2018 Annual Reading List

This is an idea I had after reading someone’s reading list online, so once each year I’m going to try to publish a list of my favorite books that I read in the past year (or am currently reading).

A huge problem I see a lot in engineering (at my high school at least) is the dismissal of the humanities by STEM majors. Most STEM people I know (even those headed towards schools like Berkeley or the Ivy League) often dismiss the value of reading, which is wrong. I’ll admit that I once used to think that this was an okay view of life — I had fallen out of love with reading — after taking AP Literature this year I’ve completely changed my mind. Anyways, without any further rambling, here’s my list!

Top 5 Books

  1. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

    This book easily earns its spot on my list, as Rushdie elegantly explores concepts of religion, morality, and the point of life itself. At 500 pages it can be hard to read at first, but after reading it you’ll often find yourself referring back to it as an extremely well written, thought-provoking book.

  2. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

    Although I technically read this book before this year, I always revisit this book each year because of how well it explores and analyzes the stories behind phenomena that has occurred. While I don’t agree with all of Gladwell’s points, this book is definitely worth a read.

  3. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

    I finally read Zero to One, and it’s easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. Thiel presents a unique and comprehensive way to look at startups and provides a surprisingly concrete way to not only predict companies that will change the world in the future but to also build them yourself.

  4. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

    An extremely well-written play, this is probably my favorite play. Prior to this, I honestly didn’t like reading plays very much, but Miller’s control of language, setting, and how he moves the set and scene around (and that you can understand this from reading it) is truly amazing. Its commentary on the harsh reality of the American Dream is well written, a definite recommend.

  5. Liberalism’s Last Hurrah by Gary Donaldson

    As a self-proclaimed center Democrat, this book has honestly been one of the most eye-opening books I’ve ever read. Donaldson explains the causes of the dramatic shift away from the liberal trend and also brings you to understand the appeal of the conservative ideology to those that shifted perspectives. The book’s purpose isn’t to change your perspective, but rather to help you understand what people consider when making political decisions. A definite interest for anyone interested in politics.

Honorable Mentions

While these books didn’t make it on my top 5 list, either because I haven’t finished reading them or because the chosen top 5 are just too good, these books are still worth a strong read.

  1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

    While I was technically “forced” to read this by my AP Literature teacher, Conrad’s novel is extremely well written and causes a lot of self-reflection to be done by the reader. This book lost out from breaking the top 5 due to Rushdie’s masterpiece

  2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    Incredibly well written and extremely emotional and thought-provoking, Walker explores the struggle of defining yourself in the face of extreme adversity.

  3. Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis

    A great way to expose yourself to the history of the founding of the United States, Ellis does a brilliant job of showing the intricacies involved in the early years of the Constitution.

  4. The Quartet by Joseph Ellis

    Provides a more in-depth look at how the Constitution was created and does a truly remarkable job of showing the difficulties in creating the world’s most revolutionary governmental construct.

  5. The Everything Store by Brad Stone

    Currently in progress. So far a fantastic read, exploring the risks and the environment Amazon faced in its journey to where it lies today (which for the book was 2014). It’s incredible to read this knowing where Amazon sits today. I will definitely be returning to this book in later years.

Other good books I’ve read this year:

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • True West by Sam Shephard

I’m always open to new book recommendations if you have any, or to discuss anything from the books listed above!