My Favourite Books From 2018

December 21, 2018

 

I always love peeking at people’s reading lists … especially if they are people who are trying to change the world for the better.

 

For example, here is a blog about some of the top books Bill Gates has read in 2018

 

So I thought I would share with you some of the books I have enjoyed reading over this past year.  Books that have challenged me, entertained me and sometimes … made me change my mind about something.

 

Without further ado … here they are (there are 10 of them).

MADE TO STICK

"Made To Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is a very practical, but entertaining read (actually a listen as I downloaded it as an audiobook) about what makes some ideas stick in people's brains ... even if they're urban legends full of blood and guts.

 

The concepts they cover are useful for anyone who needs to get an idea across and then have them remember it for more than 2 seconds.  And I think it would be particularly pertinent for anyone who is involved in change management ... whether as a senior leader or a project manager.

MYTHOS

My husband and I have been listening to Mythos by Stephen Fry.  I had no idea that the Greek mythology was so rich in story and detail!   Stephen Fry is always a joy to listen to when he reads (he did the audio for the Harry Potter series) and I love the way he plays with words.

 

Highly enjoyable, even if some of the gods do act like idiots ... I mean too much like humans ... at times.  It’s also entertaining, educational and thought provoking.

THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

In the The Emperor Of All Maladies, author Siddhartha Mukherjee explores the history of cancer and cancer treatments through the ages. 

 

Mukherjee makes something that should be dry, boring and dusty come alive and relevant to us.  And that's because even in this day and age, and despite all the advances that have been made (and there have been many) we still don’t really have a handle on how to cure all the different types of cancer that exist. 

 

Both my husband and I have had family members die from cancer and right now, a good friend is battling to get his cancer under control.  The Emperor Of All Maladies helped make this complex subject just that little bit more understandable.

 

I highly recommend this book.

DISCOVER YOUR TRUE NORTH

I am always on the lookout for books that help me improve my leadership skills.  Bill George's Discover Your True North:  Becoming An Authentic Leader is a leadership classic, but somehow I'd never read it before. 

 

It's all about finding your internal compass and using it to chart your leadership path.  The book is full of stories that effectively demonstrate the points the author is making ... which also helps in remember the points. 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed it and will probably reread it again in 2019.

WHAT IS LIFE?

I think I've told you before that my husband and I like to listen to audiobooks while we are riding in the car?  Well, one of the books we’ve enjoyed listening to while travelling is What Is Life?  How Chemistry Becomes Biology by Addy Pross, Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

 

I minored in chemistry when I did my first university degree and I've always been interested in scientific "stuff" (not just chemistry).  But I confess that back then I wasn't that interested in understanding just how chemical reactions help us live and breathe as humans.  

 

This book changed that. 

 

Warning ... the book is quite dense in terms of the number of concepts and ideas it lays out.  If you're reading or listening to it and get distracted by something else, you'll have to go back and re-listen to the bit you missed.  Otherwise what follows on won't make any sense.

 

If you're into understanding the micro details of "how we work" I think you'll find this book very interesting.

I CONTAIN MULTITUDES

Another audiobook my husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed listening to is Ed Yong's, I Contain Multitudes:  The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

 

I can remember when all bacteria (aka "bugs") were "bad" and needed to be exterminated with a Dalek-like focus.

 

"I Contain Multitudes ..." is a fascinating look at how science is increasingly showing how bacteria makes us who we are and how we work. 

 

For example, I had no idea that breast milk isn't there to feed the baby ... it's there to feed the bacteria in the baby's gut, who then change that breast milk into food that does nourish the baby.

 

Well worth a read or a listen. 

CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE BRAIN

Have you ever wondered how the brain actually works?  How it makes you, well, you?  And how it turns electrical impulses into thoughts and feelings?

 

I've wondered myself, from time to time, but have never really got much further than thinking ... "it must be a bit like a computer ...."

 

Stanislas Dehaene changes all that with his book Consciousness and the Brain:  Deciphering How The Brain Codes Our Thoughts.  My husband and I also listened to this one as an audiobook.

 

Amazon.com says "In this lively book, Stanislas Dehaene describes the pioneering work his lab and the labs of other cognitive neuroscientists worldwide have accomplished in defining, testing, and explaining the brain events behind a conscious state."

 

I hate to say it, but after listening, I don't think the scientists have cracked the code just yet on how our brains work ...

 

However, it is an interesting book.  It's full on and quite dense at times, but if you're fascinated by what makes us tick ... and not just us, but anything with a brain ... you'll find aspects of this book worth reading.

WHEN BREATHE BECOMES AIR

 

When Breathe Becomes Air:  What Makes Life Worth Living In The Face Of Death:  by Paul Kalanithi, isn't a long book, But it's the sort where you read a little bit, then stop and think about what you've read.  At least that's how it was for me.

 

When Breathe Becomes Air tells the story of Paul Kalanithi's unwilling transformation from a successful medical student with a keen interest in understanding what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon with perhaps months left to live.

 

This book is insightful and thoughtful, sad and inspiring.  And haunting.  Because we all die eventually.  So it's worth spending a bit of time thinking about how we are going to live our lives.  Definitely recommended. 

THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK

A few months ago I told the people who get my newsletters about how a particular book title had caught my eye ... and then asked them whether swearing online bothered them.

 

That book ... which I've finally finished listening to ... is "The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck:  A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life", by Mark Manson.

 

Manson has an interesting take on how to live a good life.  And it is, indeed ... at least in this day and age .. counterintuitive.  Like his strong advice that you should throw away any and all self-help books.

 

I must confess to being a little torn.  He uses the "F" word … a lot ... to the point of being vulgar, yet it's always to illustrate a point.

 

And he has some really valid points.  About how a sense of entitlement can screw up your life.  How it's not about your goals, but about the problems you choose to deal with.

 

My husband listened to part of the book and hated it.  He thought it sounded too "pop sciencey" (if that's a thing) and therefore wasn't credible.

 

It does comes across at bit that way ... "pop sciencey", I mean.  

 

But, on balance, I thought Manson had some really useful and credible things to say.  

 

So if vulgar language doesn't offend you and you're looking for something that will make you look at your life a bit differently, check it out.

FACTFULNESS

My husband listened to this book before I did and was so fascinated by it, that I decided I'd have a listen as well.  It's so interesting that I decided to share it with you, too.

 

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, was written by Hans Rosling, the godfather of data visualisation and his son, Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling.  

 

The authors start by asking us questions about things that we think we know about the world and where it's headed.  You know, the usual doom and gloom scenarios we keep hearing about on the news and everywhere else.  

 

We humans have a tendency to believe the negatives, to leap to conclusions and make assumptions about what we hear and read. 

 

But those conclusions and assumptions are usually wrong and there is plenty of data to prove it ... if we'd just pay attention.

 

I have been thoroughly enjoying listening and have learned heaps.

 

The tricky part is trying to apply what I've learned so that my natural instincts don't kick in when I read news articles that tell me the sky is falling ... you'll understand what I mean once you've read or listened to the book.

 

On a side note, you've probably seen some of his presentations on TED.com.  If you haven't, here is a link to his top 10 talks.  They are well worth watching.

So there you have it.  Those were my favourite books from 2018.

 

If you’d like to find out more often what I’m reading or listening to, sign up to my email newsletter.

 

And what about you?  What were your favourite books?  Let me know in the comments below.

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