Right around Christmas time, an old coworker reached out asking me to send him a list of the best books I read in 2018. Off the top of my head I sent him 10 books, in no particular rank or order, that I really enjoyed this past year. Since then, I thought it would be a good idea to take stock of
- how many books I read in 2018 and
- which ones I would recommend
I’ve already suggested dozens of books through my Weekly Rapports but this is a much more comprehensive archive or testimonial to what I think are some of the best books out there. Not only that, I also included some of the books I read this last year that didn’t necessarily live up to the hype in my opinion.
After I made this list, I realized this just looks like a giant display of “Hey! Look how many books I read!” I promise that is not the intention. I get ribbed on occassionally for always posting the latest book(s) I’m reading on my Instagram story. But I love the fact that my friends always ask my opinion, or give feedback on the books I posted, so I’m going to continue to do it. Also, Instagram saves all my stories so it makes it much easier to go back and see the books I read.
All in all, I estimate that I read around 35-40 books in 2018. Below are the best of the best, as well as some that I wouldn’t recommend. These are in no particular order, however the first book, Factfulness, was by far my favorite book of the year.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – Hans Rosling
- This was the top recommended book of 2018 by both Bill Gates and Barack Obama. I took a screenshot of it when I came across it the other morning. Later that day, I was walking to get coffee and passed a bookstore, which almost always means I have to stop in. Within about 45 seconds, my eyes came to the book I had screenshot on my phone earlier that day – Factfulness by Hans Rosling. It’s provided me with an enlightened and much broader worldview. It’s starts off with a quiz asking you multiple choice questions about what you think the status of the world is in terms of economic development in rich and poor countries. The answers and statistics quickly knock you on your ass to show you the world is not NEARLY as bad as you think it is and that the media only portrays the two extremes to us since they are the most polarizing. I always thought there was an ever-widening gap between the lower and upper class but as Rosling points out, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We, as both a country and a world, a better off than we have ever have been and more humans are now living in the middle class than ever before.
Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
- If you’re deep in the fitness/motivational podcast world of Joe Rogan, Rich Roll, Jocko Willink – or you’ve read Jesse Itzler’s Living with a Seal (an awesome and hilarious book by the way) – then you’ve probably heard of David Goggins. If not, then let me introduce you to possibly the hardest motherfucker on the planet.
He grew up broke in Buffalo and Indiana, his dad beat him, his stepdad was murdered, he couldn’t read until he was 14, had no self esteem, went to the Air Force, dropped out became a Pest Control Exterminator, hated himself, and weighed 297 pounds. So instead of sitting around and moping about it, he decided to change.
He lost 106 lbs. in 3 months, taught himself to swim, started going on long walks, then long bike rides, eventually leading up to long runs coupled with push-ups and pull-ups. Then he went to BUD/s, the training school and try-outs to become a Navy SEAL – the toughest, most elite military unit in the universe. He went through not one, not two, but THREE Hell Weeks, became only the 36th African American SEAL in history, ran 100 miles in 18 hours despite never having ran more than a marathon in his life, became an ultra-runner, IronMan, triathlete, went on to become an Army Ranger because he was bored, had three heart surgeries, and became one of the most decorated recruiters in Navy SEAL history. Oh, and he set the Guinness World Record for most pull-ups done in 24 hours.
He’s now a motivational speaker and best-selling author. Talk about no excuses. Read his book and get a god damn fire lit under your ass.
Shoe Dog – Phil Knight
- My roommate Toby gifted me this book last Christmas and I’m so glad he did.Every time I went in to a bookstore I would always pick up a copy of Shoe Dog, read a few pages and then put it back on the shelf. I didn’t know if I would like it or not, but I’m so glad he gave it to me because now I’m forced to read something I always kind of wanted to. It’s incredible. I had no idea the grassroots story of Nike’s beginning in Portland, Oregon and Japan in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I posted a picture of the book on my Instagram story and my DM’s got flooded with praise from friends who read the book and loved it. The book has also reinforced my desire to travel to Japan – maybe sometime this year…
21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari
- Yuval Harari is most famous for his book Sapiens, on the origin of the human species and how we evolved from the beginning of time. This book is the opposite of that – looking forward to how technology will shape our lives and the future lives of our children. He ties it in with politics, economics, religion, and every other aspect of life that will be affected by Artificial Intelligence, lack of privacy, and the big companies of Amazon, Google, and Facebook having all of your information. One cool idea he perpetuated was Spotify will know your music-listening habits so well that it will be able to create songs for you based on your favorite sounds and instruments – as well as tone of voice and lyric content. Wild
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
- The War of Art is one of the best short books I’ve ever read. It’s about building your creativity muscle and overcoming your lizard-brain by continually writing down your ideas. Like a bad sink, you have to let all of the shit come out of the faucet before eventually crystal clear water starts coming out. The same thing applies for your creative ideas.
You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
- You’ve probably read a self-help or motivational book of some sort and stopped midway through because it was too cheesy or you didn’t bother with the stupid writing exercises or thought experiments at the end of every chapter. This book is effective in that it makes fun of typical self-help books. Sincero breaks it down like a normal human being and motivates you in a funny and effective way.
Greater than Ever – Daniel Doctoroff
- This book was recommended to me by my brother and I’ve since given it to three people. It’s especially interesting if you live/work in NYC or have spent considerable time in NYC in your life. It’s written by the former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding in the post 9/11 Bloomberg era in New York City. He basically had one of the toughest jobs in rebuilding lower Manhattan after the terrorist attacks left most of the Financial District destroyed or vacant. Not only did he head the devlopment of Lower Manhattan, Hudson Yards, the High Line, Long Island City, and Greenpoint, he also headed the committee to get the 2012 Olympics hosted in New York City. Remember the plan for a West Side Stadium in Manhattan where the Jets would play? That was this guy and it was supposed to be meant for the Olympics. It’s amazing just how many agencies are involved and how much effort and budgeting it takes for just one thing to happen in NYC. It’s also amazing how quickly the Bloomberg office was able to get things done in such a short period of time due to the impending Olympic bid, which eventually went to London.
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google– Scott Galloway
- All I’ll say about this book is that it goes through the strategies, competitive advantages and inevitable futures of “The Big Four” companies – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Really good if you want to learn more about how these companies gather data and why they are so much more important in our lives than the individual ways in which we use them.
- I’ve always been a fan of Tim Ferriss and his books but I never actually got around to reading his first and most famous book, The 4-Hour Workweek. It always sounded to gimmicky to me to actually be worth reading. But not surprisingly, it was full of useful tips to automate your schedule or actual job, get more vacation days, make the most of your vacation, create a second source of income, and many other useful desk job hacks.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
- This book was recommended by a few friends. Kitchen Confidential offers a unique perspective into the restaurant business and already it’s given me such a greater appreciation of just how hard it is to run a restaurant, or kitchen, for that matter. The amount of coordination, luck, skill, effort, and sleepless nights required just to stay afloat is mind-blowing. Also hearing about what goes on behind closed doors in the kitchens of all the places you eat at can be a bit unnerving and eye-opening. Once piece of advice from Bourdain – “Never order fish on Monday.”
Since Anthony Bourdain passed away, I’ve actually gone deep into a lot of his creations. I’ve watched almost every episode of Parts Unknown (which is just so good), I listened to a few of his interviews, and just recently started reading his book. I had no idea that he was essentially unknown until he was 44 years old and reached incredible fame after his book and then his show No Reservations. Other than being a phenomenal chef, he was such a talented writer and a truly great human being.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- It took some time for me to finally get around to this one but this book is so cool. What is boils down to is that it doesn’t matter how much talent you have, or how smart you are – what matters in any facet of life is how much effort you put in, or “grit”. Talent without effort is just talent. Talent with effort = achievement. Angela Duckworth started out as a schoolteacher and then went into psychology. She offers cool stories from areas such as the US miliarty, sports, music, and business to show that the most successful people are almost always the “grittiest” and it was their hard work that put them head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. If you need a little extra motivation in whatever field or hobby you’re pursuing, definitely give this a read.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – Jordan Peterson
- Jordan Peterson is a Canadian college professor who has received ungodly fame in the last two years for his presence on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and his online lectures on YouTube. He is by far one of the smartest humans I have ever listened to and his new book can sometimes be overwhelming with philosophy and intellectual jargon. He is a clinical psychologist offering 12 simple rules to get your life back in order such as
- Stand up straigh with your shoulders back
- Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping
- Make friends with people who want the best for you
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
Past Tense – Lee Child
- Although I tend to only read non-fiction books, I occassionally need to give my brain a rest with a fictional character who beats people up and gets rid of bad guys. The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child are some of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ve read all 26 books in the series. He is a combination of Jason Bourne, XXX, and The Rock. It’s a shame that Tom Cruise plays him in the movies because he is supposed to be a 6’6, 240 lb monster of a human who intimidates everyone. Nothing ever goes wrong and he always wins in the end, but the writing is phenomenal and the character of Jack Reacher is beyond entertaining.
- Scott Adams was the first person to predict the Donald Trump presidency back in 2015, and he was one of the only people who stuck to his prediction and wrote weekly updates on his blog. In his book, Win Bigly, Adams provides all the evidence behind the master persuasion techniques of Donald Trump and his campaign. From his nicknames like Little Marco Rubio or Crooked Hillary, to his actually genius way of talking about a broad “wall” rather than directly answering questions about specifics – Adams shows through a non-biased, objective, and liberal view – that Trump is not as stupid as we think he is.
Levels of the Game – John McPhee
- Tim Ferriss always mentions this book on his podcast. It’s about the first U.S. Open semifinal match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner. You don’t have to be a tennis fan, but if you are a fan of great writing – this is a great book. McPhee switches between thoughts inside the players heads throughout the match, their childhood and personal lives, and the white/black race relations of the 1960’s. It’s a short read too, I finished it in one night.
How to Change Your Mind – Michael Pollan
- Yes, this book will change your mind. First off, Michael Pollan is a fantastic journalist and writer. You may know him for his books In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, or his Netflix documentaries Food, Inc. or Cooked. But rather than food, Pollan goes in an entirely different direction and takes a deep dive in to the natural healing and mind-expanding abilities of psychadelic drugs like psylocybin mushrooms, LSD, and DMT. Major studies by NYU and Johns Hopkins have shown unbelievable results in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, and a host of other ailments with just 1-3 treatments of these demonized medicines.
Own the Day, Own Your Life – Aubrey Marcus
- I wrote an entire write-up on this book here
It’s a pretty dense book, but it’s not like the typical fitness or nutrition books that demand strict discipline, no drinking, no cheating and the workouts are made for freaks of nature in ridiculous shape. Aubrey writes this for the average person who is looking to make better changes in their daily routine.
It all comes down to momentum. In the now-famous commencement speech from Admiral William H. McRaven at the University of Texas stated “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.” While that sounds trivial, he’s saying it comes down to the momentum of starting your day off with a completed task that will eventually snowball and lead you to want to accomplish more tasks. “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
Origin – Dan Brown
The DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons, Inferno… Dan Brown has been hitting nothing but net in every single book of the Robert Langdon/Tom Hanks series. This one does not disappoint. Based in Barcelona, the plot veers towards atheism and artificial intelligence.
Born Standing Up – Steve Martin
- It was eye-opening me to read about A) how hard Steve Martin worked throughout his life and B) how famous he was at his peak. Steve Martin was a literal rock star comedian. He sold out arenas and people finished his own jokes on stage. He asbolutely killed every night. I had never seen any of his live stand-up before, and only knew him from movies and a couple of SNL skits. But his stand-up from the 70’s is some of the most unique, iconic comedy I’ve ever seen. His autobiography takes you through how he started in comedy and performed theater in bars and small nightclubs, slowly developing his confidence over the years from an unknown quirky act to literally the funniest man on the planet.
Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age by Jeff Bercovici
- This was a cool book that I just happened to pick up in Barnes & Noble. I’m always a big fan of any thing about performance and athleticism. How we can perform better and get in better shape. Jeff Bercovici goes through the model of how certain superstar athletes continue to get better with age – Tom Brady, Jaromir Jagr, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Lebron James and many others.
Books I thought would be good but were just OK (in my opinion)
And finally, some books that I didn’t make it through either because it didn’t meet my expectations, or it was too boring to get all the way through. Feel free to message me with reasoning behind why I didn’t like these books.
- Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Anthony Horowitz
- Good to Great – Jim Collins
- The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis
- You Are Not So Smart – David McRaney
- The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson
- Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking
Happy Reading y’all