At the start of 2018 I made a conscious choice to read more books and consume less social media. As has become increasingly clear over the past couple of years, social media is consuming the individuals that use it, rather than the other way round (the average time spent on social media globally per day is 2hr 15 minutes).
Some of the book choices were just areas that interested me; others books that were gathering media attention, and some purely random. Not all of them were published this year. When I went back to the count the list of books I read over the year, I was surprised at how many I had got through: 45. I only read six fiction books, and one of those was a re-read (Camus’s The Plague, a favourite). I’ll shift that balance next year.
Over the year, I gradually shifted to physical books. They are more engaging, and hold my focus. Working on a screen is already a large part of my life, books take me out of that.
Looking back, a theme that arose in my books was the crisis in liberalism, with the rise of populism, identity politics, and tribalism on the left and right. Jonathan Haidt’s excellent The Righteous Mind, which was published in 2012, shows that these problems didn’t just appear from nowhere. Other stand outs in this area was Haidt and Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind, Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin’s National Populism, Mark Lilla’s The Once and Future Liberal and the beautifully written The Lies that Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah. For those trying to understand the rise in leftist anti-Semitism in the UK, I recommend Dave Rich’s The Left’s Jewish Problem. For some perspective, and a less jaded view of humanity, Factfulness and Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now both provide some good metrics on how things are, in general, improving. Not that progress is even. For a gritty underground view of the low wage economy, I would recommend James Bloodworth’s Hired.
Not unrelated are problems with social media, both as a driver in our polarisation and misinformation, but also as a drain on our productivity. Jaron Larnier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media may not lead to you deleting your social media, but they will make you think about your relationship with those services (I’ll be reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism in February).
Other books that had impact on me: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, When by Daniel Pink, and No One wants to Read your Shit by Steven Pressfield. I also enjoyed Pinker’s The Sense of Style for writing advice, and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds has changed the way I think about presenting and teaching.
- Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Jaron Larnier
- Kill All Normies Angela Nagle
- The Left’s Jewish Problem Dave Rich
- On Tyranny Timothy Snyder
- National Popularism Eatwell Rodger and Matthew Goodwin
- The Search For Neofascism A James Gregor
- Political Tribes Amy Chua
- The Coddling Of The American Mind Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff
- The Rise of Victimhood Culture Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning
- The Lies That Bind Kwame Anthony Appiah
- The Once And Future Liberal Mark Lilla
- The Shipwrecked Mind Mark Lilla
- Age Of Fracture Daniel T Rodgers
- The Righteous Mind Jonathan Haidt
- Factfulness Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnland
- Enlightenment Now Steven Pinker
- Hired James Bloodworth
- Millennium Tom Holland
- The Last Battle Stephen Harding
- SPQR Mary Beard
- Lenin Robert Service
- The Happiness Hypothesis Jonathan Haidt
- Free Will Sam Harris
- Going Clear Lawrence Wright
- The Icarus Deception Seth Godin
- Lynchpin Seth Godin
- When Daniel Pink
- Why we Sleep Matthew Walker
- Man’s Search For Meaning Viktor Frankl
- 12 Rules For Life Jordan Peterson
- So Good they Can’t Ignore You Cal Newport
- Grit Angela Duckworth
- Mindfulness Joseph Goldstein
- Why Buddhism Is True Robert Wright
- The Sense of Style Steven Pinker
- Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit Steven Pressfield
- Do the Work Steven Pressfield
- The Productive Researcher Mark Reed
- Presentation Zen Garr Reynolds