The 33 books I read in 2019
A few years ago, I decided to get back into reading many books per year, so I've been doing reading challenges with myself since 2012.
I had gone a few years without reading real books. I had read tonnes of articles and websites, and extensive pdfs and ebooks about different areas of my interest, such as business, development and psychology, but somewhere along the way, I lost my habit of reading books.
After a few years of being back into the habit, reading more than ever, I decided that 2019 was going to be the first year where I pledged to read my age in books. In 2019, I turned 32, so I pledged to read 32 books (but I ended up reading 33 of them!).
For avid readers and those new into the habit, I'm sharing all of the books I read last year, and while I'm at it, here's the blog post I wrote last year: The 25 Books I’ve Read in 2018.
Like I did last year, there's no real order, but I'll try to categorise from most enjoyed to least enjoyed.
Full disclosure: This list is - again - heavily random.
My own book!
It might look like a shameless plug, but it's not. I started the year by writing my first book: Camino al éxit(o). The reason why it's on this list is not only because I wrote it in just one month but because in the process of writing it, I had to read it several times.
I wrote a compendium of 15 of my favourite Startup Grind Barcelona interviews - in Spanish to famous entrepreneurs and investors such as Carlota Pi (HolaLuz), Ferran Martínez (FC Barcelona, Globatalent), Nacho González-Barros (Infojobs, Mailtrack), David Tomàs (Cyberclick), Eva & María Martín (Tiendeo) and many more.
If you want to know more about it and/or buy it, you can do so here:
Consider supporting the industry. Don't buy it for me (I see very little money from it). Do it for those working in the publishing industry.
Extremely recommended business books
ANGEL - Jason Calacanis
I kicked off the year by reading Jason Calacanis' ANGEL and it caught my attention from the get-go. I started doing angel investing two years ago, but last year I geared up and, fueled by Jason's plan, I ended up signing almost ten deals.
I especially enjoyed this book because, as opposed to the vast majority of American business books, it's no-BS, straight-to-the-core, no-filler content. Sometimes bordering on arrogant (love him or hate him, there's no in-between), Jason explains unmodestly his progression from flipping burgers and living off 5 dollars per day to being one of the world's most famous angel investors.
In a way, it reminds me of the Basecamp books. Every chapter looks and feels like a blog post, and it provides an amene and most enjoyable read for such a dense topic.
Extremely recommended if you want to get into investing in startups.
Never Split the Difference - Chriss Voss
Second to it, but could easily share the first spot, comes Never Split the Difference, a book about negotiation.
Chris Voss, a former FBI expert in negotiation in international terrorism, explains how his negotiation techniques can be used in business contexts.
The book provides extremely good and nerve-wracking stories about negotiation in extreme situations, which intertwined with business concepts make up for a very good mix and an equal parts very entertaining and very educational book.
One level below these two, I want to mention three books.
What You Do Is Who You Are, by Ben Horowitz
First, What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz, or "How to create your business culture".
Ben, mostly well known for being one of the best VCs on the face of the Earth, but also because of his all-time best-seller The Hard Thing About Hard Things, follows up with a really remarkable book about company culture. Less dense than the former, it explains the meat and potatoes of company culture using historical figures and to dissect all the nuances of company culture.
The book isn't as good as The Hard Thing… but it's an all-around good book if you're a business owner particularly interested in company culture (like me!).
How Will You Measure Your Life? - Clayton Christensen
Second, How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, who passed away last year, sadly.
This book is also extremely good and provides a lot of food for thought, but as with Ben Horowitz's, this one doesn't really reach the level of illumination provided by his most famous work: The Innovator's Dilemma. However, this book provides a good amount of deep and thoughtful remarks that will leave no stone unturned in the business world. I guess this book could've belonged to the "Principles" section, but it's too related to business to be put elsewhere. Really recommended, too.
High Growth Handbook - Elad Gil
Last, for this section, High Growth Handbook. To be honest, when I read the title, I wasn't impressed. I'm not into high-growth or exponential scale, like pretty much everyone else in the business industry, but it came recommended by so many people I respect that I couldn't ignore it.
I remember it fondly. A good, swift read, full of practical examples and inside stories of companies like Twitter and the like. A good addition to any business owner's collection, I must say.
Other enjoyable business books
Venture Deals - Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson
Don' get me wrong, this is an absolute must if you are getting into VC. Both for startups and for investors, this is a mandatory read to get into the VC world.
At times, I found it too dense and too technical, and some of the concepts were hard for me to understand. Towards the end, it got more and more sluggish, but I guess VC is not my passion number one. I learnt a lot by reading it, but I also learnt to dislike venture capital a bit more.
Diario de un millenial - David Tomàs
Great follow-up to "La empresa más feliz del mundo" by the CEO and founder of Cyberclick. It's a business book disguised in a short fictional story about an old-fashioned company hiring a millenial, written in first person. Interesting read. David's personal touch made it even more enjoyable for me. I think I read it in one sitting.
Stealing Fire - Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal
It was recommended to me by Vicenç Martí, one of my favourite entrepreneurs/investors from Barcelona. He's a burner, and I can see why he recommended this to me.
The book talks about hacking the brain and the body, as a new movement in Silicon Valley. Some top-notch entrepreneurs and investors are doing microdosing and experiencing with some drugs to enhance their creativity, productivity and other parts of their brains.
I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and when I was reaching the climax, I was left with a sort of coitus interruptus ending that provided no real conclusion at all. I was a bit disappointed with how the authors wrapped it up (maybe they sobered up at that point) but the rest of the book is a joy to read.
What If? - Randall Munroe
One of my favourite books from last year, definitely. The author of the worldwide-famous webcomic xkcd wrote a book answering the most bizarre questions he's gotten in his inbox. The subtitle of the book is "Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions", so you can imagine how's it going to be.
For instance: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light? or How cold would your teeth have to get in order for a cup of hot coffee to make them shatter on contact?
If you want to know accurately scientific, data-driven answers to really absurd questions, this is your book.
I can only say that I wish he published one like this every year.
The World Without Us - Alan Weisman
Actually, I read this after What If? because it's mentioned in that book. In one of the very absurd questions - don't remember which one -, Randall Munroe mentions, and strongly recommends, reading The World Without Us.
This book describes with meticulous detail what would happen if humanity disappeared overnight. It is one of the best masterpieces I've ever laid my hands on. It's been written with extreme care and very beautifully, with the purpose of bringing us into a dystopian world where nature must claim back planet Earth.
I'm not going to share any spoilers, but I think everyone who's slightly interested in nature, climate change and the future of our planet should read this book.
I think this will become one of these books I re-read every X amount of years. Definitely life-changing.
The Body in the Library - Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie at her best. I can't recommend her work enough. I try to read one or two per year at least.
The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
I had always heard of this book, but I had never the chance to read it. As a sci-fi lover, I felt sort of ashamed by having skipped such a great classic.
I must admit I was blown away by this book and I was pleasantly surprised many times throughout the book with the precision of some scientific claims, considering it was written around 1897.
The Game - Neil Strauss
I read this book circa 13 years ago, during my exchange in Germany. Neil Strauss, both famous for this book about pickup artists and for his biographies of rockstars, depicts his life from being a dull journalist for Rolling Stone to being elected the world's best pickup artist, in a novel-meets-autobiography.
I wanted to read his "pickup" saga again, many years later, because I had bought his newest book "The Truth", and I thought it'd be great to remember those books.
No. It wasn't. The Game is still a great self-help novel, but it hasn't aged well. The rest are rubbish.
The Strange Library - Haruki Murakami
An amazing surprise. I don't know who recommended this book to me, but hey, thank you! It's a short Japanese fictional novel that got me trapped from beginning to end and I read it in one sitting. It's short enough, but also stimulating enough, to do it. A really good surprise!
The Pearl - John Steinbeck
I love John Steinbeck's books. They're simple, humane and they are very beautiful. They're one great example of "simpler is better" or "less is more". Why writing 800-pages books when you can do it in less than 200?
I cried with this book, as with every other book John Steinbeck has ever written. He always gets me emotional.
Essays and Philosophy
Civilisation and Its Discontents - Sigmund Freud
I had read this one during my teenage years, when I literally devoured each and every Freud book. Since psychology is one of my passions, and I had recently read a few articles about unhappiness being the zeitgeist of our present times, I thought I'd look for answers in this book.
I found them. I always find answers in Freud.
The Republic - Plato
Arguably, Plato's masterpiece. This 800+ pages classic leviathan analyses all kinds of possible governments during the Ancient Greek era, through dialogues with Plato's master, Socrates.
It's simply mind-blowing how accurate some of these conceptions are even nowadays, and how some political currents haven't changed in forever.
I wouldn't recommend this book if you're not as passionate about philosophy and politics as I am, but it is easy enough to read for a broader audience, I guess.
Gorgias - Plato
I doubled down on Plato, last year. I had read this book when I was fifteen, in Spanish, so I wanted to give it another go after such a dense read as The Republic.
However, I was unfortunate enough to buy a copy with a horrible translation, and I couldn't enjoy this book at all. Hell, I could barely understand it, as it used either Google translate or else a very bizarre English.
Essays and Aphorisms - Arthur Schopenhauer
As a huge Nietzsche fan, one cannot overlook Schopenhauer's work. This book is fundamental to understand his view of the world, explained through his personal life story. Easy to read and to understand, but enjoyable only if you're into this shit.
Ideas and Opinions - Albert Einstein
If Albert Einstein were alive today, he would be considered as a man of the future. His forward-thinking and his mental clarity made him a man ahead of his time.
His views on politics, on society (particularly striking how much of a feminist he was, back in the early 1900s) and on religion blew me away.
A good read for everyone. We all need more Einstein in our lives.
Habits and life
Principles - Ray Dalio
Another masterpiece. What a real gem of a book. One of these books that forces you to read outside of your reading habits.
I was a bit skeptical of a 600-pages book about someone else's views on life. Most of all, I tend to believe that other people are wrong most of the time, so why would I waste time and money in such a book? Reality hit me in the face like a tonne of bricks: I really enjoyed this book from beginning to end.
Ray Dalio reviews all his life and career and shares his own philosophy and convictions in a highly-inspirational manner.
I assume this book is not for everyone, like a good scotch, but if you want to savour a truly good book and enjoy yourself while doing it, you can't go wrong with Principles.
Atomic Habits - James Clear
Another book I was pretty skeptical of too early.
As you might know, I'm a big fan of habits, and I've written one or two articles about mine. In fact, my day and my week are structured around my habits, so I kinda started from the practice, but never got to the theory of habit building.
The book is great, but I don't think I've learnt a lot by reading it. I would recommend it, though, to everyone wanting to learn the process of habit building. Worth its price, definitely, but I wouldn't write home about it.
Meditations & The Thoughts of the Emperor - Marcus Aurelius
First time reading a Roman Emperor, actually, and it's been a great experience.
This book is a good way to get into Stoicism and seems to be revered by great politicians and people of success. One of the best things about it is that it was short, but I don't entirely enjoy this kind of book.
The Manual - Epictetus
Another book from the Roman times, and also about Stoicism. The Manual: A Philosopher's Guide to Life was recommended to me by the creators of Basecamp, so hey, thank you! and it was an overall great and easy read (66 pages only), but it has definitely not changed my life.
I guess it's a book for people who don't read much or don't want to read much, but it's got a decent amount of wisdom nuggets despite its brevity.
Not for me, but someone else might enjoy these ones
I don't want to extend myself too much, so here are two books I haven't enjoyed, but I think they might be good for other people:
- Grow, by Shopify: It's a content marketing effort by one of the behemoths in the industry. Good for first-time entrepreneurs in the early days, too basic otherwise.
- The Revolt of The Angels by Anatole France: Seems like a lot of people love this novel about how angels rebelled against god. A friend of mine recommended it to me on the account of my atheism and my love for satanic clothes, but I found the book to be plain, dull and devoid of any kind of wit.
Utter shite. Avoid these.
Not gonna spend a lot of words with these books, as I think they're rubbish:
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson: I had read a blog post by this guy and thought he was great. Turns out it was the summary of this book. The first 40 pages are fun and great, the rest is utter garbage. Waste of time and money.
- The Rules of the Game, by Neil Strauss: Brutally delusional, coming from an author I revere. Excessive pseudo-machism objectifying women. Don't need that in my life.
- The Truth, by Neil Strauss: The idea of him coming clean after his pickup era sounded like a great idea, but turns out I was wrong. Definitely one of his worst books. I don't remember anything from this book at all.
- Topgrading, by Bradford Smart: The epitome of American business books: the author explains a great concept in the first 40 pages and then proceeds to force-feed you with 320 extra pages with no new ideas or no meaning at all. Writing for the sake of writing. Another book that could've been a blog post.
- The Happy Satanist: I admit I impulsively bought this one because Amazon recommended it to me after I bought The Revolt of the Angels. I don't think I've ever read so much crap in my life. Don't even bother taking a look at it. I wouldn't read it again, not even for a large sum of money.
Phew! That was long! I hope I've been useful, and thank you all for the recommendations.
PS: Why did I read 33 books when I was supposed to read 32? Well, I finished my 32nd book a couple of weeks before the end of the year, so I didn't want to stop de momentum!
Now Playing: Kreator - Gods of Violence