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My 2019 in books

emma profile image Emma Goto πŸ™ Originally published at emgoto.com on ・3 min read

I had a really, really good year for reading in 2019 - I hit my goal of 52 books (which is probably the first time I've actually met a New Year's resolution). For comparison, I read 42 books in the previous 3 years combined, so this is a big jump in reading for me.

If you're looking for books to read, the following are some of my favourites.

My top 5 books of 2019

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I started my year off with a lot of productivity and self-help books, and this was by far the best one. Duhigg does a really good job of mixing science with anecdotes to make for a really interesting book about habit building.

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

An amazing book of short sci-fi stories. Sci-fi is by far my favourite genre (although I did try and branch out into other genres this year) so this was a lot of fun to read.

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

If you've ever heard the phrase "don't drink the Kool-Aid", it's a reference to the 900+ people that died in a murder-suicide by the hands of cult leader Jim Jones in 1978. The book provides a good explanation for how and why something like Jonestown could ever happen.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is best known in Greek mythology for being one of the obstacles that Odysseus faces in his long journey home in Homer's Odyssey, where she turns his crew into pigs. This book is a retelling from her perspective, which paints her in a much better light - sort of similar to Wicked. A very fun and engaging book.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

A black woman time travels back in time from 1976 to a Maryland plantation in 1815, where she meets one of her ancestors. This was a very scary and eye-opening look into slavery in America. It's confronting to read, but I think worth it.

Most disappointing book

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

As one of the best selling books of all time, The Alchemist is up there with The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and a bunch of other classics, so I had high expectations. From the title I was expecting some sort of historical fiction / sci-fi book about an alchemist, but unfortunately it was more of a religious self-help book about following your dreams.

What's next in 2020?

Next year I want to up my reading goal to 75. This seems like a big jump over an already-large 52, but I didn't read consistently over this year - there were long stretches where I would read nothing for weeks at a time (I didn't even read my first book of 2019 until February!) so I definitely think this is an achievable goal for me.

If you use Goodreads, feel free to add me here. I love seeing what other people have been reading and recommend!

Shoutout to @liyasthomas for their banner generator!

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Emma Goto πŸ™


Front-end developer. In my spare time I like to make Trello Power-Ups ✨


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Nice collection. My top 3 books on 2019 are: Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Thompson Clive, Normal People by Rooney Sally and The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


Thanks for the recommendations! I'll check them all out!


I read Coders too, but I got a little bored half way through it. I skimmed through the second half.
I just re-read Little Women before seeing the movie this week. It was awesome.


I don't know about Little Women, I'll check it out!


Thanks for this honest review of The Alchemist! I think it's hard to decide what to read these days, because a lot of "Bestsellers" are just overcooked mantras and copies of older classics.

I had the same feeling when I read Tony Robbins. Can't understand the hype about his books, I think they're mostly for people with a lack of self-consciousness and a limited mindset...


Great list. Thanks Emma!

I'm curious -- how did you boost your book count so dramatically? 14-ish to 52 is seriously impressive.


I think the biggest reason was accessibility to books.

I moved apartments, and the new grocery store we would go to every weekend had a library near by, so I made it a habit of stopping by there to pick up a few more books. Also this was my first full year I had a full-time job, so I probably bought about ~15 books without feeling too guilty about it

And then I commute to work via train, and I always took a book with me. And some days if the book was really good, I'd read on the way home, and then keep on reading most of the night until I went to bed!

I will admit I was a bookworm as a kid, so I have always had a love of books but it's very easy to get lazy and just switch to reading Reddit / watching YouTube instead when I don't have any books around.


Awesome, thanks for the response! I can completely relate to the book-buying guilt.

My biggest reading boost came from charging my phone away from my bed. Removing that temptation was a game-changer for me.