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Books I Loved in 2019

I love a good reading list … possibly even more than actual reading itself. With that in my mind, here's my list of the books that I most enjoyed in 2019. In no particular order:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I have recommended Atomic Habits to just about every human — and the occasional tame animal — I’ve met this year. James Clear’s book is full of practical advice on how, and why, to change your daily habits. And by ‘practical’ I mean I have actually used the advice in this book … which is so rare for this genre. Also rare for this genre: Atomic Habits is very well written.

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Nice folk can finish first, and Give And Take explains how. Crucially, author Adam Grant also explains how to avoid that all too common nice-person trap: becoming a doormat. After reading this book, I at least wanted to become more generous … even if my lazy nature seems to be winning out.

Hello World by Hannah Fry

A pop tech book on algorithms. With jokes. Where Hello World is light on technical details, it is strong on clearly describing how algorithms run our world. Hannah Fry's examples range from tragic to funny, all of which makes for an engaging read. Worth reading even if you’re an expert (which I’m not!), just to get ideas on how to express these concepts to the less informed (which I am!).

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work is a beautiful book, both in terms of its message and its contents. Filled with fantastic artwork by Kleon himself, this book encourages you to share the mess that is your creative process. Show Your Work will help anyone who is reluctant to put themselves out there. Put another way: Show Your Work is the reason I stopped hiding in the shadows and joined

Born To Run by Christopher McDougall

Born To Run tells the story of the greatest long-distance race ever run, and the Mexican tribe that inspired it. The distances are mind-blowing — 100+ mile races — which makes you realise that we human beings aren’t quite the Wimpy Species that we’d been led to believe. Whether you’re a runner or not, Born To Run will make you want to grab for your sweat shirt and shorts and head outside. (And, yes, the Bruce Springsteen reference is intentional.)

The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre

The riveting depiction of the real-life story of Oleg Gordievsky — a Russian agent who was secretly working for MI6 during the Cold War. The last third of The Spy and The Traitor was the tensest reading experience I’ve ever had. I was shedding genuine stress tears by the end. Incredible stuff.

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

Rocket Men tells the story of Apollo 8, the first crewed spacecraft to orbit the moon. What sets this book apart is the scene-setting. Two chapters in particular spring to mind: Kurson’s fantastic essay on the moon's significance throughout human history; and his review of the tumultuous year that was 1968. Ultimately, however, Rocket Men is about the astronauts — three men out for the adventure of all-time; three men with families who need them home.

Hilda by Luke Pearson

The only fiction on my list, and I’ve cheated a little — Hilda is a series of graphic novels, written primarily for kids. The eponymous Hilda is a courageous blue-haired girl who encounters all sorts of wonderful things on her adventures — teleporting gnomes, a sarcastic man made of wood, bureaucratic (and invisible) elves, etc. Hilda is wistful in the best kind of way. Particularly good for young children — our 5-year-old loves it.

2020 Reading Resolutions

Looking at my list, I’m ashamed to note that there is only one female author -- unfortunately, that's probably a fair reflection on the male-to-female ratio I read this year. I’m slightly less ashamed (but still ashamed) to note that there are no real technical books. Both of these I intend to fix next year. Also for next year: more fiction. Because, hey, you’ve got to let your hair down once in a while.

Other Reading Lists

As I say, I'm a big fan of reading lists. Here are some good ones I've found on

Do you have a reading list of your own? If so, I'd love to hear it.

Top comments (4)

emma profile image
Emma Goto 🍙

Interestingly I felt a bit disappointed by Atomic Habits - I read it right after I read The Power of Habit and I really preferred the Power of Habit's writing style. I might give Atomic Habits another skim-through in preparation for 2020 though, I agree it has a lot of actionable advice.

murrayvarey profile image

Very interesting. I have to admit, I haven't actually read The Power of Habit -- I jumped straight to Atomic Habits which felt like enough. Might be one for the 2020 list!

lbeul profile image

Great choice, Murray! I think the value of non-technical books is way too underrated these days. Therefore I'm glad to see that there are still some people who read 'em!:)

murrayvarey profile image

Absolutely! I am all about non-technical books. They give you a great overview of ideas, which can lead to a cross-pollination of thoughts. Also, they're just damn interesting and fun.

That said, I've gone too far away from technical books. I need to keep sharpening that spoon (or whatever the metaphor is). So this year I will read some technical books ... so long as they're also damn interesting and fun!