My favourite books of the 2010s

  1. War and Peace: it sounds silly to say that War and Peace is underrated, but I think it is. Because it’s famously long, a lot of people imagine it’s also hard going — but it’s actually very accessible: gripping plot, beautiful prose and some of the best drawn characters in literature
  2. The Quincunx: it’s a shame how few people know this remarkable novel; set in Victorian England, it’s an astonishingly ambitious (and very long) story of a man who comes to believe he has been cheated out of a fortune. It’s rich and complex, but extremely readable.
  3. The Kingdom: my favourite novel of 2018, the Kingdom is unlike anything I’ve ever read — part memoir, part history, part imaginative retelling of the story of St Paul. It’s beautiful, thought provoking and ultimately uplifting.
  4. The Three Body Problem trilogy: What happens when humans make contact with aliens — and it turns out to be a terrible mistake? I liked the opening volume when I first read it, but the sequels transformed it into something magnificent. One of the most ambitious works I’ve encountered — and quite unlike any Western sci-fi I’ve read.
  5. The Magus: The story of a man who falls in love on a Greek island and is drawn into an ever more bizarre and dangerous series of events by his lover’s mysterious guardian. I think I read this in 2010 or 2011 and it’s one of the most intoxicating and atmospheric books I’ve ever read. I often find myself thinking back to particular passages almost ten years later.
  1. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes — an extraordinary account of the physics, politics and personalities behind one of the seminal moments in human history.
  2. The English and their History by Robert Tombs— a comprehensive yet concise history of England that traces the development of its constitution and character over the last millennium — and shows how persistent the core themes and clashes have been over that span.
  3. The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich — the case for cultural evolution — i.e. “culture is smarter than you are” — as one of the core drivers of our species’ success (see more here).
  4. Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch — the story of perhaps the biggest turning point in European history — and the period that I believe is most important to understanding political and cultural strife in the West today.
  5. Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt — an account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, and one of the most important meditations on the nature of evil and the challenge of resisting it.

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Co-founder of Entrepreneur First — investing in the world’s most ambitious individuals to build companies from scratch

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Matt Clifford

Matt Clifford

Co-founder of Entrepreneur First — investing in the world’s most ambitious individuals to build companies from scratch