My Most Influential Reads of 2018

Posted by Leslie Lau on

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This year has been the most active year of reading for me, ever. So as the calendar year draws to an end, I thought I'd put together a list of the books which had the most impact and resonance with me.

Selecting this list was more difficult than I first anticipated, but I've tried my best to keep the list as refined as possible, as to not overwhelm you and also avoid simply listing out all the books I've already reviewed in my Book Reviews section.

I've arranged this by category, for themes or influential figures who have had a significant impact on me as a person, and I've written a short summary of what to expect from the book(s) highlighted.

So with the introduction out of the way, here are my most influential reads of 2018.

 

Stoicism

Stoic philosophy has been extremely influential in my personal growth, especially in the last twelve months. When I am asked to describe stoic philosophy, I say that it is almost like a less-poetic, more immediately-practical representation of well-known eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, Taoism, etc.

If you take the underlying principles behind Stoicism, it teaches values and lessons which are very much akin to the key principles behind the major eastern philosophies. Interpret this how you will, but to me, this is a subtle indicator of common approaches to a prudence in human existence, no matter the cultural origin.

I credit my top picks to three of the famous stoic teachers in ancient history, sometimes known as the "big three" of Stoicism, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus:

Each has their own style of writing and delivery, from Marcus writing with himself as the intended audience, Seneca writing letters of advice to a young apprentice, and Epictetus with the feel of discourse between a teacher and student.

If you read one and the words resonate with you, the other two will certainly have the same effect.

Honourable mentions

I cannot speak of Stoicism without giving a nod to Ryan Holiday and his modern application of stoic philosophy. His writing provides an excellent entry point into understanding stoic philosophy; check out "Ego is the Enemy" and "The Obstacle is the Way" for a glimpse of his work.

 

Eastern Philosophy

When one speaks of eastern philosophy, they cannot close the conversation without mentioning the "Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu.

The way I would describe this book is a staple for the bedside table, a piece which is to be studied periodically, something to be opened at random and be reminded of the true essence of our existence.

The teachings in this ancient writing is a collection of  timeless wisdom, obvious from the many millennia the teachings have lived on and continue to be applicable to this day. See my book review of this masterpiece here.

Honourable mentions

A couple of titles where modern, western writers discuss and provide their perspective and experiences of ancient eastern philosophy which I thought were good reads, "The Undefeated Mind" by Alex Lickerman and "Why Buddhism is True" by Robert Wright.

 

The Pursuit of Excellence

I could easily have hundreds of titles under this category, but there are two books in particular which I found highly impactful; "Mastery" by Robert Greene and "Principles" by Ray Dalio.

Both very different books; where "Mastery" outlines some key factors to human excellence, highlighting some of the greatest figures in history as examples, "Principles" describes the life and work principles personally implemented by one of the most financially-successful men on the planet.

No honourable mentions in this category, as I mentioned, too many to list, but please have a browse through my Book Reviews where I've reviewed many titles under this category.

 

The Study of Human Nature

An extremely broad category and probably one of my favourites this year, but again, if I broke this down too far, I'd be recommending way too many books!

Perhaps two of the authors who have had a big influence on me through their work are Carl Jung and Yuval Noah Harari.

I really cannot express how profound Carl Jung's work is to my perspective on life. His pivotal work in establishing the Jungian method to psychotherapy is amazingly deep and insightful, and I personally feel he is one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century.

"Modern Man in Search of a Soul" and "Man & His Symbols" are two of the titles which were full of wisdom and resonated with me deeply.

The titles I read by Yuval Noah Harari were "Sapiens" and "21 Lessons for the 21st Century". He describes human history with such purity and objectivity, and also describes the state of humanity bluntly, conveying truth with great integrity and factuality. He does this through excellent story telling which is truly captivating to consume.

Honourable mentions

There are so many great titles which I have not mentioned here by notable authors such as Joseph Campbell, Steven Pressfield, Alan Watts, and Alain De Botton, just to name a few (see my book reviews where some of these may feature) but one title I must call out is "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. If you've not heard of this book, I encourage you to have a read of my review of this book here

 

Spirituality

Some of the best spiritual writing which I've read this year have been fictional works such as "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse and "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.

I think that good spiritual writing presented through fiction is a great embodiment of spiritual interpretation, representation, and expression, and these two titles are both beautiful tales.

Of course, I would also have to include the work of Eckhart Tolle, the titles which I read were "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth". Both life-changing texts which paint the beauty of life as it truly is, but also highlights the urgency required behind a global awakening.

***

It has been an amazing year of reading, one that began with the broad intention to consume knowledge, which has been gently guided by intuition down a more directed focus on the nurture of dormant, innate wisdom.

The year to come will be another of indulgence and intellectual discovery, and I am eager immerse myself and share the nuggets of wisdom I encounter along this beautiful journey.

If you've any questions about any of the books I've mentioned or would like some recommendations, feel free to get in touch. See below links for the book reviews for some of the titles I've mentioned in this post.

 

References

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