I read 32 books in 2019. Here were my top three, with a summary of what I learned from each of them:
1. The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday
In this book, Ryan Holiday draws on the principles of Stoicism to share an approach to dealing with obstacles, be they physical, mental, or emotional. Instead of learning to patiently bear our obstacles, he shows how we can flip our perspective and see them as our advantages—secret weapons we can leverage to accomplish our goals. And this isn’t just pitching positivity. He digs up dozens of examples where historical figures used their obstacles to achieve goals they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. This book impacted me greatly because I read it just as I was facing an obstacle of my own, and it helped me see the opportunities I was overlooking. I had put it in practice and seen the results even before I finished the book! If that wasn’t enough, the book is short, structured, and easily digestible. I loved every minute of it.
2. Atomic Habits, by James Clear
In this book, James Clear provides a guide on how to effectively build habits that change you into the person you want to be. His writing is approachable, practical, and wonderfully succinct. The book reinforced concepts I’ve long appreciated (like environment design and compounding benefits) while introducing me to several new ideas. I particularly liked his discussion of one-time choices that bring recurring benefits and the 2-minute rule. I’ve read about habits before but this book exceeded all my expectations. I couldn’t stop talking about it to family and friends.
3. Rocket Men, by Robert Kurson
You’ve never heard of the story of Apollo 8. Almost nobody has. I certainly hadn’t. And that’s pretty remarkable, considering that many Apollo program veterans, including Neil Armstrong, considered it to be perhaps the most daring, risky, and ambitious mission of the Apollo program. This book tells the story of that mission, its astronauts, and the divided nation that it helped unite, as America won back the lead in the space race. A really fun read, especially if you’re into this kind of stuff (like I currently am).
The summaries for the remaining 29 books can be found here.
I sometimes worry whether I should be reading this much. Am I addicted to inspiration? Reading is consumption after all. It’s like television, but lower bandwidth!
I think it would be an issue if I was reading things as a substitute for taking action. I don’t think that’s the case here. Most of my reading is audiobooks, and happens while I’m commuting or doing chores. That’s not productive time, so I’m OK with filling it with books, and I plan to continue doing so in 2020.