What I’ve Read in 2018

I have been an avid reader since childhood. Getting immersed in a book and being completely absorbed for hours is part of my fondest memories (and still material for my brothers to tease me about). My college years brought that pleasure back and, although I’ve always kept the habit, I felt it was drifting away slowly, as I had more and more books I wanted to read, finding less time as years passed.

This year, following the advice of Ana my 13 yo daughter, I joined Goodreads’ #ReadingChallenge and set a goal of 52 books – one book per week -, an aggressive objective, but somehow I felt doable with some discipline.

As I close this year, having already achieved my goal, I am amazed by what this simple goal meant for my life: as you may read from other intense readers I believe this habit has not caused me to sacrifice a single minute of work nor quality time with my family. On the contrary, it has given me a mindful presence, strengthen my concentration capabilities and kept me (partly) away from the distraction of TV, social media, and my (still obvious) phone addiction. I feel not only more informed, but more intellectually curious, more prepared to empathize with other points of view, more confident in asking questions, more connected with my emotions, more conscious of the richness of diversity and much more aware of myself, my reality and my call in life.

My reading is as eclectic as it can get. I have favorite authors, I follow lists, write down recommendations that come out of conversations, rescue classics and venture myself into uncomfortable territories. I rarely reread a book (although I know it’s a big pleasure for those who do) and I abandon about a third of the books I start (not counted in this list), with no regrets.

Analyzing what I’ve read helps me adjust for next year’s choices. Looking back I realize I’ve read 32 non-fictions and 20 fiction books (an ideal ratio IMHO!). I’ve read 39 books in English and only 13 in Spanish (need to trade Amazon for the local bookstore more) and an embarrassing 15% by women authors. (urgent need to choose more female writers). I’ve read books on history (2), politics (6), economics (6), biographies(2), business (5), startups (4)… I’ve read authors from 15 different countries – 23 Americans, 6 from UK, 5 from Mexico, 3 from Spain and Japan, 2 from Sweden and Argentina, and even from Canada, Colombia, Greece, Holland, Italy, Israel, Rumania and Turkey.

I fell behind during the first half of the year, caught up during the Summer, fell back again in September to a point where I felt the goal was impossible. A series of long flights towards the end of the year, plus some long nights (needed in stressful moments) and voila! – 52 books completed in 2018!

Each of these books added to my life, each was enjoyed and associated to a moment, to places and experiences, and each taught me something. Yet here is a selection of the top 10 books from my list:

Business and Startups

1- Bad Blood – by John Carreyrou | A warning tale for our VC industry from the Theranos experience, narrated as a fast paced thriller.

2- Blitzscaling – by Reid Hoffman & Chris Yen | A much needed synthesis of the concepts for fast growing startups from a real authority. If Reid says it, you should listen.

3- Valley of Genius – by Adam Fisher | A unique, verbal narrative of what made Silicon Valley what it is, as told from its main characters. Takes some time to get in its ice, then flows like a chat with some beers.

Non-Fiction

1- Enlightenment Now – by Steven Pinker | a well deserved best seller, provides data-based optimism and perspective, two much needed mindsets these days.

2- Identity – by Francis Fukuyama | perhaps my favorite book of the year; summarizes precisely what has created this hard-to-explain world mood, and provides a solution.

3- Doughnut Economics – by Kate Ranworth | I would make it a mandatory reading for my Econ students. Nails it in what our discipline has failed us, and gives a new framework from which to rebuild it.

Fiction

1- Berta Isla – by Javier Marias | It has everything I enjoy in a well rounded novel: deep characters, a smart plot and transports you through empathy.

2- The Red-Haired Woman – by Orhan Pamuk | A long time favorite, this time with a shorter fable. Although Im sure I miss many references to myths, Pamuk is without a doubt my favorite Noble winner in many years.

3- The Sense of an Ending – by Julian Barnes | Sometimes the perfect book is just a simple, beautiful story told with mastery, where the main character is language itself.

Special mention deserves «Tell me how it ends» by Valeri Luiselli, a shocking narrative on the treatment of undocumented children in the U.S., an awakening call on human rights and dignity.

My reading choices are very personal, yet I find it gratifying to inspire, help discover a new author, or just encourage the habit in others. Next time we meet, let’s talk books!

P.S. You can see the full list here.

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Fernando Lelo Larrea

Venture Capital Investor. Entrepreneurship. Economics. Seeking Innovation & Impact.