Per custom, at the beginning of each new year, I love scouting out the books I plan to read throughout the year. I also like to reflect on the best books I read the year before and the lessons I learned from each.
These are my five favorite books (other than the Bible!) from 2018 and a major takeaway from each. Let me know some of the books that made the greatest impression on you last year!
1. Theories of Development: Contentions, Arguments, Alternatives (2015)
by Richard Peet and Elaine Hartwick
This is a textbook worth reading regarding the most current theories of development. Peet and Hartwick distinguish at the beginning the difference and interaction between “growth” and “development.” Then, the majority of the book is broken into conventional theories of development (classic, Keynesian economics, modernization) and non-conventional (Socialism, Poststructuralism, Feminist theories). The final segment of the book explores alternative views of development applying a critical modernist eye.
They conclude that the world needs a democracy that is “radical, reproductive, and participatory” that leads to a development “using production to meet the needs of the poorest people.” I recommend this book only if you are a serious student of global development. It gives a good broad overview of past, current, and potential development theories but left me lacking in the conclusions drawn.
2. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (2018)
by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund
From the very beginning of the book, Rosling challenges the reader to look at the world through a different lens—a “factfulness” lens. His premise is a hopeful one: The world is becoming a better place, and his data backs up what he says. He wants us to throw out the classifications “underdeveloped” and “developed” when looking at the world and instead talk about life on four income levels. Rosling uses a quiz at the beginning of his book to show how misperceptions dominate our thoughts about the world. Then, he encourages us to change the way we view it. It is a thought-provoking book that I will share a bit more about in upcoming blogs. If you only read one book on the state of the world this year, I highly recommend this one.
3. Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2017)
by Thomas Piketty (translated from French by Arthur Goldhammer)
This is a challenging book for an economics novice like myself. It is also a disturbing book based upon Piketty’s observations and predictions regarding capitalism. He does a great job of discussing income and capital and the dynamics of their relationship in the first half of his book before diving into what he sees as the greatest threat: the growth of inequality in all capitalistic systems. I don’t agree with everything he says but I appreciate that he offers some potential steps toward regulating capital in the final chapter. His goal is not the destruction of capital but a more fair and equal share of the benefits for all involved. Again, a challenging but worthwhile read!
4. Grant (2017)
by Ron Chernow
This was one of my “guilty pleasure” reads for 2018. Prior to reading, I didn’t recall much about the life of Ulysses S. Grant other than the typical stereotypes I had considered gospel truth. Chernow’s book opened my eyes to several new aspects of Grant—his personality, personal demons, amazing leadership skills, and humble lifestyle. As Walt Whitman wrote in praise of Grant, “What a man he is! What a history! What an illustration—his life—of the capacities of that American individuality common to us all.” I thoroughly enjoyed Chernow’s account of Grant and highly recommend it to the history buffs out there.
5. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (2006)
by Sandy Tolan
This was one of those “pick it up and try it” books for me. I didn’t know the author or the book but was intrigued by the story. It turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the year! It tells the story of two families and one house. One is an Arab family that is dispossessed from their home. The other is a Jewish family that flees Europe and the Holocaust and comes to the “promised land,” where they are given a house they didn’t build with gardens they didn’t plant. In the middle of the garden, there is a lemon tree. The book centers around the relationship that develops between the families and their love for the land and the house. It also deals with differing opinions and claims of ownership. The best part: This is a true story with interviews and quotes from those involved. If you want to better understand the modern day conflict in the Middle East from a fairly neutral perspective, I highly recommend this book to you.
6. The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God (1997)
by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
I know, I know. This is number six and I only said five. But I just had to include this one. This is one of my all-time favorite modern spiritual classics. If you long to have a closer walk with God, if there is a stirring in your spirit for something deeper in this life, I highly recommend Curtis and Eldredge’s book. Enough said.
So, what are your favorite reads of 2018? What did you learn and why should someone else pick them up too? I would love to hear from you and get some new ideas for my reading wish list!
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