This article provides a short comment on all the books I read in 2018. It begins in January and runs chronologically until the end of December 2018.
1. Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception
This is a great book that explores the phenomenon that in today’s industrial economy, schools’ universities and companies are encouraging people to aim to low and to play life safely. He explores this idea through the Greek myth of Icarus, who as we all know flew too high and encountered problems. The second and less well taught part of the myth, was that if he flew too low, his wings would also encounter problems from the salty air.
Seth is right on the money with his thesis that the dangers of flying too low are easily as pronounced as the dangers of flying too high.
I was inspired after reading Seth’s book to create my own article on the Science Based Targets initiative and whether sustainability has a similar thinking blunder. You can find this via the link below.
2. Elliot Aronson – The Social Animal
This is one of the more disappointing books I have read. Not because it was necessarily bad, but because I read it based on its supposed likeness to Influence by Robert Cialdini. They are however completely different books. The Social Animal is clearly pitched at university audiences. Up to date second hand editions retail for around £40-£50 online. Whereas Influence is pitched at a non-fiction audience, eager to understand why some are able to influence, whist others aren’t. Unless you really want to understand the minutiae of social psychology, I would not recommend this book.
3. Bob Willard – The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook
Bob Willard is a class act and one of his other books The Sustainability Advantage was one of my favourite books that I read in 2017. This book was much shorter, coming in at only 114 pages. But that can mean a tighter and more focussed offering, which is certainly the case with this book. There are lots of flow charts and references to other people’s work. Whether you know a lot about sustainability or would like to know more I would definitely recommend this book.
4. Harvard Review on Business and the Environment
This collection of short works was a real surprise. It didn’t flow as well as a book would, but it was packed full of chapters from top writers on business and the environment. Some highlights were the chapter A Road Map for Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken. The chapter Growth through Global Sustainability which was an interview with Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro was really eye opening and displayed how this company had developed a reputation for environmental excellence. The Chapter Recycling for Profit was also extremely interesting given the incredible attention given to plastics and recycling in 2018. Overall, this book comes highly recommended from me.
5. Seth Godin – Poke the Box
I read quite a few Seth Godin books in 2018. I like them because they are short, to the point and intended to deliver one powerful message. This offering from Seth Godin is all about pushing yourself and doing things for the first time. This is certainly good advice from Seth.
6. Hawken, A Lovins and H Lovins – Natural Capitalism
This book is an absolute sustainability tour de force. It is the book that everybody who thinks and writes about sustainability wishes they could write. It comes packed full of information which questions the usefulness of GDP as a measure of progress. As one would expect, there is a lot of information on Natural Capital in the book. This book contains information on everything that is necessary to make capitalism sustainable. It comes highly recommended from me.
7. Rudolph Flesch – The Art of Plain Talk
This was one of the best books that I read in 2018. I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it, which you can find via the link below.
Anyone can make their communication style more complicated, that is easy. It takes skill to be an effective communicator that is understood by the masses. Rudolf Flesch teaches you how to communicate effectively in this book.
8. Grayson and Hodges – Corporate Social Opportunity
I am a huge fan of Grayson and Hodge’s other book Everybody’s Business, so getting hold of and reading this work of theirs was a priority of mine. There is lots of good content in here to help businesses with their corporate responsibility efforts. It definitely comes highly recommended from me.
9. Seth Godin – All Marketers are Liars
In this book, Seth Godin uses all of his marketing experience to explain to readers how marketing really works. Despite the provocative title, on the copy I bought, the words ‘are liars’ are crossed out and replaced with ‘tell stories.’
Seth’s analysis is that great marketers tell stories and capture their audiences that way. Whereas average marketers obsess over features and benefits. Follow Seth’s advice and be the story teller.
10. Seth Godin – Purple Cow
In this book Seth Godin provides advice on how to transform your business by being remarkable. Many countryside landscapes are covered with mile after mile of similar looking cows. If you passed a purple cow, it would definitely grab your attention. This is the essence of this book. Listen to Seth, always try to be remarkable and abhor average.
11. Erving Goffman – Behaviour in Public Places
I bought this book based on a recommendation from someone who said that it was great. I found the writing style to be quite boring and after reading there was not much that I was left with as key takeaways. Unless you are really interested in psychology, I would probably avoid this book.
12. Nassim Taleb – Fooled by Randomness
This was the first Nassim Taleb book that I read. I was so impressed with it that I went on to read all of his books in 2018. That being said if I could go back and do it again, I would read them in order as they make up a series called Incerto. His writing style makes the otherwise dull world of probability illuminating.
13. William Cohen – The Art of the Strategist
This was one of the best books that I read in 2018. Alongside being a retired Major General of the US Air Force, William Cohen also has a PhD. It contains dozens of examples from business, the military, politics as well as other arenas to explain to the reader what strategy is and how it works. He distils 7,000 years of strategy so that you don’t have to. He distils this history down into 10 principles, with the fundamental principle being to commit fully to a definite objective. It comes highly recommended from me.
14. Giselle Weybrecht – The Future MBA
I really liked this book by Giselle Weybrecht. I am a huge fan of her other book The Sustainable MBA, so it was natural for me to buy this.
I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it, which you can find via the link below.
Even though it was aimed at reforming business schools, I think her analysis could be applied much broader and be used to reform all sorts of university courses.
15. Nassim Taleb – Antifragile
I really enjoyed this book. I jumped the gun reading this and with hindsight it would have been better to read the books he had released earlier before reading this. But overall, his writing is brilliant and his analysis is sound. I would definitely recommend this book.
16. Miles Young – Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age
This book by Miles young is a homage to the original 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising. I am a huge fan of the original, so I made sure that I bought this when it came out. A lot has changed in the years since 1983 and digital technology has changed advertising and mass communications enormously. Miles Young is the Non-Executive Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and he has done an excellent job with this book.
Reading it inspired me to write the article, which you can find via the link below.
17. Nassim Taleb – The Bed of Procrustes
This is a very short book, coming in at only 112 pages. It is also not so much a book, but a collection of philosophical and practical aphorisms. The story of Procrustes in Greek mythology is an interesting one and despite its short length, this offering by Nassim Taleb packs in a lot of interesting ideas.
18. David Meerman Scott – The New Rules of Marketing and PR
I had bought an earlier edition of this book back in 2016 and thought it was great. But as with the need to update Ogilvy on Advertising, social media is a fast-changing landscape so I got hold of a copy of the 2017 edition and read that this year. There is lots of good information in here which will help the reader with their marketing exploits.
As you can tell from the picture, I made lots of notes whilst reading it and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about social media marketing.
19. Seth Godin – Permission Marketing
This is probably my favourite Seth Godin book. His tagline of “turning strangers into friends, and friends into customers” sums up nicely what this book is about. So many companies waste their customers attention with boring one-way messages. But a select group of companies who practice permission marketing create content and information that is so good that they have permission to send it to their prospects. This is the pinnacle of marketing that all companies should aspire to.
20. George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier
This was the first George Orwell book that I had read for quite a while. It did not disappoint; his writing is stunning and sets the standard that all writers should aspire to achieve. Some of the conditions that he encounters on his travels are simply unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine conditions like that existing in the UK, but not that long ago, they did. Thanks to Orwell, we can learn about this slice of history in vivid detail.
21. Tim Marshall – Divided
I have read all of Tim Marshall’s books, so when this book came out in 2018, I bought it straight away. It is an obvious trend, that despite the progress in knocking down walls since the end of the cold war, recent years have seen the re-emergence of walls between nations. Tim takes the reader on a journey across walls in China, the USA, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Europe and the UK. I found it to be a really interesting read and I would definitely recommend it.
22. Bertrand Russell – Sceptical Essays
This is one of the best books that I have ever read. I like a lot of Bertrand Russell’s books and this is the best of his that I have come across. Bertrand Russell explores science, psychology, philosophy and a range of other ideas with his sceptical outlook. You have to read this book at least once in your lifetime.
23. Debra Meyerson – Tempered Radicals
I bought this book as I had seen it referenced a number of times in books on sustainability. It is about how everyday leaders inspire change at work. Compared to how good I had hoped this book would be, I would have to say that it did not meet those expectations. That being said, it is still an impressive book on how to effect change in organisations and I would recommend it.
24. Carmine Gallo – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
This was probably the most useful book that I read in 2018. I watched the video which you can find via the link below and then went on to buy the book.
Steve Jobs was an incredible presenter and this book nicely distils what made him stand out. The main piece of advice is to have very little on each slide. Have pictures and then talk about the theme in the picture. Don’t cram slides full of bullet points, you will put your audience to sleep.
25. Sadler, et al – The Little Book of Ecosystem Services in the City
I was handed this book as a free copy by Nick Grayson when I went to see him speak at Future Fest in July. It may be a short book, but it is packed full of useful information on ecosystem services. This book inspired my article on trees in urban areas, which you can find via the link below
26. Timothy Ferriss – The 4-Hour Work Week
This is probably the book that I owned for the longest amount of time before reading. There is lots of good advice in here for how you could build a simpler life, either by running your own business or by working for someone else. I would recommend this book.
27. Amory Lovins – Reinventing Fire
This book is a powerful treatise about how through two things, many pressing sustainability problems can be solved. Those two things are energy efficiency and renewable energy. This book contains chapters on transportation, buildings, industry and electricity. It is a phenomenal book and anyone working in sustainability should buy and read it immediately.
28. Manning and Haddock – Office Management
I saw this book for sale in my local library for 20p and I definitely got that amount of information from this. It is really easy to read with space for notes inside so that you can use it for reference. If you can find this anywhere, buy it.
29. George Friedman – The Next Decade
I have read many of George Friedman’s books and they have all been excellent. This one is also very good, if you are interested in geopolitics, then I would definitely recommend reading this book.
30. The Trapese Collective – Do it Yourself: A handbook for changing our world
This is a book about how individuals can organise and take action to solve the many and interconnected challenges that need to be addressed. There are chapters on how to get off the grid, how to grow your own food, why we need autonomous spaces and why direct action is important. This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly enjoyed it.
31. George Orwell – Animal Farm
2018 was the first time that I had read Animal Farm. I had heard a lot about it and I believe I have seen a TV adaptation of the book a number of years back. I thought it lived up to all the hype and I read it from cover to cover in no time at all.
32. Nassim Taleb – The Black Swan
This book and the ideas behind it are what I most closely associate Nassim Taleb with. This is a great book about random events. They are almost impossible to predict but their impact is huge. Released in 2007 many people credit Nassim with predicting the oncoming financial crisis. Whilst it is true that there are elements of the book that talk about a coming financial crisis, there are other authors who wrote in more detail about exactly what was to come and why and what the governments reaction would be. Overall, this is still a great book and I highly recommend it.
33. Seneca – Letters from a Stoic
There is lots of good advice in this book. Whether you like philosophy a lot or you would like to learn more about it, I would recommend this book to anyone.
34. Mike Berners-Lee – How Bad are Bananas?
This book has to win the biggest surprise category for 2018. I bought it not expecting much, but then after reading it, it is now one of my favourite books on sustainability. Carbon footprinting is more of an art than a science and Mike does well to explain this to the reader. I highly recommend that you buy and read this book.
35. Patrick Schwerdtfeger – Keynote Mastery
This is an excellent book which chronicles Patrick’s journey from aspiring speaker to a professional keynote speaker who gets booked for speaking gigs all around the world. If you are interested in potentially making a career as a speaker, I would definitely recommend that you get this book.
36. Bob Doppelt – The Power of Sustainable Thinking
This was a really enjoyable book to read. Part 1 dealt with the imperatives for change, whilst part 2 dealt with the path forward. It is clear to me that one of the biggest problems to do with sustainability has little to do with the environment or technology, but to do with how we think about it. Bob Doppelt goes into depth about these sustainability thinking blunders and how they can be overcome. If you work in sustainability, read this book.
37. Heath and Potter – The Rebel Sell
This book is all about how counterculture became the consumer culture. I really enjoyed reading it and they make some very good points. A lot of people who claim to be “fighting against the system” once you dig a little deeper, you find that they are supported by the very system that they are fighting against.
38. Peters and Waterman – In Search of Excellence
I had high hopes for this book, but it did not live up to my expectations. Despite this, there were two things that I picked out that I liked. One was the section on companies being led by values. Successful companies have values that are bigger than themselves. The next was the section on profits where the authors write: “the idea that profit is a natural by-product of doing something well, not an end in itself, is also almost universal.” In successful companies, money alone is not the biggest driver.
39. Norman Vincent Peale – The Power of Positive Thinking
I bought this in January 2018 shortly after the company I worked for went into compulsory liquidation, but I did not read it until much later in the year. There is more religious references in here than I expected and had I known that, I would probably not have bought it. That being said, there is some sound advice about avoiding negative self talk and about how positive affirmations of yourself can help you to become successful. I can see why this is mentioned as a favourite book by a number of extraordinarily successful people.
40. Fussler and James – Driving Eco Innovation
I bought this book based on its title thinking it would be great and I was quite disappointed by it. Some of the content inside was useful, but the writing throughout was quite boring which made it a struggle to read. Overall, I would not recommend this book.
41. George Orwell – Down and out in Paris and London
I thought this George Orwell book was great. He has an interesting tale to tell about how he survived in Paris, living on such a small amount of money for so long. It is a fantastic book and everybody should read it.
42. Bertrand Russell – The Conquest of Happiness
Based on the title alone, this should be a terrible book, but it was actually great. It was full of useful examples to live a happy life and things to avoid if you don’t want to lead an unhappy life. I recommend this book.
43. Nassim Taleb – Skin in the Game
This is the most recent book that Nassim Taleb has released and it is also my favourite of his. Skin in the game may be an old phrase, but Nassim breathes new life into it with this book. There is lots of good information in here on the types of people who don’t have skin in the game for their decisions and those that do. It is a great book and I highly recommend it.
44. George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia
No one could deny that George Orwell lived an incredible life. I have to admit that I didn’t know that much about the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. But I certainly learned a lot by reading this. Again, as with all George Orwell books, the writing is stunning an everyone should read it.
45. Kim and Mauborgne – Blue Ocean Strategy
This book was one of the biggest surprises in 2018. I bought it thinking that it would be another over hyped book that has sold millions of copies.
But I was pleasantly surprised with the book. It has loads of useful information in it about strategy as well as good takeaways so that you can implement the Blue Ocean principles yourself.
I was so impressed that I wrote a book review, which you can find via the link below.
46. Seth Godin – Linchpin
This was the last Seth Godin book that I read in 2018. I like his books for their focus. There is not a lot of waffle, he just picks his message and sticks to it. It is extremely motivational and it is about how you can make yourself indispensable, should you choose to do that.
47. Al Ries – Focus
This was a book that I bought because it was recommended in The Art of Strategy. There is a lot of good advice in here. It does seem to be a common phenomenon that businesses try to constantly do more things to expand their revenue. However, this causes distractions and actually affects profitability in the long term. His advice to businesses is to offer the same service, but expand internationally rather than offer a complex range of services domestically. That sounds like sound advice to me.
48. Lynne Truss – Eats, Shoots & Leaves
This book also provided a big surprise in 2018. I read it thinking that it would be useful and help me with my writing but it would not be that interesting. In the end I found it to be both interesting and informative. I can now see why it won so many book of the year awards when it was first published in 2004.
49. Bailey and Gates – Bike Repair & Maintenance for Dummies
Anyone who know me knows that I love cycling. I have been changing my own flat tyres for the last couple of years, but apart from that, for most other maintenance jobs I leave them to the trained professionals at my local bike shop. But my aim for 2019 is to begin to do more of my own bike maintenance myself. This book was a good primer on how to do that in very straightforward steps.
50. Ray Dalio – Principles
This was the last book that I read in 2018. It is quite long at 544 pages and I still have some more to read before the end of the year. But it is definitely worth buying and reading. Ray Dalio has led a pretty remarkable life and this came across as part autobiography and part non-fiction guide. Even if you don’t like the financial services industry, I would say that this book is still relevant as his principles could be applied to anyone’s life and any industry.
What you need to know
This article provided a short commentary on all of the books that I read in 2018. For anyone who read the whole thing, thank you at 4 thousand words, this is always my longest article of the year.
Reading changed my life and it can change your life too. If there is something that has piqued your interest from this list, you should buy it and read it immediately.
This is my last article of 2018. Thank you to everyone who has been reading my work this year. I look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book that you read in 2018?