books

Bear Town, by Fredrik Backman. I loved this book by the author of A Man Called Ove. Set in a small town in the outreaches of Sweden, Bear Town is about hockey. But its not really about hockey. It is about the choices we make in life that define who we are. What do we believe? What is important? The book is about friendship, loyalty, sports and community. So good.

The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu. This book is the second book in the The Three Body Problem Trilogy. The first book was dynamite and this second one was on par with The Three Body Problem. Cixin Liu is considered one of the greatest Chinese science fiction writers. In The Three Body Problem an alien race has to abandon their planet, Trisolaris, because of its chaotic orbit around three stars. In The Dark Forest the Trisolarians are on their way to Earth and humanity prepares to battle the approaching alien race. Fantastic book!

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. This book was fantastic! The main character, Count Alexander Rostov, in 1922 is sentenced to live the remainder of his life in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. The book follows him through the years as he establishes relationships and people come and go in his life.  I so enjoyed this thoroughly enjoyable book.  A treasure.

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith. I loved this book. Every word of it. A few notable reasons I loved this book: (1) it is very funny. I laughed out out loud throughout it. (2) The character development is fantastic. Each main character is totally their own unique person with a well developed personality. Swanny, Duncan, Uncle Osmand, Pippi, Abby – all are amazing characters. I finished the book last night and I already miss them! (3) The book is very creative and the author does a very good job of drawing you into the world she has created. You get a feel for Empire Island and its state of decay. The technology of this city/world/time is advanced, yet the society is dying. Reminded me a little bit of the world from the Dark Tower series. (4) It is a pretty long book (about 450 pages) but a page-turner. I read it over the course of a few days. The plot keeps you drawn in without moving at too fast of a pace.

The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. Written in 1944 this book centers on Larry Darrell, a young American after WW I. The book follows him from Chicago to Paris and India in search of meaning. His views of the world and search are contrasted with other characters with other life pursuits, such as money, artistic pursuits and social recognition. I’ve long enjoyed W. Somerset Maugham’s short stories but this is the first of his novels I have read. I really like this book a lot.  Some great quotes: “American women expect a perfection in their men that English women only expect to find in their butlers.” And, “We are all greater than we know and wisdom is the means to freedom.”

*I couldn’t narrow the non-fiction books to five – I listed six books.

2 Comments

  1. John, I love this! Thanks for putting together this thorough list. You have motivated me to keep track of all the books I read this year which is about 10. This is way more books than I have read in years! My goal for 2019 is 25:) Thanks for the motivation and tips of good reads. HNY! 2019

    Reply
  2. I loved Bear Town. Read it a few years ago. I’m a hockey fan but you are right so much more than hockey. I just received Educated and looking forward to reading it.

    Reply

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