January 9, 2019
What I Read in 2018
Here are the books that I finished this year (with my favorites in bold):
- We Were Eight Years in Power - An anthology of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ major essays from each year of the Obama presidency. The essays themselves are compelling and challenging but I was most intrigued by the intros he wrote for each essay. I found it remarkable that he was weaved a personal story around the essays and that he was confident enough to be self-critical.
- 1491 - There were far more people living in pre-Columbian America, they were living in more sophisticated societies, and they had been here for far longer than we were taught in school. I really want to go to the Yucatan and Peru now.
- The Botany of Desire - Wordy but interesting. Looks at the co-evolution of humans and animals. Sparked a re-appreciation of hard cider that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year.
- 1493 - Companion piece to 1491 looking at the global impact of combining America and Eurasia into one global ecosystem. Several things stunned me. For instance, I learned there were no earth worms in the Americas prior to European arrival.
- Feeling Good - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the only form of therapy to be proven effective in randomized controlled trials and this is the classic popular book on the subject.
- Deep Work - There are many factors pushing us towards distraction, so the ability to concentrate is becoming increasingly valuable. This book made a compelling argument for the personal value of deep, concentrated work and provided several strategies for protecting the time and concentration to do that work. I’ve been trying to practice them with varying success since reading the book.
- Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past - This is about how the ability to do full genome sequencing on ancient human bones unlocks new insights into human migration. Many things in this blew my mind, but in particular the fact that at the invention of agriculture the people living in Baghdad were more genetically dissimilar from the people living in Tehran than present-day Europeans are from present-day East Asians.
- The Away Game: The Epic Search for Soccer’s Superstars - Very interesting story. The outcome of the players who didn’t make it was heartbreaking.
- In An Uncertain World - Robert Reich brings possesses a humble arrogance I find inspiring. Arrogant in that he’s done some remarkable things and doesn’t sell his accomplishments short. Humble in that he is extremely clear on what he does and does not know and doesn’t assume experience in one place automatically transfers to another.
- Achtung Baby: The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children - “There is no such thing as bad weather, only insufficient clothing.”
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence - This is Pollan at his best.
- Can It Happen Here? - The “it” is a collapse to an authoratarian government and too many of the essays answered yes for me to sleep well at night.
- Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix
- Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - So, many years late I finally read the Harry Potter books and I went deep down the rabbit hole (Binge Mode: Harry Potter on The Ringer conributed to the depth of that rabbit hole) The books are great. The early ones are children’s books. The latter ones are solid fantasy novels. And “The Prince’s Tale” chapter of Deathly Hallows is one of the best standalone pieces of fiction writing I’ve read in years. The intricacy of the plotting across seven books is truly amazing.
- Harry Potter and The Cursed Child - Not Canon
- Stubborn Attachments - Arguing for the moral neccessity of economic growth. Specifically, argues that we shouldn’t discount future lives as much as we do.
- Monkeys Are Made Of Chocolate - Collection of essays about nature in Costa Rica that I read while traveling in Costa Rica.
- High Growth Handbook - Interviews and advice for how to scale companies. A lot of the advice matches lessons I’ve learned through painful experience through scaling LivingSocial and now Stitch Fix. A few other things prompted me to re-evaluate how I think about certain things (M&A and public markets as a channel for getting valuable strategic feedback)
- The Three Body Problem - I don’t think I’ve read any other Chinese fiction. Interesting for the different perspective and cultural references as well as being just a good, thought provoking science fiction book. We should not advertise our presence to the universe.
- Meb For Mortals: How to Run, Think, and Eat like a Champion Marathoner - I read an article a few years ago that touched on Meb Keflezighi (Olympic Marathon Silver Medalist, Boston Marathon Champion at 39, Olympic Marathoner at 41) and his extreme. I’ve been trying to follow his stretching routines.
- How Children Succeed - Academic skills aren’t really the key to success. Interesting reporting on various attempts to instill resilience and resourcefulness at scale.
- My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day - Interesting to hear about how a wide variety of successful people start their days.