Josh Thompson     about     archive     turing     office hours

2018 Reading Review & Recommendations

I read many books in 2018. I’m listing them out here, along with recommendations. Here’s the recommendation “key”:

  • 👍 = I recommend this book. (This metric is intentionally fuzzy.)
  • 😔 = This book influenced my mental model of the world/reality/myself
  • 🏢 = Book topic is architecture and/or urbanism
  • 💵 = Book topic is finance/economics/politics
  • 😫 = This book is hard to get through. Lengthy and/or academic
  • 🐲 = Fiction (most of the fiction I read had fantastic(al) creatures in them, hence the dragon)

If you want anything of value from this list, quickly skim through it. If any of the book topics/titles look of interest to you, consider reading. If a book doesn’t look interesting to you, but I’ve strongly recommended it, you should read it. :)

The tl;dr of the subsequent list of 70+ books is:

  1. Read The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey
  2. Read The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
  3. If you’re a parent, or have friends who are parents, or might someday be a parent, consider reading How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

I did this last year as well: Recommended books from 2017

Notes and Themes

I re-read The Problem of Political Authority, which continues to be my most recommended book. It contains straight-forward, elegant prose, provocative ideas, and perceptive analysis. What else could one want in a book?

I added a few lines on some of these books. Most I didn’t say anything about. I could have spoken at length on many, many more of these books, but it’s daunting to do so on such a list. This makes me want to re-do how I record thoughts on books. Hm.

I read (and finished) the Dresden Files series. All fifteen of them. I enjoyed the series immensely, though I didn’t mark them with a 👍 - if you’re into fiction, film noir, and crime-fighting wizards, this series is for you. If not, don’t waste your time. If you think reading should only be non-fiction to make you smarter, or “hard” fiction, to make you smarter - I disagree. The Dresden files were like candy. Easy, bite-sized, not complex, and delightful. Won’t kill you in small doses.

January

Dead Beat (The Dresden Files, #7) 🐲

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance 😔 💵 😫

This is Ron Chernow’s first biography. Ron Chernow has authored many other biographies, including the Hamilton biography that inspired the musical. The institution we know today as “JP Morgan Chase” had an interesting start and history. After reading Money, Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles here’s my analysis on MBCEC, for the curious, I have little appreciation for large banks doing their leveraged buyouts and functionally fraudulent activities, but it’s still interesting to know the basics of such a prominent institution in America.

For a while, the bank had more of a say in international relations than the US government did. The government had limited access to capital, and the bank could provide it, so large banks played a role in “cracking open” south/central America and Asia, often with many deleterious effects in those regions.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities 😔 👍 🏢 💵

Jane Jacobs is a hero. She loves cities, and when you’re done reading this book, you might love them too. She identified huge problems in the 50’s with the profession of “city planning”, and most of the industry is clueless to her critiques, bumbling along, making the same errors they always did. (Sorta like doctors draining “bad humors”.)

I think most of the built environment in America is headed straight for insolvency and bankruptcy, and if there was a time to change bad practices to good ones, it passed long ago. But this book is still a must-read.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem

Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman, #1) 👍 🐲

This is the first comic book I’ve read in many years. I loved it. I wish my library had the rest of the series.

In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace 😔 👍

Black Hole 🐲

The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City 😔 🏢

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate

February

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology 👍

Despite what the technology industry looks like today, women were the original pioneers of the industry. The Secret History of Women in Coding, by the New York Times is a fantastic entry-point to women in software development.

Life in Code is an auto-biographical by Ellen Ullman take on a women in technology from a fairly recent perspective (1970s to today). When I have kids, I hope they read this book.

Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, #8) 🐲

The Panic of 1819: Reactions and Policies 💵 😫

We 👍 💵

We, written by {author}, was the intellectual seed that gave rise to 1984. The two compare/contrast nicely.

White Night (The Dresden Files, #9) 🐲

Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10) 🐲

Radicals Chasing Utopia: Inside the Rogue Movements Trying to Change the World 💵

I love strange things, and there’s a lot of “strange” (political) movements around the world. This was an interesting look at them. Who knows how the political realm will shake out over the next few decades, but it will likely look very different from today, and some of these movements may be much more prominent, for better or worse.

How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built 😔 👍 🏢

One of the best books I read in 2018. Here’s the shocker: buildings tend to change over time. They get additions, modifications, renovations, etc. It’s a deeply normal thing, and our society has written laws in such a way as to pretend buildings never change, or if they do change, it should be in only very minor ways, or they need approval of someone else before changing.

I wish this were not so.

This book is full of beautiful pictures and diagrams, and will give you a new appreciation for kinda ugly buildings.

March

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In 😔 👍

This book is what every subsequent book on negotiation strives to be. If you have any interest in getting along with people, this is as good a start as you can get.

Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Cryptonomicon

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values 😫

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1) 🐲

April

Breaking Smart - Season 1 💵

Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, #11) 🐲

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America 😔 👍 💵

Exceptional. One of my most recommended books of the year. From a Goodreads review:

A succinct history of de jure segregation in America, The Color of Law argues that anti-Black governmental policies, not de facto segregation, led to the nation’s racially divided cities and suburbs.

In terse prose, Richard Rothstein details the underhanded ways in which Republican and Democratic politicians alike imposed and enforced racial segregation across the U.S. throughout the twentieth century, from explicit racial zoning to state-sponsored violence and blockbusting.

Rothstein lucidly conveys how federal, state, and local laws worked in conjunction to restrict Black people’s options for housing nationwide; all his points are well supported by extensive research, and his focus on all of the country’s regions is impressive. Accompanying descriptions of legislation are anecdotes that illustrate the devastating effects de jure segregation has had on Black families and communities, saving the book from reading as dry. Well worth reading.

Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money

A Gentleman in Moscow 👍 🐲

My sister and I both wanted to read Anna Karenina, and she suggested reading A Gentleman in Moscow to get some context and understanding of Russia, Russian literature, etc. This was a delightful read.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism 😔 👍

May

A Call to Prayer 😔

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Anna Karenina 👍 🐲

This was my first time reading Tolstoy as an adult, and it exceeded every expectation. The chapters were tiny, so despite how much of the book took place inside the character’s heads, I always felt like I was making progress through the book.

Tolstoy has human nature nailed.

Changes (The Dresden Files, #12) 🐲

How Children Fail 😔 👍

This was a sad read. In the same vein as The Life and Death of Great American Cities, keen observers of various domains have identified problems (and solutions) to large, society-wide problems, back in the 1960s. And we’ve rediscovered those problems regularly ever sense, and act as if there is no solution.

This was a short read, but riveting.

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1) 🐲

Authority (Southern Reach, #2) 🐲

June

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God 😔 👍

If you are married, or in a relationship, it would behoove you to try to engage in that relationship well. Timothy Keller writes from a Christian perspective, but I’d say anyone could benefit from this book, even if they’re not a Christian.

If you are married or in a relationship, and you’ve not read a book lately on relationships or marriage, I’d encourage you to rectify that situation.

Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly 😔

MAKE: Bootstrapper’s Handbook

Ghost Story (The Dresden Files,#13) 🐲

Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14) 🐲

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments 👍

Crash Early, Crash Often (Ribbonfarm Roughs Book 3) 💵

July

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) 🐲

The Godly Man’s Picture

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) 🐲

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1) 👍 🐲

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right 😔 👍

The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life 😔 👍

This book takes a complicated topic and boils it down to some simple, actionable steps. I’d argue this is a good entry point to anyone wanting to square away their financial house. If the topic is of interest to you, read this book.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy 😔 👍

August

The Nature of Software Development 😔

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions 👍

The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey 😔 👍👍👍 💵

Still the best book I’ve read in the last few years. Please read this.

Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike 👍

The Case Against Sugar 😔 👍

Gary Taubes is a journalist, and pieces together an interesting narrative about the story of Sugar in America. Its compelling, and has led to change in how I eat. Read the Goodreads overview for more info, but the tl;dr is sugar causes a hormonal response in your body that can eventually lead to all the negative effects with associate with an unhealthy diet.

the story is so much more complex than “calories in vs. calories out”.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams 😔 👍

This book has led to me not setting an alarm as often as possible, prioritizing an early bedtime, and if my body decides it wants to sleep for nine or ten hours, I go for it.

I’ve improved my sleep hygiene, I am sleeping more, and I’m more thankful for the sleep that I do get. This book has changed my life, it could change yours.

Airbnb Your Life: The Host Edition

Dark Matter 👍 🐲

September

The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work: How to Grow, Manage and Work with Remote Teams (Zapier App Guides Book 3)

The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic 😔 👍 💵

Chalmers Johnson for the win. The government of the United States has been in a 19 year war in Afghanistan and a sixteen year war in Iraq. This book helps explain why, and what might be to come.

Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire 😔 👍 💵

Chalmers Johnson is my newest favorite author. Unfortunatly he died a few years ago, but he’s been talking about the implications of US military colonialism for a long time. He wrote this title the year before 9/11. He saw it coming and wrote a book about it. He thought 9/11 might lead to a reform of US military policy, but it didn’t. The US just doubled down on a bad thing.

Fortunately, American military colonialism will end soon enough as the USA goes bankrupt in part because of this colonialism, and the rest of the world will be much improved when this happens.

The Mysteries of Money: Ribbonfarm: The Rust Age (Ribbonfarm Roughs Book 7) 💵

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) 👍 🐲

The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2) 👍 🐲

October

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry 😔 👍

Programmer’s Guide to a Sane Workweek 😔

The Elegance of the Hedgehog 🐲

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise 😔 👍

There’s no such thing as a “natural talent”, and the guy that invented the term “deliberate practice” has a lot of useful/encouraging knowledge to share on the topic.

The Passionate Programmer

Art of Neighboring 👍

Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference 😔 👍

November

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1) 🐲

The Mystery of Banking 💵

ESV Reader’s Bible

Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope 😔 👍 💵

More good stuff from Chalmers Johnson. Read this.

December

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States 😔 👍 💵

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success 👍

On Confidence

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) 👍 🐲

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2) 👍 🐲

Sources

Get occasional emails

If I've written anything new, you'll get an email with summaries on Friday.