Happy New Year! I’m planning a longer post about last year’s personal and professional wins and losses against my 2018 list of goals, but for now I wanted to share some of my favorite books from my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, which I am pleased to report that I shattered!
My challenge was 52 books but I finished at 72. I am going to up the ante in 2018 by trying to read 75 books from a more curated list, which I’ve already started developing on Goodreads and in my local library app’s tagging function. I love Goodreads and if you’re not using it already but looking to boost your reading in 2019, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Note that these aren’t books that were necessarily published in 2018, but for one reason or another made it onto my reading list and which I actually read during the calendar year. Here they are, with some pithy thoughts, in no particular order:
The Museum of Modern Love (Heather Rose)
I loved this book, a fictionalization of Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present” exhibition at MoMA in 2010 (which I was lucky to attend at the time). Artsy at times, but an interesting, well-written plot that made me stop and think about the meaning and impact of art on our lives.
Manhattan Beach (Jennifer Egan)
Another novel set in NYC, but at and around the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII. Enjoyed the writing, the plot, and the strong female lead character. Has a gritty, film-noir mood that pulled me in.
The Immortalists (Chloe Benjamin)
Yet another novel with NYC ties about four siblings who visit a woman on the Lower East Side. She can predict the date of your death, and the story unfolds from there. Leaves a bit to be desired in terms of tying these four characters together, but a well-written and an enjoyable read.
Vox (Christina Dalcher)
What if women were only allowed to speak 100 words every day? This novel imagines a future America that’s both familiar and frightening. This was a quick but somewhat disturbing read.
Scythe (Neal Shusterman)
Dystopian young adult fiction is my guilty pleasure, and this was one of my favorite books of the year (although the second book in the series, Thunderhead, wasn’t nearly as good). Premise is a future world where people can live forever, unless they are “gleaned” (i.e. killed) by a scythe, whose charge is to keep the population under control.
The Readymade Thief (Augustus Rose)
I thought this book was a fun, fantastic mashup of The Goldfinch and The Da Vinci Code that revolves around the art of Marcel Duchamp. Some loose ends and an ending that could have been more satisfying, but overall I really enjoyed it.
Artemis (Andy Weir)
I didn’t read Weir’s The Martian, but I really enjoyed this novel, which revolves around the criminal underbelly of a futuristic city on the moon.
The Gone World (Tom Sweterlitsch)
This might be the most literary sci-fi novel I’ve ever read, about a government agency that sends detectives into alternative futures to solve crimes. Great writing and plot.
Armada (Ernest Cline)
This book falls short of Cline’s Ready Player One, which I loved, but it’s still a fun, easy read that echoes Ender’s Game.
Bad Blood (John Carreyrou)
This might be the best book I read in 2018. John Carreyrou is the Wall Street Journal reporter who started asking questions about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. His book details the rise and fall of this Silicon Valley darling that was duping investors and the public for years about the efficacy of its blood-testing technology. A fantastic, fast, well-written read.
1917 (Arthur Herman)
I plucked this book off the new non-fiction release shelf at my local library and I’m glad I did. Exhaustively researched and well-written, the book follows the parallel rise and vision of Lenin and Woodrow Wilson during the latter stages of World War I, examining their respective legacies, and providing context for what it all means 100 years later. I thought it was a very easy book to read and explained a lot of things about a period of time that while glossed over by WWII offers critical lessons about the way the modern world is structured.
Into the Raging Sea (Rachel Slade)
This was another terrific book, about the sinking of the El Faro container ship during Hurricane Joaquin. Heart-breaking because Slade includes transcripts from the ship’s voice recorder during its final moments. Profit before people is the lesson here. A quick, harrowing read.
In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson)
I loved Devil in the White City and this Erik Larson didn’t disappoint either. It follows the true story of the American ambassador to Nazi Germany prior to the outbreak of WWII. It does a great job painting a portrait of how most of the German people didn’t realize what was happening to their government during Hitler’s rise to power. Just a great book that I couldn’t put down, which also feels timely in the current political climate.
Educated (Tara Westover)
Tara Westover’s memoir about growing up homeschooled in rural Idaho landed on a bunch of high-profile lists of 2018 books and received what were, in my opinion, well-deserved accolades.
Red Notice (Bill Browder)
I really enjoyed this book. American Bill Browder was one of the first investors in post-Soviet Russia during the 1990s and this is his story, including a detailed history of his efforts to pass the federal Magnitsky Act in the aftermath of the death of his former colleague in a Russian prison. If anything about the Trump in Russia rumors seem outrageous to you, read this book, and you might have a different opinion based on what it takes to try and do business in modern Russia.
The Smartest Guys in the Room (Bethany McLean & Peter Elkind)
Fantastic book by the Wall Street Journal reporters who uncovered the fraud at Enron. Not sure how this one made it onto my reading list in 2018, but I think anyone who works for a public company ought to read it. Compelling, frightening, and instructive; well-written to boot.
Billion Dollar Whale (Tom Wright & Bradley Hope)
Another great book by Wall Street Journal reporters, this time detailing the rise of Jho Low and the fraud he spearheaded at the 1MDB fund in Malaysia, which has been in the news for the last few months as the Malaysian government attempts to prosecute Goldman Sachs (and others) for its role in the scandal. Not as well-written as some of the other books on my list, but a worthwhile read.
Lab Rats (Dan Lyons)
I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t as good as Lyons’ first book, Disrupted, which was about his experience as a laid off Newsweek reporter working for Hubspot. Still, a worthwhile read about how Silicon Valley attitudes toward work and workers are infecting the rest of modern American workplaces, and what might be done about it.
Invisible Hands (Kim Phillips-Fein)
This book traces the rise of the modern conservative movement from the New Deal through the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Indispensable reading, in my opinion, if you’re curious about how we came to this point in our politics and what it might take to push things back in a leftward direction. Phillips-Fein is a professor at NYU and I really enjoyed another book she wrote, called Fear City, last year, about the origins of New York City’s financial crisis in the 1970s.