Our Top Ten Books of 2018
We are avid readers at 42Courses.
In fact, if we weren’t doing this amazing job we would probably be found working in a book shop or a library. In 2018, we read more than 60 books between us and we would like to share our favourites with you.
So, in no particular order...
1. Educated by Tara Westover
This is an extraordinary story about a determined young woman, born into a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, who went on to receive a PhD from Cambridge University. It’s a testament to the human spirit and an inspiring tale for anyone that feels like they’re up against seemingly insurmountable odds. Westover writes with a fluent and engaging style and proves that where you come from doesn’t have to be where you end up.
It’s all too easy to get despondent about the state of the world when watching the news. It seems as if there are no places where things are not getting worse. Except, as this inspiring book sets out to prove, it’s quite the opposite. By many objective measures, the world is a distinctly better place than the media suggests. Rosling shares many of these through eye opening graphs and statistics. For example, did you know that adult literacy (share of adults with basic skills to read and write) has risen from just 10% in 1800 to 86% in 2016? Or that in the same time period, the percentage of children dying before their 5th birthday has declined from 44% to just 4%?
3. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Dr. Matthew Walker
Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His scientific expertise comes through clearly in this international bestseller. It’s not hard to see why, as it shares many fascinating insights as to what happens when we don’t get enough shut-eye. For example, did you know that not getting enough sleep increases sweet and salty cravings by 30-40%? Or that an afternoon nap increases our learning capacity by 15-20%? Overall, this is a very valuable book. If you only have time to read one of the ten then we suggest you pick this one.
Aristotle allegedly said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” This notion is something the author of this book clearly places great belief in. Atomic Habits is one of those books that’s really easy to follow. It shares some great examples of how making small changes can lead to huge gains for yourself, your company and those around you. If you have some things you want to change in your life and it’s all seeming too much of a challenge then this is an excellent place to start.
5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale is a powerful evocation of twenty first century America. Set in the fictional Republic of Gilead, it tells the story of a country taken over by a totalitarian military dictatorship. The protagonist Offred is given only one option: to breed. Margaret Atwood's book was originally published in 1985 but has enjoyed renewed interest via the recent and hugely popular TV series of the same name.
6. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari is back, and this time it’s with a shorter and more manageable read (handy for those who found Sapiens a bit too long). The book builds on some of the ideas he’s previously covered and shares some sound answers to critical questions such as; How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?
7. Hit Makers: How Things Become Popular by Derek Thompson
Have you ever wondered how Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey, the song Rock Around The Clock or even Disney came to be global successes? If yes, then this book is for you. A brilliant book that uncovers the secrets of why some things become popular, and others sink without trace. The writer offers some wonderful tips on how to make it more likely that whatever you're creating will become a roaring success. Encouragingly, Hit Makers shows that success is possible regardless of background or funding.
8. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
We originally picked this book up as it had been highly rated by both Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Tegmark shares what life might be like as Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes closer to reality. The book covers the possible answers to how AI will impact on jobs, war, and society at large and shares why all countries need to take serious steps now to agree on a consensus to safeguard us against the worst case scenarios.
9. The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton
We had the pleasure of meeting Richard Shotton after he took our Behavioural Economics course and we were excited to read his first book. The Choice Factory is essential reading if you have anything to do with advertising or marketing. In plain English, he shares 25 practical examples of how you can use behavioural biases to give your brand or product a competitive edge. The best thing is that these tips more often than do require little money. Everyone we know who has read this book has benefited from it in one way or another. Also, be sure to follow Richard’s twitter account for more Behavioural Economics insights and tips (@rshotton).
10. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
This is Stephen Hawking’s final book and it is a brilliant last message to the world. A powerful book packed full of Stephen’s entertaining wit. The book shares his thoughts and answers to big questions including; Will humanity survive? Should we colonise Space? Does God exist? The book includes a wonderful afterword from his daughter. What a marvellous human being.
Which books have you most enjoyed in 2018? Please share in the comments below.