Last week I updated my list of the books that transformed my life. I got a ton of great feedback on that post, both online and offline on that. So I thought it would be fun to start a new tradition, listing the books that I liked the best in the previous year.
This list is quite different than the all-time transformational list. Simply put, of the more than 75 books I read in last year, these were my favorites. The ones I had the most fun reading, and the ones that kept me up turning pages, way past my bedtime. You’ll see a bigger mix of fiction and politics here, not just books that spoke to me from a self-development standpoint. So, in no particular order, here are my favorites from 2018.
The Go-Giver Influencer Bob Burg & John David Mann
Full disclosure: Both authors are best buds of mine. And I love what they’ve done with their whole Go-Giver series, which is hatching into a worldwide movement. So I was delighted to see them elevate it more with this installment in the series. “Influencer” is definitely the best one yet. A superb look at how you expand your influence.
Fear: Trump in the White House Bob Woodward
I’m a political junkie, so I love behind the scenes looks at D.C. and the government. This book is stunning, explosive, unprecedented, but most of all frightening. Perhaps even more so, because it’s not written by a partisan politician – but one of the most respected, awarded, and celebrated journalists of our time.
This Is Marketing Seth Godin
As he’s wont to do, Seth gets you thinking about something in a very different way. In this case, the subject is marketing, and he has some very powerful insights. He believes there has been a cataclysmic shift in marketing, and the old model is dead. The method that works best has flipped, and instead of mass attention-grabbing, it is now about empathy and service. Seth doesn’t see customers as a way to solve marketers’ problems. He believes we should use our marketing to solve our customer’s problems. While he doesn’t say it, you get the feeling he believes chasing attention with social media advertising is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, one of the last gasps of the old, flawed model. Very mind-expanding read.
I told you I’m a political junkie, and this book is the ultimate political junkie’s fix. It’s about the dying state of United States diplomacy, and the dangers that brings. Another book that is frightening. Ronan is a true journalist and a gifted writer. (And the guy whose reporting finally brought down Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves.) Once you read this book, everything you see in the news today – Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea – has deeper meaning for you. Ronan interviewed everyone from Afghan warlords to ambassadors, and every living secretary of State from Kissinger to Tillerson, providing insights you won’t find anywhere else.
Tribe of Mentors Timothy Ferris
The best word to describe this book is delicious. It’s simply gopsmacking delicious. Delicious like a pizza where the crust is the perfect crunchiness, a salad bar with bell peppers that are still crisp, or the favorite cookies your mom bakes.
If you haven’t read it, it’s not a traditional book. It’s Tim asking a very large group of people the same seven questions. (The subtitle is "short life advice from the best in the world.") The greatest gift of the book for me, was the eclectic group of people I discovered reading it. Many are famous people you know, but a good number are not so famous. And they are amazing in their fields and provide some brilliant insights. The other strength is the diversity of opinions. One profile advises you to go to college and learn all you can there. The next one might suggest you skip university and dive into a project you love. It forces you to use your discernment and be a critical thinker. Powerful, thought-provoking, and lots of fun too.
WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us Tim O’Reilly
Breakthroughs come from asking the right questions. And Tim, one of the leading critical thinkers of tech, asks the right questions in this book. And provides a lot of intriguing possible answers. And not just about tech. You’ll be questioning and thinking about government, education, philanthropy and economics in an entirely new way. Very thought-provoking.
The Artist’s Journey Steven Pressfield
You know from my all-time list, that I think Steven is the greatest living American writer. So it’s a pretty safe bet that any time he puts a book out, it will hit my list. And this one is no different. It’s kind of a sequel to The War of Art. In it, he’s taken the concept of the Hero’s Journey, and translated it into the Artist’s Journey. As always, with his enchanting writing style, quirky wit and sage wisdom.
Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us Amanda Carpenter
Amanda is one of my favorite commentators on the right. Smart, articulate, and thoughtful. She’s able to use her brain and not blindly adhere to some ideological line. This book should be a “must read” for everyone in politics, marketing, advertising, and sales. (And cult leaders.) People, particularly liberals, think that Trump's continuous lying, fake narratives, and conspiracy theories will bring him down. Amanda show how he actually uses them to manipulate and further his agenda, and how his followers love it when he lies to them.
Principles Ray Dalio
Dalio brought a desperately needed breath of fresh air to the self-help genre, when he dropped this massive tome in late 2017. You may find it egocentric. But a great author is the one who shares valuable lessons from their own life. And this book has hundreds of brilliant insights. (You heard it here first. This will be like the Covey "7 Habits" book: People will be quoting it for the next ten years.) It’s not billed as a leadership book, but it’s arguably the greatest book ever written on leadership.
High Performance Habits Brendon Burchard
There’s not a lot of current self-development literature that isn’t just rehashed Napoleon Hill, Jim Rohn or Dale Carnegie. Brendon brings a unique approach with rationality and science. He’s big on data and research, so what you read isn’t just one person’s whims. Ultimately it boils down to six deliberate habits can fuel your transformation. I don’t agree with everything in here. But that’s why I read it.
Islam and the Future of Tolerance Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz
This is a dialogue between two brilliant, thoughtful, and brilliant minds, on a very important subject – Islam and extremism. And the dialogue contains something sorely missing in our culture today, mutual respect.
The Creative Habit Twyla Harp w/ Mark Reiter
Okay I’m pretty clear that the law requires when you do a “best of” list for a year, you can only include books that were published that year, or late in the previous one. But somehow this book, published in 2003 missed my radar. And since I didn’t read it until 2018, and adored it so much, it’s included here. (At the risk of imprisonment.)
This book is a tsunami of creativity; breathtaking in its brilliance. The word best to describe it may surprise you (or not) for a book about creativity, but to me, that word is profound. It is simply profound: witty, clever and mind-expanding. No matter what field you work in, it will re-energize your creativity. But if you are a writer or artist, it will especially speak to your soul.
And just for bonus fun…
Favorite Movies of the Year
The Greatest Showman
Favorite TV Shows of the Year
So You Think You Can Dance
Games of Thrones
Mozart in the Jungle
Favorite Songs of the Year
Redbone Childish Gambino
Shaky, Shaky Daddy Yankee with Plan B and Nicky Jam
Waking Up with Sam Harris
The GaryVee Audio Experience
What lit you up in 2018? And what are you looking forward to in 2019?