Top 5 Books of 2018

The Mechanic’s Institute Library, a private library in downtown SF where I do much of my reading

Educated by Tara Westover [amazon]

Wow. Educated is a WILD memoir: Westover grows up in a survivalist fundamental Mormon household in rural Idaho without a birth certificate, school, or ever seeing the doctor. Her collection of stories feel like a back-to-back onslaught of situations that caused my jaw to drop more than once. Her chapters don’t necessarily make up a tidy narrative arc — but true stories rarely do.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones [amazon]

Dreamland is many interweaving storylines around the opiate epidemic — each chapter bounces between Mexican black tar heroin dealers, epidemiologists, pharmaceutical salespeople, parents of children who’ve died from overdosing, pill mill doctors peddling to West Virginians, and more. Rather than cherry-picking evidence to place blame in one place, Quinones paints a rich canvas of all the different players acting independently that have combined to create the disaster we’re in…. and the epic scale it’s reached.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan [amazon]

On Chesil Beach is a novella about a couple’s wedding night, so indulgently written that it sucked me in and I finished all in one setting. By limiting to just one scene and just two characters, we learn every little detail of the room, every inner thought of each character, the interplay of their thoughts and actions, their vulnerable and clumsy communication, the extremely cringeworthy misunderstandings, many assumptions born out of insecurity and emotional baggage, and more. It feels like getting to spy inside of someone else’s private life. Oh and it’s a movie now! But the movie’s not as good.

How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky [amazon]

I saw a tweet by Havrilesky about her new book, What if This Were Enough?. I bought it and loved it so much I bought her other books, How to Be a Person in the World, Disaster Preparedness, and then I read all of her Ask Polly answers. For a sample of her writing, I love her House of Mirrors answer. Her writing is so direct yet compassionate. I tweeted that I was disappointed How to Be a Person in the World wasn’t an instruction manual and so she replied with one!

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb [amazon]

The Black Swan is not a new book, but I had never read it before. I’m often frustrated about how insistently people try to predict events and how they focus on whatever trivial thing they happen to know, when it’s clear the most important events will come as a surprise. Taleb has a less fatalistic view and champions how to act and best prepare yourself, in a world where what you don’t know is more important than what you do.

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according to @pburke24 “founder of Pinch and a Bellinghamer! Also, a very cool person who tweets interesting things about startups and other stuff”

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Maia Bittner

Maia Bittner

according to @pburke24 “founder of Pinch and a Bellinghamer! Also, a very cool person who tweets interesting things about startups and other stuff”