Also check out: recommended reading 2018
As the new year rolls in we all have another great chance to read a lot of fantastic books and broaden our knowledge and understanding about the world.
This year I’ll be publishing my in-progress list of recommended reading separated into months.
I read and listened to 5 books in January 2019, which is the best reading month I have ever had.
1. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
This is the perfect book for anyone curious about some of the big questions about sleep. Most interesting of all is this idea that when we are sleep deprived we actually so impaired by a lack of sleep that we don’t even know we are underperforming in almost every part of our life.
This book could literally save your life and then take your life to the next level. This is already a very good early contender for best book of 2019.
2. SAS Training Manual by Chris McNab
This book is a fascinating inside look into what it takes to become an elite SAS soldier. SAS is one of the most well trained, disciplined and feared military units in the world. This book runs through what it takes to pass selection and what skills are required including rather detailed descriptions of the survival skills needed such as how to find food and set traps.
What it mentally and physically takes to become an elite solider was extremely inspiring and I believe it would be for anyone who is trying to reach their peak in a different field of expertise.
3. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
I love to mix my reading between non-fiction and fiction because I believe it makes me a more well-rounded reader. After all, fiction comes from real life experience and can help us go a ways to predicting the future.
The Eye of the World is a good epic high fantasy novel, a large book but has some amazing world building and a narrative that keeps driving forward at a relentless pace. I had this book in my collection for around 6 months before I started it and once I started I found myself finishing the book in less than a week.
Overall, really worth the time investment, even if it did feel like it was heavily inspired by The Lord Of The Rings.
4 & 5. The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin
I combine these two books for brevity but they are both amazing books on their own. The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky are books 2 and 3 of the Broken Earth Trilogy by triple Hugo Award winning NK Jemisin who is one of the greatest female science fiction writers of the 21st century.
Since I couldn’t put down the first book, I had to finish the series, which ends in a very suitably epic and memorable way.
This series is maybe best described as a post apocalyptic global warming warning with extremely well crafted, flawed and loveable main characters.
I have been off to a great start in February, finishing an epic novel written by one of science fiction’s most loved authors.
6. The Player of Games by Iain Banks
Iain Banks is a huge name in science fiction and last year I loved reading Consider Phlebas so this year I decided to read the next book in the Culture Series.
The Player of Games is fantastic Iain Banks novel. It is a short and focused story set inside the huge Culture universe. I absolutely love the way Banks’ introduces people to his Culture universe in short slices like this. It allows him to explore his universe in detail.
For those that don’t know, “The Culture” is this all knowing, all powerful post-everything society far in the future. The Player of Games has the protagonist interacting with a futuristic Empire that has similar political ideas to our own recent history.
The story ends up giving this amazing view into what could be our future. I always finish Iain Banks’ novels with a broader view about what we should do in our own future.
7. The World’s Fittest Book by Ross Edgley
Ross Edgley is one of the fittest men alive and was the first person to swim around the mainland UK covering 3,200km of ocean swimming in 5 months without touching land.
Ross is also not a natural swimmer by build, being average height and build more like a weightlifter. I was amazed with his story and wanted to learn all I could from him about how to achieve an elite level of performance.
In this book Ross breaks down a lot of his thoughts on training, myth busting a lot of common thinking such as the notion that you can be only fast or strong and going into an insane amount of detail.
Overall this is a really good book which builds a really great foundation for anyone looking to perform better.
8. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll
Rich Roll is a former US college swimmer, turned alcoholic, turned vegan endurance athlete.
On his 40th birthday Rich realised he was out of shape and struggling to climb the stairs.
Instead of ignoring the problem Rich decided to make a massive change to his life, becoming a vegan and training as an endurance athlete over the next few years. Rich eventually completed the invite-only Ultraman 500km swim/bike/run endurance event among others.
I really loved this story because Rich dives deep into the specific steps he took to get to this elite level of fitness (I love actionable books) and his story is very interested and resonates well. I managed to finish this whole book in one sitting during a long haul flight.
9. Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
I have a few favourite authors from last year that I really wanted to follow up on and read more of. Alastair Reynolds was not one of those authors. I found his original Revelation Space novel to be too much of a vessel for his big ideas and anything resembling a good plot or good characters were 100% a backseat to those ideas.
I decided to give Chasm City a try because I had read that Reynolds had evolved a lot as a writer between these books.
I was glad I decided to give Chasm City a try because its definitely a lot better than the original Revelation Space. I would almost not recognise that this was the same author.
Chasm City has a real Blade Runner feel to it set in a dystopian future city, but I found it to be much more well crafted and realistic than its likeness. The massive plot twists at the end of the book were well crafted and not just an afterthought. The characters were better, though not perfect. Every part of this book was genuinely better than the original Revelation Space novel.
Another great thing about this book is that it is essentially a standalone story so this is a great jumping in point for lovers of great hard science fiction.
Overall I could not stop reading this book and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on another Reynolds book later this year.
10. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
I got this book in a spare of the moment decision and absolutely loved it. The book details the story of Theranos a former silicon valley unicorn (billion dollar company) and all of the intricate workings, lies and scandals surrounding the startup.
The whole story is insane and shows the levels of hype that exist in the silicon valley bubble. It’s a great warning story to future business leaders about being truthful in the way you run your business and not copying the Steve Jobs persona blindly.
11. The Uses And Abuses Of History by Margaret MacMillan
I heard about this book from the Farnam Street blog as a great book packed with really good lessons from history. I had read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari last year, which I found to be light on specific details and too ambitious.
This book is a very different book to Sapiens. It was very well researched and had a lot of great discussion on how people and nations use history to their advantage. There was a lot of good information there about the rise of nationalism and the events after World War 1 and 2.
I definitely would have loved this book to be double the size with a lot more detail but it was a good jumping off point and it helped me discover more books to add to my list in the form of references. Overall a great read for when you have a few days or a weekend spare for some relatively light reading.
12. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Seveneves is the story of what happens when the moon shatters into pieces and humanity has to survive past the Earth’s destruction. This book reminds me a lot of the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson due to how everything is so meticulously and scientifically explained. Stephenson uses so much technical detail that the story seems like a really plausible way for us to survive in the future. This seems to be the author’s style though as I read he has a degree in biology and physics and comes from a family of engineers and scientists.
The only thing I didn’t love about the story was how they introduced a whole set of new main characters way too late in the book and I didn’t have the time to like them as much as the original set of heroes. Overall a really good book but be prepared for a long read.
13. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
This is a great book by two former Navy Seals. I was super fascinated by their stories from the Iraq War where they served in one of the most dangerous parts of the country.
They related each leadership principle back to business at the end of each section however it doesn’t always work but I love the overall idea behind the book and enjoyed in nonetheless.
14. Average 70kg Dickhead: Motivational Lessons from an Ex-Army Special Forces Doctor by Dan Pronk
Continuing the theme of military motivational books is one of my top picks for best book of 2019, I absolutely loved this short book written by Australian Ex-Army Special Forces Doctor Dan Pronk who writes about his life, leadership lessons and lessons on how to live a full and impactful life.
The thing I loved the most was how relatable Dan’s life is growing up in an average middle class Australian family, not the usual uplifting story of rising from the ashes but still packed with meaningful motivation. I even wrote about the book here.
15. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
This is the first science fiction book by a Chinese author that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I can honestly say it was pretty similar to any “western” sci-fi with a few small changes. The major difference was the glimpses into Chinese cultural norms, a focus on status and hierarchy, the role of women etc.
Some parts of the book almost felt like a critique of historical Chinese culture, though I can’t be sure if the author intended this, it sure felt like it.
The biggest problem I had with the book is that is took forever to get started. There are chapters upon chapters of back story that were interesting but not ultimately that important to the overall narrative.
This book is the first of a trilogy and it definitely felt like the setup for the main event. I have the other books int his series on my to-read list and I look forward to reading them.
16. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
This book was recommended to me a lot by a lot of people and I can see why. David tells the story of his rise from an abusive childhood with little to no prospects to losing weight and becoming an elite solider, endurance athlete and pull-up world record holder.
David has an amazing story full of twists and struggles that make you believe that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
17. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben
It is always great to step outside your comfort zone and discover unique books outside of the topics you typically gravitate towards. This amazing book is one of those rare gems that teach so much about trees, a topic which I don’t always pause to consider.
Peter Wohlleben is a 20+ year ecologist and conservationist. His amazing depth of knowledge about forests provide a rare insight into how trees really think and feel. The book answers important questions such as do trees sleep?”, “do trees have feelings?” and “do trees work together?” the answers to these questions will astound you.
Those are all the books I have reviewed this year so far. Stay tuned for more coming up over the next few weeks. Don’t forget to subscribe below to get the updates when they come out.