The Best Books of My 2018

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This is the fifth in a series of annual book reviews:

I read ~113 books in 2018, and a lot of them wound up on this list. I may be giving out too many five-star ratings, but in the course of writing reviews, I remembered just how good all of these were, so… no regrets.

(My Goodreads account has a rating for every book I remember reading.)


The Best Books

I didn’t choose a cutoff point, but ten books stood out from the rest, either because of their sheer quality or because they were easier to read than competitors of similar quality.

Every link in this section goes to my full review on Goodreads.

Ridiculously good books:

  1. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon (free online)
  2. Impro (Keith Johnstone) (free online)
  3. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
  4. Erfworld (free online)
  5. Understanding Power (free online)
  6. Stubborn Attachments
  7. The Structures of Everyday Life (free online)
  8. George Orwell’s Essays (free online)
  9. Vinland Saga
  10. My Name is Asher Lev (free online)

Books that were merely very good:


The Best Other Stuff

Best short stories

Best essays

Best journalism

I cut back on journalism this year to make more room for books; I’m sure I missed a lot of great work as a result. Also, I’m not sure what counts as “journalism” vs. “an essay”, but I don’t think it really matters in this context.

Best poems

Most educational thing that was not good

The podcast conversation between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein: A very interesting example of how live debates go wrong. Two professional communicators really wanted to communicate and just couldn’t make it happen. This might have worked with Julia Galef as a moderator, but in this version of the universe, it was doomed.


Thanks for making it to the end!

If you wind up reading any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


One thought on “The Best Books of My 2018

  1. Thanks for this list. You might like my 20+ years of Christmas lists at

    I came across this page because I am thinking of teaching writing to my high school daughter this summer and remember when I took Daily Themes from John Hollander, the poet, around 1979. One of the best courses I ever took. I googled for the topics, and found your list. Thank you! You might also like my notes for econ PhD students on writing, thinking, and talking, at

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