What I Read in 2018


I had the best of intentions last year. I was going to make it the fourth year in a row of reading more than I did the prior year. More than that, I was going to write detailed reviews of everything I read.

Neither of those things really panned out.

I started the year strong, but the reading slowed down as did the review writing. I could make up some excuses, but the reality is I just didn’t give myself as much time to read as I had been the past few years. I spent too much time checking email and sipping news through a firehose. I’ll fix that for 2019, starting with curbing my email and Twitter issues (I’ve made good progress on that already and will likely write about that soon).

Still, what I did read was really high-quality stuff. There were a lot of great books I enjoyed this past year and very few duds that I had to put down. For fiction, I’d say my three favorites were Lonesome Dove, Beartown and A Man Called Ove (though The Body Library was really close). For non-fiction, I’d have to go with Why We Sleep, Factfulness and A River of Darkness. All six are highly recommended.

  1. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker 55

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

    I do blame this book for some of my reduction in reading. I do most of my reading at night and this book really hammered home how important it is to get a full night’s rest. So on some evenings, where I would usually let myself get sucked into a book until the late hours of the night, I would force myself to put it down and get some sleep.

  2. Gut by Giulia Enders 45

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  3. Inclusive Design Patterns by Heydon Pickering 45

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  4. A River of Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa 55

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  5. Designing Interface Animation by Val Head 55

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  6. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 55

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  7. Technically Wrong by Sara Wachter-Boettcher 55

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  8. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 55

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  9. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid 35

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  10. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 45

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  11. The Real World of Technology by Ursula Franklin 45

    I’ve written a full review for this one.

  12. Million-Dollar Consulting Proposals by Alan Weiss 45
  13. Million-Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss 45

    I don’t necessarily agree with everything in these books and I really balked at the whole “million-dollar” part of the title, but both of these books had a TON of useful information.

  14. The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients by David A. Fields 45

    This is my pick of the best business book I read this year. Practical with lots of great advice.

  15. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire 45

    I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the other Wayward Children books, but still a fun tale.

  16. A Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns 45
  17. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor 45
  18. All Systems Red by Martha Wells 45
  19. Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi 45
  20. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley 35
  21. Clockwise and Gone by Nathan Van Coops 45
  22. How Clients Buy by Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher 35

    Maybe I would’ve liked this book more had I not read similar books the same year. In comparison, it felt a bit…light.

  23. Factfulness by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Ronnlund and Ola Rosling 55

    I’ve seen this one at the top of several other people’s lists and it absolutely should be. Beautifully optimistic, but never falsely so: everything is backed up by solid data. It gives you a new perspective on current affairs while training you to have a keener eye when you see someone using data to paint a story. I also really admired how respectful the book is towards people who still have different views on some of the topics presented.

  24. Beartown by Fredrik Bakman 55

    This book deals with sexual assault: the way our culture is complicit, and the toxic ways we treat victims of assault afterwards. It’s going to be hard reading for many. I posted a one-word review on Twitter shortly after reading this one: Wow. It’s profound and deep and gut-wrenching. Between this and A Man Called Ove, I will now read anything Backman writes. Anything.

  25. The Body Library by Jeff Noon 55

    These Nyquist books by Noon are so weird and creepy and I am absolutely there for it. A Man of Shadows dealt with a world where time was a tangible commodity and The Body Library revolves around the premise that stories are living things can consume people in very real ways. Both are an absolute pleasure to read.

  26. Image Performance by Mat Marquis 55

    Here’s the blurb I wrote for A Book Apart. I think it does a good job of explaining how I felt about Mat’s excellent book:

    Image Performance is an entertaining, practical introduction to the finer details of image compression and performance online. The topic isn’t simple, but after reading this book, you could be forgiven for thinking it is—Mat’s just that good at explaining it.
  27. Progressive Web Apps by Jason Grigsby 55

    Look. Jason can never know I gave this a positive review. It’ll go straight to his head.

    But this book really is fantastic. I love that it goes beyond the usual “how to build a progressive web app” discussion to explore the business case for progressive web apps and some of the overlooked considerations about when and where to use each associated technology.

  28. Future Ethics by Cennydd Bowles 55

    Gosh, this book was so great. Cennydd explores the ethical considerations of technology in a way that felt fresh even with all the books I’ve been reading on the topic. His was the first book I’ve read to present ethical frameworks (old news for those of you versed in ethics, newer to me) for considering the ramifications of technology. By doing so, you become so much more aware of just how messy it all is.

    What I like about this approach is that you learn to consider how people may be arriving at different conclusions than you. It’s not necessarily that they’re bad people or wrong, but that they are using a different ethical framework. It makes it much easier to have meaningful discussions about complicated topics when you can understand where others are coming from. It’s an important and underutilized skill nowadays, but this book helps you develop it a bit more.

    As a bonus, I now feel smarter when Chidi goes into his ethics lessons on The Good Place.

  29. Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper 45

    Kory’s enthusiasm is infectious and makes this a far more interesting book than you would think a book about dictionaries would be.

  30. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 45

    I’ve been meaning to read this for years, and finally got around to it. It’s not the breeziest books to get through. The core story moves along at good pace and keeps you roped in, but Hugo’s sidebars (if you can call 100 pages or so a sidebar) on topics like Waterloo and convents slow that momentum down. Most of the time, those sidebars pay off though. It was great to have a better perspective of Waterloo, for instance, as it is a major focal point of the revolution that drives the actions of characters later.

    So, not an easy read, but a very powerful one. I was familiar with the story from the musical, but there’s so much more depth here. Fontaine’s story is heart-breaking, as is Eponine’s. And Javert’s. And Valjean’s. Ok fine just about everyone’s story is a real downer. But that was sort of the point: to look at the everyday people impacted by the revolution that history would overlook and cast a critical eye on a society that allows these things to happen.

  31. Unsubscribe by Jocelyn K. Glei 45
  32. The Warp Clock by Nathan Van Coops 55

    Van Coop’s In Times Like These series are essentially popcorn movies in book form. That’s a compliment, not a criticism. They’re fast-paced, and loads of fun. This latest entry is one of my favorites so far.

Past years