2018 turned out to be a great year for knowledge compounding by reading a wide variety of books. I took a conscientious decision in 2017 to quit some social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and whittling away my overusage of Twitter. I still see a lot of value in Twitter, so I find it hard to quit completely — especially since I get to connect with some brilliant people and have/follow interesting ideas and conversations in an easily digestable format.
In addition to quitting social media, I made a decision to reduce my consumption of news. Most of today’s news – be it financial media, political media etc is nothing but drivel that generates excessive noise, and I wanted to get rid of that from my life. These little changes opened up so much time; allowing me to do more of what I wanted to do for the past few years: read more books.
Sure enough, I have made tremendous progress. You can read the 1H 2018 update here. Here’s a list of books I read in second half of 2018 and my short take on each of these books.
- Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock, Dan Gardner – This book showed up on a lot of recommendation lists and I was looking forward to reading it. It did not disappoint. As you can imagine, forecasting is a very hard job and the authors do a fantastic job of illustrating the pitfalls forecasters fall into. The authors also take you through the process of how good forecasters were discovered in various fields and what they did/do right. The good forecasters continuously tweak their model based on new data, which results in better future forecasting. Highly recommend this book. Verdict: ★★★★½
- The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki – I found this book as a reference when reading Superforecasting. A very interesting take on how a crowd can come to a more accurate and better decision than having one person make a call (with a few caveats, such as not having the individual’s decision swayed by other’s decisions in the crowd). A very interesting topic, but the book does not flow well as I kept losing interest and had to force myself to go back. Verdict: ★★★
- Learning How to Learn by Barbara Oakley – I first heard about the author through The Knowledge Project podcast. This book is targeted towards young adults, and provides an easy read. The book explores various aspects of how we humans learn new skills. It includes some good analogies and provides simple & effective methodologies to improve the ability to learn. Verdict: ★★★★
- The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair – Not a book that you read cover to cover, but a very different & interesting book. The author provides an interesting take on colors, first providing some basics & background physics on colors and then provides a huge index of hundreds of different colors and a background story on something unique about a particular color. A very different and interesting reference book. Verdict: ★★★
- Irrationally Yours by Dan Ariely – This book is a collection of NYTimes columns from Dan Ariely. I had heard the author in a podcast and thought there were some interesting tidbits and wanted to read more. I randomly picked up this book at a used bookstore without really researching if this was a good read. Unfortunately, this book was quite a let down and wouldn’t recommend it. Verdict: ★★
- The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan – This book has been on my list for a while. I have loved Carl Sagan’s writing and speeches in the past and was looking forward to this book. The message is absolutely spot on, about how we need to take a scientific open-minded approach to problems. I found the book a bit repetitive for my taste and even a bit uninspiring in certain chapters. Still a decent read overall. Verdict: ★★★
- Atomic Habits by James Clear – I first discovered James Clear at the start of 2018, and my obsession for the year has been about personal challenges & habit formation. I have been reading everything on his blog lately, so naturally I was looking forward to his new book. The book did not disappoint and presents a great set of tools to understand and implement for making good habits and breaking bad ones. Verdict: ★★★★
- Brief Answers To The Big Questions by Stephen Hawking – This book was a page turner. I have always been fascinated with physics & cosmology and this book does not disappoint, even though it really is a “brief” answer to most things. As a layman, some concepts are hard to understand, but Hawking does a great job of dumbing it down. Stephen Hawking has been a personal hero of mine and it was a really sad day when I heard that he died this year. His last book will be cherished by me. Verdict: ★★★★★
That’s it for 2018. Through the whole year, I read 17 books — which was a great achievement considering my read rate was pretty low until last year. I intend to continue this habit and keep building on my knowledge over the years to come. I am also considering throwing on a Book Recommendation page on this blog soon, so keep an eye for that.
Have you read any interesting books lately? What should I read next? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.