Last year I started sharing my love for reading with you all. Just like last year I got through 50 books again! It was a close call but I was able to finish Being Mortal on my flight home after Christmas. Several of my favorite books from 2019 came as recommendations from you guys. Thank you for engaging with my reading habits! I want to hear your recommendations heading into 2020! My hope is to get back into biographies and memoirs as I read a high percentage of fiction and business books this year. Also, getting into poetry slowly so please send favorite poets my way.
As we are start 2020 I increased my reading goal to 70 books. So far I have stayed on track but I will need encouragement from you guys in order to tackle this goal! If you would like to talk books never hesitate to reach out or ask for recommendations.
Top Ten Books
1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Incredible book written with a level of seriousness I wasn’t expecting but still had the light hearted Trevor we all have come to know and love. Trevor builds his book around the premise that when he was technically born a crime in the state of South Africa. Meaning that the State could have taken him from his mother. When he was born the state was not enacting this specific law but Trevor presents this fact to lay the culture landscape in South Africa. With such a heavy backdrop Trevor then gives us a look into his life growing up in South Africa. He teaches us about the power of language, survival tactics in South Africa, the importance of family & friends, and the fact that no one is better than another because we all defecate! The chapters only get better all the way through the end which showcases Trevors talent for telling stories.
Favorite Quote, “Language, even more the color, defines who you are to people.” & “I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”
2. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
I was not sure how I felt about The Things They Carried until several months after reading it. At first it felt choppy and almost fake. But then I reviewed my notes and was hit by the raw tone of the book. Which matches my favorite quote from the book (see below). How do you know a good war book from a bad one. You leave the book feeling a sense of brokenness. This is why I ended up rating this book so high because the beauty of the book is the brokenness it leaves you with. This matches the tone of my favorite book All is Quiet on the Western Front which paints the picture of war as meaningless and broken.
Favorite Quote, “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”
3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
This autobiography was a surprise favorite in 2019. A friend, Banks, recommended it to me in 2016 and it finally made it to the top of the list. I had very little knowledge of Malcolm X before starting this book and my main goal was to better understand the civil rights movement through the eyes of a “militant” leader. It was interesting for me to come in with this biased view of Malcolm X. What I realized is that how the media portrayed Malcolm X in the 60s hasn’t changed much. It shows the power of media influence through the years. This book broke down his life as a child in Michigan where his Father was killed by the KKK for being too “vocal.” This destroyed his family mentally and economically. This forced Malcolm to Boston and NYC. He was a self described hustler making money how every he could. Which lead to a long stint in prison where he discovered reading as a powerful ally in his rehabilitation. Once released he steadily rose as a prominent image in the civil rights movement. The most interesting aspect of this story was his interaction with his Muslim faith early on and his gradual movement towards orthodox Muslim faith. If you can’t tell I loved his story and how it was presented.
Favorite Quote, “The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”
4. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow breaks down the physiology of our brains. It dissects how they work and interact with our surroundings. My biggest take away was understanding the myth that we think and therefore act logically. Most everything we think and do is a reaction from memory or is habitual. It was a massive book to read but I now have a better sense of how my physiology works.
5 & 6. Beloved and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
I had never heard of Toni Morrison before last year but so glad that I came across her writing as she has had a profound impact on literature in the 21st century. Toni passed away in August of 2019 which is why I linked The New Yorker profile on her life. Her writing style is raw and real. It will rip your heart in half and force you stair directly into the darkness of society. These books should not be taken lightly but I would encourage picking one and reading it in your lifetime.
7. Thirst by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver wrote this set of poems after losing her partner of 40 years.
“The Uses Of Sorrow
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”
8. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
I love memoirs because they give you a view into someones life and work. You leave with a intimate understanding of why and what that person did. Mountains Beyond Mountains tackles the hard issues of health in poverty stricken communities through the eyes and life of Dr. Paul Farmer. He is the do it all clinician that in any given week will be on three continents serving patients to the best of his ability. The most inspiring aspect of his story was not just the incredible heart for his patients but the battle he took up with the World Health Organization to make drugs more accessible for the communities he serves. This story will inspire you to be thoughtful about how to help those around us.
9. Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
If you like economics read Janesville. This book tracks Janesville Wisconsin from the closing of a GM plant in 2008 to 2017. It shares the story of the community through economic stats, ex GM employees, and tracking Paul Ryans work in DC to keep the GM plant alive. Its a portrait of the US through the great financial crisis.
10. Born to Run? by Christopher McDougall
I will probably always be a “inspiring” runner. This book fueled the “inspiring” part of that sentence. Great story telling with a interesting theory on the history of running.
Books from 2019:
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
- Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Better Homes and Gardens Meat Cook Book
- Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
- Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
- Candide by Voltaire
- Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
- Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek
- Educated by Tara Westover
- Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere
- George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation by George Washington
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds
- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
- Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
- Kafka’s Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy by Benjamin Balint
- Limits of the Known by David Roberts
- Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
- Out of the Silent Planet (The Space Trilogy, #1) by C.S. Lewis
- Perelandra (The Space Trilogy, #2) by C.S. Lewis
- Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan Philipp Sendker
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
- The Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician’s Search for the Renewal of Medicine by Abraham Nussbaum
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom by Corrie ten Boom
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
- The Message of Colossians & Philemon by Dick Lucas
- The Message of Ecclesiastes: A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance by Derek Kidner
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- The Road to Character by David Brooks
- The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
- The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos by Christian Davenport
- The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Thirst by Mary Oliver
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
- Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
1. The Atlantic: The Miseducation of the American Boy by Page Orenstein
This article is a must read. I do not agree with all the content presented in the article but it was thought provoking and lead to some of the best conversations I had in 2019. I will leave it at that… please reach out with thoughts.
2. JAMA Network: Association Between Automotive Assembly Plant Closures and Opioid Overdose Mortality in the United States by Atheendar S. Venkataramani, Elizabeth F. Bair, & Rourke L. O’Brien
JAMA Network presents research that shows a connection between the US industry icon Automobile Plants and Opioid Overdose Mortality. Janesville: An American Story stops just short of drawing causation between the closing of their GM plant and some of the social issues that became prevalent in the years after the closure. However, in the wake of Opioid abuse this research paper does a fantastic job laying out to us the outcomes of the “left behind” economies in the US. If you would prefer not to dive into the entire brief read through the Abstract and Introduction. This will give you a good sense of the outcome of the research.
3. The Economist and New York Times coverage of the Nobel Economics Prize.
Abhihit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer took home the Nobel Economics Prize this year for their research on poverty. Esther Duflo was the youngest economics laureate ever! and only the second woman to receive the prize. I am not a economist but what they did was inspiring and why I am sharing it. From my limited understanding the three of them took a hands on approach to development economics. Instead of theorizing at a macro level based on big inputs and outputs Abhihit, Esther, and Michael started doing specific trials in pillars of poverty around the world. They focused on micro effects of certain programs run by either states or NGOs. The outcome of their work is keeping states and NGOs accountable to their reported outcomes. They are helping the world get a better understanding of the economic benefits through micro development projects.