The 43 books I read in 2018

..and a one line review of each one

A spiral of insights, stories and inspiration.

I didn’t quite match the 50 books I read in 2017…. but here is a review of what I read in 2018. It still only equates to about 30 minutes / 30 pages a day.

Since moving to Thailand I’ve switched back to my kindle for some reads too which has been fun.

Thanks to Rebel Book Club for the accountability and inspiration as always!

Now in London, Bristol & Oxford (and over 400 members), RBC is kicking off a big year in January with Atomic Habits by James Clear. Join in and accelerate your reading habits.

The scores are the personal impact and enjoyment I got out of each book specifically, not necessarily the topic or RBC conversations.

The Books

  1. Only Planet by Ed Gillespie: An inspiring & entertaining start to the year as Ed circumnavigates the world without getting on a plane. 8/10
  2. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown (Rebel Book Club January): Brene’s writing is often mentioned at RBC. This book on ‘belonging’ had some great nuggets without ever getting into full flow, unlike the conversation it ignited at our meetup. 5/10
  3. Grit by Angela Duckworth: An excellent introduction into this increasingly important character trait. 8/10
  4. Tribe by Sebastian Junger: A surprisingly punchy little book about why society is to blame for post-traumatic stress disorder in war veterans and what we can do about it. Powerful. 9/10
  5. Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau: An avalanche of stories about people who are generating extra income ‘on the side’. Makes a good companion to the Side Hustle School daily podcast which RBC was featured on. 7/10
  6. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Rebel Book Club February): A challenging blog post that has become a book phenomenon. Reni’s articulate reflection on white privilege cut through many assumptions and generated the best conversation I’ve heard at RBC. 9/10
  7. The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla: Inspired by Reni, I followed-up by reading this collection of powerful, tragic & funny stories about race and identity. 8/10
  8. Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth: Why didn’t we learn this in school! The ‘doughnut’ helps us intelligently measure the true cost of society, not simply GDP, and guides us towards the sweet spot where more can prosper and the planet can be protected. Put Kate in charge of the economy now. 9/10
  9. Blockchain Revolution by Don & Alex Tapscott (Rebel Book Club March): For one of the most exciting ideas to emerge into the world today, the book didn’t quite match the hype. But it did serve as a useful introduction to this disruptive technology and our meetup revealed that there were plenty of crypto investors and players in our club. 4/10
  10. Weconomy by Holly Branson, Craig & Marc Kielburger: I was fortunate to go to the book launch of Weconomy where Holly, Craig & the Virgin Unite team spoke passionately about scaling up social entrepreneurship. Despite the engaging personal stories, graphics and agreeing with most of it, the book didn’t give me really anything new and at times felt like a bit of a love-in for the Virgin brand. 6/10
  11. Radicals by Jamie Bartlett: We read Jamie’s previous book, The Dark Net at RBC in 2017, and Radicals was equally packed full of shocking and remarkable stories of how outsiders are changing the world. Definitely an author with his finger on the pulse of what’s good & bad in the digital age. 8/10
  12. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (Rebel Book Club April): Food. Always a good topic and although this book is a few years old, it seems more prescient than ever. Safran Foer’s detailed tour through the meat and dairy industry is enough to challenge any open-minded carnivore without being earnest. The kind of book you want to give to people. 9/10
  13. Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: From the author of Black Swan and others on counter-intuitive thinking, Taleb argues that we need to be tied into whatever project, job or venture it is in order to have a real understanding or opinion on it, and not enough leaders are. Seems fair enough, but despite the wise insights, I really struggled with his erratic writing style and lack of structure. 3/10
  14. Lost & Founder by Rand Fishkin: CEO of search engine optimisation business tool, ‘Moz’, Rand is the ideal guide to the craziness of fundraising, building and crashing a startup in Silicon Valley and the mental health fallouts it can cause. One of the best ‘startup’ stories I’ve read. 8/10
  15. New Power by Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms: Excellent summary of how ideas, both good and bad, in business, politics, religion and society now spread incredibly fast and what that means for us. 8/10
  16. Where the Magic Happens by Caspar Craven: A family of 5 sails round the world for 20 months. Loved the detail of how the Craven’s got to departure day (4 years and a lot of work) and the profound impact of the adventure on the family. Magical. 9/10
  17. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans (Rebel Book Club May): Nice framing on how to think about work and career like a designer and useful tools and guidance to make it happen. You’ll likely need more than this book to turn it into a reality. I’d recommend the Escape School or Nomad MBA. 7/10
  18. Tribes by Seth Godin: Revisiting a book that had a big impact on how I thought about community building and business. Seth’s style is easy to read and I enjoyed regaining the insights although not as impactful on the second read. 7/10
  19. You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed: A growth mindset book for children — awesome! 7/10
  20. Mission by Michael Hayman & Nick Giles: A bit like Weconomy, the premise is easy to agree with: businesses that have a societal mission are the future, but I didn’t get quite as excited by this book as I’d hoped. Probably better suited to those coming to this topic for the first time. 6/10
  21. Deep Work by Cal Newport: The joke is that those of us struggling to stay focused on our work are often found reading blogs & books on productivity! Deep Work, however, is worthy procrastination, especially when explaining how distraction damages our work and how we can counter it simply and quickly. 8/10
  22. The Secret Barrister by The Secret Barrister (Rebel Book Club June): The theme of ‘undercover jobs’ was won by this brilliant and disturbing insiders view of the criminal justice system. All is not what it seems. Our mock trial at the RBC meetup proved the point of the book. 8/10
  23. This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay: As Stephen Fry said, a ‘painfully funny’ look at the reality of a junior doctor’s life. Close to a perfect book: entertaining, educational, and galvanising. 10/10
  24. Hired by James Bloodworth: The third of the ‘undercover’ books, James dives into the deep-end of low-wage Britain by working for 6 months between an Amazon warehouse, as an Uber driver and most disturbingly in a care home. A wake-up call to our culture of mass consumption. 8/10
Reading ‘Half Earth’ in Sapa Valley, Vietnam, Christmas 2018.

25. Open by David Price: Love the idea of a more ‘open’ society, collaboration over competition, and there are some good stories here. 7/10

26. Be More Pirate by Sam Coniff-Allende (Rebel Book Club July): Sam makes the case that the Golden Age Pirates have had their story mis-told. They are in fact, the role models we’ve been looking for: fighting for justice, equality, and freedom! Fun, outlandish and a fresh take on how, inspired by pirates, we might work and live in stormy times. 8/10

27. As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee: Re-reading twenty years later and Laurie Lee’s violin-powered journey from the shire to sweltering Spain, remains a travel classic. 9/10

28. Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Prisig (Rebel Book Club August): On the theme of travel, we read ‘Zen’ at RBC and despite the dense prose, I was engaged by the intricate metaphor of maintaining the machine and the author’s shaky mental health. 7/10

29. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari: ‘Sapiens showed us where we came from. Homo Deus looked to the future. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century explores the present. By ‘present’, Harari means the whole century…so despite narrowing down his focus this is still big thinking. This book is why non-fiction was created! Mind-expanding stuff. 9/10

30. Factfulness by Hans & Ola Rosling: Finally, a book to give optimists a non-fluffy argument! A brilliant fact-driven guide to our world that shows how much progress we’re making. The ideal antidote to the daily fake news cycle. I wish all world leaders would read this. What a legacy from Hans, who died as he concluded the book. 10/10

31. Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton (Rebel Book Club September): At RBC we’d heard of Tsundoku (the growing pile of unread books on your bedside table), and often discussed Ikagi (finding the sweet spot — purpose — in our work). Beth serenely introduces another Japanese philosophy-in-a-phrase, Wabi Sabi, how to find beauty in imperfection. 8/10

32. Step by Step by Simon Reeve: Having enviously followed Simon’s TV adventures for over a decade I was excited to read his personal journey. After a surprisingly troubled childhood, Simon emerges as a hungry journalist, much more political than travel-driven at first which is maybe what gives him and his journeys an edge. My kind of guide. 9/10

33. Principles by Ray Dalio: Clearly a titan of our times, Dalio’s Principles has been stacked on my table for a while. One of two books I didn’t finish but what I did discover made sense (and I enjoyed his personal journey) but the slightly indulgent, Biblical format didn’t quite work for me at the first attempt. 6/10

34. Gender Games by Juno Dawson (Rebel Book Club October): A popular theme at RBC, Juno proved to be an excellent and entertaining guide into the wild world of gender transition and cleverly helps the reader realise how big a role ‘gender’ plays throughout our lives, whoever we are. 9/10

35. Who Can You Trust by Rachel Botsman: I’ve followed Rachel’s work on the ‘sharing economy’ and with this book, she explains how trust is shifting from institutional (governments, media, church etc…) to distributed (online communities, shared resources, and new tech like blockchain). Its fascinating, prescient and helps make some sense of the chaos. 9/10

36. The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff: ‘Energetic girl impressively runs length of New Zealand’….doesn’t tell half the story. In a race of running books this one would be near to the top, maybe just behind Born to Run, and funnier. 9/10

37. Subscribed by Tien Tzuo: I’m fascinated by subscription models (we use one at RBC) and Tien has built a successful business to business model. Interesting to see how many big companies like Adobe are switching to recurring revenue to save themselves and grow again. 7/10

38. Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle (Rebel Book Club November): Lucy has been fighting the environmental cause on the BBC and beyond for a long-time. But her time has come with the swell in interest in fighting plastic and her book captures the scale of the problem and how we can tackle it whoever we are. 8/10

39. Future Politics by Jamie Susskind: A beast of a book that challenges our way of Governing as being outdated for our technological age. Heavy in places but will be the kind of book I’ll go back to. 8/10

40. Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whately: Ah, the ‘rough guide’ to managing money as a professional twenty-something in the twenty-first century…why didn’t I have this to hand ten years ago? Maybe because the ‘Monzo’ generation didn’t exist yet. As Laura says, you’ll save at least the cover price by reading it. 8/10

41. Run or Die by Kilian Jorney: Another running book…this time by the Mo Farah of ultra-running. Kilian runs up (and down) mountains at the kind of speed most of us could cycle. Humans are amazing. 7/10

42. This is Marketing by Seth Godin (Rebel Book Club December): Seth joined us via skype for our final RBC of 2018, brilliantly articulating the importance of focusing on your ‘smallest viable audience’ and making something specifically for them. Its common business sense of course, but not something that we put into practise as much as we could. An easy, story-driven and insight-laden read. 9/10

43. Half Earth by E O Wilson: I read my final book of the year in the Sapa Valley, high up in Northern Vietnam. Wilson’s radical vision that to save most of the world’s flora and fauna from extinction we need to literally make half the planet a conservation zone is compelling. What’s missing is the ‘how to do it’ part, maybe that’s the next book7/10

— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

My Book of the Year: Factfulness by Hans & Ola Rosling

Why? In an increasingly chaotic and difficult world Factfulness offers a sane, positive and persuasive world view. Thank you Hans!

Reading Factfulness on a Cornish Beach, Summer 2018

Phew! That was a lot. Thank you for reading my reviews. Please add any of yours or recommendations for future reads yourself.

Join us at Rebel Book Club in 2019 for 12 (not 43) more remarkable reads starting this month with Atomic Habits by James Clear.