Franklin Hu

Best Books of 2018

I read a lot of books in 2018 (43!) and put together a list of my favorites!

Overall I feel good about how diverse the authors have been. Mid-year, I started reading ebooks through the local libraries, and it’s been frustrating that more often than not, non-fiction books written by white men on my reading list are available, but it’s impossible to find the ones by women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups. I’m planning on putting a bit more effort (and money) toward getting a hold of those titles this next year, so we’ll see how that goes!

General Non-fiction

Daring Greatly, Brené Brown

Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and presents a vocabulary for talking about vulnerabilty and why its important psychologically. Highly recommend this for leaders and managers out there. There's also a TED talk that hits the highlights.

Notes on a Thesis, Tiphaine Rivière

If you know any grad students or people who hang out with them a lot, this is a perfect gift. Rivière was able to capture the ups and downs of grad life (advisors! department politics! getting out of bed!) in a hilarious and horrifyingly accurate way.

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, and Future, Lauren Redniss

This might look like a childrens' book, but Redniss has intricately woven together stories and histories of different kinds of weather with beautiful illustrations. Fun!

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel

I was fortunate enough to both read this and see the stage production this year! It's a dark, funny, excellently illustrated coming-of-age, coming out story that tugs at the heartstrings.


I read more historical books this last year. Most of these were focused on Asia since I've been curious about how we've gotten into our current geopolitical...situation and reading history felt like the way to gain a better understanding of how these civilizations coalesced their respective values that are so different from "The West."

Black Wind, White Snow, Charles Clover

This is a heavy one that details the rise of nationalism—particularly Eurasianism—in Russia by focusing on three major figures that contributed to the development of the concept.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang

Story of three generations of women, starting in Northern China/Manchuria pre-Japanese occupation and continuing all the way through to the 1980s. It's told through an anecdotal or memoir-style lens, and also a heavy read.

Foundations of Chinese Civilization: The Yellow Emperor to the Han Dynasty (2697 BCE - 220 CE), Jing Liu

A crash course in Chinese history in graphic novel form! It's the first of four volumes, and I'm excited to get to the rest of them this coming year.


Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee

It takes a chapter or two to figure what on earth all the jargon is, but I loved Lee's world building around a pseudo-mathematical "calendrial systems" that underpin the physics and laws of the imagined universe.

Lolita, Vladamir Nabokov

The narrator is a psychopath (as you're probably aware), the plot is super uncomfortable, and I've still yet to encounter an author that constructs as beautifully delicate of prose.

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

This one hits hard with the second-generation immigrant experience feels. It's rare to see these parts of myself in books and that makes it all the more special when it happens.

Lumberjanes: Vol. 6-8, Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes is always a joy with its whimsy and adventure. Super curious to see how the live-action movie turns out.