Sara's top non-fiction reads of 2018


For anyone who teases me about how much I read (you know who you are), may I quote Silicon Valley investor extraordinaire Naval Ravikant (paraphrased by Tim Ferriss) who says 'Reading (learning) is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else." Hear hear. Below is a list of my favourite non-fiction books of 2018, in no order. They've set the bar high for 2019.


Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

Ferriss, Timothy

Probably my favourite book of the year. I was late to the party on this one. So much more soulful than I expected and so much wisdom. I loved the division of the book into Healthy, Wealthy & Wise. I read it twice and then went through it a 3rd time making notes in Evernote. When I’m feeling defeated or plain lazy, I go through my notes and they kick me up the ass. Thank you Tim!


Code of the Extraordinary Mind, The

Lakhiani, Vishen

I LOVED THIS BOOK. For someone still steeped in ‘Brules’ (bullsh*t rules) aged 40, this really helped me to decided what models of reality I want to live within. It also helped me solve the endless conflict between pushing oneself towards BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) and yet being happy in and grateful for the now. An insanely practical and uplifting book.


Man's Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

Viktor E Frankl

This was by a mile the most frequently recommended by the many wise men and women in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors. Don’t do what I did and read it poolside. It is a devastating account of Auschwitz and a remarkable thesis of how man can find meaning and purpose by suffering nobly through the most unimaginable horrors.  


Choose Yourself!

James Altucher, Dick Costolo

The best thing about this book was that James Altucher self-published so he could say EXACTLY what he wanted with no publisher to reign him in. I loved this witty, practical and poignant book. I also loved his idea of list-making to generate ideas or more accurately, build up the idea muscle.


Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life

Arianna Huffington

Gorgeous. What a worthy book to write. My favourite section, on Wonder, reminded me how lucky I am to have children: the lens of wonder through which they view the world is something we all need much more of. Plus she writes about the joy and significance of coincidences. I love coincidences and believe they are life’s way of showing us that the seeming randomness is in fact perfect design! Her case-studies on this are spine-tingling.


Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

Kamal Ravikant

Oh my lord. What a beautiful little book. I love myself. Three words we’ve never been taught to say in sequence, and so powerful. Read it!


10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story

Harris, Dan

This book is hilarious and irreverent. While Dan Harris is busy being horrified by anyone with a soupçon of spirituality after his live-on-air breakdown, he quietly has his own epiphany and makes wonderful sense of the vagaries of the mind. Hugely enjoyable – and useful.


The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Pressfield, Steven

Speaks to the ridiculous and constant fear that most of us creatives have of actually creating. Procrastination: guilty as charged. Writing this blog post is my way of delaying putting pencil to sketch-pad.


Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work

Steven Kotler, Jamie Wheal

I’m halfway through this fabulous book on the true potential of humans to achieve altered, higher states of consciousness that can transform our lives (many of these states are heavily discouraged by church, state and the medical profession).


Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World

Ferriss, Timothy

I found this book harder going and less obviously commercial than Tools of Titans but it’s a great read of life advice from many incredibly cerebral people (probably why I found it harder going!!)


The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Julia Cameron

This book is best-known for its suggestion of ‘morning pages’ – 3 pages of freehand writing first thing in the morning on whatever is bothering you, to act as mental windscreen wipers. Many highly successful creatives believe this process to be magical in its ability to unblock the mind.



The Dirt Cure

Maya Shetreat-Klein MD

One of the most important health books I have EVER read. Listen to her wonderful interview on the Goop podcast. I have recommended this book to everyone. It’s ostensibly about the effects of diet on kids (she’s a paediatric neurologist who’s also now a functional medicine practitioner) but it is devastatingly insightful on the toll that today’s heavily processed diets, obsession with sanitation and antibiotics have on our health.


Food: WTF Should I eat?

Dr Mark Hyman

All I can say is you owe it to yourself to read this book, especially if you live in the US where the FDA's efforts to protect its citizens leave a lot to be desired and you will likely have to do a lot more self-policing of all your food. It's a great and hugely sensible approach to nutrition and food as medicine. Hyman agrees with Shetreat-Klein (above) that we should pay our farmers before we pay our doctors.


Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks

Dave Asprey

This plan is a hardcore lifestyle adjustment – too hardcore for me. But Asprey’s work on keeping our mitochondria healthy dovetails really well with ketogenic books like Dr Joe Mercola’s Fat For Fuel book, and it contains really practical advice for removing environmental stressors from our lives (eg, junk light and junk noise; explains why Westfield is so draining) and for the most effective supplements we can take. There’s a lot of pushing of his own merchandise but I am now taking krill oil for Omega 3 because of him.



Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

Sinek, Simon

The classic must-read for any business owner – I dip into it every few months.


Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Catmull, Ed

I LOVED this story of Pixar and insight into how they fulfil the creative potential of their people. The sections breaking down how they improved the story-telling of their most famous movies were fascinating. A great read.


To Sell is Human

Pink, Daniel H.

My performance coach made me read this because I think selling is a dirty word – tricky when I own a business that sells product! Lots of useful tips on how adjusting one’s mindset can be so effective.


They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today's Digital Consumer

Sheridan, Marcus

I have made so many people read this. Written by a fibre-glass swimming pool salesman, it shows that just by starting with your customer and their needs and questions, and answering them, you can truly differentiate and grow your business.



Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman--Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual

Yvon Chouinard

A terrifying book from an environmental perspective but truly inspiring to read the words of a true visionary. His unyielding values informed everything from childcare policies to funding grassroots activism at this amazing brand.


Start Something That Matters

Mycoskie, Blake

Such a great read and such a great story by the founder of Toms. Again, a great example of a company with purpose and passion in every fibre.


Cradle to Cradle. Remaking the Way We Make Things (Patterns of the Planet)

Braungart, Michael

What a beautiful book and beautiful premise! Most of us are terrified by what the future holds for our planet, and abstinence from consumption seems the only option. Cradle to Cradle is a classic that lays out another path, working WITH nature and mimicking its abundance.


The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good

Ryan Honeyman

We are in the early stages of auditing ourselves on this great framework. Super, super practical and helpful and allows all sizes of companies to decide where and how to be ‘good’.


The Story of Green & Black's: How two entrepreneurs turned an ethical idea into a business success

Sams, Craig

A fab ride through the amazing story of Green & Black’s. Jo and Craig have done so much good for the societies that produce their cocoa.


Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

Diamandis, Peter H.

It’s always a huge relief to hear incredibly bright people being positive on the future of our planet and society. I loved this book and its look at everything from synthetic meat to vertical farms grown in tower blocks. Most reassuring though is its belief that exponential technological development will be at the core of the progress that saves us all, despite the ability of most of us to forecast exponentially at all.


Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Schultz, Howard

Given Mr Schultz is now a possible candidate for the next presidency, this is a must-read. His enthusiasm and civic-mindedness has shaped Starbucks and the growth story is incredible.



 Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Nosrat, Samin

An absolutely delightful book, gorgeously illustrated, which has transformed the way I cook and my understanding of the science of cooking. It’s really all about these 4 levers!


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Carreyrou, John

A great reminder of how NOT to run a company or lead people  – the true story of Theranos. How, how, how is this true?!!! Slightly obsessed by Elizabeth Holmes though – fascinating character!



Michelle Obama

Just divine. I love this woman. I couldn’t put it down.




Sara Madderson is founder and creative director of Madderson London. She loves history, literature, art and a good bottle of claret.
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