Five Books I Enjoyed in 2018

I’ve previously posted lists of books I’ve liked during the year. I usually do this close to the New Year, since I’ll often get through a couple of additional books during the holidays. However, a recent “books I loved this year” post by Bill Gates made me realize that it may be better to share these lists before the holiday season—that way they can serve as gift ideas. (Either for yourself or others.)

In any case, here are five books I enjoyed this year, and that you and/or your friends may like. (They didn’t necessarily come out in 2018—that’s just when I got to them.)

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund. Like many people, I first heard about Hans Rosling via his popular TED talk, where he showed evidence the world is getting better by using animated bubble charts. Factfulness is like a paper-based version of that presentation: It does, indeed, use data to explain how things are getting better. But it does more than that: It also explains why we find that so hard to believe. Read my book notes or buy it on Amazon.com.

Architectural Intelligence, by Molly Wright Steenson. A masterful examination of how architectural thinking and doing have shaped our current information environments. The book focuses on the work of four influential architects: Christopher Alexander, Richard Saul Wurman, Cedric Price, and Nicholas Negroponte. Read my book notes or buy it on Amazon.com.

Playing to Win, by A.G. Lafley and Roger R. Martin. Excellent book on corporate strategy, and one of the clearest and most compelling business books I’ve read. The authors are both experienced and respected business leaders with a proven track record. (Mr. Martin is dean of the Roman School of Management, and Mr. Lafley a former CEO of Procter & Gamble.) Read my book notes or buy it on Amazon.com.

Radical Candor, by Kim Scott. Even though I haven’t been anybody’s boss in a long time, I found this book very valuable. It’s about how to be more effective in team environments by being sincere and firm yet kind. Ms. Scott was a former manager at several high-profile Silicon Valley companies (e.g., Apple and Google), and the book is packed with real-world examples. Buy it on Amazon.com.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. I don’t read much fiction (not as much as I’d like, anyway), and when I do it’s usually as an audiobook. George Saunders’s debut novel is one you wouldn’t expect to work well in the medium (it features 166 narrators!), and is somewhat disorienting at first. But after a bit,​ I couldn’t stop listening. It still haunts me. Buy it on Amazon.com.