My Top 10 Books for 2018

LarryBenz
5 min readJan 4, 2019

This has become a tradition of sorts. Here is 2017 and 2016. Made it through 30 books this year in part due to Audible and Whispernet. While I think this article highlights the superiority and retention of reading books vs. listening, I have found for non-technical books, Audible works “good enough”. This is my general recommendation category vs. my business book recommendation list but there is some overlap. These aren’t in any particular order.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.(Whispernet) This is an absolute must. A thriller and a mystery uncovered by a brilliant writer who spent an incredible amount of time figuring out how a maniacal, pathological, and merciless gal and her co-conspirator (along with a bevy of lawyers) duped the smartest guys in the room out of money and into groupthink. More surprisingly, from a scientific perspective, is how anybody could think a pinprick of blood can diagnose anything of import.

Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (Whispernet). Having read several biographical articles and a few books on Tiger, I was surprised at what the authors were able to add to the narrative. If you are not a fan of Tiger, consider elements to be confirmation bias. On the other hand, if you want to pull for Tiger, this book will give you plenty of reasons. Given his terrific and unprecedented comeback in 2018, the book underlies an important and key teaching point-with enough outside help, determination, grit, and priorities, anybody can overcome demons and their upbringing and become a better person. I certainly believe Tiger has done that and much more.

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday (Audible). I am a fan of technology and professional wrestling so I would have read this book if it hadn’t been written by an author who appears in my previous year’s list. Conspiracies are by nature generally associated with negative but in this long game masterminded by Peter Thiel is a significant positive event-especially for Hulk Hogan and anybody that has been privacy violated. Gawker is not missed and this book will impress you that there are folks like Thiel who are willing to risk time, significant money, and personal privileges for the better good.

The Courage to be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga (Whispernet). First, forget the second half of the title. The intrigue for me was two fold-why are the Japanese going gaga on a self-help book and why Adlerian psychology? Unlike the U.S., the culture of Japan definitely devalues individualism, perhaps that explains the phenomenon. The book is a conversation between an expert Alderian and a sassy student. While I am not a fan of this breed of psychology, can’t help like some of the tenants:

All problems are interpersonal relationship problems

Life has no meaning except for the meaning you assign it

As long as you are dancing you are going somewhere

Only when you have danced here and now in earnest and to and fro that is when the meaning of life will be clear

If I change, the world will change. Nobody can change it for me

You should start whether others are cooperative or not

Problem is not one if ability but of courage

Takes 10 years to learn Adlerian psychology

By the way, I also struggled to recommend this book but I have the courage to be disliked!

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked by Adam Alter. This book was given to me by a college president who made it the 2018 common read. Us baby boomers like to believe the millennials are addicted to their phones, gaming, and social media but the truth is that this impacts all of us-just take the quick test in the book to see how you are on what is in part a behavioral addiction. I can’t recommend this book enough and also the apps it recommends and this article from Better Humans which changed my phone forever.

Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski (Kindle). This book was written by my program director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and his wife, a graduate of MAPP. Based on sound research in a field that the authors have worked in for years, the book is insightful and practical. In particular, the exercises will draw out the key concepts of positive emotions, savoring, and strengths.

Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen (Kindle). Based on an extensive study of bosses and employees, Hansen outlines seven practices that enable one to work both effective and efficient. The best part of the book were the wonderful stories that accompany each practice. The book will compel one to examine their own strengths and to that end draws out many concepts from other business and leadership books.

Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America by Zachary R. Wood (Kindle). This was a selection of the Next Big Idea Club that I joined last year and amongst my favorites from that list (all of which were great). The book is duo fold-an incredible journey of a young, black man growing up poor and disadvantaged and his uncanny desire, work ethic, and educational opportunities enabled him and his desire to bring highly controversial topics to a college campus during a time where political correctness and microaggressions battled intellectual curiosity. This is quite an impressive young author and I am looking forward to more publications from him.

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden (Kindle). If one really wants motivation on their side, they need to reshape their thinking from motivation as a source of inspiration to a process to be followed. Haden incorporates lots of concepts and research from other sources and creates a very readable, practical, and much more common sense approach to a topic that continues to mystify most. For those that want to intellectually address motivation and inspiration as more than pure emotions, you will embrace his concepts and find a way that makes motivation work for you.

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler (Audible). My last read for 2018 left me with the most instructive views on what to say and what not to say with somebody with a terminal illness. The background is fascinating. The author, a professor at Duke Divinity, has profound expertise and publications in the area of “prosperity gospel” which means you are either finding favor with God or disapproval depending on your life predicaments. At 35, happily married with a young child she gets diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and has to tap dance through all of her mental ruminations of her expertise and her upbringing as well as friends and family members who generally want to help. She does this with impeccable humor, insight, and a fresh perspective that causes one to think about what to say or do and not say or do with somebody they love who is in a similar predicament. She continues treatment and is highly productive with a blog, podcast, and a new grant to study wives of preachers.

Happy New Year, may 2019 be the best of your reading years.

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