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The Books I Read in 2018

Covers of all the books I read in 2018.

At the end of each year, I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2018. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

I managed to read one book a week last year, exactly 52 books. The majority of those were read in the latter half of year, when I finished the thesis for my masters in philosophy. There was an increase in the number of books by women that I read (from close to 25% in 2017 to close to 35%), but it still isn’t what I’d like it to be. More than half of the books were were written by people who were born in the either the US or UK. However quite a few of those writers do come from a bicultural background.

I’ve ordered the list of books into categories that make sense to me (and that are in many ways overlapping and arbitrary). These are the books that I’ve read and what I thought of some of them:

Digital rights and technology

After reading Gerard I sold most my of meagre Bitcoin holdings, he wrote a thorough debunking of the blockchain concept in general and Bitcoin in particular. Bartlett and Lanier have both made quite radical arguments in two very clearly argued books. Jeong’s concept of ‘garbage’ is a useful way of looking at the shit on some parts of the web. Stephens-Davidowitz makes you realize that Google has more psychological data about people in the world than any other organization ever before. Don’t bother reading Taplin.

  • David Gerard — Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts (link)
  • Jamie Bartlett — The People Vs Tech (link)
  • Jaron Lanier — Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (link)
  • Sarah Jeong — The Internet Of Garbage (link)
  • Seth Stephens-Davidowitz — Everybody Lies (link)
  • Yuval Noah Harari — 21 lessen voor de 21ste eeuw (link)
  • Jonathan Taplin — Move Fast and Break Things (link)
  • Safiya Umoja Noble — Algorithms of Oppression (link)

Justice, ethics and identity

I had the privilege of being able to invest a whole week into reading Rawls’s masterpiece. To me he is the model of how one should do philosophy. Pettit’s ideas are more appealing to me though, and this book is a great summary of his thoughts on civic republicanism. Appiah has written a definitive guide to identity in the current moment. Macfarquhar’s book is a wonderful introduction to age-old ethical dilemmas through stories of lived experiences. Qureshi should be read by anyone who wants to understand more about the current plight of Muslims in the UK.

  • John Rawls — A Theory of Justice (link)
  • Philip Pettit — Just Freedom (link)
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah — The Lies That Bind (link)
  • Larissa Macfarquhar — Strangers Drowning (link)
  • Asim Qureshi — A Virtue Of Disobedience (link)
  • Reni Eddo-Lodge — Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (link)

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The book club was back in full effect last year. Unfortunately with plenty of middle of the road books. Bridle was the exception and brought the mindset of an artist to our technological predicament. I now also understand why Harari is such a bestseller: the man can write. The corporate take-over in Magnason’s near fiction novel will stay with me for a while longer. Nagle wrote the most intelligent thing I’ve read all year about the ‘culture wars’. Schneier’s book is a good overview of where we are at when it come to securing the internet of things.

  • James Bridle — New Dark Age (link)
  • Yuval Noah Harari — Homo Deus (link)
  • Andri Magnason — Lovestar (link)
  • Angela Nagle — Kill All Normies (link)
  • Bruce Schneier — Click Here to Kill Everybody (link)
  • Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith — The Dictator’s Handbook (link)
  • Fred Kaplan — Dark Territory (link)
  • Jean M. Twenge — iGen (link)
  • Ryan Holiday — Conspiracy (link)

Self improvement and how-to

Books that teach you new skills can have an incredible influence on your daily or professional life. Parker’s book on how to run gatherings (a place where people come together to do something) might have been my favorite book of the year. She really nailed it. Carroll has managed to change my productivity-practice: I used to have all my todos online, now I’ve switched back to paper.

  • Priya Parker — The Art of Gathering (link)
  • Ryder Carroll — The Bullet Journal Method (link)
  • Eva Rovers — Practivisme (link)
  • Juana Clark Craig — Project Management Lite (link)
  • Michelle McGagh — The No Spend Year (link)
  • Caroline van der Velde — Oudergids autisme (link)
  • Rolf Potts — Vagabonding (link)

Fiction

Wow, I’ve read some wonderful fiction this year. All of the below come recommended. Neale Hurston was incredible and Ross was weirdly hilarious. Didion writes beautiful prose and I couldn’t stop reading Isik and his coming of age in the Bijlmer.

  • Zora Neale Hurston — Their Eyes Were Watching God (link)
  • Fran Ross — Oreo (link)
  • Joan Didion — The Year of Magical Thinking (link)
  • Murat Isik — Wees onzichtbaar (link)
  • Chibundu Onuzo — Welcome to Lagos (link)
  • Barry Smit — Ondijk/Punt (link)
  • Vamba Sherif and Ebissé Rouw — Zwart (link)

While traveling in Mexico, I read these three pieces of excellent writing by current Mexican writers. Luiselli was my favourite.

  • Valeria Luiselli — The Story of My Teeth (link)
  • Yuri Herrera — Transmigration of Bodies (link)
  • Juan Pablo Villalobos — Quesadillas (link)

Graphic novels and art

I loved Elstak en Duysker’s children’s book, mainly because of its bold graphics. The novel by Drnaso was haunting and made me feel empty inside afterward. Dalí is ever the prankster, and I look forward to reading the following chapters in Sattouf’s life.

  • Brian Elstak and Esther Duysker — Trobi (link)
  • Nick Drnaso — Sabrina (link)
  • Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman — Dali’s Mustache (link)
  • Riad Sattouf — The Arab of the Future (link)
  • Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam — Explosiegevaar! (link)

Non-fiction

I was mesmerized by Godfrey-Smith’s book about octopuses, which turned out to be insightful look at consciousness and at our own minds. Beerthuizen’s book had some good examples of how organizations managed to find business sponsors for their activities. The two museum catalogues were both worth the read. Hislop and Hockenbull’s book was actually better than the exhibit at the British Museum, which can’t be said about the book about the National Museum of Anthropology (even though it was excellent). Taleb both infuriated me (more so than with his earlier books), but also made me think. Wallman should have just done a TED-talk, his premise is interesting but too thin for a book.

  • Peter Godfrey-Smith — Other Minds (link)
  • Marcel Beerthuizen — Show me the money (link)
  • Ian Hislop and Tom Hockenhull — I object (link)
  • Mónica del Villar — 100 Selected Works: National Museum of Anthropology (link)
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb — Skin in the game (link)
  • Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae — This is Dalí (link)
  • James Wallman — Stuffocation (link)

My consumption of other media

My media consumption looks very similar to last year’s. I am subscribed to De Correspondent, Het Parool, Wired Magazine and the New York Review of Books. I get three newsletters: the OLDaily by Stephen Downes, the weekly newsletter by Audrey Watters, and whenever Dipsaus sends out one. Outside of these I get most of my news through my self-hosted RSS reader. I read a few people diligently: Kashmir Hill, Evgeny Morozov, Cory Doctorow, Cathy O’Neil, Karin Spaink, Jaap-Henk Hoepman, and Linda Duits. I wish there was a way for me to receive the columns of Maxim Februari and Sheila Sitalsing in my inbox. The only web-comic I read is XKCD. For other news, I read The Intercept (which is getting better again), Wired Security, Guardian Tech and Tweakers. For work I follow most digital rights organizations, Pricacy Nieuws and Privacy Barometer.

I still listen to a lot of podcasts: Every episode of Reply All, This American Life, Dipsaus, Ear Hustle, This Week in Tech, Een Podcast over Media, and Strangers (which is on a very long hiatus). New is Goed Nieuws with Joris Luyendijk. If I have time, or if the show looks particularly appealing, I listen to Radio Rechtsstaat, 99% Invisible, The Most Perfect Album, RadioLab, Pakhuis de Zwijger, Freakonomics Radio, Intercepted, The Guardian Long Read, Triangulation, and sometimes even the Tim Ferris Show.

What will I be reading in 2019?

Outside of the books that I will have to read for my job as the director of Bits of Freedom and the books that I will read with the book club, I will try and read the books that I have already bought and haven’t read yet. So that would be this list. Next to an attempt to read more fiction, I will also read some foundational texts in ethics (probably through anthologies).

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