My Top 5 Books from 2018
At the end of every year I like to take a look back at some of the highlights. Things that happened personally & professionally, things I learned, books I read, products I loved, etc. So here is one of those posts.
My reading list from 2018 was fairly broad, as I love everything from science fiction to history to product management. And this year had some great reads from all of those categories. As 2018 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at some of my favorites and most influential reads from the past year.
1. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst This was probably one of my favorites from 2018 as it was endlessly fascinating and actually led me to explore some other books around similar topics, such as The Willpower Instinct, You Are Not So Smart, and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The interaction between our genes, our environment, our ancestry and every other possible factor combines to make us who we are. It’s such a beautiful and profound complexity.
2. Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love
For anyone familiar with some of my other posts regarding product management, this book won’t come as a surprise. It is one of my top reads for product managers and has profoundly influenced the way I work. I’ve probably read it through a couple times this year as I’ve referred back to it in various scenarios. If you’re a product manager or involved in product development, this is one you’ll want.
3. Foundation Series: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation
This series is incredible. I hadn’t read any of Isaac Asimov until this year, and I was blown away with how great this was. The original stories were published in 1942, which is crazy to think about. But it’s amazing how futuristic they still seem even today. If you enjoy science fiction, I’d highly recommend them. And I’ve already got more Asimov books in my backlog ready to go soon.
4. A Short History of Nearly Everything
I know I’m late in discovering this one (I’m always behind the times in my reading it seems), but what a gem. It’s a walk-through of, well, nearly everything in history. It is incredibly fun and kept me coming back for more with the clever writing and fascinating incites. It’s a great overview and refresher of everything you likely learned, and so many things you probably haven’t.
5. User Story Mapping
Going back to product management/product development, User Story Mapping is now one of my favorites. It is a great book on tools and techniques to use in building great products. I also had the opportunity to attend a session by Jeff Patton where he walked us through some of his key insights. If you ever get the chance to attend a workshop with him, don’t miss it. Worth every second. In the meantime though, you can definitely get a ton out of his book.
It was a great year of reading. I set a goal to read a book every 2 weeks, and I was able to do it! I’m planning on upping that goal for 2019, so hopefully I can keep up with an ambitious schedule and maybe even catch up with some of the current best-sellers (though that probably won’t happen).
Here is my full reading list as well (in order that I read them), including first time reads and re-reads:
Fat and Flavor
After finishing the book The Big Fat Surprise as well as a variety of articles, accounts from friends, etc., it's become increasingly clear that our entire idea about nutrition is fatally flawed. Animal fat, eggs and dairy aren't only good for us, but essential for us as study after study have shown.
It amazes me (though probably shouldn't), how we ultimately got here too. A classic story of a few nutrition researchers pushing their idea forward, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, and ultimately railroading all opposing voices.
Before the idea that fat was bad for you, there were a variety of competing theories, including the idea that the main culprit behind health problems might be sugars. But the influence of just a few people managed to get major health associations, and ultimately the US government, on board with the idea that saturated fat was the ultimate evil despite a terrible lack of evidence.
I grew up in the midst of the anti-fat movement. As long as something was fat free, it was okay. It didn't matter about the other things in it, such as sugar. I'm sure most of us can relate. It has been the consensus for so long that it's practically nutrition gospel. It was what were told by all experts and everyone in the media.
And yet look at where we are now. Obesity has skyrocketed along with diseases like diabetes and cancer. All this despite all of us actually following USDA food guidelines. And you can replace the word "despite" with the word "because" in that sentence.
Contrary to their assertions, we really have given up a lot of the saturated fats and replaced them with carbs and sugars. And therein lies one of the biggest problems. When we all cut out saturated fats, they had to be replaced with other things. And that brought us foods like trans fats and vegetable oils. All of which are far worse for us than the butters and creams and lards people used before.
Ultimately, it feels like a terribly sad story that has likely cost millions of lives. We replaced food that has been used for thousands of years of human history for foods that had never been used, and this is where we are now.
And the problem was ultimately compounded by the government prescribing a certain diet to everyone. A diet that has been the source of our nutrition problems, rather than the cure. These guidelines have started to be walked back slightly, but the ideas are so ingrained that it will probably take a long time to change.
It should also give us pause as we look at other scientific ideas that have gained consensus with a lack of evidence and keep us from silencing opposing voices prematurely (I'm looking at you, climate change).
So for now, I'll take my eggs with extra cheese and as many servings as bacon as I can get.
My personal musings on a variety of topics.