Out of all the books you read in a given year, what percentage do you LOVE?
My rate was pretty high this year, higher than past years. I also read more than I ever have before: 105 books. My keys to reading a lot kinda seem like cheating: 1) read a big variety including graphic novels and kids’ books, 2) read short books to keep up your momentum, and 3) quit a book when you’re not enjoying it. Nevertheless, I made it through 100, and liked and loved a majority.
Here are a few of my favorites, as well as a full list of everything I read. Let me know any you want to talk about!
Turtles All the Way Down (Amazon)
One of my fondest reading memories of the year. This book touches on themes of mental illness, grief, courage, and friendship, through the story of a high schooler who is coping with the loss of her father and the love of a boy.
My father died suddenly, but also across the years.
He was still dying, really—which meant I guess that he was still living, too.
Exit West (Amazon)
The story of a man and a woman finding safety and belonging in new environments. Oh, with a sneaky sci-fi element that is central to the story and yet manages to not detract from the key themes of acceptance, immigration, and home.
Location, location, location, the realtors say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians.
I found this one to be so wonderfully written and enjoyable. I love this sharp, biting style of writing when done well, and this was done very well. The story itself is the author’s memoir of growing up in a Catholic household and how that influenced her early years and her adult years.
A trick I often use, when I feel overwhelming shame or regret, or brokenness beyond repair, is to think of a line I especially love, or a poem that arrived like lightning, and remember that it wouldn’t have come to me if anything in my life had happened differently.
Other books I loved
The Power (Amazon)
I read this one at the very beginning of the year and continue to think about it still. The story places you in a not-too-far-off future where women begin unlocking a supernatural power that changes society as we know it. This book allowed me to see what it’s like to be in a position of powerlessness; the men in the book were at-risk in this new society, which is how I imagine many people experience real society today.
If we keep on repeating the same old lines about the past when there’s clear evidence that not all civilizations had the same ideas as us…we’re denying that anything can change.
I quite enjoy John Hodgman’s dry humor and storytelling sensibility. This collection of stories was particularly great for me because he talks about growing up (growing old) and the influences of family. Two topics that are more and more on my mind!
A mustache sends a visual message to the mating population of Earth that says, “No thank you. I have procreated. My DNA is out in the world, and so I no longer deserve physical affection. Instead, it is time for me to turn away from sex and toward new pursuits, the classic weird dad hobbies such as puns, learning trivia about bridges and wars, and dreaming about societal collapse and global apocalypse.”
Managing Humans (Amazon)
The frankness in this collection of essays was really helpful for me to question and challenge the long-held notions I’ve had of “proper” management. I agreed with most of what’s in the book and, for the parts I didn’t, now feel more capable of standing my ground with my management beliefs.
You always need to be able to answer two questions regarding each person on your team:
Where are they going?
What are you currently doing to get them there?
I loved these lessons on management and workplace culture from Netflix. I think I might be called to work at Netflix in another life (and with another very different set of technical skills). So much resonated about the pace and demands of fast-moving, fast-growing companies.
Tell your people, “Here’s exactly where we are, and here’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
I like to believe that the world isn’t as bad as people think, so it was incredibly refreshing to find a book that supports that belief — and backs it up with real, hard scientific data. I felt reassured, and that’s worth a lot! (This could also be a terrible example of my confirmation bias? )
It is hard to see any of this global progress by looking out your window. It is taking place beyond the horizon. But there are some clues you can tune into, if you pay close attention. Listen carefully. Can you hear a child practicing the guitar or the piano? That child has not drowned, and is instead experiencing the joy and freedom of making music. The goal of higher income is not just bigger piles of money. The goal of longer lives is not just extra time. The ultimate goal is to have the freedom to do what we want. Me, I love the circus, and playing computer games with my grandchildren, and zapping through TV channels. Culture and freedom, the goals of development, can be hard to measure, but guitars per capita is a good proxy. And boy, has that improved. With beautiful statistics like these, how can anyone say the world is getting worse?
State of Wonder (Amazon)
This amazing story about the Amazon, courage, risk, and culture was really gripping. I loved the picture it painted in my mind, and it’s now one I think about whenever the topic of the Amazon comes up (even Amazon packages sometimes). The story follows a woman who is tasked with project managing a group of Amazonian scientists who are … well, I think if I tell you what they’re doing, it might spoil it. Read it, it’s good!
There was no one clear point of loss. It happened over and over again in a thousand small ways and the only truth there was to learn was that there was no getting used to it.
The Monk of Mokha (Amazon)
I previously really enjoyed Dave Eggers’ Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; this is completely different (memoir on dying vs. storytelling journalism about culture and business). The story is a deep dive into the coffee business and Yemeni coffee persons in particular.
By eighteen, he knew these people, who had gone to college and could live wherever they wanted, had nothing he didn’t have. They weren’t any smarter, this was clear. They weren’t quicker. They weren’t even more ruthless. If anything, they were softer. But they had advantages. Or they had expectations. Or assumptions. It was assumed they’d go to college. It was assumed they’d find jobs befitting their upbringing and education. There were no such assumptions in Mokhtar’s world.
All the books I read in 2018
- A Separation
- An American Marriage
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation
- The Silence of the Girls
- Little Fires Everywhere
- Underground Railroad
- Things Fall Apart
- The Bookseller
- French Exit
- Bel Canto
- Gone Girl
- True Grit
- The Passion
- The Dog Stars
- Hope Never Dies
- I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
- Signs Preceding the End of the World
- News of the World
- Naive Super
- Jane Eyre
- Pride and Prejudice
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Sci-fi and fantasy
- The Long Utopia
- How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe
Graphic novels and comics
- Paper Girls, Vol. 2
- Paper Girls, Vol. 3
- Paper Girls, Vol. 4
- Avengers Versus Thanos
- You & a Bike & the Road
- Everyone’s an Aliebn
- What If?
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave
- James and the Giant Peach
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
- Bad Blood
- The Order of Time
- Tell Me How it Ends
- What Made Maddy Run
- Fifty Inventions that Shapes the Modern Economy
- Fire and Fury
- American Fire
- Never Use Futura
- Basketball (and Other Things)
- The Stranger in the Woods
- Never Caught
- Like Brothers
- Shark Drunk
- Dodge City
- Black Edge
- How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain
- Get Well Soon
- The Physics of Baseball
Faith and inspiration
- What Is the Bible?
- Almost Everything
Business and management
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
- The Knowledge-Creating Company
- High Growth Handbook
- Data-Driven Marketing
- Exactly What to Say
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You
- Tribe of Mentors
- The Antidote
- Mind Gym
Biography and memoir
- What We Lose
- White Like Me
- I’m Proud of You
- Arbitrary Stupid Goal
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
- Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
- If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?
- Best Food Writing 2016
- The Refugees
- Charles Bukowski on Writing
- Draft No. 4
- The Infinite Pieces of Us
- The Hate U Give
- Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes
- How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons