• Mai Duc Nguyen

My Favorite Books of 2018 and 2019

As a fan of reading books and as a book author myself, I frequently look for new titles to add to my must-read list. Below are my favorite books of 2018 and 2019, and I would highly recommend them to anyone wishing to buy new books for professional or leisure reading purposes.

1, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, by Adam Tooze: In Crashed, Tooze describes in detail the political, economic and financial forces that drove the world economy into the great financial crisis ten years ago. Furthermore, he also successfully connects the Eurozone crisis in 2010 to the American housing market burst in 2008-2009, which many think are two independent events, and offers his thoughts on the way forward for the world's increasingly interconnected financial systems.

2, Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, by Serhii Plokhy: Chernobyl is an astonishing recall of one of the world's worst nuclear crises. Plokhy amazingly connects all the dots to help readers build a complete picture of the disaster, from unrealistic energy production objectives under the Soviet Regime, unwillingness of the Soviet Authorities to share truthful information about rising radioactive levels after the disaster, to the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Nationalism in Ukraine right afterwards.

3, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Max Tegmark: Life 3.0 is a strongly recommended read for people wishing to learn about the future of AI and machine learning. Tegmark outlines numerous, sometimes highly speculative, scenarios about the rise of the so-called "Superintelligence", how it may complement/ threaten humanity, as well as what political leaders and AI scientists must do to make sure that it peacefully coexists with and actively supports humanity.

4, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, by Adam Alter: Irresistible is the much-needed alarm in the digital age when substance addiction is increasingly replaced by what Alter calls "behavioral addiction". Unfortunately, many people neither realize that they are facing behavioral addiction nor are willing to stay away from it. Proposing that addiction is not always detrimental, Alter suggests interesting, easy-to-implement ways in which users of modern technology can use it to benefit themselves.

5, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling: Following an informal and data-driven writing style, in Factfulness, Rosling tries to convince readers that on a global scale, humanitarian progress is happening at a much faster pace than widely thought. In addition, he also shares stories in which the media distorted our fact-based worldview and tips on how we can think objectively about the world and its progress.

6, The Upstarts: Uber, AirBnB and the Battle for the New Silicon Valley, by Brad Stone: The Upstarts tells the stories of Uber and AirBnB from the time when they were founded, sought much-needed capital, fought against legal troubles to the time when they must find ways to overcome internal leadership challenges. The book is definitely helpful for those wishing to learn more about the rise of the so-called "Sharing Economy" and its byproducts.

7, Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, by Satya Nadella: When Nadella first accepted the offer to become Microsoft's CEO, he faced several internal and external challenges. Internally, he needed to find a vision for Microsoft's growth and a set of common values for Microsoft's employees. Externally, he needed to boost innovation within his company to catch up with other tech giants. In Hit Refresh, Nadella explains how he overcame these challenges, while, at the same time, fulfilled his duties as a father. Moreover, the CEO also makes predictions about the future of the tech industry.

8, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park: In Order to Live is a heart-breaking, emotional story of Park, a young woman who had no choice but to leave the brutal, highly corrupted regime of North Korea. During the journey, the strong Park and her mother encountered endless abuses, verbally, physically and mentally. The book calls for much-needed international actions to stop human trafficking and send humanitarian aid to underdeveloped communities around the world.

9, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou: Bad Blood exposes the shameful attitude of "Fake It Until You Make It" among startup founders in Silicon Valley. Focusing on the collapsed blood-testing startup Theranos, the book describes how greed, lies and irresponsible politics, when combined, can not only negative impact the entrepreneurs, but also hurt the innocent people of society.

10, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, by Melinda Gates: In my opinion, The Moment of Lift is among the greatest books about gender equality. Through statistics, personal stories and real-world examples, Gates demonstrates the sad fact that many girls and women in the world are still facing gender discrimination, at home, at work and at school. Holding a optimistic attitude, however, Gates devises simple steps that men, women, parents, schools, governments and NGOs can take to end the century-long problem of gender inequality.

11, When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi: Kalanithi, a medical doctor himself, wrote this book during the last days of his life, when he was fighting against cancer. When Breath Becomes Air is a reflection of Kalanithi's memories when he still was a doctor and must sometimes painfully inform patients of their deteriorating health. The book evokes a feeling of uncertainty and a fragile border between life and death, and it reminds readers to value every single second when they are still alive and can see their friends and family. Kalanithi passed away, but his optimism forever stays.

Want to learn more about Bill Gates’ list of favorite books? Watch this video on YouTube.

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