Dear Friends and Readers:
2018 marks my fifteenth year of reading a book a week and fifth blogging about it. Thank you so much for your support and being a part of the journey. With just 25 days (!) before 2019, per tradition I've gone ahead and rounded by my ten favorite books. Whether you try all or one, I hope you get as much out of them as I have. And if you go you're own way, be sure to let me know where you land.
Stay nerdy my friends,
P.S. If you're looking for even more book recs, join the Reading List. Once per month, I'll send you 3-6 books that I absolutely couldn't put down—usually a mix of fiction and nonfiction. And if you're looking for more starting points, here's my favorites from 2016 and 2015.
P.P.S. There is only one 2019. What are you going to do about it?
Read my full recommendation for Paper here.
A favorite quote: "Companies that have cultivated their individual identities by shaping values, making heroes, spelling out rites and rituals, and acknowledging the cultural network have an edge."
Read my full recommendation for The Unpublished David Ogilvy here.
8. CONSPIRACY: PETER THIEL, HULK HOGAN, GAWKER, AND THE ANATOMY OF INTRIGUE
As newsworthy and contemporary as the events in Conspiracy are, Ryan Holiday's commentary places them into a dramatic, overarching narrative—a narrative largely crafted by Peter Thiel, his camouflaged legal team, and the (in)famous, anonymous, ex-Gawker employee known as Mr. A. This book is a trip. And especially for me because I actually worked with Gawker on behalf of Huckberry from 2015-2017, and saw firsthand the events unfold: the suite, the trial, the verdict, the bankruptcy, the auction and purchased by Univision, the shutting down of Gawker.com, the second-life of its various affiliate sites like Jezebel and Gizmodo, and the age-old-yet-seemingly-still-too-forgotten truth play out: actions have consequences.
Read my full recommendation for Conspiracy here.
Read my full recommendation for The Browning Version here.
But in the opening act's twist, we the audience learn that the fathers are actually best friends, ones who've staged this charade and built the wall in an elaborate plot of reverse psychology. They want their son and daughter to marry, and think that the rebellious youth will fall for one another only if it's forbidden and the chances of being together are sufficiently bleak.
Read my full recommendation for Romantics here.
Instead of a thriving example of American ingenuity, idealism, and scientific policy, Yellowstone, Chase argues is dying. The culprit? Tragically, our own National Park Service, whose century of mismanagement has destroyed the flora and fauna. Their law of the land, steeped in the idea of natural regulation, is largely to blame, based on virtually no scientific research, and concocted in the '50s and '60s from an ironic, lethal dosage of hubris. Chase's antidote: ice cold buckets of logic—applied to the park's 'natural regulation' policies and the underlying ideological stew of the environmentalist movement (from the 1880s-1980's). This is required reading for anyone who gives a damn about protecting and enhancing the natural world, which, naturally, we're a part of.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for Playing God in Yellowstone here.
Don't let the cliche halloween costumes fool you--Frankenstein is a cerebral and haunting exploration of the angels and devils inside both Dr. Frankenstein, and his Creation. I also loved the epistolary format of the text; the events are told through letters, diary entries, and oral testimonies.
You can my full recommendation for Frankenstein here.
In "The Novel of the Century," David Bellos explores its ideation, creation, publication, and marketing with both broad and delicate Hugo-esque brushstrokes. I've never taken more notes on a book than this one. "I do not know whether [my book] will be read by all, but I wrote it for everyone," Hugo said in his time. "The sores of the human race, these running sores that cover the globe, don't stop at red or blue lines drawn on the map. Wherever men are ignorant and desperate, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children suffer for want of instruction or a warm hearth, Les Misérables knocks on the door and says, 'Open up, I have come for you.'" And Bellos shows that it's come for the 21st century too.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for The Novel of the Century here.
Birds make tools. They count. They imitate behaviors of other birds and even humans. They invent new solutions to old problems. They remember where they put things—especially the Western scrub jay which can recall up to 33,000 winter food caches. They can anticipate and guard against storms. They exploit opportunities. They make nests according to certain esthetic standards, even in the absence of females and the chance of mating...These incredible feats and others suggest profound mental capacities and abilities, ones comparable to those found in some primates.
Weighing it at a featherlight 250 pages, The Genius of Birds is rich with eight self-contained chapters, that explore a trove of anecdotal observations, neurological studies, fascinating experiments, and lots of open questions.
I finished this book sitting on a bench overlooking Lake Rancho Santa Margarita at sunset. A Canadian goose honks from the distant bank at a man, until joined by what might be its mate. And across the water, closer to me, a chorus of bold sparrows sing atop a pair of swaying palm trees and the adobe roof slats of the local Starbucks. I will never look at or listen to a bird the same way again.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for The Genius of Birds here.
Tom Sanders, an up-and-coming executive at DigiCom in Seattle, is in store for one hell of a Monday. Expecting with good reason that he's walking into a well-deserved promotion, he's ambushed. After a private, closed-door, after-five-p.m. meeting with his new boss, Meredith Johnson, Tom suddenly finds himself accused of sexually harassing her. And the world is aligning against him. Meredith is young, attractive, and a trusted member of Digicom's upper echelons. Plus, she is Tom's ex-lover from ten years back. And she got the job he wanted. The writing's on the wall as far as everyone else is concerned: Tom's guilty. And now his family and career are all but over. Tom will have to scramble if he's to have a hope at clearing his name and righting a terrible injustice.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for Disclosure here.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for On Grand Strategy here.
Having now read nine of the fourteen (Russia itself is the fifth), I loved the powerful rubber band of tension set off from Chapter 1 and stretched further and further before snapping in spectacular fashion in the final few aboard a lethal Orient Express train ride. That tension, this time better than any other novel, is in large part due to Fleming's ability to establish worthy adversaries. Breaking from the other novels' traditional form, we get 96 pages—Part I in its entirety—meeting Bond's enemies:
- Rosa Klebb, a 5'4" toad-woman strategizing every detail of Bond's impending murder
- Red Grant, Irish turncoat and SMERSH's absolutely psychotic assassin
- & Tatiana Romanova, a double agent ordered to 'defect' and seduce Bond
Bond's entrance comes—finally—at the curtain-lift of Part 2: The Execution, with the line, "The blubbery arms of the soft life had Bond around the neck and they were slowly strangling him. He
was a man of war and when, for a long period, there was no war, his spirit went into decline."
You can read the rest of my recommendation for From Russia With Love here.
Fighting off desperate poachers, building electric fences from scratch, protecting other creatures on the reserve, treating various sicknesses—Anthony's obstacles were endless. And perhaps most difficult of all was achieving what few humans ever have with rogue elephants: heal their trust in humans.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for The Elephant Whisperer here.
You can read the rest of my recommendation for The Handmaid's Tale here.