The Best Books of 2018
Very few books are worth $30.
There are a lot that are worth $0, some that you’d have to pay me to read, and a rare few that are worth $200-$400.
Those gems can change the way you think and the way you live.
Here are the books that have been tremendously valuable for me in 2018 – they have either been published recently, or are old but not usually available in local bookstores.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
There were two tiers of good books this year – the following were very good and each serve a purpose:
Skin In The Game – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
50% of this book is incredible, and 50% is a series of angry rants.
Nassim argues that a lot of problems in society come from decisions made by people without skin in the game, e.g. making decisions when the negative consequences only affect other people.
It’s not for everyone, I really enjoyed parts of it and it changed my view on several issues.
Key Person Of Influence
I really like Daniel Priestley and his books, and this felt like “more of the same”.
If you like his other works, you will love this one – a series of suggestions on how to become highly regarding within your industry.
Anything You Want – Derek Sivers
A short and sharp nugget of wisdom, this is a great insight into the world of startups and the decisions founders face.
Derek started CD Baby, and he talks openly about each step of the journey, what went well and what didn’t.
The Audiobook is just 1:31, great for a long drive or to give you some momentum in your reading goals, and it has more wisdom than most other business books.
High Growth Handbook – Elad Gil
This book is the “Big bowl of vegetables” of the year, lots of really important advice about scaling up a business, from founders and practitioners in Silicon Valley.
Not all of it will be relevant to you, but the sections on culture, sales, growth and investment are essential reading for anyone who thinks they’d like to scale up in the future.
The interviews are fantastic, full of great quotes that you’ll highlight.
The Art Of Client Service – Robert Solomon
Great for contractors and freelancers, and full of short chapters that each tell interesting stories.
It features good advice on how to draft different contracts and agreements, and some principles for how you treat people.
Again, not for everyone, but if you think you need it then I highly recommend it.
Brand The Change – Anne Miltenburg
I love books on branding, it’s a shame that so many of them are about boring products like washing powder.
Anne comes in with a series of great case studies of socially conscious brands and movements, describing how they built an audience.
Then she gives you the tools to do the same, a range of canvases and prompts that get you thinking about the essence of your brand, your mission and vision, and how to turn those into compelling visual assets.
Highly recommended for anyone in a social enterprise or charity, this will prompt you to really distil your ideas into something powerful.
The Top Five of 2018
These next books are in a different league; I gave each of them five stars.
They are absolute bargains for what they teach you, they each have the ability to improve your business or career.
If you wonder why I go on and on with the praise, it’s because I was so sceptical of three of them that I almost didn’t buy them, and it was the recommendations of other people that convinced me to take small risks – and I’m so glad that I did.
Hopefully this list gives you that same confidence.
5. Ogilvy On Advertising
Not a new book, but not commonly found in today’s bookstores.
David is such a great example of tone-of-voice in professional writing, you can tell how strongly he believes in his craft and it makes him a great teacher.
You’ll get an insight into the creation of his famous campaigns, and how their business sustained growth in such a difficult industry.
I love the examples, pictures and captions, they will inspire you to lift your game.
4. George Lois On His Creation Of The Big Idea – George Lois
I have never seen a book like this before, and I love it.
George Lois, one of the best creative marketers in history, breaks down 100 of his “Big Ideas” into a two page spread.
On the left is the source of his inspiration, and on the right is the work he created.
It’s like a fascinating museum tour, you get to see the artwork and stories that he absorbed decades earlier, and then how they fuelled clever ways of portraying people and products.
His work is impressive as-is, but understanding how it came about makes it even more inspiring.
3. Atomic Habits – James Clear
This book is short, practical and straightforward.
James will teach you how to increase the likelihood of you reaching your goals, and how some small changes to your daily habits can make huge impacts to the amount you can achieve.
I love the tone of this book, it’s scientific without being dull, and motivational whilst also remaining realistic.
2. This Is Marketing – Seth Godin
Have you ever heard that your favourite artist or director was making a new album/movie/season, then quickly discovered it was going to be one of their best works to date?
That’s what Seth Godin has done with his new book, a brilliant summation on the theories and principles from the previous 15+ books and thousands of blog posts.
Seth focuses on the idea that you are not a salesperson flogging a product, but rather be a brave creative who makes new things for your audience to enjoy.
It’s a nicer way to live, and is more effective than twisting arms and measuring things that don’t matter.
There are a tonne of stories and case studies, and it’s excellent in Audiobook form.
1. Thanks For The Feedback – Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
Reading this book had that “good kind of hurt” feeling to it, like when you get a massage or are spurred on by a personal trainer.
The authors discuss a confronting subject – the way in which we give and receive feedback – and how it can needlessly go wrong.
I thought it was going to be “Here’s how to have a thicker skin”, but instead it was about the different types of feedback (Appreciation, Evaluation and Coaching), and the right/wrong way to use each of them.
You will have seen these for yourself, times where you wanted one sort of feedback and got one of the other two, and how that person hasn’t done anything wrong but has still missed the mark.
The sections on Switch Tracking (arguments where you’re talking about different things simultaneously), and Sustain/Recovery (how long good feedback lifts you and bad feedback stings you) made a lot of sense of my unconscious behaviours.
This book will make you happier as well as a better team member.