2018 Reading Challenge

My goal is to read 60 books this year in order to develop a a broader, deeper knowledge base, expand my thinking about the world, and improve the “life of my mind.”

Throughout 2017, numerous books and interviews challenged me to focus my information consumption on higher-value sources. Several books (including, most recently, The Black Swan) highlighted the shortcomings of our rapid-response, minimal-thought news cycle. Furthermore, the example of key intellectual figures such as Adam Robinson, Tyler Cowan, Josh Waitzkin, Nasir Taleb, and others1 encouraged me to broaden my reading patterns and go deeper, intellectually.

Enter Tim Challies. His popular blog has posted an annual reading challenge for several years, designed to “help you read more and to broaden the scope of your reading.” I picked it up and have begun checking off some of the titles on the list. My goal is to read 60 books in total this year; I’m using this list as a guide, in no particular order, to expand the scope of what I’m reading. I am tracking my reading progress on this page.

A brief update on the books I’ve read thus far:

by David McCullough

Deserves the hype (and I should have heeded this and read it sooner). An exceptional biography of a fascinating man. I learned a lot about what faithful leadership looks like and was challenged in how I view my own ambitions, moral values, and family life.

by N.T. Wright

Wright takes on the topic of sanctification (and discipleship) by asking, “How should a Christian live?”. This is both a theoretical, philosophical investigation of Christian ethics (Wright finds an expanded form of Aristotlean virtue ethics in the Scripture, particularly the New Testament) as well as a practical prescription for how one should apply these ethics to daily living and growth in Christ. His winsome prose at times gets old, but the content is solid and this book should definitely be on the reading list for anyone seriously interested in why we ought to live a certain way or in ethics as a philosophical topic.

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Paradigm-shifting book, particularly for anyone who spends a lot of time dwelling statistics or data. One of the top five most influential books on how I think about the world around me. Taleb is a model intellectual—a well-read, cosmopolitan thinker with practical experience in the real world. This book shines as the culmination of decades of study into planning for and capitalizing on unpredictable events.

by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

One book that pulls together a wealth of “best practices” from other books, TED talks, research studies, and top performers. This book is aimed at identifying the key habits and tactics that will optimize your health, productivity, creativity, and effectiveness. On the surface, this sounds a bit cheesy, and this book took a lot of work to pull off. But the result is a well-written, thoroughly researched book that both provides background information and easy-to-use application tasks. Highly recommended.

by Michael Hyatt

This is a good summation of a lot of useful ideas around productivity, planning, and optimizing performance. I particularly liked Hyatt’s approach of starting your planning cycle by debriefing past experiences and working through regrets. His take on SMARTER goals is clever too: A SMARTER goal is Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting, and Relevant. Good book and short, too.

  1. I was introduced to most of these through the exceptional long-form podcasts Conversations with Tyler and The Tim Ferriss Show)