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[dupe] Ask HN: Great books you read in 2018?
46 points by volument on Dec 25, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 24 comments
Curious to know which books you read in 2018. What made a true impact? What made the best learning experience?

Thank you for sharing!

A similar question was asked 2 weeks ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18661546

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley Hardcover – https://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Monkeys-Obscene-Fortune-Failure...

Without a doubt Factfulness by Hans Rosling [1]. It gives a better factual basis for the state of the world today than everything else I have read in my life, combined!

[1] https://amzn.to/2Re5da9

Something that is perhaps a little more personal, but going by the "true impact" metric it fits:

Breaking Negative Thinking Patterns - a Schema Therapy Self-help and Support Book

Short and effective (although it's no substitute for a proper therapist). Well, provided that you can take a step back to get over yourself and be brutally honest about your flaws, and do the exercises even when some may feel silly.

Helped me identify the causes of a number of problems of the "why do I keep doing this to myself?" kind. Arguably that is the most important step, since that it is required finally start properly dealing with them. I'm in a much better place thanks to that.

Related question about non fiction books posted two days ago - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18743465

'The Ends of the World' by Peter Brannen https://www.amazon.com/Ends-World-Apocalypses-Understand-Ext...

It's about the major extinction events of the past and their relevance to our current situation. There is so much history of life on earth before humans appeared, it's mind-boggling.

Really enjoyed Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35957156

It’s an honest look at the life of a startup founder, but without all that self-congratulatory stuff and bragging you often find in these books. I would say it is a definite read for anyone thinking about joining the crazy world of startups.

'Through Two Doors At Once' by Anil Ananthaswamy https://www.amazon.com/Through-Two-Doors-Once-Experiment/dp/...

'Beyond Weird' by Philip Ball https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Weird-Philip-Ball/dp/184792458...

There's some overlap between these two books about the quantum world, of course, but I think they're much better than any pop physics books about this subject from a generation ago.

Obama’s yearly book list (https://m.facebook.com/barackobama/posts/10156093753316749) usually has good gems, as does Bill Gates’ one (https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Best-Books-2018)

The book that made the most impact on me is Tara Westwood’s Educated: it is insane how different people’s worldview is.

Educated is also on both of their lists, and also my alumni book club's current book coincidentally. Maybe I should give that one a go myself, although the subject doesn't immediately draw me in for some reason.

Just FYI on the internet she's listed as 'Tara Westover'.

Great books I read and re-read in 2018:


"An Absolutely Remarkable Thing" by Hank Green was delightful and insightful on multiple levels. It is an excellent dissection of internet fame and punditry, while also being funny as hell.

I'm still enjoying the 10-years-Tor short story collection "Worlds Seen In Passing".

My absolute favorite story so far is "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel" by Yoon Ha Lee: https://www.tor.com/2011/08/10/a-vector-alphabet-of-interste...

I blew through The Expanse series: https://www.amazon.com/Expanse-Boxed-Set-Leviathan-Calibans/...

Hard Sci-Fi, the 8th book coming out next March 2019.

Just started "A Random Walk down Wall Street". Looks like it's going to be very good.

Drowned Worlds, Jonathan Strathan (Ed) - Stories of climate change. One of the stories will make it real to the reader.

Circe, Madeline Miller - Entertaining and memorable tale with many characters from Greek mythology.

I discovered Claire North this year after she was interviewed on the Imaginary Worlds podcast. I picked up Touch, The Sudden Appearance of Hope, and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, all of which were wonderful.

"The coaching habit" by Michael Bungay-Stanier - I've done some coaching training, and this is a great intro to using some of those concepts in looking after a team.

1. Delhi: A novel

2. The modern architecture of New Delhi

3. Train to Pakistan

4. Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found

5. City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

6. Bauhaus

7. Making of the Atomic Bomb

"Reverse Engineering Social Media", by Robert W Gehl. It is about software, culture, and political economy in New Media Capitalism. Helped me to identify the causes of a number of problems social media’s progressive aspects despite the surveillance and exploitation

Cosmic Banditos

I'll end the year at 83 or 84 books for the year (depends on what I choose to start once I get home from the day's festivities), and here were the highlights for me:

1. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey, et al

An Everyone Culture profiles three high-performing companies that look very different, but all share the assumption that developing the company's people is not a contrary goal to developing the business, and is in fact a great path to getting you there. I read it with a group of my partners in my company, and we came out of it with an actionable pilot program that has gone incredibly well so far and has begun to expand. I read this one twice.

2. The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson

I avoided Sanderson because of the hype and book length despite years of recommendations from people who know what I find interesting in books. That was a mistake, and this year I fixed it, reading about twenty of his books. They're all in my top half for the year (and I consider the top 85-90% to have been worth reading), but The Stormlight Archive (beginning with The Way of Kings) comes out on top. Fantastic magic system, complex plot, and lucid writing. Check it out!

3. The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

Think of this as a giant Less Wrong post by an economist on the value of education. Caplan explains his theory of the value of education (which he doesn't discount), and shows convincingly that much of the system as it currently stands is wasteful for society. I came in skeptical (having benefitted personally and professionally from my nineteen years of school), but I came out convinced. Highly recommended for anyone who reads SSC or Less Wrong and says "I'd love a book that argued a premise that carefully."

4. The Three-Body trilogy by Cixin Liu

Masterpiece of SF lit. For fans of hard SF only. The prose is not wonderful (as the author himself will tell you), but it's truly wonderful, and deserves all the considerable praise it's gotten over the years. I found the style fascinatingly different and refreshing, having never read much Eastern lit.

5. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

There's a reason this gets recommended so often, and I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to get to it. After reading I immediately worked toward implementing OKRs in part of my company, and will work towards pushing it throughout. It's a messy process at the beginning, but after a few months we're already seeing some improvements (and the process has revealed some weaknesses we could work on as well).

6. Letters to Lucilius by Seneca

I reread this periodically, and it always ends up in my top books of the year. Seneca's Stoicism bears none of the toxic asceticism attributed by its critics, and instead simply demonstrates how to live as better people.

7. The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff

The authors took a careful look at the volatile nature of our public discourse, and set out to figure out how big of a problem it is and what might be contributing to it. I came in skeptical of the problem, but was thoroughly convinced to take it seriously. Haidt is, of course, amazing as usual.

Those seven (actually eleven) are the biggest standouts of the year. Looking forward to others' suggestions!

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