I actually read some books in 2018.
Key: Unlinked means I do not recommend it. Linked and bolded means it's one of my top recommendations for the year. Linked but not bolded is somewhere in between.
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
A Higher Loyalty by James Comey
Fear by Bob Woodward
Fire and Fury, A Higher Loyalty, and Fear all fall into a similar camp for me. They are all entertaining reads that are about current events--all with frightening anecdotes. Of the three, I think that Fear is the most well written, but it's hard to tell whether or not Fire and Fury or Fear are completely accurate. My understanding of Woodward's interview style is that it might lead to his sources saying somewhat misleading things about other sources. That being said, if even a fraction of what is written is true, it is terrifying (and I believe more than just a fraction is true).
A Higher Loyalty seems more accurate than the other two (by virtue of it being written in the first person), and generally, I buy Comey's arguments about why he did the things that he did during the run up to the election. Further, while I disagree with his view on encryption (that there should be a government backdoor), reading this book made me understand why people in the government hold such a view. If there's anything that the past few years have taught me it is that there is a stark difference between truly evil people and people whose misguided value sets lead them to make evil (or poor) decisions.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Never Split the Difference is a book written by a former FBI hostage negotiator discussing how to use the skills required for hostage negotiation in everyday negotiation (with a focus on business negotiation). Like most books in this genre (business self-help), while the content is generally good and helpful, the author feels the need to validate themselves with the reader. This is expressed in overdramatic anecdotes (about actual hostage negotiation) and regular insults towards the business and business school community. I felt like the content of the book itself was strong enough, but I'm sure that those things have helped sell the book to a wider audience.
Live Work Work Work Die by Corey Pein
Live Work Work Work Die is a book about a journalist's journey to San Francisco in an attempt to become immersed in "the culture of Silicon Valley." My father gave it to me somewhat as a joke after he finished reading it and asked, "this is what everything is like, right?" Similar to the HBO show, Silicon Valley, I would not say the book is inaccurate, rather, I felt like the author actively pursued the worst parts of Bay Area culture in an attempt to fill his narrative. Don't get me wrong, I think there are a bunch of bad things about San Francisco and startup culture--and I think that Pein hits the nail on the head of a few of them--I just wish that he would have also hit on some of the positive things (and also not try to live in the worst apartments he could find).
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
This book is amazing. Anthony Bourdain walks through his life as a chef and the challenges and delights of being in the restaurant industry. Bourdain's writing is pithy and entertaining and he really makes you feel like you're right there with him. One of the interesting things I noticed while reading this book, is that it was written around the time that fine dining really changed in America (2000), and perfectly crystallizes that change--the change from being fancy french food or expensive ingredients prepared well to an art form that needs to be elevated (with the hope that the chef gets a David Gelb documentary about them).
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
I've started cooking and baking more and have been consistently making loaves of sourdough bread weekly since August of 2018. Baking sourdough (and cooking in general) is a very rewarding endeavor--it feels good to work really hard on something, be able to control the outcome, share it with people you love, and close the feedback loop by making small adjustments.
While I got started baking sourdough by taking a class at Josey Baker's, The Mill, a friend of mine lent me a copy of the "bible" of homemade hearth loaves, Tartine Bread. It is so clear to me that, if he wanted, Chad Robertson could be succesful in anything he tried. This book reads less like a cookbook and more like a memoir. The base sourdough recipe is over 60 pages and Robertson explains the recipe in engaging prose. Even if you have no interest in making a loaf yourself, I would suggest reading this book (especially the introduction and the basic loaf recipe). While I am certainly no sourdough expert, if you try to make a loaf yourself and have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Bread Science by Emily Buehler
Bread Science is another book I read in my quest to understand what I was doing when I made sourdough. While this book is more scientific and dense in nature, it does a really good job explaining what the hell is going on when you make bread. I would suggest this if you are really into bread baking, but it isn't of much interest if you are not.
Moral Mazes by Robert Jackall (reread)
When I Read this book back in 2013 I wrote: "This book is life changing." Rereading it in 2018 reminded me how true that was. It was so crystal clear to me that the sorts of things that were discussed in the book were occurring regularly while I was at Google. In some ways, leaving Google and joining Twitch was incredibly refreshing because it was glaringly obvious that Twitch didn't suffer as badly from those things as Google did.
I wish that I had re-read this book every year since then. It is no surprise that as companies grow (if left unchecked) their morality goes down. Twitch is still a far cry from Google, or any of the companies discussed in Moral Mazes, but re-reading the book was a reminder that, despite the best of intentions, immoral decisions can get made anywhere.
The last thing I would say about this book is that it is a little dense. Please do not let that hinder you from reading it.