2018 was a huge year for books. At the start of the year I set myself a goal to get through 1 book every month in 2018 and I ended up reading 13 books in total. Next year I’ll be aiming to read at least 15 books.
The following post gives a short review of the books I read in 2018.
January 2018: Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
I started 2018 with an absolute classic science fiction novel by Iain M. Banks, this is the first book in his Culture series. It was a brilliant start to 2018.
Consider Phlebas is a “space war” book for people who (like me) don’t love reading about war. The war is more of the backdrop to the story and the real meat and potatoes of the book is the characters and their struggle to achieve a mission against all odds.
Iain M Banks is a great writer, one of the greatest science fiction writers in existence. He writes strong characters that you will come to love, fear of losing and then the right amount of detail to keep you hooked on a bigger picture.
TLDR: Read this book if you like epic science fiction with great characters and huge struggle to overcome all adversity.
February 2018: How Asia Works by Joe Studwell
I had been wanting to read this book for a long time, since I have lived in Asia for more than 2 years I always wanted to understand how different economies worked in this unique part of the world.
How Asia Works explains in amazing detail how some economies in Asia (such as South Korea and Japan) grew from undeveloped into world dominating powerhouses in very short periods of time while other similar countries failed miserably even though they had more favourable political, geographical, cultural and economic conditions.
The book serves as an amazing template for how to build a country up from almost nothing in a very short period of time. The author’s reasons for success were actually very different than I initially expected.
TLDR: Read this book if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to build and grow a country from an undeveloped state into a world dominating powerhouse in less than 100 years.
March & April 2018: The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton
The Commonwealth Saga is actually 2 books, “Pandora’s Star” and “Judas Unchained” which make up a series called the Commonwealth Saga. These were the first Peter F. Hamilton books I had ever read, in total an epic 2,300 page space opera set in a galaxy where humanity has created wormholes and used that technology to colonise hundreds of planets.
If you love huge science fiction stories set over long periods of time in the vein of Star Wars or Dune then you will love The Commonwealth Saga.
What is truly amazing is that Peter F. Hamilton manages to keep such a massive story interesting for over 2,300 pages, full of interwoven character arcs and fascinating layers upon layers of subplots and extreme detail about even the smallest aspects of intergalactic life.
TLDR: Read this if you have time to devour 2,300 pages of a detailed epic space opera set over a huge galaxy with a large and loveable cast of characters.
May 2018: Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
First off, its important to know that Alastair Reynolds worked at the European Space Agency for over 10 years. He writes what most would consider to be “hard” science fiction, which is somewhat more realistic than your average space opera.
What is most interesting is that the book feels like a vessel for Alastair Reynolds’ ideas. This is not a character driven book and it never feels 100% like fiction, but instead comes across as Reynolds’ personal philosophy documented using the characters of the story.
The final act blew my mind with huge revelations about so many things that rang so very plausible for our own future. I won’t spoil it, but I can say this book answers one specific question “why are we alone in the universe?”
The answer will not disappoint you.
TLDR: Read this book if you read science fiction because you love speculating about the future, what is and what could happen to the human race.
June 2018: Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Hyperion is one of those unique books that you will remember for years after you read it, full of humour, flavour, flawed and memorable characters with amazing locations that make you feel like you are actually there.
The book unfolds in a similar format to The Canterbury Tales, with each of the main characters explaining their story of how they ended up on a pilgrimage to the Time Tombs on the planet of Hyperion.
Interestingly Hyperion contains a huge mix of views and ideas that surprisingly work well together, from military science fiction, political and social satire, symbolism, cyberpunk, a gloomy futuristic dystopian detective tale, barbarian tribes, humour, horror, sacrifice and tragedy. It is amazing how well this all weaves together to make a cohesive and well balanced story.
I respected, love and understood each of the unique characters and ended feeling remarkably satisfied.
TLDR: Read this if you hate the sameness of many science fiction characters and you want to enjoy some unique perspectives and voices in a tale woven together masterfully into a genre defining tale that will stick with you for many years to come.
July 2018: Traction by Gino Wickman
I first heard about this book from a guy in my mastermind group who swore this book was the reason he grew his startup from nothing to $35k in monthly recurring revenue in 6 months.
The book introduces a fairly strict management philosophy called the “Entrepreneurial Operating System”, which claims to be the one operating system you need to run your business. They even specifically suggest you don’t use any other system.
I can say I enjoyed this book and it did improve my thinking, however I have come to believe this book is really better suited to larger businesses, specifically businesses with a larger executive team in place.
One major problem with this book (and I guess a lot of other management systems are similar), is that it requires you whole team to deeply understand and buy into the entrepreneurial operating system the book prescribes. This can be a huge task since not everyone is going to be equally enamoured with the book or even think the same way. In fact, it can be a bad thing if your whole management team thinks the same way as you.
TLDR: this book is an amazing operating system for startups and businesses with an executive team in place provided you can get everyone to full commit to the way it wants you to run your business.
August 2018: The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer
I got into this book through a friend of mine Aaron Birkby, co-founder at Peak Persona.
This book is one of the best introductions to how and why intermittent fasting (starving yourself part of the day) is one of the best ways to lose weight and stay healthy.
The book starts off by explaining why intermittent fasting is good and the benefits then explains how to get into intermittent fasting and some fasting schedules that can work without making you feel hungry all the time.
TLDR: Read this book if you have ever wondered what intermittent fasting is or how to do it successfully as well as how it can help you have a long and healthy life.
September 2018: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
I am generally skeptical about books that try to condense thousands of years of history into a few hundred pages. Books like this tend to dumb down complex topics.
After reading Sapiens I generally found this to be true. The book is well written and easy to understand. But breezes through thousands of years of human history making selective comments that fit the overall idea that the author seems to want to portray.
The central idea is that Sapiens came to dominate the world because of their ability to cooperate with each other and that our world is slowly becoming one big empire under the banner of capitalism.
This book should be considered part of the new wave of “infotainment” books that make you feel smart for reading the book but do very little to actually give you new or interesting knowledge.
TLDR: Read this book if you want some light non-challenging entertainment that makes you feel smart. The literary equivalent of a diet coke.
October 2018: Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton
This book is the first book for a new trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton who is one of my favourite science fiction authors. Unfortunately this book fell flat for me because it spent so much of its 570+ pages setting up the next two books.
I am genuinely excited to see how the series progresses and I know it will be extremely detailed and full of action, memorable characters and a plot that makes me question everything about our own future.
TLDR: Read this book if you want to start a new epic space opera set in an awesome galaxy where humans fight for survival, though be warned that the final climax of the series wont happen until Peter F. Hamilton finishes writing all 3 books.
November 2018: Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
Mini Habits is one of the best non-fiction books I read in 2018. It completely changed the way I think about forming habits in my life.
The book focuses on the concept of “Mini Habits” which are ridiculously small habits that you can easily achieve every single day. For example, one of my mini habits is to read 2 pages of a book every day.
The idea behind mini habits is that ridiculously small tasks help wire our brain to form habits over a period of months.
The author explains that a brand new habit can take up to 250 days to wire into our brains and become automatic. Most people try to use nothing but their willpower to keep hitting a new goal consistently and build it into a habit. Since willpower is a finite resource we inevitably break our habits and fail over and over again.
Mini habits are “too small to fail” and are a excellent foothold to wire into our brain. Once we wire a mini habit into our brain it becomes automatic and therefore much easier to achieve consistently.
This concept of mini habits is so simple yet it honestly blew my mind. Mini habits have helped me in more ways than I can describe. I have dramatically improved my ability to retain positive changes to my life.
But even more interesting is when I look back at my mini habits progress I can see amazing results built up over weeks of sustained effort. Compounding results over time is the most amazingly helpful thing.
TLDR: Read this book if you want to learn how to effectively create new habits in your life. Mini habits are the best way to build habits that can be sustained over long periods of time.
December 2018: A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge
A Fire Upon The Deep portrays aliens as intelligent, interesting and full of personality. This is actually pretty unique since many science fiction novels use aliens as plot devices or silly caricatures of evil.
The other great thing about this book is the “zones of thought” which are zones in the galaxy that allow different levels of technology progression (think of them like rings around a tree stump).
Overall I feel as if the author was far more focused on the concepts behind the novel (which are amazing) then the actual characters and plot, that is to say, the plot and characters serve as a backdrop to the unique and memorable concepts that Vinge seems to want to show off.
TLDR: Read this book if you want to spend time with some fascinating and truly alien characters, all while learning about some very unique science fiction concepts through a very decent story arc.
December 2018: The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin
The book seriously took me by surprise. I had read about it winning a Hugo award so I decided to give this book a shot.
And oh boy, it was amazing. This post-apocolyptic story is fantasy meets science fiction set in a world where “seasons” are an apocalyptic event that happens every few hundred years.
The book slowly reveals hints about the cause behind the seasons and this book ends with an awesome reveal that served as a warning against treating our world badly.
It felt like the book was a preview into what could ultimately happen to us if we decide to continue on our current path.
I haven’t had this much fun in a post apocalyptic world since I read “The Road” by Cormack McCarthy, so much so that I’m already more than half way through the second book in the series.
TLDR: Read this if you want a very good post-apocalyptic story full of strong and memorable female characters with the perfect dash of fantasy, magic and mystery mixed in.
This year I will release each book review as I finish a book instead of compiling my notes at the end of the year.