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Every year, I set a goal for how many books I want to read.
In 2015, it was 10.
This past year, I worked my goal all the way up to 52. One book a week all year long.
My actual number (at the time of writing this): 68 books read. It looks like I’ll end the year with 72, if I finish the four books I’m currently reading.
I’ve shared a few tips in the past for how to read more (join your local library to read books for free, buy a Kindle or e-reader, use Kindle Unlimited) and I’m really proud of how much I’ve cut back on television and other bad habits to spend more time reading over the years. Plus, reading makes me a better writer, gets my eyes away from a screen, and is a great way to force yourself to slow down.
Today I want to share the best books I read in 2018.
In no particular order, these are my favorite non-fiction books I read this year (and will probably end up reading again because they are really so good).
Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
I actually already raved about this book earlier this year here, because it was so so inspiring for me. It’s all about learning how to create good work without getting hung up on your insecurities or thoughts like “hey someone has already done this, why am I even trying?”
The book is really short and only takes an hour to read, and I started each day with just reading a few pages and really helped my mind get in the right place before attacking the day. Here’s my favorite quote from the book:
“You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called ‘imposter syndrome.’
The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.’ It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.”
GUESS WHAT: NONE OF US KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING.
I want to read that every morning to remind myself that no matter how difficult, confusing, overwhelming life and work may be, I’m in good company. Cause we are all just making it up as we go.
Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business by Ramit Sethi
I’m a big fan of everything Ramit does because I think he might be the most honest person on the internet and he is so, so funny. Much like me and many others who read his blog, he started his business from home and unlike me, he has grown it eight-figures, which I can’t even mentally comprehend.
Your Move is one of the best step-by-step kicks in the butt to start and run your business that I’ve read. It’s the kind of the book that gets you thinking “I’ve already grown my business to six-figures, why not seven? Why not eight?” And gives you the tools and the mindset you’ll need to make it happen.
But one of my favorite things he talked about in his book was how to measure the success of your business. He says “money is the marker you’re doing the right thing”. In a world where it’s so easy to get caught up in page views and Instagram followers and SEO and all the little metrics and numbers you can use to measure your business or your reach, money is the most important. Because your business can’t keep going without making money. It was a good reminder to stop focusing on what doesn’t matter in our business and keep focusing on what makes a difference—creating worthwhile products and providing an amazing service.
Plus he shares insight on writing sales pages (identifying the reader’s biggest pains and hopes), gathering feedback from customers (asking why they purchased, following up with how we could improve the product/service, did it meet expectations?), and getting meetings with people you admire (if you’re serious, read every blog post they’ve ever written, then watch ever Youtube video they’ve ever posted).
My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prudhomme
Hands down, this is the best business book I’ve ever read. And it’s not a business book technically. It’s the story of Julia Child’s life. There are SO many lessons here.
Julia Child created an empire and it all started from her just wanting a hobby while she was lonely in France. That’s it! She wanted to do something because she was lonely and bored in France, so she took cooking classes. The first class she took was so rudimentary, she talked her way into the men’s class where professional chefs were being trained. She talks about what it was like being looked down on in the kitchen (how’s that for ironic?) and how she could soon proudly chop off the head of any meat like any of the boys.
One thing that’s amazing about Julia’s story is how long it took for her to become Julia Child. For decades, she was just a great cook who hosted great dinner parties and for fun helped a friend edit a cookbook. Then she started working on her own cookbook and shares her struggles of finding someone—ANYONE—who wanted to buy a book on French cooking written for Americans. (A cookbook that has sold over 1.5 million copies and continues to sell even now, 50 years after it was published.)
And the book, of course, ends with Julia Child being one of the first cooking show hosts ever on television and hearing her stories of what it was like cooking for live TV when it had never been done before.
I seriously loved this book for the story arc and for the depiction of what it takes to become a legend. How many messed up recipes. How many rejections. How many friends lost and deals that fell through. Discrimination, language barriers, a lack of technology, doing things that had literally never been done before—Julia Child is one of the most prolific chefs of all time! And this book doesn’t hold back on sharing her story.
It’s a long read, but there is some serious inspiration in this book. Here’s my favorite quote to depict how Julia became the legend she is:
(Later, in order to really understand chocolate, I invited a Nestlé chemist to 103 Irving Street, and asked him all about the chemical composition of American chocolate, the best way for a home cook to melt it, and so on. It was a fascinating lesson…)
Whatever it is you’re passionate about, be that level of curious about it to become an expert.
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
I’m only a quarter of the way through this one. I always read nonfiction books at an annoyingly slow pace, mostly because I feel like that’s the best way for the information to actually soak in and affect your life.
Daring Greatly I thought was going to be all about taking big risks (apparently I never read the subtitle). But this book on vulnerability has really resonated with me. This is my favorite quote so far:
Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.
Let that be the mantra for all entrepreneurs.
Because reading books beats binging Netflix every time.
One More Thing by BJ Novak
This year I decided to read more books by comedians (who couldn’t use more laughter in their lives?) and hands down BJ Novak’s One More Thing was the best! I knew from The Office and The Book With No Pictures that he was hilarious and creative, but his writing is so so so good. This book of short stories pulls you in and made me laugh out loud.
I’m not sure if my favorite story was the follow-up to The Tortoise and the Hare (the hare desperately wants vengeance for his embarrassing loss) or the robot who falls in love with a human (why does this one sound like it could be real?).
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I had to read this one, just because of the hype for the HBO show! (Plus 15,000+ Amazon reviews and the fact that the books are always better than the shows.) I loved all the drama and secrets and the fact that I could totally hear Reese Witherspoon in my head when reading her character’s lines.
The book kept me guessing until the very end and wondering which of these kindergarten mothers may have committed murder… Intriguing, I know!!
The Gibson Vaughn Series by Matthew FitzSimmons
I’ve read a lot more fiction books this year than ever before and if you like action, I’m obsessed with this series. It’s got the political thriller angle, explosions, organized crime, treasure hunts, and a flawed but brilliant main character.
I just finished the fourth out of the five book series (the fifth book doesn’t come out till 2020—I hate it) and it’s probably been my favorite one. (Drug wars! Hackers! Car chases! Sabotage!) I can never put them down.
But the real testament to how good these books are is the fact that Heath, who never wastes his time with fiction when there are business books to read, has even started reading this series. In the five years we’ve been together, it’s the only fiction book I’ve ever seen him read.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I ran across this one on Instagram one day from a friend who said it was amazing and then I started hearing about it everywhere. The description on Amazon calls it a “mindbending, relentlessly surprising thriller” and I can’t really think of a better way to explain it. It completely messed with my head and I couldn’t put it down.
I also don’t feel like I can describe this book without revealing major spoilers. So you’ll just have to check this one out yourself.
The Crazy Rich Asians Series by Kevin Kwan
So. Funny. I’ve been dying to go to Asia forever and these books make me all the more excited. I accidentally read these out of order (Third book, then first, then second) because I didn’t realize it was a trilogy. But all the characters, storylines, and over-the-top descriptions of the lives of the uber rich make these series charming and hilarious.
They will, however, also make you crave Asian food constantly so I need to visit Singapore ASAP.
I read so many good books this year. Here’s a few more I’d recommend:
Eat Pray Love (I like to read books many years after they are popular. Also, take me to Italy!!!)
Talking As Fast As I Can (A must for all Gilmore Girls fans)
Little Fires Everywhere (One of the most read novels of the year for a reason)
Confessions of a Domestic Failure (I’m not even a mom yet but the description of “New Mom, Hot Mess” hit me on a spiritual level. This one was hilarious.)
Indestructible (I actually just started this book this morning and already love it. But I love all of Ally Fallon’s work, so that’s no surprise.)
I haven’t set my reading goal for 2019 yet, although I see a lot less random fiction books and a lot more parenting books in my future. What’s been the best book you read this year?