[Book Review] 8 More Books I Read in 2018 and Loved

- 7 minute read

This is a follow up to my other post on books I read in 2018. The eight in this post and the five in my last post together comprise the books that stuck with me out of a total of 28 books I got through last year.

These are the books that make me appreciate the act of reading, and make me want to share them with others. They’re the ones that I’ll keep extra copies of laying around in order to gift as presents whenever I get the chance.

1. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A post-apocalyptic sci-fi set about 500 years after a nuclear war. There are three parts to the book, each set about 600 years after each other.

There are some cool themes explored in this one, including science, mortality, time, religion, technology, and memory. I originally picked this up because of the cool setting, but ended up really enjoying how thought-provoking it was with all these different themes. Catholicism is also heavily featured, as in the story, a monastery is used to preserve scientific knowledge for future generations of humanity. This is interesting considering the role of the church in preserving knowledge during our own history through the fall of Rome and through the Rennaissance.

This is recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, Mad Max, or any of the Fallout video games.

2. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work is defined by author Cal Newport as: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

This one was very convincing and helped me realize what I need to do to achieve the goals that I have set in my life. There are clear and actionable rules laid out that can be implemented to improve productivity and achieve success with large-scale goals and projects.

I recommend this to anyone looking to make strides with their long-term goals or large projects. It’s not a cure-all for procrastination or anything, but it makes a compelling argument for the value of working hard.

3. A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

Former FBI director James Comey writes a book about his life and what he has learned about leadership and ethics.

Comey provides a lot of fascinating insight into things he has lived through, including taking down the Italian mob, the loss of his child, a riveting tale of a hospital bedside meeting with John Ashcroft during a conflict between the DOJ and the White House over the GWB’s Surveillance Program, Hillary’s email investigation, his dismissal as FBI Director, and his testimony to the US Senate.

He details interactions he had with several different leaders, including Italian mob bosses, a grocery store manager at his first job, Rudy Giulani, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, and what he learned from those interactions.

If you’re interested in an honest and funny perspective of United States law and its justice system from someone that has devoted his life to it, then this is a great read. I’d also recommend it for those in or interested in leadership roles, looking for some insight from someone that has made an effort to become a good leader by taking notes and learning from his own superiors.

4. The Big Short by Michael Lewis

A financial thriller that details the lead up to the US housing bubble of of the 2000’s.

I loved the characters in this book. It’s no wonder they got such big names to play them all in the movie, they’re larger than life. The different perspectives and story threads in this one offer up an absorbing and accessible view into the financial world and the crisis it created.

This is a book for those interested in how the financial crisis of 2008 happened. By the end I was perplexed by how the people responsible weren’t jailed for it.

5. Anathem by Neal Stephenson

A sci-fi book by Neal Stephenson that melds quantum mechanics and Platonic philosophy.

One of the best sci-fi I have read. There are so many cool concepts explored, layered, and weaved into this one. The storyline is engaging, but the philosophical asides were fascinating. I am not well-versed in philosophy, but Stephenson is able to convey complex topics really well, without dumbing them down.

I’d recommend this to anyone that likes some mystery to their sci-fi, as well as futurists and philosophy buffs.

6. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer recounts his experience at the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, where eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a sudden storm.

A Mount Everest expedition is by itself an out of this world experience, and climbing accidents are already interesting to read about. But Krakauer injects some of the best adventure prose I’ve read into one of the most deadly Mount Everest disasters in history. I could not put this book down. If you’d like to be put into the front seat of a riveting tale of survival, this book is for you.

7. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Nike founder Phil Knight shares his story of the early days of Nike, and how it grew into the brand it is today. I originally picked this book up in order to get some history on the company that I just got hired at, but I was greeted with a riveting tale of challenges that Mr. Knight encountered throughout his journey.

I really resonated with the mindset that Mr. Knight presented in his memoir. He kept an unwavering perserverance through countless setbacks and hardships that both he and his company faced. He also continuously reiterates his feelings of being an iconoclast, and partners up with many other misfits and rebels. Many of Nike’s first athletes were the rebel type, and many still are. I appreciate that viewpoint and like that Nike seemed to have always been fighting as the underdog and promoting the underdogs, despite their market share today.

I would recommend this one for entreprenuers, people that have a fighting spirit, and to those interested in the type of mindset required to found a company like Nike.

8. Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis looks at many of the ideas of thinkers of the past such as Plato, Buddha, and Jesus, and examines them in the light of contemporary psychology research. He distills his findings into 10 lessons that we can apply to our lives, with a focus on virtue, happiness, fulfillment, and meaning in our lives.

This book was immensely helpful for me. It helped nail down a lot of ideas that I had been circling around and wondering about as I have worked my way through life. Some of the more important lessons involved finding happiness through love, work, and living with virtue.

I recommend everyone read this one, and I will likely happily gift it many times to come.

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Ryan Westby

Ryan Westby

Coder, climber, artist, 21st century ghost

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