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  • Writer's picturecarolineswiftholden

My Top 8 Books of 2018



I love to read but I haven’t always been the best about reading regularly. Two years ago, I joined a bookclub at work and started finding more books everywhere I went. By the end of 2018, I realized that I had accidentally read almost 30 books!


Then and there, I decided that I would start to keep track of the books that I read and write little notes rating them so I would remember what I liked or didn’t like about them.


Now how did I choose these books? About half of these selections are from my old job’s bookclub, and the other half are a mix of books that I really wanted to read, books gifted to me from friends and family, and books that were sitting on my bookshelf for years that I never got around to. Some of them had just come out in 2017/2018, some are classics, and some are books that I stumbled on through meeting the authors in unexpected places.


Here are my top eight favorite books from 2018. (Click here for my top ten faves of 2019!)


8. The Perfect Mix: Everything I know about Leadership I learned as a Bartender by Helen Rothberg PhD

I didn’t stumble on Professor Rothberg’s The Perfect Mix until after seeing her speak at an event at my old job but I absolutely loved it. The book details stories of her own life as a bartender while studying for her graduate business and behavioral science degrees. The book is filled with fantastic stories and phenomenal analysis that can help teach you how to become a better leader in any situation.


Helen Rothberg, PhD, is a phenomenal writer and a fantastic speaker and I would highly recommend looking her up! Plus, there are several fantastic cocktail recipes scattered throughout the book, just in case you want to try a few new drinks to help inspire you!


7. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose

My dad gifted me his copy of Undaunted Courage years ago and after reading this book I became much more enthusiastic about taking his book recommendations! Undaunted Courage tells the story of Lewis and Clark’s journey to the west coast and back and it’s absolutely fascinating! The book is rich with detail and doesn’t just start and end with the famed journey but follows Lewis and Clark’s lives before and after their incredible trek.


As an avid outdoors person and history nerd, this book was fantastic. Plus, it may or may not be my dad’s favorite book of all time, so let’s just say, you need to add this to your reading list ASAP.


6. Explosive Growth: A few Things I learned while Growing My Startup to 100 Million Users & Losing $78 Million by Cliff Lerner

Funny story. I met Cliff Lerner at work one day after a talk about cryptocurrency and he gave me a copy of his brand new book and insisted that I give him a five star review on Amazon in exchange. I told him he'd only get a five star rating from me if the book was actually good as I don't accept books as bribes.


I ended up giving him those five stars. Explosive Growth is the story of how Cliff Lerner helped build one of the first dating apps, achieve amazing successes, and also suffer some terrible losses. The book has tons of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, hilarious stories, and really showcases what it’s like to create and run a startup. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur (aren’t we all?) you should absolutely check it out!


5. Crushing the Box: 10 Essential Rules for Breaking Essential Rules by Chris Denson

I read this book as part of our office’s book club AND getting to hear the author, Chris Denson, speak in person and I absolutely loved it! Denson has had the wildest career from working as a comedy writer, to making his own podcast on creativity, to convincing huge brands like Nike to work with him to help spark groundbreaking ideas. As someone who has led a similarly creative and untraditional career, Crushing the Box was inspiring and I desperately need to read this book again.


4. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz

I bought this book for my mother a few years ago since I knew she was a fan of Julie and Julia and then promptly stole it from her and never gave it back! Dearie showcases the strange and marvelous life of Julia Child covering everything from her time as a spy in World War II, living abroad and learning how to cook in France, struggling with McCarthyism, and spending years creating some of the best cookbooks ever made.


You know the saying that you don’t want to learn too much about your heroes for fear of finding out something that destroys your love of them? Well the more you learn about Julia Child, the more you will absolutely adore her. This book is an absolute delight and a must read!


3. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Okay, let's be real. I read this book years ago but I’ve now gotten in the habit of reading it once a year because I love it SO much. Where’d You Go Bernadette is absolutely hilarious, insightful, and a fantastic mystery. The characters are fantastic, the structure of the book (you read in on emails, text messages, and diaries of the main characters) heightens the piece tremendously, and the narrative forces you to contemplate how artists can deal with "failure" in a variety of different ways.


If you’re interested in the story and want to see the movie, STOP what you’re doing and read the book instead. While Cate Blanchett is amazing as always, the movie as a whole does not live up to expectations. The book is phenomenal and is such a fun read and has been a favorite of mine for years so absolutely check it out when you get the chance!


2. Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Shultz

As an aspiring entrepreneur and company culture fan in general, I absolutely adored this story of how Starbucks was created and grew into the brand we know and love today. The book tells the tale of Howard Shultz leaving his excellent job in New York City to go work for a tiny coffeeshop in rainy Seattle and goes on a whirlwind from there.


The book is a little dated at this point (it came out over 20 years ago in 1999) so it doesn't cover Starbuck's explosive growth in the 2000's but still shows incredible insights on building a company mostly from scratch and creating a new kind of coffee culture that changed the world forever.


1. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

By far, my favorite book of 2018 was all about Pixar! Creativity Inc tells the story of how digital animation was born and developed, how Pixar was created, how Steve Jobs and George Lucas were heavily involved, and what strategies Pixar uses to help generate some of the most creative animated films of all time. This is a MUST read for anyone who loves Pixar, wants to become more creative in the workplace, or wants to know how to create strong creative and collaborative environments.


Those were my favorite picks from 2018 but what do YOU think? Do you have any favorites that you want to share or want to share your experiences about any of the books below? Please feel free to leave comments down below!



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