2018 Reading List

I am super late to the game. You might have noticed that we have 2020 now and this post is over a year too late. I am sorry for that. I wrote this post, let it sit around in my (now improved but formerly less-than-effective) folder structure and forgot about it. I still think it might be valuable to some, and in the spirit of “better late than never” here it is. Inspired by similar posts on The Green Notebook and 3×5 Leadership, here is a list of books I read in 2018 and what I think of them.

Which books did you read in 2018 that had an impact on you? Share them with us in the comments section!

Military & History

Cartoon History of the Universe I, Vol. 1-7: From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great
Larry Gonick

The title sounds silly, the concept even more, but this is a great book! It is a comic about history, and a very well researched comic at that. This book manages to summarize the history of the universe and humanity from the Big Bang until Alexander the Great and not lose the reader‘s attention. This book helps understand concepts: Why did things happen the way they did? What are the connections between events, cultures, peoples? Cartoon History of the Universe doesn’t merely state facts, it explains how these facts are connected and why they are important.

The Air Campaign
John Warden III

I am a big fan of this book and have written more about it. Basically, it is a description of the role of air war in operations and its interplay with the ground campaign. Recommended reading for anybody who wants to get a better understanding of operational art, combined arms, and the role that air plays in ground campaigns.

The Russian Front: Germany‘s War in The East, 1041-45
James F. Dunnigan

I had to get this book when I found out it was the result of research for a wargame by known historian and wargame designer James F. Dunnigan. It did not disappoint. This book gives a great overview of the Eastern Front in World War 2 and compares German and Russian forces make-up with an explanation as to why the different militaries were structured the way in which they were.

Dunnigan doesn’t lose himself in detail, but focuses on overall concepts and the context of events and decision.

This book is on my Intro to War Reading List.

The Guerilla Factory: The Making of Special Forces Officers
Tony Schwalm

Tony Schwalm describes his own story of going from tank officer to Special Forces (Green Berets). It was interesting to get a look inside Green Beret Selection from that period and to see that these events are supposed to be hard, so everybody struggles.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Hoah Harari (Audiobook)

This was a great audiobook that went very well with the Cartoon History of the Universe. It explains a theory on how human societies and social institutions developed and why they did develop the way they did.

Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps
Aaron B. O‘Connell (Audiobook)

How did the Marine Corps re-invent itself after World War 1 and during World War 2? Where does its marketing appeal come from? This book explains it. It was interesting to listen to how the Marines re-branded themselves and what problems they found on the way.

Leadership & Psychology

Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don‘t
Jeffrey Pfeffer

An interesting read on why some people get their way and some don‘t. There are good examples and tips on how to influence people without manipulation or force.

Leadership BS
Jeffrey Pfeffer

A collection of leadership lessons for the civilian world that are often preached by the military but seldomly followed. The main message that I got out of Leadership BS is that leaders have to lead by example and share the hardship, not just use meaningless buzzwords.

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast
Josh Kaufman

If you have never really thought much about how skills are acquired, this is a good start. It breaks down the most important steps to get over the beginner‘s bump. Much of the information in here can be found elsewhere on the internet, however not in this well organized form.

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science
Barbara Oakley

A great book about how humans learn. Dr. Oakley, an educator with a PhD in engineering, breaks down how the brain works and how that knowledge can be used in order to learn. Fascinating read that won‘t let you put this book down until you are finished.

Never Eat Alone
Keith Ferrazzi

A classic on how to make friends and grow your network the natural way. We all know that sleazy convention techniques like going around and giving your business card to random people do not work. This book explains how you can make real friends and truly grow your network without coming off like a used car salesman.

The War of Art
Steven Pressfield

I am a big fan of Steven Pressfield and this book did not disappoint! The War of Art is written like poetry or a religious book. It describes in a rather colorful way how our “inner demon” tries to prevent us from creating and how we can deal with it.

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
L. David Marquet

Leadership lessons by a naval officer on how to empower subordinates and teach them to take initiative and pride for their work. As an army guy, there was not much new for me, but I read it because it had glowing reviews.

How to Read a Book
Mortimer J. Adler

This has become one of my all time favorite books. As an avid reader, I was looking for a way to maximize my reading retention and get more out of my books. Adler wrote THE classic book on how to approach reading in a systematic fashion.

With Winning in Mind
Lanny Bassham

Lanny Bassham is an Olympic gold medalist marksman and details his system of approaching challenging endeavors. He emphasizes the importance of visualization and different mental methods that reinforce positive performance. This is a “work book”, i.e. not to be read in one sitting and then put down, but rather to applied.

Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman (Audiobook)

Myths are an important part of human societies and expert novelist Neil Gaiman of American Gods fame brings the Norse myths to live in this great book. His unique style and take on Norse mythology, which is nonetheless grounded in current research, makes those magical figures come to live.

The Asshole Survival Guide
Robert L. Sutton (Audiobook)

Unfortunately, we can‘t always escape toxic leadership and sometimes we can‘t do anything to change the situation. In that case, Robert Sutton explains how to deal with toxic leaders and toxic environments without going insane.

The No Asshole Rule
Robert L. Sutton (Audiobook)

The companion book to The Asshole Survival Guide, this book describes how we can change outside factors in order to get rid of toxic environments.

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It
Kelly McGonigal (Audiobook)

A great book on stress and how to deal with it. My main takeaway was that how we look at the stresses in our lives greatly influences our mental and physical health.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Laurence Gonzales (Audiobook)

This is a collection of true stories of normal people who got into extraordinary situations. It is about those who survived but also about those who didn‘t. Laurence Gonzales works out what makes some people survive incredible danger while others falter and die.

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