I love learning about books from friends so I wanted to share my 2019 reading list with y’all!
I’m also sharing where I learned of each book since I love that process almost as much as the books themselves. I was introduced to some life-changers last year and I’m so down for recommendations to add to my list for 2020!
Did you keep a list of what you read in 2019? I’d love to check it out!
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your list or a couple of select favs – or to ask me anything about something on my 2019 list.
Here goes, in order of most recently finished.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba
A true story of William Kamkwamba using incredible creativity to change the world from his small town in Malawi Africa. Surprised how much I loved this. It read like a novel but you have to keep reminding yourself it’s true. Highly recommended for any of my farming, technology, and engineer-type friends.
Thanks to my inspiring friend Hunter for this one!
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
This book 100% changed my life. It forced me to think critically about my current situation and my childhood – and totally revamped my creativity. Juila Cameron is super trippy and the book is from the mid-’90s, so I loved the way it removed me from newer techy self-help stuff and floated above on a more universe tip.
Anyone feeling a transition, thinking about their creative output, or just wanting to have a deep look at who they are should totally read this. I can’t recommend it enough!
That said… The Artist’s Way is a process. It’s about a 15-30 minute commitment every morning and a 2-3 hour commitment per week including the short reading and activities. The book is broken into 12 chapters, 1 per week. They include a bit of homework – one of my favorite’s being a weekly artist’s date (which I wrote about here).
So glad I chose her episode on this podcast (also a great intro to the concept of The Artist’s Way)
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Deep, dark, and massive. Every sentence reads like poetry. I listened to the audiobook read by Toni Morrison. After she died I started researching her stuff and wondering why I hadn’t ever read any of it!? Feel like I need to read the physical book to further understand the gravity here.
I chose this because of its awards and it had by far the most reviews of all of her books on Audible.
Killing Commendatore – Haruki Murakami
A trippy, classic Murakami-length novel about an artist in a small rural mountain cabin. I feel like anything else will ruin surprises here so I’ll just say I loved this book and it offered me a constant outlet from the world into a dope fantasy land. Something that is totally healthy y’all!
David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author came to the Loft Cinema in Tucson for a talk a couple of years ago. I’m a big fan as he’s on Democracy NOW! pretty regularly so I thought I’d dive into some live political stuff but he was all about hyping up reading!
Paraphrasing what he said… “We have to read novels so that we can see things in life have an arch, they don’t just happen or change overnight.” He related this to the way we interact with the news and politics – another reason I highly recommend spending the couple months it took me to get through Killing Commendatore – or other dope fiction you love.
Thanks for finding a bookstore that would send you the book, Murakami cat pin, and tote bag, Abigail!
Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari
Definitely audiobooked this one and I think it landed at like 30 hours! I absolutely loved it but I’m not sure I’d be able to get through it on paper at this point… could be underestimating myself but I just don’t tend to love reading historical stuff.
Yuval Noah Harari uses history to crush wack viewpoints and breaks down why things are the way they are. Like from day 1. One of my favorite parts is when he deconstructs the timing and malicious reasoning for same-sex relationships to start being labeled as somehow wrong by those in power and seeking more of it. Def recommend.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
Dope fiction I couldn’t put down. Makes you fly through the book! Lots of reviews on this so I don’t know much more to say other than don’t worry about the over-all subject matter. I found it super relatable and fun to read.
Followed the train of Celeste Ng after my friend Amber’s recommendation to read Little Fires Everywhere (below)
A Far Off Place – Laurens van der Post
The second book chronicling the travels of a young European kid growing up in Africa. One of those books I definitely wouldn’t have gravitated to if not for the recommendation, and I’m so glad I read. It offers a deep connection and respect for nature packed alongside an epic adventure.
One of two books my buddha-mother, mentor, elder, and friend Susan shared that she loved back in the day. Perfect recommendations as I didn’t know they were in my wheelhouse until she shared them!
Heads of the Colored People – Nafissa Thompson-Spires
So rad. I looked at this as a more academic version of Friday Black which is listed below. Funny and heavy short stories diving deep into racial inequities. Super witty and had me LOL’ing on a plane.
So appreciate the recommendations my friend Amber shared, which included this and a few others on this list. I know she’s a mega reader so I reached out with a quick text for some ideas and she totally came through!
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
This was a quick fun listen, and a cool reminder of one thing leading to another. I dug it but it also felt kind of basic at times… That said it’s totally a good look at living life, I think it may have just been overhyped for me.
I listened to the audiobook of this because it kept coming up in my queue. I also felt like I needed to just listen to it or read it to get over some wackness from an artist who said it inspired their album.
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
Like Everything I Never Told You (above) and at the same time totally different. Fast, fun, super creative and captivating. Totally recommend.
Props due, my friend Amber’s epic text!
How Long ’til Black Future Month? – N. K. Jemisin
Fantasy hasn’t ever been my go-to so this took a sec to get into, but once I got going I totally loved this collection of shorts. Super fun read and a rad take on race and inequality through a trippy, ultra-creative lense.
Once again thanks to Amber!
Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Hilarious and straight-up collection of fictional but scarily near-true shorts. Like a less academic version of Heads of Colored People (above). Raw and gritty. Made me feel like I was reading something totally new. Loved this!
Amber comes through yet again! Dang that was an epic text!
Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
Such a dope little book of letters between a young student and responses from Rainer Maria Rilke. My first delve into Rilke and loved the way they look at the world and honestly hype you up to do you in real, unapologetic, and artful words.
This one was actually left on my porch and I still don’t know who left it there. Probably my favorite way to score a book I can think of.
The Power of Vulnerability – Brené Brown
Brené Brown does such a great job at giving us options to look at life, be inspired, and ultimately take care of ourselves in the meantime. You might run into repetitive stuff from other talks and books – which for me was a pretty ok problem to have given you can kinda hear this stuff 24/7 and be happy about it.
I audiobooked this one after learning about Brené Brown (I think through connections to a film I work on) and loving her stuff online.
When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chödrön
Should be pumped into airplanes, elevators, malls, cities, busses, trains, and bike paths. Such great words on living with a perfectly real and trippy combo perspective I love. And she swears. Shared with a few friends in hard times as I fully trust it could help.
Listened to this after reading Uncomfortable With Uncertainty, which my friend Joe hooked up.
Make Time – Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky
Really dug this way at looking at time, work, and creativity in balance or flux. Sort of geared towards the tech world, or at least people emailing a lot but I think anyone could benefit. Written in a fun and easy way to dive in and grab tips right away. Loved it so much I just nerded out and bought their signature TimeTimer.
I randomly read ‘6 Years with a Distraction-Free iPhone’ on Medium and found these ‘Time Dorks!’ That article is a great intro to their stuff.
A Story Like The Wind – Laurens van der Post
The first in the series with A Far Off Place (above) as the sequel. Same review really. Wouldn’t be one I’d pull off the shelf. Loved the deep connections to nature and animals and the way it brings you into Africa in a way that feels honest and respectful. A nice long adventure trip to give you a break from daily norms.
The first of 2 books Susan sent (more above…) Inscribed “I hope you love these books as much as I do.” I most definitely do thanks, Susan!
Solitary – Albert Woodfox
Fucking wow. Humbling and amazing. Highly recommend. I did the audiobook and had a blast hearing from probably one of the most patient, strong, giving, and intelligent people to ever exist.
Found scrolling Audible… so glad I did. Oddly the reviews weren’t super high so a good lesson to not put too much weight on what others dig.
Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
Goggins is intense and awesome. Heavy on the military and heavy on the swearing. If the word military makes you not want to read more I’d peep his Instagram for a quick burst of what you’re missing. The last post I saw had my wife and I hyped and cracking up. It’s him lifting weights while yelling “Time doesn’t give a fuck!”
In the book, he shares his tough backstory of abuse and trauma and shows you how it leads him to some incredible ways to look at life, get up, and make power moves. The audiobook was cool since he had a conversation with the narrator after each chapter to explain a bit more about what was going on. Usually felt like a needed debrief since each chapter was so huge.
I’ll definitely be listening again and will continue working on my favorite concept from Can’t Hurt Me – ‘Taking souls.’ …STAY HARD!
Another shoutout to the David Altucher podcast. I learned about Goggins from this episode.