The 10 Best Books I Read In 2019
My favourite books of the year
I read a lot. It’s one of my favourite passions and something that I have found myself doing more of the older I get.
Reading is a gateway into the mind and viewpoints of someone else. Those written words can open your eyes to possibilities you had never considered before and leave you wondering what the implications might be for long after.
I believe that the books you haven’t read are more important than the ones you have. They are portal into areas you are not familiar and can expand on what you already know. They also show you the limit of your knowledge.
A reading habit is one of the best habits you can develop and will allow you to develop your own and learn new ideas.
This is a list of books that I have read this year which have left an impression on me. They range from questions humanity must face in the 21st century to an account of Europe’s last war in Kosovo.
All of them were highly enjoyable andI’m sure you will enjoy them as much as I did.
Conspiracy is a brilliant book that looks at the downfall of the influential Gawker Media at the hands of billionaire Peter Thiel.
Ryan Holiday is one of my favourite writers and Conspiracy is very different from most of his other books. It weaves a tale of hubris, scheming and downfall that is hard to believe actually happened at times.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is whether it would be better “if more people took up plotting” as Holiday puts it. Thiel took years to bring down Gawker, who were not afraid of publishing controversial stories but eventually succeeded in court.
The case and the book opens up a Pandora’s Box, about what news organisation should be allowed to report on, the influence of billionaires on society and whether conspiracy is better than transparency.
I couldn’t put this book down such was the level of intrigue and thought it provoked in me. I can’t recommend it enough!
The Black Swan
The Black Swan is possibly the best book I read this year. It’s a fascinating look at how unpredictable events shape the world.
The Black Swan is part of Nassim Taleb’s Incerto series and is a thought-provoking book. I’m not going to lie, it can be a heavy read in places, but it’s worth it because the ideas he presents are brilliant.
This book has changed the way I view the world and challenged some of my closest held assumptions.
If you want a deeper understanding of the world and how most of the model’s society uses to try and explain it may be wrong, this is a book you will struggle to put down.
Letters From A Stoic
Letters from A Stoic is a collection of letters the Roman philosopher, Seneca wrote numerous letters to his friend, Lucilius, who was the procurator of Sicily at the time.
Written towards the end of his life after he had worked for the Roman Emperor, Nero for ten years, they focus on many traditional themes of Stoic philosophy and one can live a better and more fulfilling life.
Despite the age of the writings, the lessons they contain are as relevant today as they were when Seneca wrote them.
The book has had a profound impact on my life and led me to try and adopt some of the suggestions Seneca makes in the book. Primary among them is the brevity of time and how we must make the most of it.
Brief Answers To The Big Questions
Unfortunately, Stephen Hawking is no longer with us, but his last book, Brief Answers To The Big Questions, is a short, but brilliant look at the most pressing questions the world faces today.
Hawking was one of the most formidable minds of recent times and his look at some of the most profound challenges facing humanity is required reading.
He looks at the threat from Artificial Intelligence, how contact with aliens may not be the best thing and the implications of climate change for the planet. Despite being a theoretical physicist, he lays his arguments in a simple and easy to understand manner.
If you want to gain an insight into some of the challenges humanity will face in the 21st century, Hawking’s book is a must-read!
21 Lessons For The 21st Century
21 Lessons For The 21st Century is written by the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestseller Sapiens. This book is an extension of that and looks at the challenges humanity will face in the 21st century.
It’s similar to Hawking’s book in many ways but offers a deeper and broader look at the issues we face as a species. It’s a thought-provoking book and one that I read in a short space of time, such was the fascination I found with Harari’s ideas.
The scale of the book is impressive. Harari looks at political, technological and issues regarding war and religion. There are crucial questions that humanity must answer if we are to continue to prosper into the 21st century.
If you want to learn about some of the biggest ideas and concerns we have on the planet today, this is a book you have to read.
Ego Is The Enemy
Another one of Ryan Holiday’s books makes its way onto this list and Ego Is The Enemy differs considerably from Conspiracy.
It looks at how our egos can often be the biggest impediment we face. The central premise of the book is that it is internal issues that cause us the most problems and not external ones.
An example of this mentioned in the book is that of John DeLorean, who founded a car company of the same name. He will forever be remembered as the for the car that appeared in the Back To The Future films but his stubbornness and insistence on looking over every detail of the company as the CEO led to bankruptcy.
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we can’t but help get in our way. We all have an ego no matter who we are. However, not all of us can manage it in a way that benefits us in the long run.
Ego Is The Enemy will go a long way to giving you the tools and the desire to put your ego aside once in a while.
Of Human Freedom
One of the remarkable things about Of Human Freedom is that none of the words was ever written down by the author, Epictetus.
Instead, they are recordings of lectures that the former slave turned philosopher gave in his native Greece.
If you want to read a self-improvement book this is one of the best and most practical you can read. Again, the advice may be old, but it’s timeless and still relevant in our modern and ever-changing world.
Epictetus suffered immense hardship during his life, yet he never let it get the better of him. This is reflected in Of Human Freedom and it makes it an invaluable read for anyone that wants to improve their lives and answers questions about fear and freedom.
13 Things That Don’t Make Sense
13 Things That Don’t Make Sense is a book that I read way back in 2007, I decided to reread it this year, as I couldn’t remember much of what was in the book.
It’s a fascinating read and depending on your point of view, may worry or reaffirm your belief in science. The book presents 13 problems which have baffled scientists, although at least one has been resolved since publication.
The things that don’t make sense range from being unable to account for the majority of energy in the universe to whether NASA found life on Mars back in 1976.
It’s an enjoyable and eye-opening read that will leave you questioning just how much we know about the world around us!
This year I spent six months travelling around Europe by car. One of the areas we drove through was the Balkans, a region that has suffered a lot of upheaval in recent times.
I wanted to visit the Balkans for a long time and it was great to finally see the area for myself. You can still the scars of war to this day, but the region is recovering and on the up.
I came across Shadowplay in my local book store when I was back in England. I bought it straight away. The book looks at the conflict in Kosovo through the lens of journalist Tim Marshall.
He talks us through the buildup to the war, the war itself, and the aftermath. All the while explaining what was happening on the ground and what the powers that were be were up to.
It’s a brilliant book and one that helped me to have a deeper understanding of a region which is widely misunderstood by a lot of Europe and the rest of the world.
Twelve Against The Gods
Twelve Against The Gods is one of Elon Musk’s favourite books and is a great read if you want to learn more about twelve figures from history who led adventurous lives.
From Alexander The Great to Woodrow Wilson, the author William Bolitho weaves a narrative of these figures lives and how they pushed the envelope and challenged convention to achieve fame or notoriety.
One downside is the book can be hard to read in places due to Bolitho’s writing style, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless.
The desire to go on adventures is ingrained in us, as the book shows. What it also shows is despite the journey these figures go on, in most cases, they receive a scant reward for their troubles.
what Bolithos shows us is that sometimes we need to temper our adventurous side, or it may get the better of us and lead to our downfall.
This article contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase the recommended books via my affiliate links, you help support me at no additional cost to you.