This post is long overdue, but I’ve been wanted to review the books I read in 2019. I read a wide range of books and topics. All of the books I read in 2019 were non-fiction. Many books are often in the self-help and business space. Here are the books I read and some of my takeaways from each.
By Edward Snowden
I really enjoyed this read. Ed really opened my eyes to so much about how independent contracting in the government works. He put a lot into perspective about the secrets he kept and ultimately what drove him to his decision to share. Reading this book I was torn between trying to decide what the right thing to do is. On one hand, I understand the value of government security, but on the other, I value the privacy of our lives. I truly believe Snowden acted on good intent and I admire his courage and meticulous consideration in his decisions. The internet is a fascinating tool that we all take for granted, but taking for granted such a tool opens up to so many vulnerabilities and abuse.
By Penn Jillette
This book was hilarious! Penn really captivated and made the discipline of changing your diet seem relatively trivial. But he definitely didn’t sugar coat it. He transitioned to a vegan diet and dramatically changed his health. I love his “I don’t care what other’s think attitude” and something I hope I can learn to adopt more in my life. A thought shared to make you think about: A common question for vegans is “Where do you get your protein?”. In Jillette’s response, have you looked at the muscles of a horse? And realize horses don’t eat meat. In reality, the proteins we “need” are actually generated by our own body’s through amino acids that we get from plants. And the proteins we consume from animals is just broken down into amino acids to create the proteins are the body’s need. Eating plants cut right to the source. End thought.
The Making of a Manager
By Julie Zhuo
Written by an earlier designer of Facebook, turned manager, I loved the candidness and honesty that Zhuo shares about being a manager. Like so many things, it takes practice to get good at it and much like managing, you don’t start as a great manager, it’s a process. I love her thoughts about communication between your team and the importance of trust and delegation. The goal of a manager isn’t to be the best manager, but to support your team to be the best they can be in their roles.
I Will Teach You to Be Rich
By Ramit Sethi
Don’t let the title of this book think it’s a bunch of marketing BS. This book was straight to the point about the importance of how to think differently about money. Sethi shares so many valuable tips about focusing on more important ways to make money. Yes, you can save money by not spending $5 a day on a latte, but it’s a tough discipline. Often you can make calls to all your credit cards, loans, mortgages and ask for lower rates. A series of tasks that can be handled on a single day often will save you more money than not drinking those $5 lattes. Additionally, Sethi really made it easier for me to understand the different vehicles of investments. Immediately finishing this book I set up a Roth IRA and automated monthly contributions. There are so many financial nuggets in this book.
Stillness is the Key
By Ryan Holiday
I’ve enjoyed Ryan’s books The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy so I was equally as excited to read this book. While I enjoyed this read, it’s not as good as the first two books I read. In the fast-paced world, we live in, taking the time to appreciate what’s around you and breathing in the moment is really calming. In my continue practice to mindfulness, there’s a lot to learn from in this book. However, I think if you’re looking for a book on mindfulness, I highly recommend his book “The Daily Stoic”. I have this book in my bathroom which is a constant daily reminder to slow down, enjoy today and keep practicing.
The Denial of Death
By Ernest Becker
I will forewarn you, this book is dense but enlightening. Often it takes me days after reading pages in this book for me to have realizations of what he’s written. Death is one of those topics we really don’t talk much about, but it’s one thing that inevitable for all of us. After my mother’s aneurysm in late 2018 and her brush with death, I couldn’t help but think more about “what is death”? Why are we so afraid of death? I found myself fortunate to be nearly 37 years old (at the time of this writing) and still have all my aunts, uncles, grandparents and parents in my life. There’s no way to prepare for the emotions of death, but looking at death as a result of the existence of something beautiful provides some peace to the inevitable.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Dale Carnegie
I don’t know what took me so long to read this, but I’m glad I finally did. This classic book is humbling and so full of valuable lessons on nearly every page. I love the simple things this book such as the value of smiling to how to be a good listener. We all want to be better humans and many times we may focus too much inward, but often being a better human is the ability to lift others up. There are so many different approaches to relationships with others that can help not just achieve your goals, but the goals of those around you. This book is so much more than a business book, this is a life book.
The E-Myth Revisited
By Michael E. Gerber
Wow was this book amazing! Spoiler alert, the e-myth is the entrepreneurial myth that so many of us face. Understanding that a business owner is actually three different people, the technician, the manager, and the entrepreneur really puts things in perspective what goes through so many of us running a business. Learning the importance of systems and processes is evident in this read. It’s something we all talk about, but understanding that what you’re trying to do as you create a business is about creating a successful process of providing goods and services to others. For anyone already running a business or thinking about starting one, this book is a must-read.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions
By Stephen Hawking
In this posthumous publication by the great cosmologist Stephen Hawking, I adored this book. I found many of his thoughts rational and thought-provoking. The older I get, the more I realize how little we know and yet at the same time how much we humans have learned. I love science for the fact that it’s an every evolving practice built upon the rich studies and experiments to those that come before us. There is so much that we take for granted each and every day and the fact that we can even conceive questions of this magnitude is truly powerful. I respect the lifetime of research and thoughts that went into Mr. Hawking’s responses to these questions. I have a great deal of gratitude for his work.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century
By Yuval Noah Harari
This was the perfect follow up to Harari’s first two books, Sapiens, and Homo Deus. I thoroughly enjoyed all of Harari’s books, but this one was an honest reflection on the future of our species. Much like his first two books, this will make you think. It will make you question things and it’ll give you new perspectives on who we are. I think there’s more fear than optimism and hope in life then there should be. I’ve learned so much about history from Harari than I can recall during my adolescent years. I think we need to embrace what is to come and not live a life of nostalgia. I think it’s often lost that quality of life for humans has improved over the centuries. And while yes, there are things to concern ourselves about, I think there’s more to look forward to. Maybe I’m hopefully optimistic or maybe there’s a lot to be discovered.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
By Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
As with all the previous books by the founders of Basecamp, this is an easy read and really breaks the mold of the insanity that is often portrayed in the work environment. Maybe I aspire to create a culture similar to that at Basecamp or maybe the reality is there’s so much more to work than work. As someone who runs a similar business to a former business of Fried and Hansson, I think their approach to business is simply beautiful. Their Stoic culture can sometimes seem counterintuitive, but I think this is a mature way to look at a healthy work environment. I will continue to read the books these guys put out. Slow down at work, it’ll be there tomorrow. Make work enjoyable and enjoy life.
By James Altucher
I’ve always enjoyed James’ candid interviewing approach through his podcast and I was excited to read this book. To be honest, it wasn’t my favorite read. I think there’s a lot to learn from James’ decisions in life, successes and failures alike. If there’s one thing I love about Altucher is his humility. He admits much that many of us may be afraid to. My struggle with this book as it felt like it covered too much. Either way, I think there are plenty of lessons learned from this book. It’s a 3 out of 5 star read for me. I might be semi-biased given a lot of what he’s put into this book has come through years of his podcast, but maybe he did a great job summarizing his thoughts in a collective self-help book.
I hope to make this an annual tradition of reviewing the previous year’s books read. I’m curious if you’ve read any of the books above and your thoughts on them. And if you have any recommendations based on my previous reads, please share!