I’ve highlighted a few books in list form at the top of this post that represent the absolute best of the year from my list. Let me know what you think!
Best Fiction: Best Served Cold
Best Non-fiction: Educated: A Memoir
9 Books I read in 2019 that I Highly Recommend
In the order that I read them
The Blade Itself *
Before they are Hanged *
The Last Argument of Kings *
How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk
A Little Hatred
A look at how one’s race dictates one’s experience with the criminal justice system in America, made slightly more digestible by Chris Hayes writing style.
There are a few things that Joe Abercrombie does very, very well. First he is excellent at describing combat (of which there is plenty). Everyone in this book fights dirty and is always terrified. He is also excellent at creating super compelling characters — even his midlings characters rank as some of my favorites in all of fantasy literature. Next, he is excellent at juxtaposition. A character might say one thing, but be perceived by another character or the narrator totally differently. It is like the classic Arrested Development move (it wasn’t). Finally, and this is often said of Abercrombie, he does not just turn the fantasy genre on its head, he drags it through the mud and is the true master of grim dark noir. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
I am a big fan of the dark side of Silicon Valley genre and this is a noble entry therein. For the uninitiated, Theranos is a crazy story. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
This is a very long book about a very important person in United States History. I liked some parts more than others, but overall I walked away even more amazed by the man.
I came in wanting a personal finance book, but I left wanting a memoir. I really liked the author and just wanted to hear her tell funny stories and not talk about money.
Here is the memoir of a woman who grew up in a survivalist Mormon family in Idaho. It is incredible. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Overall the tone of the book was like a Trek-y calling out one of the recent movies for mispronouncing something in Klingon. Sure, you’ve got a point, but I still want to punch you in the face.
It had me laughing out loud at points and that was the idea.
The White Working Class
A good reminder about the role of class in politics in America.
Native Americans were vastly more prolific and had far more impact on the environment than is commonly believed according to 1491. Sounds about right.
If you do not know anything about 20th century military history or artificial intelligence, you might find this book moderately interesting. Otherwise read Bostrom or Schlosser in lieu of this.
A very cool look into recent Chinese-American / Chinese dissident subculture in Flushing Queens.
Not the best Antebellum history I read this year. I wanted more about slaves running away and less about the legislative compromises that litter the chronology up to the Civil War.
Proof that I will take what I can get from the literary Song of Ice and Fire Universe. That said, I am nostalgic for the reign of the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen.
I loved this collection of short stories that is a companion to the First Law trilogy and additional stand alone books. I don’t recommend starting on Abercrombie with this one, but it is making me want to revisit his classics.
I reread the first book of the First Law trilogy and it was even better than I remembered. I cannot recommend it enough. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
The authors advocate for parents to take on a consulting role. Most of the examples where about children older than my own, but still worth a look.
Why aren’t you reading this series? HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Three words: Noir. Psychopath. Barbarian. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Great lessons about life through running. I enjoyed hearing about Meb crossing the finish line in 2013 with Mike Cassidy, who I used to run with when I lived in NYC. RECOMMEND
I actually stopped about 2/3rds of the way through. I find a lot of merit in the minimalism discussed but it just couldn’t hold my focus. Damn social media.
Housing is a human right. It wouldn’t even be that hard to fix low income housing. Our country is optimized for everyone having some non zero probability of becoming enormously wealthy. This is a bad optimization. Instead, it would be far better for everyone to have healthcare, education and a house. Trade-offs though. RECOMMEND
Once anecdote that stuck with me from this memoir is when Frankl describes a therapy session he was holding for a man in deep depression over the loss of his wife. He asked the man, ‘How would your wife have handled your death?’ The man replied that his wife would have been heartbroken. Frankl says, then you see the purpose of your suffering now is to spare her that pain. The man shook Frankl’s hand and left.
There are lots of good strategies for de-escalating, redirecting, and getting your kids to stop acting a fool. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
This was great. Not as great as the rest of Abercrombie’s work, but still great.
After spending two years working through scrum and kanban with various degrees of fidelity, I found the approach to process discussed in this book refreshing and highly relatable to my own experience around what it takes to get things done.
This is fine.
There are a lot of change ups in this book. It is well written and explores some pretty heady scifi and philosophical concepts along the way. I am pro. RECOMMEND
I feel the Bern.
Good discussion of racial justice.
Good follow up to The Underground Railroad with similar themes, but less magical realism. The author uses time and place interestingly.
I highly recommend this book about the inverse proportion of social value to salary in many industries and what we can do about it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
This started off good, but turned into a slog.
A very solid new entry. I’m very excited to see where this trilogy goes. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
This is a cool history of the autonomous car. I love how the author is surprised that people were upset at GM in 2008. Kind of a self-serving narrative at times. RECOMMEND
I already know everything about leadership. But this is a good one for those interested in the subject.
TLDR: The only thing you can do to recover is sleep.
This traces the white power movement from the Vietnam War through the Oklahoma City bombing. The author treats white power as a social movement from a methodological standpoint.
This is very good. If you liked Bad Blood, which I did, you’ll like this one too. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
A collection of essays related to the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein.
A deep look into the intersection of trolling and techno-utopianism. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Kind of a collection of greatest hits from his podcast, Hardcore History.
This is an awesome book about moving from a brutal society (London, not as brutal as the US) to a sane society: Denmark. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Sad story of the southern border and the refugee crisis we are dealing with. We need more empathy and courage.