Good Reads: 2019 in Books

Row of books on their side

Here’s the list of books I read or re-read in 2019, in more-or-less chronological order. Unfinished books, either by lack of time or interest, have been omitted. I have included a rating from 0–5 and a couple of sentences on each.

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear, 2. A short read on forming habits, good insight into what drives our decisions. Recommended if you want to learn how to kick new habits into high gear. It’s really about becoming the type of person in which the behavior resonates, more than anything else. The authors advise not to form a habit of going to the gym but instead become a person who deems the health and fitness of high importance.
  2. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, 4. I read this book in 3 days; it was nearly impossible to put it down—what a story. One really can’t make this up.
  3. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, 3. A mind-bender, short (fictional) stories about supposed Einstein’s dreams, a fun read. Whenever I find myself getting too caught up in the current reality, I give a couple of chapters a read.
  4. Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, 2. Not bad, prioritizing 101; tactics for making time for what matters, relatively forgettable.
  5. High Output Management by Andrew Grove, 3. Mildly dated, however, very insightful about scaling systems and organizations. Each chapter required careful digesting.
  6. The Manual by Epictetus, 4. Massive wisdom in a small package, a modernized version of Epictetus stoic philosophy in concise, digestible chapters. This book has helped me realign my thoughts and expectations.
  7. The Order Of Time by Carlo Rovelli, 3. Another mind-bender about time as a general concept. It made me rethink a lot of carved assumptions about reality. Very fun to let the mind wander about the deep concepts Carlo postulates.
  8. It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work by Jason Fried and DHH, 2. Lightweight on new material compared to their other books, but I expected that. Surprisingly many still fail at the basics; this book is for them. Easy 60–90 minutes read.
  9. The Beggar King And The Secret Of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy, 4. Positive and motivating, excellent story-telling. This is one of those books that I found myself staying up too late reading.
  10. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, 4. My 4th time reading it, a classic and still excellent. Sure, the story is a little hard to believe (which is OK, it’s fiction after all), but it makes up with the life lesson it aims to teach us.
  11. Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 4. This is one of the source materials on flow states and focus. Excellent read, which I heavily highlighted and annotated. If you want to learn more about intrinsic motivation and the feeling of being: ‘in the pocket,’ give this one a read.
  12. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese, 3. Good read, touching, and sad. The second half of the books felt like it was written by a different author (I think this was actually the case), and it reads much better. This is the type of material that reminds me of how precious and passing life really is. I’ve been to Stanford Sierra Camp mentioned in the book, and it is indeed a remarkable place.
  13. The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker, 5. One of three 5’s on this list. Another heavily dated classic that is a must-read. Some books should be blog posts. This book should be an encyclopedia. Each chapter is packed with mounds of business and life advice.
  14. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter, 3. I did not expect much from this book, but it pleasantly surprised me. We each share some of the good, the bad, and the ugly described here about preconceived notions and ingrained behaviors— an eye-opener in certain situations.
  15. Algorithms To Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, 5. Another 5, this book is a fascinating read. The authors describe complex algorithms using everyday examples and analogies. I found the information in this book pairs really nicely with the concept of mental models and thinking from first principles.
  16. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, 1. Watered down, quick read, probably one of my least favorite. I pushed thru as I have been on a quest to reduce digital clutter and distractions.
  17. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, 3. I like books that make me rethink the way I feel about the world. Recommended if you are the kind of person who enjoys spirituality sans religion.
  18. Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin, 5. Eventually, I loved it, but not at first. It’s not an easy and engaging read, and definitely not what I was expecting. Peter essentially compiles quotes and speeches from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger into chapters. Each chapter then explores the mental models that serve as a foundation for their wisdom. I will probably be re-reading this book every couple of years. Also useful to pick out chapters at a time.
  19. This is Water by David Foster Wallace, 5+. David gave a commencement speech, which was later turned into a small book (verbatim).
    This is one that I re-read several times per year. A precious and beautifully written reminder to be grateful and live in the now. Wallace tragically took his own life a few years after he gave this rare speech. An absolute must-read, or listen.
  20. Good to Great by Jim Collins, 4. A solid read on a lengthy and comprehensive study of factors that make for truly great companies. This is a dense book, full of models and digestible advice.
  21. Awareness by Anthony De Mello and J. Francis Stroud, 3. This is technically a collection of lectures by Anthony De Mello. They are funny and entertaining, but definitely very woo-woo, new-age, self-help type of book. If you can get past that, it offers much needed stoic-like life advice.
  22. Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, 2. The authors interviewed more than seventy folks mentored by Bill Campbell. Campbell coached executives at Apple, Google, and many other multi-billion companies. He took: “no payment, no stock, and no crap.” There are definitely good lessons to be learned from this all-star coach. However, the content felt a bit repetitive. I am sure it’s one of those “you had to be there” to find it amazing type of things

Thanks for reading 🤗

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