Also check out: recommended reading 2018
As the new year rolls in I had another great chance to read a lot of fantastic books and broaden my 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 teaches so much about trees, a topic which I don’t often 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.
18. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
All my dark, gritty Bladerunner dreams came true reading Altered Carbon. This science fiction book had me on the edge of my seat the whole time and the main character Takeshi Kovacs is just an extreme badass anti-hero. I love a book with twists and surprise endings, definitely worth the read.
19 & 20. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
This series (collectively called the Kingkiller Chronicle is like a medieval fantasy coming of age story within a story. The main character Kvothe (a tavern owner and retired adventurer of sorts) recounts his amazing life story to a chronicler. Over 2 huge books Kvothe recounts the story how he grew up poor and downbeat, learning arcane magic at the university, having amazing adventures and coming of age in a time of uncertainty.
Patrick Rothfuss is an amazing writer with an unbelievable knack for keeping the reader turning pages again and again. Rothfuss would have to be one of the best fantasy world builders alive today.
I’m 110% looking forward to the final chapter of this series, coming out next year (fingers crossed).
21. Daniels’ Running Formula by Dr Jack Daniels
This year I have been working insanely hard to take my endurance running to the next level with some pretty aggressive goals in mind.
To achieve my goals I decided I needed to discover more about my body to refine my training schedule and answer the big question: why am I doing this specific training session today?
Daniels’ Running Formula is one of the seminal books on how to train a runner. It helped me clarify the why of my day to day training and in the month since reading the book I have already taken my running to the next level.
Dr Jack Daniels has been a running coach for 50+ years and coached some of the world’s best athletes, world record holders and olympians.
What I really love most is how accessible this book is, with just a little bit of curiosity and knowledge about human biology you should be able to understand every part of what Daniels’ says and apply this to your regular training schedule to grow in leaps and bounds.
22. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Forever War falls into a sub-genre of science fiction called “military science fiction”. I must admit I have never really been interested in war stories but I decided to give this book a try after it kept coming up as a must read while I was researching more books to read.
I’m super glad I decided to read this book because it was surprisingly good and full of interesting ideas.
The Forever War follows William Mandella, a student who is conscripted into fighting a war against a distant alien species. Due to the effects of time dilation from travelling many light years away from Earth he returns many years later and the Earth is completely different.
The book gives a lot of great social commentary the forever changing views of Earth and some thoughts into how that might look in our future.
23. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Professor Angela Duckworth
Having never seen Professor Angela Duckworth’s TED talk or heard anything about her work, I had no idea what to expect from her book summarising her years of research into Grit.
Grit is the concept of persevering to achieve an elite level in something that you are passionate about and have dedicated your life to achieving. Gritty individuals almost never give up and therefore achieve so much more than people that might be stronger, smarter and more naturally talented than the gritty individual.
I really love the examples in this book, they inspired me to take things to the next level in my own life.
I also love that the book has a couple of chapters on how to teach grit to your kids, super interesting and valuable.
24. Win Forever by Pete Carroll
This is an excellent book by one of the all time greatest American football coaches, Pete Carroll as he walks through his philosophy and strategy on winning.
I absolutely loved this book and took so many notes because there were a lot of things I just had to remember. The main takeaway is around Pete’s “Win Forever” philosophy, which he breaks down near the end of the book.
I truly believe that with an extraordinary level of discipline you can achieve amazing things and Pete does his best to convey a similar idea throughout the book with his team rules around, no excuses, no days off, always be on time and more.
25, 26 & 27. Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
These 3 books are a space opera trilogy by Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke award winning author Ann Leckie. All 3 of these books had me absolutely hooked! I finished the trilogy in less than 2 weeks because I just wanted to know how it ended and wow, what a great ending full of really amazing characters.
The series follows Breq, an AI warship in a human body and a flawed but loveable cast of characters as she seeks revenge on the person who destroyed her warship. The series provides a fascinating look into the future of human expansion and their relationship with AI and other alien species.
The book also has a unique perspective on gender, with most characters in the book referring to each other in the female use of words e.g. “she” and “her” whether they were male or female.
28. Stark Naked Numbers by Jason Andrews
I bought this book by a local Brisbane entrepreneur after hearing good things about it from a friend of mine. Jason Andrews runs through his philosophy on business and explains in pretty good detail about which numbers are important to know in your business and why.
The book is short, clear and no bullshit and Jason is clearly a good teacher and a successful entrepreneur. I think the book will be a handy reference for me whenever I need a reminder on my accounting basics.
Most of all the book provides a good reminder that not all numbers are equally important and some business owners focus on the wrong metrics when running their business.
29. House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
I gave Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space novel a bit of a bad wrap last year for lacking in character development among other things. But this year his style of writing has really grown on me and perhaps that is also a sign of his growing ability as a writer.
This book is set far in the future where a bunch of clones of wealthy people roam the galaxy, exploring and doing good (and sometimes bad) things.
The book is about a mystery of the galaxy, that the wealthy are trying to hide. Its hard to explain without spoiling the premise but I can say this is a great book and worth it alone for the amazing setting and technology. I got so many good ideas about a future technological society from this book.
30, 31. Children of Time and Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
These books tell the story of a post Earth galaxy where uplifted spiders and octopuses fight for survival against and with humans.
The series had me hooked but the second book did drag along a bit and was overall less interesting. Watching the spiders go from the stone age to the space age over the course of a book in their spidery way was super interesting.
32. Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultra Running by Hal Koerner and Adam Chase
This book is perfect for any dedicated endurance runner. Hal Koerner is a titan of the industry and holds pretty much nothing back about how to prepare, train and compete in Ultra Marathon running.
For those that don’t know, an ultra marathon is anything more than a marathon but usually means races that are 50km – 100km or more! I personally got a lot from it and found the book’s writing style to be friendly and easy to digest.
33, 34. The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
This book is a collection of fantasy short stories about a famous monster slayer named Geralt of Rivia, a gruff but personable anti-hero. This series of books has a cult following in Eastern Europe (the author is from Poland) and was eventually turned into a number of video games that have sold 33+ million copies.
I originally purchased this book years ago with the idea of seeing what the original stories were all about, finally getting to read it was worth the wait.
Geralt is not like most fantasy heroes, in the stories here he is much more human, with real weaknesses, struggles from always being poor, looked down on, insecure and getting into lose-lose situations. I found it really refreshing and easier to sympathise and relate to a hero that isn’t always “winning”.
August and September 2019
35. Primal Endurance by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns
I’m obsessed with the idea that a modern western diet of high carbs and sugar just aren’t working for us. I decided to check out this book which discusses primal eating and training the right way on a primal diet. The book was not too bad, it was more of a way to reinforce some of the things I already believed. But also to push me more into action around the way that I eat and the speed that I train. The downside is the book was a bit over the top in some parts and the science isn’t as concrete as the authors try to make you believe. It was definitely worth the read though even for a skeptic!
36, 37, 38, 39. The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Edgedancer and Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
This series of 4 fantasy books (3 novels and 1 short story) had me absolutely hooked! I’m usually more into sci-fi than fantasy and initially I thought that Sanderson was just another generic fantasy author but I was so wrong! I just could not put this series down, even though these books are huge (Oathbringer was about 1,200 pages long).
The main reason why I love these books so much is the world and characters, Sanderson has created this unbelievably deep fantasy world, full of conflict and a huge cast of extremely flawed but loveable characters. The way the series starts with some of the main characters with such deep problems in their life was perfect because you start to really buy into their struggles and I found some parts left me with tears in the corner of my eyes. I don’t think any other book series has given me that feeling this year and that is why I would recommend this series without any pause.
40. Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds
October was a busy month so I only managed to finish one book, but it was a really good book. This is the fourth Alastair Reynolds book I have read. At first I didn’t love his writing, I felt it was too dry and not focused enough on characters but you can really tell that Reynolds has improved and honed his craft over this series of books and he’s now publishing amazing material with much better characters.
As always though its the concepts behind the books that I love and this book focuses deeply on the question of “why are we alone in the galaxy” and it answers that question is very unique way that I really loved and enjoyed.
41. The Courage to Be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi
This book was a perfect introduction to Alfred Adler’s teachings on how to live a happy life, free of the expectations of others. I’ve always wanted to expand my understanding of philosophy and I think Adler has a unique perspective on how to live a great life that is a lot different to many established norms.
The format of this book is set out as a conversation between an old philosopher and a young man. Over a series of evenings the man comes to visit the philosopher and ask questions, debate and understand the philosophy of Adler. I really liked the back and forth discussion because it added a lot of depth to the conversation and wasn’t just a one sided list of the benefits of Adler’s teachings.
42. Django for APIs by William Vincent
I had a bit of time for some technical reading in November and decided to pick up this quick primer on the Django Rest Framework as an introduction to building microservices using Django and React. I found this book to be very practical and gave a fairly good overview of the framework. I plan to use Django Rest Framework for more projects in the new year.
43. Salvation Lost by Peter F Hamilton
I absolutely love Peter F Hamilton’s huge sci-fi stories. Salvation Lost is the second book in a epic trilogy that bounces between the near and distant future where religious aliens hunt our species into extinction.
The best part of Hamilton’s space epics are the huge cast of interesting characters and awesome descriptions of future Earth.
44. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
I’m currently going through a rebrand of my main business. In the past 2 years our audience has grown significantly and so we are also evolving our branding to help our customers understand who we are and the value we provide.
A close friend of mine is a successful management consultant and he recommended this book as the perfect summary of his knowledge on how to get your messaging right.
I took my friend’s advice and read this book cover to cover and was blown away by how much I learned about telling a story about my business. This book dramatically changed the way I think about our customers and massively improved the messaging on our new branding and website launching in 2020.
45. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
I had heard Cal Newport was a smart and interesting writer so I decided to pick up his most recent book about the dangers and alternatives to obsessive use of technology.
I have been very focused on removing distractions from my life this year. I even removed my phone’s web browser earlier this year so this book was a great summary of many of the things I have recently learned.
Newport’s concepts of a “digital detox” and discussion around the science behind addictive technology use is interesting. If you already feel like technology is damaging the quality of your life then I highly suggest picking up this book, it might just be the kick you need to ditch your screen habits 👊
46. Use Of Weapons by Iain Banks
I’m slowly working my way through all of Iain Banks’ Culture novels. Why? Because I love epic science fiction novels about a massive and all powerful galaxy spanning society and the moral dilemmas that come with trying to be a force for good in a galaxy full of difficult choices.
Every Culture book is a unique and fresh experiment and this book was no different. Each chapter is interlaced with flashback chapters that give a great insight into the story and end with a huge reveal. I won’t spoil things but I can say its worth the time spend reading this great book.
47. Pimsleur’s Thai Phase 1 by Pimsleur
I also had a chance to brush up on my Thai phrases this year, since my wife is Thai and we do speak a lot of Thai. I was craving more formal methods of learning and trying to catch new phrases.
I enjoyed this book and Pimsleur seems to be a pretty good choice for any language not just Thai. The content was clear and not too rushed and I learned a bunch of new ways of speaking Thai, which was great.
48. Raft by Stephen Baxter
I came across Stephen Baxter at the local second hand book shop, in my quest to discover and read more high quality science fiction. I picked up this first novel in his Xeelee Sequence and ended up really enjoying his take on parallel universes and the struggles of human society that come with unique environments.
49. Darth Plagueis by James Luceno
I’ve been curious about the Star Wars expanded universe for a while and with the release of Episode 9: the Rise of Skywalker movie this month I decided to check out this book about the original master of the Emperor, Darth Plagueis “the wise”.
The story is full of political intrigue and in one of my favourite fiction universes. I particularly loved how it tied in nicely with Episode 1.
50. Create Or Hate: Successful People Make Things by Dan Norris
Dan Norris gets straight to the point with this short book. I read this while on a short Christmas break and immediately loved the message. I think the goal of this book was to teach people to stop doubting themselves and start creating more, which is coincidentally my theme for 2020 so thanks Dan for giving me the extra push for the new year.
These are all the books I have read and reviewed this year. It was a big year for science fiction and fantasy as I rediscovered my love for creative and deep fiction worlds. And some great impactful non-fiction books mixed in.
Have you enjoyed any of these books? Let me know! And most of all, happy reading!