The 10 Best Books of 2018 (So Far)
We’re over halfway through 2018, and with the 4th of July being in the middle of the week, I’ve had extra time for reading and reflecting. Instead of my typical blog post, I’m going to share my top 10 books (so far) that I’ve read in 2018.
Note: Most of these books came out in 2018, but there are few stragglers from 2017 and 2016.
There There is Tommy Orange's first novel and it’s making a lot of noise in the literary world. It’s action-packed, funny, gritty, honest, and poetically written. The main theme is identity, which has been a hot topic in 2018. Several characters ask: what does it mean to be Native American if all I know is Oakland, California? There There is an important book every serious reader/writer should read. (Read it now before it becomes a book club staple.)
I started reading Matthew Baker in 2010 when he was writing his ongoing electronic novel called The Numberless, a kind of virtual “House of Leaves”-style text, something I had never seen before as an undergrad studying creative writing. I soon became obsessed (unfortunately, The Numberless has been taken down). Hybrid Creatures was written with the same off-the-wall creativity and integrates other mediums as storytelling devices. A few days after the book’s release, his short story, Life Sentence (not included in this collection), was sold to Netflix after a bidding war that included Amazon Studios, Warner Brothers, and Universal. To sample Baker’s work, check out his list of published stories here: mwektaehtabr.com/stories.
Daniel Abbott’s debut novel, The Concrete, takes place on the streets of the southeast side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Abbott, an expert in character development and dialogue, rips at your heart when the characters you have fallen in love with grow into monsters. The Concrete is uncomfortably honest, hitting on topics of race, class, drugs, sex, poverty, youth, and innocence, giving new meaning to the expression “fiction is the lie that tells the truth.” Abbott has already been getting some attention by big names like the National Book Award finalist Andre Dubus III, who wrote: “Every few years, if we’re lucky, there comes along that rare novel that feels dictated from the very pulse of the times in which we live, the one that pulls us in and won’t let go, and when we’re finished, we feel the urgent need to spread the news about it far and wide and right away. Daniel Abbott’s The Concrete is that novel.”
While reading, I couldn’t help but think of the song King Park by La Dispute—who, coincidentally, is also from Grand Rapids—as the song is about a real shooting on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.
A second short story collection? Yes. I’ve been cutting my phone usage and taking reading breaks instead of social media breaks, which has been more fulfilling, especially when they are crafted by a veteran storyteller like Brooks Rexroat. Thrift Store Coats is a refreshing collection of 12 elegantly crafted stories, capturing the gothic landscape of the rustbelt and southern Midwest.
The collection was published by Orson’s Publishing, based in Seattle, Washington. They are a relatively new indie press and I’m looking forward to their future releases.
This is your fun (and weird) beach read. I was turned on to Hendrix by Stephen Graham Jones, who wrote about it on his website and furiously tweeted about it the rest of the year. I’m a little late to the party, but happy to report it lives up to the hype. It’s packed full of 1980’s culture, making it a great read for fans of the Netflix series Stranger Things. ...a little before my time, but I’m always touched when Gen-X-ers get nostalgic remembering the “good ol’ days” with ET and their terrible music—you know, before millennials started getting all the attention. ;-)
Michael Pollan’s new book, How to Change Your Mind, is a history of psychedelics in U.S. culture. Pollan investigates the role psychoactive substances have played in treating medical conditions, how they have been regulated, and the people who, while trying to promote their use, gave them a bad name. I’m not ready to drop everything and find a magic mushroom guide, but I am curious to see how this book changes the perception of psychedelics, especially in the medical field where it has been used to successfully treat addiction, depression, and psychological disorders.
Ray Dalio is one of the most successful people in the world with a net worth in the billions. He started an investment firm (Bridgewater Associates) in his apartment in the 1970s that eventually became one of the world's largest hedge funds. How did he do it? Easy: Principles. He developed a system for success and stuck to it. As an early adopter to computers, he used technology to aid in decision making and stick to his principles even when it challenged the conventional thought at the time. Clocking in at 592 pages, it does at times read like a big “dad speech” about sticking to your values and working both smart and hard, but it’s a dad speech most of us could hear more often.
If you don’t have time to read the book, you can get a taste by watching this video:
Why are some moments more powerful than others and how can I create life-changing moments? This is the question the Heath brothers set out to answer in their new book, The Power of Moments. The answer is creating meaningful interactions. I’d rank this as one of the most—if not THE MOST—important book I’ve read this year, as it has stretched my thinking to include the philosophy of memory (why we remember the things we do) when working with others.
How important is your bed time? What time should you drink coffee? How does the economy influence new college grads? Is there a right time to change careers? According to Daniel Pink, timing is everything. He answers these questions and others to help you schedule your day to optimize everything from taking breaks to learning about your circadian rhythm so you know when you are better at creative and analytical thinking.
Ever wonder what makes some people remain young and youthful while others grow old? The secret is in your telomeres. Telomeres are like the caps on your shoelaces that protect your chromosomes. The longer your telomeres, the younger you’ll look and the longer (hypothetically) you’ll live. Elizabeth Blackburn is the winner of the 2009 Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work in discovering the telomere. In The Telomere Effect, co-written with Elissa Epel, another telomere researcher, they write about what we can do to strengthen our telomeres so we can live a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life. I was happy to read that many of Blackburn and Epel’s suggestions came from the same studies I cited in my book, Age of Agility, (Dock Model, Health, Pillar 1).
Andrew J. Wilt is the author of Age of Agility, a book that addresses the skill gap between school and work. He can be reached at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @andrewjwilt