This Year in Books 2018

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This Year in Books 2018

Each year I publish a list of books I read. As a high-school senior, a remarkable teacher inspired me to set a goal to read at least 12 books each year. I get close.

Below is the list from 2018 with some commentary about those that resonated. For the astute, publication date for this list is January 2020. Business school pushed updating this site lower on the list or priorities.

Maybe that’s better. Maybe commentary about a book read long ago informs others of it’s value in a more helpful way.

2018 Book List

AuthorTitleRating
Pema ChodronThe Pocket Pema Chodron9
Erica DawsonWhen Rap Spoke Straight To God4.5
Jonathan Safron FoerHere I Am9.3
Haruki MurakamiMen Without Women6.8
Haruki MurakamiWhat I Talk about When I Talk About Running6.4
Haruki MurakamiPinball, 19737.2
Vladimir NabakovLaughter in the Dark6
Kathy O’neillWeapons of Math Destruction7.5
Barrack ObamaThe Audacity of Hope8
Bruce Patton; Douglass Stone; Sheila HeenDifficult Conversations9.2
Neil deGrasse TysonAstrophysics for People in a Hurry7.7
Charles WheelanNaked Statistics8.7

The Pocket Pema Chodron

A few years ago, when I spent time in a monastery in Thailand, I was exposed to Pema’s writing. I shared her book Taking the Leap was the most important book I read in This Year in Books 2015.

This one is a collection of one-page excerpts from her books and talks. It’s a great book to have on the shelf or bedside table to flip through when you find yourself in need of wisdom.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safron Foer

Foer writes prose and crafts stories with such precision reading his work can feel like indulging in emotional paper cuts. He snatches your attention, bringing it to the small, unloved crevice of your experience like the webbing between your fingers reminding you it’s there and important. His descriptions of the struggles of this Jewish family living in DC resonated so closely I bought a few copies of the book and gifted to friends and family of similar backgrounds.

Highly recommended for anyone who identifies with Judaism or would like to gain a better understanding of what it’s like growing up Jewish in US. Highly recommended for people who love great prose. Highly recommended for those who enjoy multi-generational dramas.

Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan

In the last few years I’ve become more interested in and involved in data science. Headlines about AI, machine learning, deep learning, [insert hype cycle buzzword] abound, and they all boil down to statistics. Most is actually statistics from the 1950s. Bayes’ Theorem is from the 1700s!

If tasked with picking a single book for the average person to gain exposure to statistics, Wheelan offers it with Naked Statistics. 

It is accessible. Someone who proclaims to have no skills in math would understand and unpack the necessary knowledge of statistics to see how it impacts their lives. Wheelan uses clean, common examples to explain pivotal concepts like the central limit theorem.

One takeaway, be suspicious any time someone provides only the mean or the median, but not both. This is often highlighted in discussions of annual income where the average is $73k, but the median is $63k. This fact becomes even more salient when you consider average net worth in the US is $690k, but the median is $97k.