I read 73 books in 2018, which is a record for me. In no particular order, my top ten is:
“Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu and Ursula Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin is one of my absolute favourite writers, and she died in January 2018, so reading her interpretation of this classic made perfect sense to me. It’s important to note this isn’t a ‘translation’, per se. Le Guin’s self-stated task was to capture the original meaning, but also the original poetry of the text, which a direct translation wouldn’t do. And I think she’s done a wonderful job. It certainly made the text more accessible for me – although it is a little like trying to catch water. You can see it, and feel the meaning and importance, but somehow you never quite seem to be able to hold on to it. Perhaps that is the point?
“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield
Pressfield is an ex-Marine, and this is his take on how to battle procrastination, or ‘Resistance’, as he calls it. His short book is a fascinating mix of overcoming Resistance by approaching it as a physical foe to be vanquished, but also as an almost spiritual quest. It made me think about procrastination very differently, and undoubtedly helped me crawl out of a really unproductive patch early in the year. If you struggle with procrastination (and frankly, who doesn’t at some point or other), then this book could really help.
“Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss
If you follow me, you’ll already know that I’m a bit of a Ferriss fan-boy! This book is carefully curated extracts from some of his best podcasts, divided into three sections – Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. The depth and breadth of information in here is utterly astounding – this book might be the best investment I’ve ever made.
“The 4-Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss
Told you I was a fan-boy! Ferriss calls himself a human guinea-pig, and this book is the result of his years of self-experimentation, covering a huge range of topics including diet, getting stronger, running faster, medical tourism, and many more. He challenges a lot of accepted wisdom, and you don’t have to agree with all his conclusions to get a lot from this book – at the very least, it will make you think. And speaking personally, after implementing a few of the ideas in this book, at age 44, I’m now healthier than I’ve been in over a decade.
“Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan
A beautiful, enthralling auto-biography, told in terms of the waves Finnegan has surfed around the world. You don’t have to be remotely interested in surfing to appreciate the gorgeous writing and incredible stories and characters in this book.
“Do/ Purpose” by David Hieatt
Hieatt is a businessman, currently in charge at Hiut Denim (whose email newsletter is always fantastic), and also responsible for The Do Lectures. This short, beautifully designed and produced book is his manifesto on how to run a successful business. He challenges much conventional wisdom, and because the ideas are primarily about treating people – staff, customers, yourself – the right way, even if you’re not interested in starting your own company, you can still get a huge amount from this book.
“Legacy” by James Kerr
This one sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I finally got round to it – and I wish I’d read it sooner. Using ideas borrowed from the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, Kerr gives us 15 lessons about leading both ourselves and others, with character and integrity.
“Doughnut Economics” by Kate Raworth
Getting a better understanding of economics was high on my list last year, and this definitely helped. It’s a surprisingly easy read that has a brilliant overview of the history of economics, before delving into Raworth’s ‘doughnut’ theory – the idea that economies should function in the space between the Social Foundation (the point where nobody is below the poverty line) and Planetary Boundaries (the point at which we are using resources unsustainably). Economics can be interesting!
“The Negligents” by Kate Smith
I mainly read non-fiction, but this was the best novel I read in 2018. A funny, charming and poignant coming of age story that really reminded me of David Mitchell’s ‘Black Swan Green’.
“The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
This short classic was first published almost 100 years ago. Gibran’s short musings on everything from Love and Marriage to Beauty and Death resonated with me in an incredibly powerful way. If you feel that same connection, this book could change your life.