Books I Read in 2018

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s finding out if he’s been naughty or nice. Sorry, I know Christmas is over.

In 2018 I read these books on Kindle:

  1. Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle
  2. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  3. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
  4. Switch: How to change things when change is hard by Chip & Dan Heath
  5. Educated by Tara Westover
  6. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
  7. Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights by Gary Klein
  8. The Power by Naomi Alderman
  9. The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy
  10. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  11. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
  12. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
  13. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
  14. World War Z by Max Brooks
  15. The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
  16. The Mars Room by Rachael Kushner
  17. Exit West by Mohsin Hamed

I also read these books (like, real books made of paper):

  1. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  2. Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright
  3. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  5. Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides
  6. How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price
  7. Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Larnier
    • Listen to this podcast to get a gist of what a wonderful genius this man is. Then delete facebook.
  8. The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
  9. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  10. Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens

I reread these books (the upside of having a terrible memory is the pleasure you get from being surprised by a book you have already read) :

  1. Scarcity: Why having too little means so much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
  2. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamed
  3. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
  4. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Why am I writing this list?

  • As a commitment device:
    • Next year I will read at least 50. That’s a book a week. It’s very achievable. 40-50 pages a day.
  • Reflection:
    • The mere act of typing out the titles and authors took me back through the year. Each book is as a bookmark through the year.
  • Trends and future selection:
    • Compare it to previous lists I have made.
    • Identify the duds.
    • Fiction versus non fiction. Modern versus classic. Female versus male. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you select each book piecemeal.

30 books is but a smidge of what I intended to get through this year (I didn’t include books that I gave up on before the first 100 pages). Saying that, I don’t know what a good number is. David Evans at the world bank reads 100 books a year! He also keeps a spreadsheet of all the books. And writes a useful description. And is a prolific blogger. And a renowned education researcher. I’m not sure if he is the best benchmark to set for myself.  So 50 it is. In 2019 I will read 50 books. Promise.

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 12.14.09 PM

50 books is still only around 50 pages per day :/ I’ll get to 500 one day, Warren.

Counting books might not be the best way to increase knowledge. Counting how many books you finish could make me a better finisher, but a worse reader. Counting books could just be virtue signaling with no real benefit in terms of increased knowledge.

In 2018 I became less wary of giving up on books. Quite a few times I read the first 50 pages and didn’t get any further, or skimmed through to pick out some nuggets. I don’t feel guilty about that any more. There are some useful heuristics from Naval Ravakint in this blog (they mainly apply to non-fiction books).

  1. Give yourself permission to quit
  2. Read more than one book at a time
  3. You don’t have to read in sequential order

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I used to always have a fiction and a non-fiction book on the go simultaneously. It meant I had something to read whatever my mood. This past year I’ve found it hard to transfer my concentration at will and have mainly read one book at a time. I’m not in the Peace Corps or grad school and have “a real job” that uses a lot more of my bandwidth than my previous endeavors (thankfully).

One of the greatest benefits of being in the Peace Corps was the opportunity to learn to read deeply.  Reading with few distractions and little competition for my attention was a blessing. Books seeped into my marrow. They’ve stayed there. I wrote about it here. The above list doesn’t contain many defining reads for me. It might just be age — your malleable twenties compared to your more rigid thirties.

I’ll end on some advice for myself on how to increase my reading in 2019.

  • Schedule time to read.
  • Always carry a book. Use the Kindle app.
  • Use the library. Free books!
  • Have multiple books available to suit your mood.
  • Set a number of pages per reading session.
  • Ignore what you should read. Read what you love.
  • Join a book club.
  • Quit social media or reading random news articles.

“And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.”

– George Orwell

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

– Erasmus

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