My Top 5 Books of 2018

2018 has drawn to a close and it is time to reflect on some of the best books that I have read this year. The year has been productive, fulfilling and full of books that for the most part have changed my perspective and outlook on many different topics. It is a year that saw the introduction of video reviews, knowledge bites and monthly review recaps. Although I haven’t done as much as I would have liked, I am planning on doing more in 2019. A big thanks to everyone who has followed me the past year, I am so grateful that you take time to watch, listen and reflect on my content.

I am planning to use this post as a reflection on my five favourite books that I have read this year. This was hard to do but I feel that it would be a good way to recap the books that I have read during the year to better understand what I have learnt to then share with you all. The five books that I have chosen in reverse order is:

5. Letters From A Stoic by Seneca

4. Astrophysics For People In A Hurry by Neil De Grasse Tyson

3. The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

2. The Power Of Habit by Charles

1. 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

Letter From A Stoic by Seneca

Followers from this year will know that I have become fascinated by Stoic philosophy. The philosophy has its origins in Ancient Rome where it was spread through the teachings of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, both of whom had significant influence in its progression.

The book is structured in the form of letters from Seneca to his student Lucilius. The letters have a wide range of topics, mostly focussing on the concept of life, death, possessions and the importance of controlling emotions at all times. From my interpretation of Stoicism, it seems as if it is an ideology that has its roots embedded in the concept of death. This is where the ideology spreads to something that has religious roots; it is able to turn itself into an ideology that gives meaning to the purpose of life. Although the book has no direct mention of the importance of religion it is evident to the reader that stoicism can be used alongside religion to help in the conceptualism on life, at least in the subjective sense.

Having read commentaries on Stoicism by Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday prior to reading this book, Letter From A Stoic was a definite step-up in complexity. I was expecting this, but for someone wanting to read this, it is important to understand that it is a deep and complex read that requires attention and reflection to get the most out of it. I enjoyed reading it because I think that Stoic philosophy has a role to play in our modern day world. Endless distractions combined with content being thrown at us from everywhere, it I easy to lose purpose and perspective if we are not careful and vigilant. For religious people, this is easier to reflect on as it constantly reminding you in your daily actions but for atheists, this can lead to becoming lost failing to grasp a sense of meaning. This is where Stoicism and on a more specific level, this book can be used. It can serve the reader as a reminder that life is full of obstacles and ultimately ends in death, but that does not mean it cannot be filled with meaning and purpose. That comes from action; being present and not letting the emotions of a situation determine your feelings towards it, whatever it might be.

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

For many people trying to understand and conceptualise the power of the universe, it is easy to believe it is beyond our cognitive capacities. This is ok; as Neil De Grasse Tyson starts this book with the quote “The universe has no obligation to make sense to you.” After listening to podcasts and interviews with De Grasse Tyson, this quote acts as the perfect premise to the rest of the book. This is because the concepts in the book, such as Dark Matter (which scientists have yet to properly identify) are yet to be identified therefore trying to conceptualise it is a difficult task to do and one in which even the best Astrophysicists need to continually do so. For general readers such as us, therefore, it is important to note that this book is an introduction into may complex topics in physics, written in a concise way. This does not mean however that it is ‘watered-down’. The book has the reader constantly pondering how the scientists of centuries past were able to identify scientific discoveries that continue to be true to this day. Famous examples are Newton’s laws of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Both of which have been equally influential in the development of science. The book touches on the influences of both Newton and Einstein, but also expands on well-known concepts in the field of astrophysics that have been misunderstood over time.

One of the concepts that interested me the most and continues to do so is the multi-verse theory. The idea that there is a universe expanding at the speed of light is something incredible in of itself, but to then consider that there is a possibility that our universe can be one of many universes is incomprehensible which goes back to the quote at the beginning of the book. I will obviously not try and explain it to you in this post as I am completely unqualified to do so, however, I will say that contemplating the possible existence of such theories puts into perspective our position in the world as well as the universe in general. Such themes remain constant throughout the whole book as De Grasse Tyson puts into perspective the complexity of our universe but also engages with the reader to ensure that there is some literacy on these topics.

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

Throughout the natural world, there are phenomena that we are unable to comprehend as humans. Theories in which alter our conceptualization of the objective world that we live in. This is the effect the 80/20 principle has had on me, with this book being a focal point in that discovery. The 80/20 principle, established by Italian Mathematician Alfredo Pareto when studying wealth distribution in Italy, found that 80% of wealth derived from 20% of people. At the time this seemed plausible but still shocking, what made it more so was the discovery that this applied across most of the natural world. For instance, 80% of honey is produced by 20% of bees. This discovery became a tool whereby analysts could determine the productivity of different occurrences to determine their causality.

Having heard about the 80/20 principle in multiple books I bought this book by Richard Koch as it is one of the most in-depth on the subject. Koch makes this book specifically for the purpose of business. To establish an understanding of cause and effect that determine how management can use this tool to affect positive change. The change is usually analytical, more like a shift in mindset, but can produce results that drastically alters a business’s performance. I found this useful in theory to understand, yet do not run a business or am not in a management position to put these theories into practice. Yet, the reason why this theory is so powerful is that I have used it to analyse certain aspects of my life that have proved beneficial. For instance, analysing the time in which I am most productive and using this time to complete most of my work. In this analysis, I realised that I am able to complete more during the hours of 6am-12pm than 12pm-6pm. This can also be translated into an analysis of personal fulfilment. What gives you 80% of your happiness from 20% of your actions?

It must be noted that the 80/20 split is only a marker. This percentage split can change depending on what you’re working to. It is also only a rough guide, and should not be used as a statistical tool. It is better as an approximate determinate of how someone can improve their life by becoming aware of the relationship between cause and effect. Doing so will bring greater understanding and productivity as a result.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Habit formation is a popular topic. Everyone wants to know the ‘quick way’ to achieve results by developing better habits whether that be at work or in an individual's personal life. It is well known that habits determine the success of an individual’s life. Great habits can serve as a tool for achieving goals that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved if it were not for good habits. Achieving a good physique is an example of this. Likewise, if an individual develops bad habits it can prove as the catalyst for a life of emptiness and lack of fulfilment. Therefore, developing habits tailored to the goals of the individual is crucial.

This book serves that purpose, on a theoretical level. Duhigg analyses the ‘Habit Loop’ in a three-step process for the formation of habit. The sequence is Trigger, Action & Result. (The book explains each step in more depth) What I found useful from this analysis is that habits that are detrimental can be resolved if the individual can realise the cause of the trigger. For instance, if an individual has an overeating disorder, understanding what triggers the need to eat constantly can help overcome the problem. It must be noted that the book does not give in-depth methods for solving bad habits. It does show examples of ways that other people have found methods of resolving issues around bad habits, but the book does not focus on this entirely.

The popularity of the book speaks for itself. It is written in such a way to educate whilst asking the necessary questions on how one can develop better habits and drop the ones that are detrimental. Like anything that is read, implementation is key. Good habits are probably the most difficult thing to implement into someone’s life. It takes constant attention and dedication to keep on the straight and narrow to achieve a certain outcome. I have read that it takes somewhere in the region of 40 days for a habit form, this might be the case as the average but in my experience, I have found that the ability to a habit to be formed depends on the willingness of the individual to do so. Therefore, this book serves a critical tool for understanding how someone can develop those habits.

12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson

There are some books that alter your perspective on a particular topic, field or industry. There are those that change the way you behave and perceive the objective world. Then there are those that combine elements from a variety of different fields to change how you see the objective world as well as your place within it. I believe that this book had that impact on me. From listening to interviews with Dr Peterson on a variety of different channels it seems as if the book has connected in similar ways to millions of people around the world.

Having initially listened to the audiobook of 12 Rules For Life, the content was too in depth to fully absorb. I subsequently bought to hardcopy to read cover-to-cover to get a better understanding of the content. I am glad I did so. As the title suggests the book describes 12 Rules that encapsulate what it means to live a life full of meaning and purpose. For those that have read or listened to Maps Of Meaning, his first book, you can tell that this book is a follow-up. 12 Rules For Life is a more simplistic and direct approach to the purpose of rules in their ability to give meaning to the world. Throughout the book, Peterson explores the nature of the 12 rules explaining their significance in the biological and metaphorical world. How millions of years of biological development has created systems in which we as humans perceive the world not created by societal or cultural creations but instead are part of the fabric of existence itself. These topics are littered throughout the book, which gives the reader the understanding they need once they have finished the book.

Something that I particularly liked about this book was the manner in which Dr Peterson uses his own personal experience to highlight the purpose of particular rules. Although he included scientific examples from psychological and biological proponents, he passes on the significance of such through his own experience. Like I have said in my review of this book and subsequent discussions, this is a must read for all. I know that there is controversy regarding this book and the author, yet an author can only be judged by the words on the page. I truly believe that the significance of these words will remain in the forefront of people minds for decades to come. I have heard that he is currently working on the sequel to this book, that is due to be released in 2019, which I am looking forward to reading and review.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this years reading. Looking forward to more in 2019. Thanks for reading.