Mini-Reviews on the Books I Read in 2018
I consumed about 40 books last year. I say consumed rather than read because about 2/3 of them were via audiobook, and some people draw a distinction between reading and listening to books. Nevertheless, below are the books I read last year and a sentence or two about what I thought of them.
For the last 15 years, I’ve kept a 4-star rating system for every book I’ve read, so I’ve included that here for some additional context. I hope you find this enjoyable and it gives you some ideas for future reading.
Robert Olmstead’s Far Bright Star (***): A Western that harkens to Cormac McCarthy’s border trilogy.
Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (***): For some reason, it didn’t register with me like it has in year’s past.
James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel from the Middle (***+): A different perspective on how to write a novel from an experienced writer and former practicing lawyer.
Michael Connelly’s The Scarecrow (**+): I’m not much for thrillers, and this one didn’t do anything to change my mind.
Phillip Lewis’s The Barrowfields (****): One of my favorite books of 2018. I interviewed the author, who’s a lawyer in North Carolina.
Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s The Road Back to You (***): This book influenced me in a deep and lasting way. This was my launching point into the Enneagram, and gave me language to understand things about myself that I hadn’t previously explored. I would recommend it to anyone interested in self-assessment and understanding how your personality drives your behavior.
Eric Metaxes’s Bonhoeffer (***+): The true story of a German pastor/theologist who was involved in several plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler. It was as good as it sounds like it would be.
Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane (***): This was the first Gaiman book I’d read. There will be many more to come.
Dave Eggers’s The Circle (**+): This is easily Egger’s worst book to date. It wants to be more than it is.
Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath (***+): It’s Malcolm Gladwell, so it’s good and thought-provoking. Sometimes we can use our perceived weaknesses to turn the tables on our opponents.
John Hart’s Redemption Road (***): I keep going back to John Hart hoping other books with live up to The Last Child. They haven’t, but they’re still good enough.
Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand (***+): Many of my ideas about good business marketing are anchored in this book. I’ve been reading Donald Miller for the better part of 15 years, and this is his most practical work yet.
Stephen King’s Carrie (***): There’s a reason it’s iconic.
Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons (**): So bad. So, so bad.
Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (***): One man’s journey through the Holocaust and the psychology that he developed out of his experiences.
Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac (***): A funny and engaging ride that has stood the test of time.
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge (***): If you like behavioral economics, this is a book you should read.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (**+): I remember having enjoyed this more when I read it in years past.
Caleb Carr’s The Alienist (****): A really interesting psychological mystery set around the turn of the 20th Century.
Andy Weir’s Artemis (***): It’s not The Martian, but it’s not a bad space thriller.
Don Winslow ‘s The Cartel (***): While the novel is fascinating, it is also one of the most grim exhibitions of the depraved capacity of man that I’ve ever read. It is not for the weak of heart … or stomach.
Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (***+): 2018 was a year of self-exploration, and Quiet was an enjoyable part of that journey.
Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (***+): A study of not only how things become popular and take hold in the marketplace but also who are the mavens, connectors, and early adopters that shape trends.
Joanna Penn’s Successful Self-Publishing (***+): If you’re interested in authoring books, this is a must-read, whether you’re going to publish independently or traditionally.
Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist (***): An interesting book about how we can develop our creativity.
Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants (****): One of the most entertaining science fiction books I’ve read in a while, written in interesting format. I had to pry myself away from it.
Jennifer Haigh’s Heat and Light: (**+): She told the story well, but I didn’t identify with any of the characters.
Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (***+): One of Heinlein’s two best novels. A fun tale about a small group who orchestrate the overthrow of an oppressive system.
Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (***): An interesting taking of fighting the Resistance that can keep us from doing our best and most meaningful work.
Erik Larson’ s Dead Wake (***): The story of the sinking of the Lusitania set in the context of German U-boat warfare.
Ernst Cline’s Ready Player One (***): I want some depth and a coming of age story, but all I got was a YA thriller. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if my expectations had been different.
David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon (***+): Dozens of Osage Indians were killed for oil money in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. An incredible story, well told.
Sylvain Neuvel’s Awaking Gods (***): The second book in Neuvel’s trilogy. Good, but not as good as the Sleeping Giants.
Michael Lewis’s The Undoing Project (****): Two Israeli psychologists changed the field of economics with decades of collaborative work.
Robert Heinlein’s Sixth Column (***): A novel about using unconventional means to wage war against an oppressor.
Michael Lewis’s Moneyball (****): You all know this one. It’s about how some really smart guys started considering baseball stats in a different way so they could overcome their team’s meager payroll.
Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic (***+): An interesting read about where creativity comes from and how to use it so you don’t lose it.
Honoree Corder and Ben Hale’s Write, Publish, & Market Like a Boss (***): If you’re looking to do any writing and independent publishing, this is a good resource.
Alright, so that’s it for 2018. This year is off to a slower start. I’ve been doing a lot of work getting my second book, Stop Putting Out Fires, ready for release on May 2. If you’re interested, you can pre-order the e-book now on either Amazon or Kobo. The print version should be ready to pre-order within the next month.
Photo by Vincent Fuh.