2019 is almost over and it is time for my annual list of the best books that I’ve read this year. I spent relatively more time writing than reading (stay tuned for more info in 2020), but I still managed to hit my official goal of 22 and my stretch goal of 30. I also managed to hit a fun milestone that I set for myself – 10.000 pages in total (10.107 pages, which is about 1.000 less than my all-time record). The change this year is that I started commuting with a car to work which reduced my opportunity to read in transit, but I started arriving earlier and I could use the first hour of the work day for reading and writing.
In this article, I listed the five books that I would recommend out of my year’s selection (and one bonus). If you are interested, this is a link to my Goodreads account (link) where I diligently summarize my reading experience.
Best books in 2019: Selection criteria
Compared to last year, I decided to tweak my criteria just a bit:
- Call to action: How strong the message in the book was and how soon I could adopt the call to action in my life.
- Number of aha-moments and quotes: How many aha-moments (or eye-openers) I experienced in the book and how many quotes did I take from it.
- Relevance: How relevant the book is to the topics that I discuss in this blog (self-improvement, personal and professional growth, optimization and productivity).
- Generic: This is a scale from “very generic” to “very specialized”. Where the more generic the book is, the more relevant and transferable it is for other fields as well.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R Covey
Stephen Richards Covey was the author of the best-selling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Other books he wrote include “First Things First”, “Principle-Centered Leadership”, and “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families”. He was also a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.Goodreads.com
The 7 Habits is a book about being effective. It starts inwards with 3 habits about yourself, continues with 3 habits about your relationships (personal and professional), and ends with the most important habit, which is often neglected, the habit of taking care of yourself. The advice that Stephen gives is obvious and when you read the book you will have many a-ha moments about things you would feel that you should know and do but you don’t.
This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life—investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute.Stephen R Covey
|The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People||1 to 5 stars|
|Call to action||4|
|Number of aha-moments||3|
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and the author most recently of Deep Work, a book which argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book which debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice.Goodreads.com
How can you become “so good they can’t ignore you”? This book answers this profound question by investigating the notion that you “should find your passion” and disproving each piece of it. Then, it goes on to argue that all the people who claim to be following their passion actually took another path. They became experts in their field by doing small steps. And when they found an innovation on the edge of the field, took it as a small bet and acted big.
The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.Cal Newport
|So Goo They Can’t Ignore You||1 to 5 stars|
|Call to action||3|
|Number of aha-moments||4|
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is media strategist for notorious clients like Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under the strategist Robert Greene, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multi-platinum musicians. He is the Director of Marketing at American Apparel, where his work in advertising was internationally known. His strategies are used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google, and have been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker, and Fast Company.Wikipedia
The Daily Stoic looks back at the great philosophers of Ancient Greece and Rome and gives you food for thought for every day of your life. Stoicism was invented long ago, in a scary age where cruelty and violence were a lot more common than today. But still the advances of thinking achieved by the stoics are relevant even today. The book offers one or two quotes per day and follows with a page or two clarification from the author. Every month had a different topic and every quarter has a different theme. The idea of the book is to read one “day” at a time and reflect on what you read in your meditations and your day.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.Ryan Holiday
|The Daily Stoic||1 to 5 stars|
|Call to action||2|
|Number of aha-moments||5|
The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr
Dr. Jim Loehr is a world-renowned performance psychologist and author of 16 books including his most recent, The Only Way to Win. He also co-authored the national bestseller The Power of Full Engagement. Dr. Loehr’s ground-breaking, science-based energy management training system has achieved world-wide recognition and has been chronicled in leading national publications, including the Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, US News and World Report, Success, Fast Company and Omni.Goodreads.com
The Power of Full Engagement teaches you how to manage your energy. The book argues that managing your energy is more important than managing your time. In every chapter there are examples from the practice of the authors about people with stellar careers that have lost the flame. The answer to that, according to the book is managing energy in four different spheres – physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. The way to manage your energy is to abide to your natural cycle – by adding downtime, rest, and regeneration into your days, weeks, and months. The authors map that strategy from professional sport – tennis, basketball – to the corporate world.
Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.Jim Loehr
|The Power of Full Engagement||1 to 5 stars|
|Call to action||5|
|Number of aha-moments||1|
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Ashlee Vance is an award winning feature writer for Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. Vance is also the host of the “Hello World” TV show. Previously, he worked for The New York Times and The Register. Vance was born in South Africa, grew up in Texas and attended Pomona College.Goodreads.com
There is no doubt that Elon Musk is one of the icons of progress of 21-st century. He has had a remarkable life and he has opened enough to the author of this book, so that we can take a look. While Musk’s achievements are amazing, it is also amazing how many time he has been within weeks and days of bankruptcy. In all his companies, he has worked really hard and demanded equal if not better performance by his employees. And yet, while they fear him and are not always easy around him, most of them simply adore him and believe in his vision of the future.
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” Jeff Hammerbacher, an early Facebook engineer, told me. “That sucks.”Ashlee Vance
|Elon Musk||1 to 5 stars|
|Call to action||1|
|Number of aha-moments||2|
Bonus: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Matthew Paul Walker is a British scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the impact of sleep on human health and disease. Previously, he was a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science.Wikipedia
Why We Sleep teaches you about the fundamental role that sleep plays in the lives of all creatures on the planet. It examines the benefits that we get from sleeping seven to nine hours a day and the implications and problems when we sleep less that that. Walker argues that we need to fight the sleep epidemic that we have caused to ourselves in the last 50+ years by adopting a healthier approach to sleep and bed-time rituals that will help us sleep better.
The physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise.Matthew Walker
Comparing my 2019 to my 2018, I found that this year, I’ve spent almost 125 hours less actually working than last year. Simultaneously, I’ve spent more than 150 hours more developing (i.e. reading, writing, deliberate practice, etc) than last year. And I’ve improved my overall productivity, I spent more time with my family, and spent more time doing fun stuff.
This proves that that you don’t need to find time to read, but rather you need to make time to read and increase your productivity. There is no reason why you cannot make that time for yourself in 2020.
Read more, enjoy more, be more!
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