Yah, I know. I’m a bit late on this one.
While we may be a full two weeks into 2020, I’m still looking back on 2019. What went well, what went wrong, and what I learned.
And that includes my annual review of what books I enjoyed most this year.
While my 2018 library was solely dominated by nonfiction books, this year I actually managed to squeak in some fiction books as well. I’ve been making a concerted effort to read some literary classics, in an effort to understand why exactly they’re so popular.
Here are my 9 favorite books I discovered in 2019:
The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge
“Master, why do you continue to practice?” – Student “Because I’m making progress.” – Pablo Casals (Cellist), at 91 years old
This book, man. Wow.
This is a must-read for anyone who has a brain.
If you’ve ever felt down, depressed, addicted, different, damaged, broken, sad, weak, or any and all of the above, you simply must read this book.
The brain is an absolute marvel of creation. And we still know so little about it. But one thing is for sure, we need to stop placing so many restrictive limits on ourselves.
We are capable of so much more than we think. And this book is proof of that. It will shatter every preconceived idea and everything you thought you knew about your own mind.
The Food Explorer – Daniel Stone
“I am glad that I saw a few of the quiet places of the world before the coming of automobiles and jazz.” David Fairchild (Explorer, Botanist)
Food, travel and adventure. All neatly packaged into one (very true) story. What’s not to love?
The Food Explorer tells the story of David Fairchild, a young Botanist who quite literally transformed how North Americans eat. He dedicated his life to traveling the world in search of new fruits and vegetables that could be cultivated in America’s diverse landscape.
I learned a lot about food, world history and American politics.
It also gave me some new travel ideas. This world is just too big not to explore!
The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben
“Sometimes I suspect we would pay more attention to trees and other vegetation if we could establish beyond a doubt just how similar they are in many ways to animals.” – Peter Wohlleben (Author)
I have a friend who loves trees. Like, he never shuts up about them.
He would often recite tree facts to me regardless of the time of place. The woods and forests seemingly occupied his mind 24/7.
While I (almost) always enjoyed his inspired takes on our often overlooked plant friends, I never took the time to dig deeper on the topic myself.
And I’m glad I did. Trees are fascinating you guys.
Never Split the Difference – Chris Voss
“Our job as persuaders is easier than we think. It’s not to get others believing what we say. It’s just to stop them unbelieving.” – Chris Voss (FBI Hostage Negotiator)
This is legit one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.
The stories he shares are fascinating, and the strategies are actionable and practical in every facet of your personal and professional life.
10/10 give it a read!
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
“There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.” – Viktor E. Frankl
I have seen this book in many all-time favorite reading lists. I saw it so often, that I felt like I needed to see what the hype was about.
Man’s Search For Meaning is a deeply personal memoir of a psychiatrist who spent years in Nazi camps during World War II. The author, Victor Frankl, shares his theory of logotherapy, derived from the Greek word “logos”. (“meaning”) He argues that that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
Victor makes some great arguments, but ultimately fails to answer the question that concerns so many in this world: How do I find meaning in life?
The book is still a great read. In particular, it’s truly inspiring to see just how much pain and suffering man can endure once they do find their purpose in life.
1984 – George Orwell
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. ” – Excerpt from 1984
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t typically read fiction books. In the past, If I wanted fiction, I would watch a movie.
I made an exception for 1984 simply because I kept hearing it referenced in every medium imaginable. And I’m personally putting it in the nonfiction category because it barely qualifies as fiction.
And now, I finally understand all of the references!
It is startling just how much of George Orwell’s book was essentially prophecy for our time. Based on the content of his story, you’d think this book was written in 2009, not 1949.
It even makes you wonder if some nefarious individuals used this book as inspiration for their evil plans…
Contagious – Jonah Berger
“Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.” – Jonah Berger (Author)
Ever wonder why some products or ideas become popular, while others fade away into irrelevance?
Jonah Berger has, so he wrote a book about it.
Contagious is 100% a marketing book so, if you’re not interested in hearing about case studies viewed from the angle of an aspiring entrepreneur, you may want to skip this one.
But, if you’re struggling to sell a product or service, this book is the perfect for you. You’ll walk away with actionable tips to develop a product or service that is as contagious as the common cold.
Moonwalking With Einstein – Joshua Foer
“Somewhere in your mind there a trace from everything you’ve ever seen.” – Ed Cooke (Grand Master of Memory)
Do you remember where you put your car keys? Or that you need to pick up milk on your way home for work? Or that you have a doctors appointment tomorrow morning?
If you’ve watched the BBC’s Sherlock, you probably know what a “mental palace” is. (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it, but just make sure to only watch the first two seasons. It jumps the shark pretty hard after that.)
But building a powerful memory involves much more than memory palaces. And Joshua Foer does a great job of demonstrating that, like many things we presume to be simple genetics, memory is a learned ability. As such, anyone can do it.
In fact, Moonwalking With Einstein chronicles exactly how he went from complete memory noob to the American Memory Champion in just 1 year.
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
“How do you get so empty? Who takes it out of you?” – Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 for similar reasons I enjoyed 1984 so much.
For a book that was written so long ago, it seems to be almost prophetic in how it depicts a vapid, soulless society teetering on the brink of collapse. One that has forgotten what it truly means to live.
Ray Bradbury does a masterful job of helping us visualize the dystopian future he’s imagined. His ability to describe even the most minute of details as if it is of earth-shattering importance kept me fully engaged.
And this book gets bonus points for being a fairly short read. ????