Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash
Salman Ansari
Jan 23 · 6 min read

Finally had some time to sit down and reflect on some of my favorite books of 2018. It was a great year for me in terms of personal exploration, as I was able to take a bunch of time off from work. This gave me a chance to explore many different areas (meditation, sketching & illustration, cooking, diet to name a few), and often I would read books to guide my path. Ultimately, I read more than fifty books!

While I’m happy I got to read a lot, I think one important lesson I learned was that volume doesn’t really make a huge difference unless you’re picking the right books. As it turns out, choosing good books for yourself is really hard. We each have different needs and interests, and thus different books will appeal to each of us. Most importantly, however, the biggest factor is timing. Some books may be meaningless to you as you read them today, but if you read them in ten years, they might just change your life!

As a result, rather than focusing too much on reading a ton more books this year (or even hitting the same number), instead I’m going to try and focus on a few things with the books I read in 2019:

  • Think back to books in the past that may be more relevant, and (gasp!) read them again.
  • If I see a book that literally everyone reviews as well, don’t be intimidated into reading it. If I was meant to read it, I will read it at some point. Life is too short to succumb to peer pressure for books.
  • Allow myself to read more fantasy and childrens books. There are beautiful stories out there, with gorgeous art and enchanting characters. Why deprive ourselves of the simple joys of such books? (One example I would put here is reading The Little Prince. I will honestly read that book again and again and again and again…I love it so much!)

Okay, on to the books! If you’d like to just see the full list of books I read, check out my Goodreads Year In Books 2018. The following are my favorites (in no particular order) from the list, and a little detail on why. Enjoy!

Circe by Madeline Miller

[Goodreads Link]

I read this book right after reading another of Miller’s books, Song of Achilles, and they are both easily one of my favorite reads of all time. I loved greek mythology books as a kid (especially the classics by Homer — Odyssey and Iliad), and while I’ve enjoyed reading some new editions of those, reading these was a totally new and wonderful experience. Miller has taken the worlds of greek myth and somehow made them as fresh as present day, with absolutely incredible writing to boot. I was hanging on her every word, and can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

[Goodreads Link]

I don’t normally enjoy books that could be labeled as an “expose”. Thankfully, this book isn’t one of them, despite the fact that it’s a deep exploration of the scandals behind Theranos. Instead, it’s an incredibly well-researched work of journalism, combined with great writing to yield a fun and fascinating journey into the story behind Theranos. I was shocked at some of the stuff I discovered in the book, and simply could not put it down. I think I finished it in less than two days. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

[Goodreads Link]

This is an absolute must-read. When I read this book, I felt like I just got 10 years worth of education on complex racial and social issues in a matter of a few days. I cannot recommend it enough, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably heard me sing its praises already:

The book encourages you to put the work into self-reflection and understand your own shortcomings, and your privilege. I sat down and write a list of all the ways I am privileged. It was eye-opening, as usually one tends only to think about the ways we are discriminated against

— Salman (@daretorant) May 8, 2018

Read it!

The Obesity Code by Jason Fung

[Goodreads Link]

So first off, I should say that I had heard of this book before but didn’t want to read it because I didn’t think it applied to me, as I don’t have an obesity problem. As it turns out, the book title is poorly chosen, as this book is basically just about food, health and dieting. It taught me a lot about how our bodies digest foods, the real reason why sugar is so harmful to us, how weight loss is actually linked to insulin levels, the reality of misleading data that the American Health Association feeds us, and much more.

Reading this book sparked an exploration of a number of different dietary “projects”, including:

  • Low carb high fat and carnivore dieting
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Ruthless removal of sugar from diet
  • FODMAP elimination diet to identify triggers

I actually recorded a podcast with a friend of mine focusing specifically on sugar, the episode is about to be posted shortly (you can subscribe on my podcast).

Another great related book I’d recommend is It Starts With Food. I would definitely read the parts on food and sugar, even if you ignore their Whole30 diet (I never did that part). This book is a bit shorter, so should be a bit easier for you to digest (I’m here all week, folks).

The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous

[Goodreads Link]

So, one of the areas I explored a ton was studying Bitcoin, and the surrounding space. I spent 3–4 months deeply focused on this, and read a lot of different books. I was hoping to write a long blog post about my findings, but somehow it never happened. Simply put though, there’s a lot of scammy activity in the crypto space, and the only thing I found that had any real substance was Bitcoin itself. I worked through the technical manual Mastering Bitcoin, and found myself really fascinated by the technology. As it turns out, the Bitcoin network and community was formed in a very unique way, and this gives it special security properites which other tokens cannot simply clone or emulate. There’s so much more to say here… but, maybe in a separate blog post :)

Later, I ran into the Bitcoin Standard book and learned a lot more about the economic case for Bitcoin. Even if you don’t have any interest in Bitcoin, or think it’s a total scam, this book is an interesting read to better understand concepts like sound money, the history behind U.S. monetary policy, and the trade-offs we are making as citizens without even necessarily realizing it. I was definitely not aware of a lot of this history, and found myself coming away convinced of the value of sound money.

Well, that’s the list! There were lots more books I really liked, but I try to keep the list short and only mention books that I truly loved, or ones that fundamentally changed my perspective/mindset about the world. Whether you read these now, or already read them and have thoughts, and let me know! I love talking about books.

Lastly, leave a quick comment with your favorite book(s) as well! I’m always looking for my next read :)

P.S. If you’re still looking for even more great reads, check out my Top Reads of 2017!


Originally published at salman.io.

Salman Ansari

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founder | engineer | teacher

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