My Year in Books: 2019

This is just a rapid-fire summary of the books I've read this year and what I thought about them. Note that the links in here are affiliate links. Any profit will be donated to the Amazon Conservation Association, in the rare event people read this and buy a book. Without further ado.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Became one of my favorite fantasy books. Very interesting magic system, world, and narration style. If Mary Sues bother you, then maybe steer clear.

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke

I'm not one to demand my sci-fi to be hard, but this book seemed more like mysticism than sci-fi. Pretty slow with a disappointing finale.

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

Pitch: improve your focus and energy through bio-hacking. Reality: seemed like mostly pseudoscience to me.

Body by Science by Doug McGruff

Really interesting book on a different method of weight training. The methodology has stuck with me and I believe it works, but looking into some of the papers the book cites, I later realized the interpretation in the book ranged from generous to misleading. So take the studies with a grain of salt, but I've personally seen results with the system.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Fascinating recounting of the Theranos story, from the same guy that first broke the story . I hadn't realized just how big the scale of their deception was until reading this.

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The sequel to The Name of the Wind, and every bit as good as the first.

The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky

All about the "messy middle" of running a company, specifically a startup. Interesting read; some non-obvious and counterintuitive bits of advice. Whether it's useful stuff, who knows, I haven't had the opportunity to find out yet.

Pandora's Lab by Paul A. Offit

Fun book about seven mistakes in the history of science, from the opioid epidemic to DDT. Also talks briefly about the negative effects of aggressive cancer screening, an argument I had never heard before.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

Pretty forgettable book. I thought the idea sounded really cool, but the execution fell flat. None of the "tales from the afterlife" grabbed me, save for one that posed an interesting thought experiment, regarding resurrecting as a "lower" species.

Principles by Ray Dalio

An overly-long book interspersed with new and interesting ideas, mostly in the realm of the office and how communication should work. Could have been cut down to a third of the size and I'd happily recommend it, but it's just too long.

If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens.. Where is Everybody? by Stephen Webb

Covers some of the potential reasons we haven't found intelligent life in the cosmos. Some arguments seemed stronger than others, but overall a very thought-provoking book, and I know much more about our search for intelligent life than I did before.

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Gives a pretty good background on Elon Musk and a couple of his companies, primarily SpaceX. As someone who likes to keep up to date with his companies, it was great to get some background and come away with a bit more understanding of Elon himself.

We Have No Idea by Jorge Cham

A book on some of the things we still don't know about the universe. Not a bad book, but never really drew me in and I can't really recall any of its points.

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

Can't really remember much of this one besides that it was somewhat dissapointing and took a lot of willpower to get through.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh used to run a blog with bad but hilarious drawings, some of which went viral, like The Alot Monster. Allie stopped writing for a while, and later revealed she had been struggling with depression. This is a book about her struggle, about her childhood, and her messed up dogs. Very short read, very worth it – both for the laughs and the eye-opening perspective on depression.

Skulduggery Pleasant 2-5 by Derek Landy

I read the first Skulduggery Pleasant book when I was 12, and jumped back into the series. They were exactly what I wanted – feel-good, entertaining fantasy.

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Very well-researched book on what factors lead to high-performing groups. Unlike a lot of business books there were very actionable pieces of advice in here, that I've tried to take into the office.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer

A book on making small changes. I think this is a good read for most Americans, where making "big moves" has been romanticized over the small wins.

Peak by Anders by K. Anders Ericsson

Research on expertise and how to acquire it, from the leading expert in the field. Some actionable insights that I try to apply in my work and when learning new skills.

The Fifth Science by Exurb1a

Honestly I can't remember much at all about this book, but I gave it 4 stars on goodreads so it must have been pretty good.

The Three Body Problem (and sequels) by Cixin Liu

Full of strange science and food for thought. Thought it went a bit off the rails in the third book, but a very good series.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Feel-good self-help book, can't remember much about the takeaways.

Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden

Lesser-known book that I grabbed while rushing for a flight. Covers the current research on recovery, the takeaway is, roughly, that no popular recovery methods reall works, and that athletes should just sleep more and not overdo it.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Dialogue-heavy romance that follows two friends from highschool through college. Liked it well enough, not memorable except for its unique style.

SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

I was a huge fan of the first Freakonomics book, but this one fell a bit flat. Whereas the first book got me to start thinking about the world in terms of incentives, this book didn't seem to have a central theme, just a handful of spurious, sometimes interesting, correlations.

Educated by Tara Westover

Incredible book, deserves all the praise it has received. Besides the captivating story, it's probably the most well-written book I've ever read.

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

Romance about a girl that runs away and becomes a prostitute. Becomes jaded with men, but then predictably finds someone that changes her mind. Liked the book for the unusual perspective.

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Wanted to read something outside by usual realm, I appreciated the (for me) new perspective, but I can't say I came away with anything from it.

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaardner

Gave a good history of philosophy and how it has evolved. I could have done without the story of Sophie, but then I guess it would have been more a textbook than a novel.

PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Book about a woman struggling with the loss of her husband. Good read, not too memorable.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Fascinating book about how cultures differ morally. Also covers the moral differences between liberals and conservatives. I think a lot of people would benefit from reading this; seeing what the "other side" values was pretty eye-opening.

Watchmen by Alan Moore

First graphic novel that I've read, I didn't end up being a fan of the format, but I did like it.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Lighthearted book about a man accidentally taking on the role of Death (or rather, a Death). Quick and entertaining read.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Bit repetitive, but came away from this with a more intuitive understanding of how assets, wealth, income, and expenses should fit together. Got me thinking more about how to get assets to generate wealth.

The Book on Rental Property Investing by Brandon Turner

Hugely informative, ended up buying a rental property after reading through this book.

The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang

Won't risk getting too political, but I found the research in here to be very interesting.

Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

Very dissapointing book actually, came away with one tip for improving my memory, but that could have been a couple sentences.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar

A romance in a sci-fi setting, with a very unique presentation.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Cal Newport makes a compelling case for rethinking our relationships with social media. Ended up changing a lot of my digital habits after reading.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald J. Robertson

I've always wanted to learn more about stoicism, and this book fit the bill perfectly. Also really appreciated the "stoic exercises".

How to Live on Twenty Four Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett

Really old book on productivity. Read like most self-help books, but the anachronisms were a great highlight.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Pretty standard young adult fantasy, complete with handsome brooding love interest and girl with powers she doesn't understand.

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

Had really high hopes for this book, maybe the only book I've pre-ordered, but came away very disappointed. Kind of all over the place, and some of the pieces of advice didn't seem very well researched.

Elite Minds by Stan Beecham

Rambling, self-contradictory book, didn't get much out of it.

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

Interesting take on a matrix-style future where all humans get their own worlds. Great book, but not one of Brandon Sanderson's best in my opinion.

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

A weird and engrossing book about a long-term affair and the psychological ramifications it had for her daughter.

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

Finished this 544-page book in a single flight. Amazing worldbuilding and plot, but the main character is what really makes it special. I've never felt a character's emotions and drive more viscerally than in this book. Makes me want to go learn how to swordfight.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Soft fantasy book that has a unique narration style, where smaller fairytales weave their way into the main story. I found the tales interesting and the worldbuilding was cool, but the characters fell very flat for me, particularly the protagonist.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Powerful book written by the victim of the Stanford rape case. The inside look at how much victims have to go through, inside and outside of the courtroom, made this a powerful story. However, the writing style wasn't one that I like, being a bit more flowery and metaphorical than my standard fare.

Company of One by Paul Jarvis

Not the most well-written book, and could be much shorter, but the unique perspective that Paul Jarvis offers on how to view and run a business was refreshing.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Mostly a history of Derek Siver's company, CDBaby, this was a cool inside look at a company that was run differently from the start. Lots of respect for Derek Sivers for taking the path less trodden.

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