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What I Read in 2018

What I Read in 2018

I listened to 40 audiobooks this year. That’s almost a 30% increase from last year and a 90% increase from 2016’s book count total.

Before I share the full list, I want to highlight my favorite book of the year as well as 10 books from my reading list that I highly recommend without reservation. That’s not to say I would not recommend any of the other books on this list, it’s just these are the safest bets.

Best Book

How to Change your Mind, Michael Pollan

Born A Crime, Trevor Noah

Command and Control, Eric Scholosser

Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker

Rise and Kill First, Ronen Bergman

Brotopia, Emily Chang

Redefining Realness, Janet Mock

White Fragility, Robin Diangelo

The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt & Greg Lukianoff

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

No is Not Enough, Naomi Klein

2018 Reading List

God Emperor of Dune

At the end of 2017 I embarked on the great Dune reread of 2017 and this book is where it finished. I likely will not make it this far into the series again. It is certainly worth one visit for those of you unacquainted with the lessons of the God Emperor.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

This served to confirm what everyone should already know about this president. I found it interesting to hear about the various coalitions within the administration, but there are better Trump books in this list.

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

My reading of this book represents the high water mark of my love affair with so-called never-Trumpers, the staunch Bush II supporters who are not fooled by Trump. Whatever.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

This book is excellent.

The Story of World War II

Full of first hand accounts of awful things, this is a pretty good one if you are interested in World War II.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety

The book interweaves two story lines. The first is the history of the US nuclear program and more specifically all the near disasters along the way. The second narrative is the story of one specific near miss disaster that happened in a missile silo base in Arkansas in the 1980s.

[The Road Not Taken](http://The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam)

Still riding high on my never-Trumpist kick, I picked up this one (the author is a never Trump case study) and it was not the war narrative I expected. Instead Boot treats his readers to a compelling biography of Edward Lansdale. Boot argues that had Washington and the military listened more to Lansdale, the Vietnam conflict would have gone quite differently.

Enlightenment Now

Things are getting better, anecdotes are not data, knowledge is better than superstition and ignorance. Read this book if you need an intellectual pick me up.

Suicide of the West

I do not mind engaging with people I disagree with as long as I think they are acting in good faith. Goldberg is one such person who I disagree with on most things, but he at leasts operates in reality and freely acknowledges that Trump is a terrible person. This book, while not about Trump specifically, is a palatable deep study of how a credible conservative sees the current state of politics as informed by his reading of history.

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

The author makes the argument that it is psychologically very difficult to kill, but the US military has gotten better at overwriting this default through training since around the time of the Vietnam war. It is a depressing and bleak read. I actually put it down once he started talking about the danger of violent video games at the end.

Rise and Kill First

Excellent narrative of Israel’s targeted assassination program starting even before the State of Israel’s independence.

We were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

I had heard a lot about Ta Nehisi Coates and decided it was time to read his work first hand. I also selected this book as sort of a balance to Suicide of the West. This is a great collection of essays coupled with additional after-the-fact context that gave me more of an understanding of Coates’s beliefs and racism in America.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

This is an interesting book that is worth a look if you are considering starting a business.

How to Change your Mind

I’m not sure what it says about me that I got so much enjoyment reading about a sixty-something year old white guy in Berkley writing about the history of psychedelics alongside detailed accounts of his own trips. I definitely walked into this book thinking one thing and walked away thinking something totally different.

Brotopia: Breaking up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley

As someone relatively new to the tech scene, I found this book pretty enlightening. It also helped me see through some of the sheen on some of the tech companies and entrepreneurs I have looked up to in the past. The tech industry has come pretty far, but we have a lot of work ahead.

[Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us](Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)

A lot of this book resonated with my personal experience with motivation at work and in life. This is a great read for educators and business leaders as it will help you think clearly about how to motivate the people in your life.

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail

Obviously I am a huge Scott Jurek fan. This book is actually co-written by Scott’s wife Jenny Jurek and tells of their adventure trying to break the Appalachian Trail speed record. Not only is it a good adventure story, but it is also a great relationship, motivation, and maturation (like coming of age for forty-somethings?) book.

Stamped from the Beginning

The book traces racist and anti-racist ideas over time contextualized by the biographies of their most prominent advocates in each generation since the Puritans.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

My wife is a big fan of this writer who apparently has inspirational how-to fold anything videos on youtube. I enjoyed this book and I’m glad that I read it right around the time we moved to our new house. The big idea is to not accumulate stuff, only hold onto the things that really bring you joy. Everything else is just clutter.

The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

I’ve read a pretty decent amount of US History, but I still found numerous episodes in this book that I had never come across before. I recommend this well researched history.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

What I liked most about this book was how much I have in common with author. We are the same age. Our freshman year of college was when the 9/11 attack happened. After college we both lived in Manhattan. While she is a transexual black woman, there was enough overlap in her experience that I found her extremely relatable.

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia

Russia sounds totally insane.

White Fragility

White friends, get over yourself and read this book.

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

I did not delete my accounts, but it is worth thinking critically about how we use social media like Twitter and Facebook and how they use us.


If you are going to read only one contemporaneous history of this presidency, this should be the one.

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope

I liked this book more than any of DeRay Mckesson’s podcast content. The most interesting thing I learned was that Mississippi has detailed, highly accurate rainfall data dating back something like 200 years, but has almost no reliable data on police shootings.

How to Break Up with Your Phone

I actually deleted a bunch of social media apps of my phone after reading this book. I put Twitter back on subsequently, but I enjoyed reading this practical guide to managing your smartphone.

The Coddling of the American Mind

Haidt made the rounds on a bunch of podcasts I like to promote this book. I went in expecting to really hate it, but instead of being about how crazy the left is on campuses, it is actually a parenting book about raising thoughtful, independent, and resilient children.

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work

This helped me think about my priorities, how to work smarter, and what makes for a good workplace.

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

This one was recommended in The Coddling of the American Mind and it goes more into how to optimize for resilient, independent, and happy children as a parent.

No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

I love Naomi Klein. This is a really hopeful book about a future that is worth fighting Trump for.

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts

I think this book was recommended in White Fragility. It is sort of a anti-racism meets mindfulness and meditation.

The Water Will Come

Miami is in trouble. Climate change is real and we are already seeing the effects. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something or steal from you.

The Righteous Mind

I liked the Coddling of the American Mind so much that I went back for more. This one gives an interesting moral framework for understanding different points of view.

America: The Farewell Tour

This stark and brutally honest appraisal of American society and economics definitely challenged my thinking and changed my mind on a number of issues.

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

I think if you are deciding between this book and the Radiolab episode on human limits, go with the latter. That said, this book has some interesting content about feats of human endurance. I wanted more to incorporate in my own training, but that was not the focus of the book.

A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America

I love how everyone talks about Millenials being the worst generation. False.

The Fifth Risk

The fifth risk is the risk you can’t name on the top five biggest threats to America right now. Michael Lewis is amazing and so is this treatment of the not-so-glamorous American Federal bureaucracy.

Stubborn Attachments

Cowen is interesting because he is very conservative, but also very worried about climate change. The most interesting idea in this book is about how current economic thinking over-discounts future utility.

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast

I almost abandoned this book until I got to the actual case studies where Kaufman documents the first dozen or so hours in which he learns new skills such as programming in Ruby, touch typing on a Colemak keyboard, and playing the ukulele. These case studies were actually pretty interesting especially because I write Ruby and I taught myself how to play guitar. At first when I started reading I thought that Kaufman was a poor man’s Tim Ferris (who I don’t like), but now I’m actually thinking about picking up a Colemak keyboard.