The Books that Defined my 2018

This is the second instalment of my attempt to read twenty books in a calendar year. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the twenty. I think that’s okay, since a) I came pretty close, and b) it’s still within my general goal of ‘reading more books than articles’ yearly.

2018 in 18 Books

Here are the books that I read last year, in chronological order. As always, I’ve added some thoughts and commentary on each, as well as recommendations and who I think would benefit most from each book.

Be Fierce, by Gretchen Carlson
I started the year with an attempt to educate myself on the challenges (and bullshit) that women in the 21st Century are still facing to this day: harassment. I appreciate how she brought to light issues such as hostile work environments, and it made me realise how much further we have to go in terms of true female empowerment.

The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Anthony Iannarino
A book in my Amazon recommended books, I found this to be an enjoyable industry-specific read. Contrary to the title, it’s not just for salespeople (or people who work on sales). I think that anyone who needs to ‘sell’ an idea or a message across to an audience should give this book a go.

Extreme Teams, by Robert Bruce Shaw
The belief in culture is something I personally stand strongly with, and titling the book “extreme” was no joke. Many ideas within border on radical, might I add. However, this book inspired me to list down many culture-building ideas I’d like to apply when I lead an organisation one day. It’s a great read for leaders, regardless of age or experience.

Millionaire Teacher, by Andrew Hallam
I thought this book was going to be a fun, lightly-written book on wealth management but it turned out to be more suited for index fund textbook fans. There were no exciting chapters or quotable quotes, either. I just can’t recommend this for casual readers. If, however, you are really excited about ‘more serious books’ on the finance category, this could be for you.

All About Them, by Bruce Turkel
A book that I suspect was influenced by my beloved McCann; Turkel talked about a principle of “3Cs” (we have our 5Cs). It also talked a LOT about discovering a brand’s “authentic truth” – contrast that with our obsession with hunting for Truths. Coincidence? Hmmm. In any case, this book would likely be enjoyed a lot more by those in marketing and/or advertising.

The Age of Agile, by Stephen Denning
This was written for me! In one book, Denning talked about leadership, organisations, AND military history. This was a cracking read, especially if you buy into the whole ethos of how crucial it is for modern companies to adapt and adjust to a world that’s changing right before our very eyes. My two favourite takeaways? Autonomy wins, and that we must have the freedom to experiment.

Do I Make Myself Clear?, by Harold Evans
A decent enough read, but more experienced writers and public speakers will find that many of the tips and lessons within this book are slightly obvious. Evans had a lot of personal pet peeves, and it showed in the writing. I say that this book is likely more beneficial to those with little to no experience writing their own speeches or presenting in public, versus veterans on the microphone and lectern.

You Can Do Anything, by George Anders
This book was hugely inspiring precisely because how it outlines a changing world, one where algorithmic tasks are supplemented (and in some cases, augmented) by the creative side and curiosity-first approach taught in the Arts. For anyone with a Liberal Arts degree, fret not! The future is looking to be ours. Hugely recommended, especially for those who are doubting about the future of creativity-based industries. Thank you, George.

Business-dō, by Hiroshi Mikitani
A huge list of success-oriented advice to young leaders and entrepreneurs. Some of my favourites: Remove bottlenecks. Establish symbolic rituals. Strategise, but emphasise execution. And of course, “Even if you don’t get there first, you can still do it best.” Fantastic, practical words. I think that anyone looking to rock the boat as far as culture-building goes should grab a copy!

Drive, by Daniel Pink
How good was this book? I read it TWICE. Pink dissects motivation in brilliant ways, and – I promise – you will change the way you live and work after going through this masterpiece. He made autonomy, mastery, and purpose concepts that were both tangible and achievable, and he outlines examples on how to get the best out of yourself. I cannot recommend this book enough, as it is my Best Book of 2018.

Leading, by Sir Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz
SAF is one of my life heroes. Not only did he manage the Greatest Football Club in the World, he was also an excellent mentor, a dedicated craftsman, and a man who ate success for breakfast. This memoir broke down his unique leadership and man-management tactics into steps you and I can emulate, and it’s a great read for people in leadership positions.

A World of Three Zeroes, by Muhammad Yunus
This would be the second-best book I read in 2018. A fan of Yunus’ work, he discussed ideas and concepts that, I felt, were so applicable for our developing country. I believe that this book should be required reading for all college students, true patriots, and those who truly wish to help the poor rise up from their current socioeconomic standing.

Quidditch through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Wisp (J.K. Rowling)
A work of fiction that I enjoyed immensely and, dare I say, even briefly thought about if I would play it if that universe were true. This was a nice and welcome break from all of the non-fiction books that I had gone through at this point. This was a quick read, and I devoured the book in a couple of hours.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)
After watching the second instalment in the Fantastic Beasts series, I simply HAD to read the book that started it all. It’s one of the shortest books I’ve read this year, but it was pretty fun. I can’t believe that a quick appearance of this book in one Harry Potter film would lead to its own series!

Contagious, by Jonah Berger
Berger simplified a lot of marketing jargon and concepts, and I can’t stress enough how well-made his ‘STEPPS’ method was. I enjoyed how he includes real-world case studies of famous brands every so often, and it brought the book to a personal level for me given what I do for a living. I must also credit this book for directly contributing to one of my more memorable pitch wins in 2018.

The Madhouse Effect, by Michael Mann and Tom Toles
Worth a read, if you’re a pro-environment type like me. Mann’s writing sometimes veers off-course into conspiracy theory space but I credit him for the fact-powered arguments he offers in the book. The illustration of Toles lent irony and dark humour to the book, and emphasised just how much we have (and need) to be aware of what’s going on in the world.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, by Haemin Sunim
This book was a refreshing time out, as it tackled spirituality in the age of digital distraction. The author and monk was, in my opinion, also a fantastic representation of truly global thinking (which can be felt in the work): a devout, Ivy League-educated Korean Buddhist, well-traveled and wise. He ends with a beautiful reminder for us to “be courageous.” Oh how I needed courage last year.

Yes, by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin, and Robert Cialdini
My year-ender, it was light-reading and presented almost blog-like. A massive list of fifty (50!) different methods on persuasion, more experienced pitchers, sales people, and debaters might not have too many takeaways from this book. Having said that, I’m sure many of you who might want to polish up on techniques will still find this a good read. I know I did!

A personal challenge for 2019.

I read quite a lot of career-oriented books last year, and I nearly forgot how enjoyable it was to read biographies and works of fiction. For 2019, expect that I will be sharing a few more of the ‘fun stuff’, and perhaps slightly less of the ‘work stuff’.

I do enjoy industry-specific books, and I hope that my list either encourages you to go on your own 20-a-year journey, or simply pick up a book again and discover the joy of getting lost in a story.

Do you have books you’d like for me to check out? Have you read any of the books in my 2018 list? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

A quick shoutout to PJ for lending me the two Harry Potter books, and to Nate for gifting me the Sir Alex Ferguson one.