With two kids under 3.5, it’s not always easy to carve out time to read but, as the saying goes, you find the time to do things that are important to you.
In 2019, I was able to read 18 books.
Of those 18, these were the best books I read in 2019.
Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
David’s childhood was a nightmare, but through self-discipline, mental toughness and hard work he transformed himself from a depressed, obese man into one of the world’s toughest men.
I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered someone who calloused their mind quite like David has. The book was mezmerizing throughout and, while I like to push myself, David will inspire you to take it to a whole other level. He’ll force you to stop making excuses and confront your weaknesses and desire for comfort.
Yes, the book is raw, and at times vulgar. I also speculate that David’s extreme approach does have adverse effects on his romantic, and other, relationships. All that said, if you are able to take up David’s mental approach, you too can become harder than woodpecker lips.
Atomic Habits – James Clear
I’m glad to report I was wrong.
James reveals exactly how, with the power of compounding, small changes can lead to life-altering outcomes. There’s nothing fluffy about this book. It’s a step by step guide to transforming your habits and, important for me, it’s scientifically supported by psychology and neuroscience fundamentals.
30 Lessons for Living – Karl Pillemer
Renowned gerontologist Karl Pillemer interviewed more than one thousand Americans over the age of sixty-five to gather their insights on life’s big issues. Things like: children, marriage, money, career, and aging.
I firmly believe we don’t spend enough time learning from our elders. These people have seen it all and are therefore more equipped to offer good life advice than some 20-something life coach on Twitter.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it delivered gems like:
It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
This book is a blueprint on how to avoid an unproductive work environment in which sustained exhaustion becomes a badge of honor. Jason and David introduce what they call “the calm company” and make the case that the answer to better productivity isn’t more hours – it’s less waste and fewer things that induce distraction and persistent stress.
What makes them the experts? Well, this approach has been the key to Basecamp’s success over the last twenty years.
I’ve long looked up to and borrowed from their approach. Every member of an organization’s leadership team should be required to read this book.
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
I rarely read fiction, but I really enjoyed this book about a curmudgeon whose attempts to kill himself keep getting interrupted.
As a curmudgeon myself, I certainly identified with that aspect, but also the protagonist’s fierce loyalty. And the importance of his moral code.
The book is simultaneously heartwarming, hilarious and sad. I laughed out loud multiple times.
Other Good Reads:
I also found Shane Parrish’s The Great Mental Models to be a great introduction to Mental Models and some of the most common general thinking concepts. A thorough understanding of these models will improve the way you approach problems, consider opportunities and make difficult decisions. The book is beautifully designed and a wonderful reference that will help you avoid stupidity. I’m looking forward to future installments.
I was required to read Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry for an executive leadership coaching course I took this Fall. In many organizations, heck, even in many relationships, we default to telling people what we think they need to know. This book explores a different approach: leveraging curiosity to ask questions that build authentic relationships predicated on trust and respect. This book will make you a better leader and consequently make your organization stronger.
Admittedly, David Bohm’s On Dialogue was a bit of a slog, but it was worth it in the end. What made this book so interesting is that Bohm is one of the world’s most renowned scientists and, in this short book (138 pages), he explores human communication and the very meaning of dialogue. We live in a time where there are a number of complex problems facing society. Bohm makes an excellent case that deeper listening, more open communication and a true exploration of assumptions and understanding can lead us beyond conflict and enable us to progress and form new views.
So, there you have it, the 8 best books I read in 2019.
For some reason I skipped this synopsis last year, but here are the best books I read in 2017.
And here are all my book reviews to-date.