Year in Review: My 2019 Reading List

I always wanted to keep a full log and review of every book I’ve ever read. It may be too late in my life to go back and chronicle all the books I read since I was 10 years old, but I at least have a good established base of this blog and my Instagram account (@observeandrapport) to keep a somewhat organized list. I actually miscounted and think I may have read somewhere between 44-52 books – between audiobooks, Kindle, and hardcover books that I may have left at my parent’s house, it was toughh to do a full count. Luckily I’ve written a blog about almost every single one of them.

So I went back and took all my synopses of the 40-50 books and put them here in one post for you to sift through. If you want a quick recommendation, my favorite books were:

  1. I Will Teach You to Be Rich – Ramit Sethi
  2. Atomic Habits – James Clear
  3. Blue Moon – Lee Child
  4. Decision Points – George W. Bush
  5. Drive – Daniel Pink

Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell

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I’ll keep this review relatively short. If you like Malcolm Gladwell, check it out. If it’s your first time reading his work, or your not sure if you like him or not, pass on this one. I thought it was interesting but not great. Maybe a 5 or 6 out of 10. I love Gladwell so I hate to give him a fully negative review, but I feel like this book could have been much shorter and possibly a great long article. But still an interesting concept. Not in his top five.

Here are a bunch of book reviews I didn’t include, for no reason other than I’m too lazy to write them out. But they were all very good, and I recommend them all:

Wired to Eat – Robb Wolf

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It’s actually ridiculous when you think about how eating healthy is treated in our society. Have you ever tried eating healthy in an office? Every nosey coworker is all over what you’re eating and all of the sudden is pushing cookies and donuts on you every day.

Guys, ever try ordering salad on a boy’s night out? Good luck with your reputation after that move… It’s insane. We should really be making fun of the smoker who orders a burger, fries, and a large diet coke. That guy is on the road to killing himself. But that’s not what we were brought up in. Opt for a water instead of a beer and you get ridiculed. There’s a time and a place for all that stuff, and of course we all need the occassional night out on the town, but once it becomes chronic purely out of fear and habit, that’s where the danger of disease and death become a real consequence.

Through the years of consuming so much content about health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition, the name Robb Wolf pops up a lot. Robb is an expert biochemist and was one of the founding members of Crossfit. Now before I go full Paleo/Crossfit meathead on you, yes he does promote the Paleo diet. But he’s also extremely rational and level-headed about it and understands it’s not for everyone. This book isn’t a bible on all things Paleo (which if you don’t know just meat or fish as protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fatty oils – to simplify it completely). I wouldn’t call it a “diet” so much as just “eating healthy” minus bread, dairy, and a large reduction in carbs like rice and potatoes.

But that’s besides the point. The book is called Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You for a reason. It’s about way more than eating healthy. Robb Wolf goes deep into the biological factors that cause us to crave and overeat, along with tips on how to avoid doing so. Sleep, sunlight, and movement are huge factors. But he also goes deep on medical know-how, such as getting yearly bloodword done to monitor your glucose and blood pressure. Even if you only read the first 100 pages of this book, you’ll know more about health and nutrition than 90% of people out there.

What I’m Listening To

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams – Dr. Matthew Walker

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Speaking of sleep, holy shit is it important. If don’t have 13 hours to kill listening to this audiobook, check out Dr. Matthew Walker’s appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience #1109. It’s mind blowing just how much sleep affects our overall mood, fitness level, memory, attitude, brain function, body weight, and basically every other function. Every chapter is choc-ful of “Holy shit” facts that make you want to go take a nap immediately. As I’ve gotten older, engaged, and less fun, I’ve become more strict about my bed time, but still insist on staying up later on the weekends. But after listening to this, I realize just how much those 2am nights are curtailing my life.

If that doesn’t convince you, then check out Lebron James’ approach to sleep and why he credits sleep for his longevity.

 

Next up is Decision Points by former President George W. Bush (shout out to Frank for the reco). Like him or not, he was our country’s president for eight years during some crazy times, so I figured it would be really cool to hear his perspective on decisions made after 9/11, the war in Iraq, the 2008 Financial Crisis, etc.

I also didn’t know a lick about politics up until about three years ago, so this will help me play some catch-up for the 2000-08 years when I was half asleep.81s28yiixvl

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami

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Billions director and writer Brian Koppelman called this book “the single best distillation of the kind of focus, commitment, and sense of mission it takes to become a great artist.” Murakami’s memior is really about running and training for the New York City Marathon, but the main point of the book is how to strip away the unnecessary, put your head down and get to work – which is both the key to running and the key to creating successful art. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is in the creative field, or if you just enjoy running.

The Gray Man – Mark Greaney

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After I finished the entire 26 book Jack Reacher series, I was left without a badass fiction novel centered on a guy who can kick ass and take names (one of the greatest saying of all time, btw). Then my dad handed me The Gray Man, which is exactly that. It’s almost identical to The Bourne Identity, but without the whole memory-loss thing. I’ve always been a sucker for a lone maverick assasin, and this one fit the bill. Just like the Bourne movies, Shooter, Mission Impossible, or John Wick. Keep ’em coming, and I’ll keep on buying.

Tao te Ching – Lao Tzu

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I honestly had no idea what I was buying when I bought this book. But enough successful people recommended it that I had to give it a try. It’s a series of 81 poems/mantras about the Taoist philosophy and religion, which went on to influence Chinese philosophy, Confucianism, and Buddhism. It’s a quick read, and unless your in touch with your spiritual side, a lot of it is going to go over your head. But there are definitely some gems that hit me pretty hard:

We join spokes together in a wheel

but it is the center hole

that makes the wagon move


The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.

When his work is done,

the people say, “Amazing:

we did it, all by ourselves!”


Knowing others is intelligence;

knowing yourself is true wisdom.

Mastering others is strength;

mastering yourself is true power


Let your workings remain a mystery

Just show people the results.


It sounds very Mr. Miyagi, but even if you just take a few nuggets of wisdom like those, it’s worth the quick read.

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves – Matt Ridley

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Matt Ridley also wrote one of my favorite books, The Evolution of Everything. This book, however is about how life is better than ever. Similar to the Steven Pinker philosophy (The Better Angels of Our Nature); while it seems like the world is ending, our quality of life is the best it has ever been since humans have come to existence. Things like food availability, income, and life span are at their highest; while disease, crime, and child mortality are at their lowest. Ridley is also just an awesome writer so he makes boring subjects very digestible.

Bad Blood – John Carreyrou [Audible]

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For my first audiobook, I had to check out the one everyone has been talking about for the past year. I may be a little late to the game on the Theranos kick but I haven’t seen the documentary yet, and I didn’t feel like buying the book. Long story short, it’s WAY crazier than you thought and it’s got a lot of good juice.

Never Split the Difference – Chris Voss [Audible]

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My buddy Wex recommended this to me and said it was “one of the best books I’ve ever read. Well I listented to it on Audble, but same thing.” Yes, listening to a book counts too. I was never an Audible guy, but I just started it and I love it. Great for when I’m washing the dishes, going grocery shopping, or just doing laundry.

Anyway, this book is written by Chris Voss, who is a former FBI hostage negotiator – so he has some awesome stories. But the main lesson of the books is teaching you how to negotiate – since adult life is basically a series of negotiations: buying a car, asking for a raise, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. One surprising thing I learned so far: in a negotiation with someone, you want them to say “No” and “That’s right” as quickly and as often as possible.

High Performance Habits Brendon Burchard

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Honestly I had no intention of reading this but I was at my parent’s house last weekend and grabbed it off the shelf before I left since it looked interesting and I once heard Brendon Burchard on Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness podcast.

It’s not what you think. Burchard doesn’t go into diets, workouts, morning routines, and daily rituals of the world’s most successfull people. Instead he gives actionable requests based off the 6 characteristics he has found the world’s highest performers have. And when he says high performers he means people who have demonstrated consistent success over a long period of time.

To become a high performer, Burchard says you must seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage.

The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday

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From Amazon: Its many fans include a former governor and movie star (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip hop icon (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NBC sportscaster (Michele Tafoya), and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Cubs, and University of Texas men’s basketball team.

The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” 

I understand Stoicism about as well as anyone can without reading Marcus Aurelius or Seneca but I needed a cheap book on Kindle to read for a 2 hour train ride, so I bought Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way, since it had amazing reviews (and it was $1.99 on Kindle). It’s a quick read and a nice little reminder that nothing is as hard as you think it is. All it takes is a little shift in attitude and the way you approach things.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

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Rightfully so, I’m usually scared to read books recommended by Bill Gates since I know they are likely going to be way over my head. But I’m about 100 pages in so far and it’s thankfully manageable. The main question raised in the book is why did certain geographic areas of the world progress at such an accelerated pace versus other areas. Put another way, why were empires like ancient Greece or Rome able to develop food production, technology, art, and governmental systems so much faster and smarter than say, areas in Eastern Africa?

The answer mainly comes down to how diverse and flexible the area inhabited is. Does the climate promote proper shelter, food production, hunting, and traversing. Are the plant and animal species diverse? Is it easy to trade by land or sea?

The cover looks like it’s your sophomore year History textbook, but the title is self-explanatory. The human societies that were able to develop guns, be immune to certain germs or diseases, and produce steel were ultimately the most successful in conquering and thriving.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich – Ramit Sethi

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Alright, this is straight up one of the most important books you could ever read. I realize I say that a lot, but I’m recommending these books for a reason.

It’s a cheesey title, I know – but of all the finance books I’ve read this is by far the most practical and easy-to-implement one. I still recommend The Millionaire Next Door, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and both of Tony Robbin’s books – but I’m adding this one to the financial education arsenal. Rather than get into all the annoying psychology, statistics, and motivation behind investing and saving, I Will Teach You to be Rich gets right into it… e.g. Here’s what to do with each paycheck, here’s how much should go into savings, these are the accounts you should open, these are the best banks to work with, this is how you should set up your 401k, don’t invest into these shitty things, and so on and so forth.

I heard about Ramit Sethi from the Tim Ferriss podcast way back in 2014. After that I started following his newsletter (which I highly suggest). He came back on the podcast last month for a great episode which caused me to finally purchase the book.

Atomic Habits – James Clear

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[from Amazon] James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

My cousin Brian recommended this book to me. I was hesitant to buy it since I feel like I’ve read so many similar books on the subject like The Power of Habit, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, High Performance Habits, The Happiness Project, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, You Are a Badass that I’m like “OK, I GET IT.”

Wake up early, meditate, take a cold shower, practice gratitude, eat a healthy, nutrient rich breakfast, don’t smoke, don’t procrastinate, go to the gym, keep track of what you’re eating, yadda, yadda, yadda…

But to be honest, this was probably the best book on building life-changing systems that I’ve read. There’s a big difference between attempting to start a new habit by going extreme versus implementing small daily habits that will eventually change the structure of your brain and will compound into the larger goals you are looking to accomplish over time. It’s like trying to day trade on Robinhood vs. investing over years and years. You and I both know which one will produce better results.

 

Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees – Bob Klapisch & Paul Solotaroff

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I love a good piece of sports journalism. Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees by journalists Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff is a quick light read on the New York Yankees organization. It is a little weird since it’s all about the 2018 season, so it reads more like a lengthy ESPN article, but it gives great insight into the thoughts and lives of Brian Cashman, Randy Levine, and Hal Steinbrenner, as well as the players – things that I didn’t know about at all. If you’re a baseball fan, you sometimes forget how much of a business the MLB is. There is so much more involved than just keeping the good players and getting rid of the bad ones. The book does a good job talking about the business, the personalities, and the actual performance of the 2018 New York Yankees.

Drive – Daniel Pink

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I’ll let my Instagram caption do the bulk of the talking on this one but as a manager, this book was so valuable for me. And if you’re a teacher, coach, or just starting out in the professional world, you’ll learn important lessons about what to look for when evaluating your career.

Recognition is such an important part of work. Whether it’s receiving a compliment or a reward when you did a good job, or getting scolded when you mess up – it’s important to know that you are valued and cared about by your boss and your peers. This book not only tackles the most effective ways to get more out of yourself and your employees, it breaks down the fundamental needs of human psyche.

Primal Endurance – Mark Sisson & Brad Kearns

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I’ve been following Mark Sisson for while now through a circuit of fitness podcasts like Joe Rogan, Kyle Kingbury, and Aubrey Marcus. He’s a former professional triathlete, marathon runner and coach who completely switched his ideology on endurance training and nutrition. Gone are the days of hammering 60 miles/week and stuffing pasta and breads to carbo load and fill in all those depleted calories. Mark Sisson and many of the top experts in the field agree that the new approach should be focused on short, sustained periods of cardio (low heartrate and breathing through your nose), strength training (sprinkled in with variety like yoga, soccer, swimming, kayaking, etc), and rest. All while fueling you body via a fat-based diet consisting of meat, fish, eggs, fowl, veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Seems pretty straight forward when you put it that way. But the weekend marathoners (like myself) continue to log way to many miles and stuff their faces with pizza, french fries, and bagels to replenish their carb and calorie depletion. This book has opened my eyes to a much more intuitive approach focused on longevity and sustained excellence. Not running for running’s sake and burning yourself out. If you’re the type who does a lot of races you will benefit tremendously from just listening to one of Mark’s podcast episodes (links above).

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Btw this dude is 65. I’d listen to what he has to say about

Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

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This book had been on my radar for over a decade. Literally every time I went to the bookstore I would pick up a copy, walk around with it, and then decide I didn’t want to read it. I’m not sure why, since I loved Krakauer’s other bestselling book (and movie) Into the Wild – but for some reason I just wasn’t in the mood to read about people dying in the worst disaster in Mount Everest history. Weird…

Sure enough I decided to buy it and keep it on my coffee table. After some thinking I finally picked it up and read 80 pages in like an hour or something ridiculous. I forgot how interesting mountain climbing is. I loved watching movies and documentaries like Vertical Limit, Meru, and Free Solo – and now I was reading a really great story about a journalist tackling the ever-elusive Mount Everest.

I know a book is good when I constantly stop reading to Google things and learn more about the story, the area, the people, or the author. Throughout reading Into Thin Air I was googling things constantly. I never knew about the disaster of 1996, where eight people died in a horrific blizzard on their way down from the summit. Jon Krakauer does an amazing job writing and recalling his memories as he set off to climb Everest himself as a journalist for Outdoor magazine. He not only describes the physical toll of climbing at 30% oxygen 29,000 feet above sea level – he describes the personalities of the people who climb it – the alpinists, the sherpas, the businessmen with little-to-no-climbing experience – and the emotional toll it takes on you. How you change and learn things about yourself when your life is constantly in danger and you have to rely on the tools and the people around you just to survive. All for the ultimate goal of reaching the highest point on Earth. It just so happened to coincide with the worst incedent the mountain has ever seen.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

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On the Road is a book that always seems to be mentioned in great literature or random songs. It’s a generational tale of Kerouac hitchhiking across America, meeting up with friends and writing about his travels in the year 1947 from Brooklyn, across the Great Plains, to Montana, to Denver, LA, Texas, and the Louisiana bayou. It’s one of those literary works that leaves you in awe. He’s a fantastic writer and views on humanity and the great country of America are mesmerizing, but it just didn’t vibe with me after 100 pages or so. May pick it up again in a few months.

The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

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This is one of those books that a lot of CEO’s and powerful people mention from time to time (Kayne West, Will Smith, 50 Cent, Brian Grazer). It’s up there with books like Influence, How to Win Friends and Influence People, or The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Jay Z even mentions it in his song “Primetime”

At 42, be better than 24s. I carry the 4-5, mastered 48 laws

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Robert Greene outlines the habits of the most powerful people in history. Through each chapter, or law, he details how great leaders like Napoleon, Sun Tzu, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, or Genghis Khan used particular characteristics to get to their highly respected positions.

Some of the rules are contrary to what you’d typically read in a business book. Such as:

Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit

A lot of the stories highlight deceptive practices that are borderline unethical, but in no way is the author encouraging to do things like lie, cheat, or steal to gain positions of power. He simply is outlining how others came to power, and details those tricks through historical anecdotes. It’s a history textbook as much as it is a self-help or business book. It is a huge book, so I’m taking a bit of a break. It took me a week to get through the first 200 pages, but it might take me another month to get through the back half.

 

Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

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My sister-in-law signed me up for the Book of the Month club as birthday present a while back. Every month you choose from five of the top new fiction books and have them delivered to your door for five months. This was the last one I got delivered and it’s wild. It’s about Korean immigrants in rural Virginia who create a new medical device that helps treat autism, cerebral palsy, infertility, and many others. When the device explodes and kills two people in a massive explosion, it creates a giant rift in the town. Did someone deliberately light it on fire? Was the Yoo family just trying to cash in on a big insurance payment? A trial ensues that divides the entire town. REALLY heavy courtroom drama that I just started. But I expect it’s going to be very very good.

The Art of War – Sun Tzu

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This is one of those books that’s always being quoted or referenced by really smart, philosophical people. I knew it was an ancient Chinese text so I figured it would be impossible to read and full of weird limericks like “Dig the well before you are thirsty.” Which, it kind of was, but much cooler. It’s supposed to be a book on strategies of war, but it’s lasted so long because almost all of the lessons are about leadership. It was a quick, easy read and my highlighter got a lot of use. I would definitely suggest this to any coaches or people in leadership positions. It’s applicable to war, business, sports, and many other areas of life. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
  • “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
  • “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
  • “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. 
    There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination
    they produce more hues than can ever been seen.
    There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of
    them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.”

Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport

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I recently listened to a podcast called The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes. This episode featured a guy called Cal Newport, who I heard of through other famous authors recommending his well-known book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown, and author of six self-improvement books. After listening to his insights on the podcast, I walked in to a bookstore, and bought a copy of his latest book, Digital Minimalism right away.

Throughout Digital Minimalism, Newport points out that the iPhone isn’t what caused the current levels of anxiety and addiction that are such a problem. It actually stemmed from the introduction of a few things to Facebook:

  1. The “Like” button
  2. The Facebook mobile app
  3. Red notification symbol staring you in the face
  4. Paid ads

Before this, Facebook was just a cool website you went on if you happened to be on a desktop computer or laptop. You could connect with your high school or college friends. And that’s basically it. It was cool! There was no feed, no “likes”, no commenting, no notifications. Just profiles of people. You could check out if that girl you liked had a boyfriend, or what college that old friend of yours ended up going to.

Then, it turned into a digital slot machine. First it became mobile – now you could access it 24/7 from your iPhone. From there, it became a collection of likes, notifications, comments, opinions, status updates, pages you liked, events you were interested in. It became so addictive it was impossible to look away. It made you crave more, and more, and more. All your friends were doing it so it was fine. How else were you supposed to connect or keep up with birthdays and house parties? What were you supposed to do with all those pictures you took on Spring Break?

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Every night I come home from work and by 9:30 or so I realize I’ve spent over an hour just scrolling through stupid shit on my phone. After a while my thumb hurts and I end up tossing my phone out of sight so I can restrain myself. In #digitalminimalism #calnewport calls out the trap of endlessly surfing your feed and how Facebook/Twitter only want your attention. Your 🕰 = their💰 After reading this I’m now making a conscious effort to delete all the useless apps on my phone and setting strict limits on how often I can check things like Instagram. I also want to focus more on valuing face to face conversation, and taking time to call someone versus just sending convenient and mindless texts throughout the day.

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Jack Reacher Books

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There are 29 books in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and I finally finished them all – which means I have a large void in my future booklist. I typically only read non-fiction books (“not fake,” got it) but the Jack Reacher books have been always been my go-to escape when I get too deep in the factual stuff. I’ve tried a bunch of do-good military/CIA type books like the Tom Clancy series but I usually burn out – especially when they get too deep in the D.C. politics.

But Jack Reacher is a former major in the U.S. Army Military Police who is basically homeless, but not in a creepy or bad way – as weird as that sounds. He hitchhikes through small towns in the U.S. acting as a vigilante, investigating crimes, and stopping crooks along the way. The best part about the books is he’s so badass that he literally has no flaws. Nothing ever goes wrong.

There’s no rising action where the hero attempts to solve the problem and fails, and then triumphantly comes back to save the day. He just always wins. He always beats the shit out of the bad guy, and he always gets the girl. I guess that makes him sound like James Bond, but he’s nothing like that. He’s a vagabond brute, who only travels with a toothbrush. And he’s fucking huge.

Although the Jack Reacher movies with Tom Cruise may be very sub-par, the books are incredibly entertaining. And Tom Cruise is in no way the best depiction of the character. Jack Reacher in the books is 6’5, 240 lbs of pure muscle, with a body built like a “zip-lock bag full of almonds” as Lee Child writes.

If you want an easy read and to get lost in an highly enjoyable series. Pick up any Lee Child book. The series does not go in order in any way so you can literally read them at random. I’m gonna miss reading these.

The Smartest Guys in the Room – by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

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I always heard about “Enron,” but never knew what the hell it was. I thought it had something to do with the ’08 financial crisis, or Wall Street in some way (btw, they were an energy-trading and utilities company that perpetuated one of the biggest accounting frauds in U.S. history in 2001 – thanks wikipedia). In the past I stayed away from the politics or Wall Street genres because it’s all so confusing and technical. But my friend Brian recommended this to me a while back and I wanted a new genre to read so I decided to dive into it. It’s a shocking story about modern coporate corruption and just how easy it is to manipulate financials and make executives boatloads of money. They drove up utility prices during the California energy crisis at the expense of the average American. They made underhanded dealings in order to make money at any cost and keep their stock price high. There’s also a documentary on it, which I should have watched before I bought the 400 page book, whoops. But if you liked Too Big to Fail, which also has a much less time-consuming documentary available, this book is very similar in how it is written in a story form which makes it super easy for the average person to understand.

The Power of Moments – Chip Heath & Dan Heath

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My brother gifted me this book and I’m glad he did. I probably wouldn’t have picked it out myself. It’s essentially about how “moments” define our lives. We tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest. Think about your last vacation – what were the most memorable parts? Probably had some fun peak moments, maybe one memorable bad thing happened, and then you remember the last thing you did pretty vividly, right?

Most people, if you were to ask them what the best moments of their life were, occured from the ages of 15-30 (high school prom, graduating college, getting married, first child, etc). But in this book, the authors Chip & Dan Heath define how we can design our life to have more of these moments. What if a teacher could design a lesson that he knew his students would remember 20 years later?  The Power of Moments shows us how to be the authors of the richer experiences in our lives

 

Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett

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I say “exploring” because this is more of a textbook than a traditional “how-to” book. Kelly Starrett is an expert on functional movement and correcting body imbalances with simple adjustments in posture, foot placement, and overall positioning throughout everyday movements – it’s super nerdy but I’m really into this sort of stuff for some reason. I began following his Instagram  @MobilityWod for daily stretching and mobilty tips. Through his podcast The Ready State, I heard about this book. I’ve read about a third of it, and have taken a lot of valuable insights from it – always stand with your two feet pointed straight ahead, your butt clenched, abs flexed and your shoulders back. And sit in these weird positions if you don’t want back pain. Have fun doing this in meetings…

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Since following Kelly though, I purchased a standing desk for work to lessen my back and hip pain (which is working), began foam rolling more often, extended range of motion in my hips, shoulder and ankles. I also improved my form in a lot of different workouts like front squats, deadlifts, and especially overhead squats, which suck.

Pro Tip: since following Kelly, I’m attempting to overhaul the bulk of my shoe collection to be “zero-drop” only. Meaning I try to only wear shoes that are flat to the ground, with no heel – think Vans or Converse. You’d be surprised how much of your back pain and tight hamstrings just comes from wearing wedged-heel shoes.

 

Setting the Table – Danny Meyer


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I had no intention of reading this book, but my brother left it at my apartment so I picked it up and read a few pages. Since I’m not a quitter I ended up finishing it and it was well worth it. If you’re not familiar with Danny Meyer he’s essentially one of the most famous restaurantuers in the world, most famous for creating Shake Shack. His notoriety in the restaurant world is second to none. He owns the Union Square Hospitality Group whose restaurants include Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, 11 Madison, Tabla, and the Modern. The book reads as more of a business and managerial book sprinkled with cool stories about how to run a successful restaurant, and also may make you very hungry.

His main message is about hospitality – the more you give the more you get. Literally, he trains his staff to be the most giving and caring people. If you don’t like your meal, it is free – no questions asked. You may even get a gift certificate to come back and a reservation at a later date. If you’re in the business world, this book highlights that the key to business is to care about people and always be giving.

Book I Just Started

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

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This was one of those books that I’ve seen on every list of “Must Reads” or “Top Books Recommended by XYZ“. It’s been sitting in my Amazon cart for years and I kept delaying it since I knew it was about a pretty morose topic – race relations and the struggle of African American males due to mass incarceration. But I finally walked in to a book store and saw it staring at me on the shelf, so I bought it. Yes, like actually paid a cashier in cash for a hard book and got it in less that 2 business days… Instantly actually. Pretty remarkable.

It’s important to understand just how damaging the War on Drugs has been to America. Our incarceration rates are RIDICULOUSLY higher than every other country on Earth, including countries with comparable crime rates. The US still manages to put people in prison 6 to 10 times more on average. That’s alarming. The stats are disgusting. I’m only about 40 pages in but I can tell right away that this book is going to absolutely school me on some crazy facts and history.

Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at LifeDave Asprey

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Dave Asprey is famous for his Bulletproof Coffee and host of products that come along with that. He’s also a renowned bio-hacker a-la Gavin Belson of Silicon Valley, always looking for unique ways to optimize his brain, fitness, and routines. His newest book, Game Changers, is basically the same format as Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Asprey takes the best anecdotes from his 450 podcast guests and breaks it down into three sections. 1) Smarter, 2) Healthier, and 3) Happier. He asks his guests “What are your top three recommendations for people who want to perform better and being human?” I just started but some good stuff so far in the first 50 pages.

 

The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman

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I previously read Thomas Friedman’s latest book Thank You for Being Late which was awesome. I liked his writing and opinions so much that I decided to look into some of his other books. The World is Flat kept coming back as one of the most highly rated ones. Although it was written in 2006, it takes you through just how much technology has “flattened” the world and made it so incredibly easy to communicate across continents, time zones, and languages with virtually no difficulty.

From Amazon:with this “flattening” of the globe, which requires us to run faster in order to stay in place, has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?”

Along Came a Spider – James Patterson

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I always admired James Patterson from afar. As I waited in the airport terminal, buying Twizzlers from Hudson News, I would see the wall full of James Patterson novels hand-picked by middle-aged moms and dads across the country. I developed a judgment that this author, and this genre must not be for me. But when I realized that he was the author of the Alex Cross series, I no longer “judged a book by it’s cover”. My Patterson-reading parents were proud.

I saw the Alex Cross movie with Tyler Perry (It was entertaining. Don’t hit me with the Rotten Tomatoes number. Movie ratings are a bullshit service – but that’s another tangent for another time). I figured a novel about a badass police detective/psychiatrist has got to be pretty cool, right? And it is. It’s definitely graphic. He’s hunting down some gruesome killers and the details do not leave anything to the imagination.

Overall, I’m happy I finally picked up a James Patterson book, and am going to read the rest of the Alex Cross series. Whether I get to read his 974 other books is a different story…

A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (Audiobook)

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With all my marathon training, I’ve looked to podcasts and audiobooks to keep me entertained and to keep my mind off saying “STOP RUNNING” for 1-2 hours. I went to Reddit to see what our fellow internet people thought was the best audiobook out there. Some of the common answers were Bad Blood (which I’ve recommended), The Martian (great movie), and World War Z (haven’t seen or read yet).

But the most common answer by far was Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I see it in bookstores all the time and think about buying it. But I think I needed to realize the audio version was available before I finally went for it.

If you like Neil Degrasse Tyson, or just science in general – you’ll love this. It goes through the history of the universe – from the big bang, stars, atoms, gravity, physics, DNA, mathematics, geology, etc. It literally is a short history of nearly everything. Although, short, in this case, is a 17 hour audiobook…

Hope you enjoyed this wide-ranging list! There are a lot more to come…

-KB

One Reply to “Year in Review: My 2019 Reading List”

  1. I always like to see a whole cluster of book spines together. I think it’s an interesting way to look for patterns or trends in a given reader’s covers. I’d say overall our reading tastes are completely different – but I did enjoy Murakami’s book on the relationship between running and writing. This year, I want to read more books by women, as most of the books I read had male authors. Do you have any reading goals for 2020?

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