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10 Favorites from 2018

December 29, 2018

This year I want to highlight my favorites from 2018 across books, podcasts, music, and TV. In 2018 I became more interested in filling in the gaps in my historical knowledge, and you’ll see a lot of these favorites have some historical elements to them. In 2019, I have some gaps in my philosophy and classics to fill!

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

I kept hearing references to Adam Smith in economics podcasts I was listening to, so I decided to read the source directly. While many of his economics ideas are widespread now, like the use of GDP to measure wealth, I kept finding interesting historical anecdotes about how these ideas we take for granted got started (like paper currency). The combination of moral philosophy and economics in one book is hard to find today.

Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil

I found this in the 2017 Gates Notes:

Smil is one of my favorite authors, and this is his masterpiece. He lays out how our need for energy has shaped human history—from the era of donkey-powered mills to today’s quest for renewable energy. It’s not the easiest book to read, but at the end you’ll feel smarter and better informed about how energy innovation alters the course of civilizations.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Another book I found in the 2017 Gates Notes:

If you want a good understanding of how the issues that cause poverty are intertwined, you should read this book about the eviction crisis in Milwaukee. Desmond has written a brilliant portrait of Americans living in poverty. He gave me a better sense of what it is like to be poor in this country than anything else I have read.

The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman

I had just read an article about spy techniques, and realized I didn’t know much about how spies worked– so I searched and found this book. It’s based on interviews with the people directly involved in the most secretive spy operations in Berlin during the Cold War, and I recently learned that it will be made into a movie.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

This is a journalistic and personal story of how ISIS rose to power, and has a detailed portrait of its founder, Abu Musad Al-Zarqawi. It won a Pulitzer in 2015, and is also being made into a movie.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I was looking for an audio book that I could listen to on a series of long flights this year, and was recommended The Count of Monte Cristo primarily for its length. But the book is a classic for a reason, and I found myself sucked in to this ridiculous but very entertaining revenge story.

The Indicator by NPR

The funnier version of Planet Money, it’s a short daily economics podcast.

The Great British Baking Show

I’ve been baking desserts for a few years now, and got recommended this show because it’s a cooking show where the contests are nice to each other.

What Happened? by Gilligan Moss

My favorite musicians of 2018– I’ve been waiting for their album since their remix of Glass Animals’ Gooey, and they finally released a new EP this year. I saw them perform this album live before its release, and it was incredible! It’s hard to describe the music, but listen to it here

Radiolab by WNYC

Still one of the most experimental podcasts I listen to, exploring the interesting parts of science, history, politics, and more. My favorites this year were their podcasts about gender and The War of the Worlds.