My Top 5 Books of 2018. With Short Reviews and Highlights.

woman putting a book back in its shelf.jpeg

Reading books it’s generally considered an honorable thing to do with your time. Everyone agrees that reading books it’s good, even though we spent a lot more time on other less worthy things such as social media, chats, or Netflix.

I love books and talking about them. I also wrote about my top 10 books of 2016, and what they taught me. But let’s cut to the chase; here they are, out of 26, my top 5 books of 2018, plus of course, Dune! With a short review and quotes/highlghts.

The Last Of Dune.

Perhaps no other book has shocked my perception of the world in such a way as Dune did. I got really immersed in the Dune universe, it is one of my favourite books ever and the crown jewel of sci-fi.

“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.” 

And so finishing the Dune saga was… like departing from an old friend, literally a wise, old friend that taught me much, not by trying to impart any kind of knowledge but by telling me stories.

“Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, absolute power attracts the corruptible.” 

Everything comes to an end, even the best of stories. I just hope there are more Dunes in my future!

5) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Farenheit 451 was an astounding reading experience. Bradbury did an amazing job at depicting a really complex world in such a short book, while also giving a lot of depth to the main character and the world around him.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

The whole book it’s a stark criticism of the 1950’s society, with ever-so-fast cars and what seemed to be TV-addicts. A sci-fi that’s very similar to another of my favourites, Brave New World, but that tells a similar story very differently.

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” 

The book it’s filled with the most gorgeous of quotes. Perhaps the highest beautiful-quote-to-amount-of-pages ratio in any book I’ve ever read. If not for anything, the book it’s worth reading based on this alone.

“Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for shore.”

You’ll find happy faces but empty hearts in Bradbury’s masterpiece. If you’re looking for a short but marvellous, engaging and thought-provoking book that will make you think about the world we live in, give Fahrenheit 451 a try.

4) The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Imagine you’re in a hotel room and you want to take a shower. After getting into the bath, you see the handle to open the water. You turn it clock-wise, trying to figure out how to get the temperature right. After a few tries, the cold water keeps coming!

After several curses at the cold water, you eventually figure out that in order to get hot water, you have to press the handle and move it counter-clockwise!

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.”

Why would you need to learn how to do something that should be obvious? Opening doors should be obvious, no thinking needed. Using a shower, sink, even an App, shouldn’t require you to stop and think, much less read a manual. If you have to learn how to use a product too hard, it is a bad product.

We intuitively learn how to use good products, or they follow accepted standards so we already know how to use them. Reinventing the wheel and making life harder for your users in the name of “courage” or “aesthetics” it’s bad design.

“Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.”

I completely love the examples and explanations that Donald Norman gives in The Design of Everyday Things. The book has become a classic in the field and almost a required reading for designers and product creators. It’s an amazing book and at times eye-opener story that will make you judge everyday things in a completely different way.

3) Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The purpose of Thinking, Fast and Slow, in the words of Daniel Kahneman, it’s to help people think more accurately about problems that face us on our everyday lives, and to be a better judge of other people’s decisions as well as our own.

The book it’s written beautifully, it’s super engaging and some of the stories and examples are truly mind-blowing. There’s so much wisdom and knowledge in the book that I had to stop to give my mind a break to procress all the information.

“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. “

Kahneman gives a lot of real-life examples and proposes challenges that you can do yourself to prove how bad humans are equipped to handle logical and statistical problems. He argues that we have two systems: one it’s automatic but lighting-fast, the second it’s logical but slow and lazy. Go figure which one handles most of our thinking and decision-making.

Thinking, Fast and Slow is one of the few books I’ve marked as a “must read again” this year. I’ll definitely come back to it more than once. The psychology and even philosophy behind how humans seem to lack the ability to reach logical conclusions it’s extremely interesting.

“Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.”

If you want to be a wiser problem solver, understand why we and others make mistakes, take bad decisions, and gain overall wisdom, this is your book. If I ever had to recommend a behavioural science, psychology, or self-development (based on science!) book, this would be it.

2) The Way Of Kings, and Words Of Radiance – The Stormlight Archive #1 and #2 By Brandon Sanderson

I remember when I started reading the Game of Thrones series… I was so captivated and blown away! I had read The Lord Of The Rings, Narnia, and other fantasies, but GoT was just amazing. I read through those books like if my life depended on it.

I had forgotten how good fantasy books could be. The Stormlight Archive reminded me of it, by slapping me in the face multiple times and leaving me asking for more.

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

The Thrill the book generates it’s crazy. The depictions of epic battles are marvellous. From gigantic, thousands-of-men armies clashing against each other battles, to duels and Hero-vs-Villain sky-fights, this book has it all. I wet my pants just my remembering the whole damn thing.

The book has plotting, assassination, friendship, hardship, love, coming of age, heartbreak, everything! The amount of character development it’s amazing too. There are about half a dozen main characters and yet Sanderson manages to give all of them a backstory, goals, fears, frustrations, everything that makes a character a good character. He then goes on to develop them as individuals in these thousand-pages-each works of art.

“Life before Death.
Strength before Weakness.
Journey before Destination.”

The Stormlight Archive it’s a series I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking to immerse themselves in a fantasy world and to spend a good chunk of time enjoying the trip. I truly enjoyed these books and made me wonder about why should I spent my time on other types of entertainment at all.

1) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (and Sapiens) by Yuval Noah Harari

If I’m making Homo Deus my number 1 book of the year, I must first say that Sapiens was one of the best books I read in 2017. Even though this is not about Sapiens, Homo Deus it’s a continuation of it, and even though you can read it as a standalone why would you?! 

“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”

“Sapiens” it’s a groundbreaking book. It covers everything about human society, from our evolution to our religion and our advancement to becoming the most powerful species on Earth.

If Sapiens was a book about our past and present, Homo Deus it’s about our possible futures. Futures that can be either scary or enlightening, depending on decisions we make today.

“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom – we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.”

Yuval Noah Harari it’s becoming one of my favorite authors. He has the incredible ability of explaining a super complex topic in a super understandable way, without bloating the books with unnecessary repetition or mouth-feeding.

Homo Deus it’s not the book that impacted me the most in 2018, but it is a book that I believe should be read more than any other in this list and that can reach a much wider audience. It covers topics we should all be both familiar with and thinking about. Moral dylemas that, sooner or later, we’ll have to deal with.

“The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.”

Should we allow designer babies (editing babie’s genes to our will)? How should we control Artificial Intelligence development? Is Human life sacred? Then what happens when we have artificial humans?

The questions Harari asks are very hard questions, and although he abstains from giving a lot of answers, he does explain why they are important questions in the first place, and gives us the tools to think about them and perhaps find our own answers.

People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.

Homo Deus covers multiple possible futures, it’s uncertain which one we will end up with, or if any of them at all, but right now we’re part of a train that moves at incredible speed and has no driver. We must all come together and decide our destiny, but we need the knowledge to do so wisely first.

These are my 5 (ish) top books of 2018! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through the list and perhaps I’ve convinced you to give any of these a try. I’d love to hear about your favorite books from last year!

You can also head on to my book reviews if you’re looking for what to read next.

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