Top Ten Books of 2019

Just like I did back for 2017, this is a list of what I thought were the best books I read in 2019. Note that these are usually not printed in 2019, this is just when I happened to read them. For a list of all the books I read in 2019, go here. It’s not quite the New Year anymore, but it is still close to the Lunar New Year! Looks like it’s the start of the Year of the Rat. Anyway, here goes:

10. The Big Picture: 11 Laws that will change your life by Tony Horton

While this was definitely an inspiring read, and it really pumped me up while I was reading it, I have to admit I don’t remember much about it, so it didn’t really stick with me. When I went online to look the book up though, I did recall a good bit of insight and suggestions. Pretty much just made the top 10 because I didn’t read too many books last year.

9. The Blue Zones Solution: eating and living like the world’s healthiest people by Dan Buettner

This was a great read, and extremely actionable. Even though many of the ideas discussed were more designed for communities as a whole to implement, there was a good bit of stuff that we can apply to our day-to-day even in a more typical urban American area. Definitely worth a look.

8. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This was a fantastic book. The two sequels were pretty grand as well, though I didn’t want to put all three of them on the top 10 list and crowd out some other books that might have been more interesting. This trilogy also went downhill a bit; in particular I wasn’t terribly satisfied with how the ending wrapped up in The Book of Life. But A Discovery of Witches is well worth picking up.

7. The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

This was a really engaging read; I read it entirely in a single day. While the subject matter might be a bit “fluffy” (it’s about rich ladies in New York City in the middle of the 20th century), I did enjoy reading it.

6. All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

An excellent, well-put-together novel. This follows two protagonists as they interact with one another and their respective worlds (one has powerful natural magic on her side, and the other is a brilliant hacker) over their childhoods into their lives as young adults. All-around a good read.

5. Mindwise: why we misunderstand what others think, believe, feel, and want by Nicholas Epley

Another great read, this one had a lot of insights into how we might be misled about others’ body language, emotions, or other ways that we “mindread.” Introduced mostly from the social science side, citing quite a few interesting studies alongside anecdotes or mental exercises, this is another book that didn’t disappoint.

4. Psychology: A Crash Course by Paul Carlslake and Razwana S. Quadir

This is from a series of “Crash Course” books — I also have Philosophy: A Crash Course on my bookshelf and I’m looking forward to reading it — the format and presentation is very well thought-out. I learned a great deal about the field and history of psychology in a rather quick read.

3. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

This one packed quite a punch, disabusing quite a few “common sense” notions that we have about negotiation and how to get our way while maintaining good relationships, or even improving them. I am in general a rather poor negotiator, so I really appreciated what I got out of this book.

2. The Art of Risk: the new science of courage, caution and chance by Kayt Sukel

Another rather engaging read that well balanced personal anecdotes with a great deal of scientific case studies, this book argues that many of us could stand to take more risks in our daily lives, and that in general we might see improved outcomes over “playing it safe” all the time. I definitely enjoyed the anecdotes, and appreciated the general message.

1. The Net and the Butterfly: the art and practice of breakthrough thinking by Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack

This was another fantastic book, full of both anecdotes and well thought-out patterns, along with historical asides (how did Einstein come up with his grand ideas?). A riveting read, and one that I came away from quite inspired, with a lot of actionable steps to take.

And that’s a wrap! Hopefully you came away from the list with a few books that you might pick up yourself. Happy New Year!

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