Gil’s List of Best Books 2019 (Non-business)

A list of the best books I’ve read in 2019 that are “non-business”. Covering a collection of spirituality, wisdom, philosophy, and psychology topics.

The Best Non-business Books 2018

Once again, I would like to share my list of best books in 2019. You can find my list for 2018: here.

I concentrated on non-business books. Tin’s list of best books of 2019 can be found here.

Best books 2019

My selection this year is a mix of biographies, spirituality, and history (past and future).

The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkin

Best Books 2019
Best books 2019 #1: The Art of Learning (link to Goodreads).

Joshua Waitzkin is an American chess player, martial arts competitor, and author. As a child, he was recognized as a prodigy, and won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994. He is the only person to have won the National Primary, Elementary, Junior High School, High School, U.S. Cadet, and U.S. Junior Closed chess championships in his career. The movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is based on his early life.

Josh Waitzkin was a prodigy chess player in his youth and had a lot of success both nationally and internationally. Shortly before becoming a Grand-master however, he had a change of heart and stopped competing in chess tournaments. Then, he found Taiji Push Hands, devoted himself to this pursuit, and became a world champion. The common between the two parts is his unique approach to learning (first with chess, then with martial arts, and finally with everything else). So, this is a semi-autobiographical book with elements of self-help and a lot of practical approaches for learning.

Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.

Josh Waitzkin

Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Best Books 2019
Best books 2019 #2: Homo Deus (link to Goodreads)

Professor Harari was born in Haifa, Israel, to Lebanese parents in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

Another amazing book by Yuval Noah Harari. This time it takes you into the future. What will happen with humans if we continue on our current path? Are we going to evolve, become extinct, or be wiped out? As always, Yuval takes us on a long journey where he presents, explains, and defends his arguments. Backed with a lot of research and forward-looking thinking, this book is a very interesting glimpse into one of the possible futures.

We don’t become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations.

Yuval Noah Harari

To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History

Best Books 2019
Best books 2019 #3: To Pixar and Beyond (link to Goodreads).

Lawrence Levy is a former Silicon Valley lawyer and executive hired by Steve Jobs in 1994 as CFO and member of the Office of the President of Pixar Animation Studios. He was responsible for Pixar’s business strategy and IPO and guided Pixar’s transformation from a money-losing graphics company into a multibillion-dollar entertainment studio. He later joined Pixar’s board of directors. Lawrence then left corporate life to study Eastern philosophy and meditation and their relevance to modern life. He now writes and teaches on this topic and cofounded Juniper Foundation to pursue this work. Originally from London, England, he earned degrees from Indiana University and Harvard Law School. He lives with his wife, Hillary, in Palo Alto, California.

“To Pixar and Beyond” is not about the creative side of Pixar. It is also not about the involvement of Steve Jobs in the process of revolutionizing animated feature films. It is about the management and financial power-horse behind it that ensured both the creative and the financial success of the company. Lawrence takes the reader on a journey that starts in a small town far away from the glamour of San Francisco, covers in depth how the deal with Disney was re-negotiated and the epic IPO of the company, and ends with the acquisition by Disney in order to revive their own animation studio. Lawrence got his hands dirty on the very first day at Pixar, defining the business plan of the company, and setting it on a successful path to greatness.

“There’s nothing you can do about where the pieces are,” he’d say. “It’s only your next move that matters.”

Lawrence Levy

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

Best books 2019 #5: Factfulness (link to Goodreads).

Hans Rosling (1948 – 2017) was a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker.

He was the Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and was the co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software. He held presentations around the world, including several TED Talks in which he promoted the use of data to explore development issues.


Factfulness teaches you facts about the world we live in. Its authors found long time ago that our view of the world is distorted – the world is no longer divided into developing and developed; Africa does not equal extreme poverty; Asia is not reason behind the population growth; in 20 years there will not be twice as many people above 65; religion does not determine the number of children in a household. Then, these authors created the initiative called Gapminder to fight that distorted view. This book summarized their life work and goes on to reveal the root causes (formulated as instincts) behind our knowledge gaps. Finally, it addresses each of these instincts and gives us tools to fight it.

Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless—in short, more dramatic—than it really is.

Hans Rosling

A Mind at Home with Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around by Byron Katie

Best books 2019 #4: A Mind At Home With Itself (link to Goodreads).

Byron Kathleen Mitchell, better known as Byron Katie, is an American speaker, writer, and founder of a method of self-inquiry called The Work of Byron Katie or simply The Work.

Katie became severely depressed in her early thirties. She was a businesswoman and mother who lived in Barstow, a small town in the high desert of southern California. For nearly a decade she spiraled down into paranoia, rage, self-loathing, and constant thoughts of suicide; for the last two years she was often unable to leave her bedroom. Then, one morning in February 1986, while in a halfway house for women with eating disorders, she experienced a life-changing realization.

This is a lot more than a book about Buddhism, it is a book on how to find it. Each chapter begins with a quote from the Diamond Sutra, follows with the author’s comments on a specific topic, and ends with a Q&A between the author and the reader. As the book progresses Katie shares more about her life and how she found the process she is recommending – The Work. It is a fascinating read of self discovery. There are also several chapters where Katie does The Work on random people as part of her seminars around the work and the effect this has on the people.

I realized that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that.

Byron Katie


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