This article provides a short commentary on every book that I read or listened to in 2019. I normally like to try and read at least 1 book each week. I am a little under that this year, but it is important to focus on quality and not quantity.
1. David Schwartz – The Magic of Thinking Big
This is probably one of the books that I owned for the longest amount of time without actually reading. It was so long in fact that I cannot actually remember how it came into my possession. I think I probably bought it after seeing it in a charity shop, because of the 6 million copies sold logo on the front cover.
The book has some important messages though and it is important to think big. It doesn’t make following through and actually executing any less important, but if you don’t think big, you fall at the first hurdle.
2. Carmine Gallo – Talk Like Ted
There cannot be many people who have access to the internet, who have not watched at least 1 Ted Talk. But have you ever wondered what separates the talks that do millions of views and captivate the audience, from the talks that bore the audience and do very little views? If you have, Carmine does an excellent job of breaking down exactly what you need to do to be a standout speaker.
Whether you speak to small groups at work, or larger groups as part of your career, we all need to speak publicly and communicate our ideas at some point. I would definitely recommend this book as it is cram packed full of ideas and analysis that can help you with your speaking endeavours.
3. Hunter S Thompson – Hey Rube
I am a big fan of Hunter S Thompson. Without his inspiration, I may very well not be sat here writing this article. This is more of a collection of articles than a book, but as with everything by Hunter S Thompson, his signature style comes through on every page.
This is one of the books that was released towards the end of his life. If you have not read one of his books before, I would probably not recommend this as a first one. But it is definitely worth reading at some point.
4. Donella Meadows – Thinking in Systems
This was one of the best books that I read in 2019 and is one of the best books that I have ever read. Donella Meadows is a fantastic writer, but also possessed powerful ideas. I am always surprised at how systems thinking is not more prominent in debates around social, economic and environmental problems. Oftentimes rushing to solve one problem can lead to unintended consequences that make other problems worse. Systems thinking is challenging, but it is necessary if we are to solve many of today’s most pressing challenges.
5. Mark Earls – Herd
I really enjoyed reading this book. You can tell by reading that Mark is very creative. There was lots of important information in here if you are looking to take ideas that you have and share them with mass audiences. I would definitely recommend this book if you are looking for insights into mass behaviour and how it can be influenced.
6. Seth Godin – Small is the New Big
I like all the Seth Godin books that I have ever read and this one is no exception. Seth is the master of striping writing back to its bear essentials. Anyone can make a book more complicated than it otherwise needs to be. It takes skill and experience to make a book accessible and interesting.
7. Elkington, Burke and Hailes – Green Pages
This was certainly not what I expected when I pulled it off the book shelf to read it earlier this year. It is not so much a book as a collection of articles from 1988. I found it to be very much frozen in time, without much to offer a reader of today. I bought it originally as I am a big John Elkington fan, but unless you are supremely interested in owning his entire bibliography, I would not recommend purchasing this book.
8. Seth Godin – What to Do when It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn)
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this offering from Seth Godin was supremely well put together. Seth’s message is normally pretty consistent as always, partly trying to educate and partly trying to motivate his reader. This is an excellent book and I definitely recommend it.
9. Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
This was another book that I owned for a long time before reading. Despite the cheesy book title, there is a lot of good advice and information in here. Habit number 2, begin with the end in mind and habit number 5 seek first to understand, then to be understood were the ones that stood out for me. I would definitely recommend this book as there is lots of helpful advice in here.
10. Richard Branson – Losing My Virginity
This was the first Richard Branson book that I have read and I really enjoyed it. He certainly had an interesting and exciting life whilst he built Virgin Group from its humble beginnings into the company that it is today. If you are looking for an interesting business autobiography to read, look no further.
11. Chris Anderson – Ted Talks
You wait for ages for a book on Ted Talks and then two come out at once. This one is slightly different from the Carmine Gallo book that I mentioned earlier. Chris Anderson is the head of Ted and so can provide a lot more context to what makes a Ted talk special. I really enjoyed reading this and if you would like to improve your speaking abilities then I would definitely recommend this book.
12. Seth Godin – This is Marketing
This is Seth Godin’s most recent and I would say best book of his. It has a much more conventional cover and title, which makes it easier to recommend and gift to people who may not be typical Seth Godin followers. He puts a heavy emphasis on the reader to create the type of marketing that will engage with their audiences in the most authentic way possible. If you are looking for a way to get into Seth Godin’s work, despite it being his most recent book, this is a good place to start.
13. Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson
Economics is a funny discipline; you can see two professors or experts tell completely different explanations about real world phenomena. Both will think that they are absolutely right. I had seen this Henry Hazlitt book recommended from a number of different places. It was certainly eye opening and had a number of different examples that get you to think differently about the world.
14. E. F. Schumacher – Small Is Beautiful
This was one of the best books that I read in 2019. I found it to be packed full of useful information and a really good read. I think everybody could learn something by reding this book as it offers an excellent critique of the bigger is better ideology that pervades so much of society.
15. Jeremy L. Caradonna – Sustainability: A History
I had high hopes for this book, but it ended up being something of a damp squib. Even though the content was important and relevant, there was no storyline woven together to keep you turning page after page.
16. John Elkington and Julia Hailes – Manual 2000
I found this to be a reasonably interesting read. The sections on air pollution and recycling were good, albeit worrying that people have been warning about these issues since 1998 and yet they persist. If you are looking for a John Elkington book to read, he has many better than this.
17. Carmela Ciuraru (Editor) – Beat Poets
I got this book as a present and it did not disappoint, there are loads of great poems in there from an iconic generation. If you are keen to learn more about the Beat Generation, then I can definitely recommend this book.
18. Meegan Jones – Sustainable Event Management
I thought this was an excellent contribution to the literature on how to make events more sustainable. Even if you are not directly involved with event management, it is an interesting read nonetheless. It has lots of useful information and insights for the reader to go away with.
19. Niko Koeffeman (Editor) – Meat the Truth
This book is a collection of essays on an incredibly important topic. What we eat is very important, it determines the health outcomes of our own life, but it is also increasingly influencing the health outcomes for the planet. This book is an excellent critique of how the meat industry functions, why it is dangerous and the damage that it is doing. I definitely recommend that you read this book in 2020.
20. Seth Godin – Leap first
This book is all about creating work that matters. Creativity involves risks, but Seth lays out why this is important and takes the reader through that process. There is lots of good advice and information that the reader is left to take away with them, so this is an excellent book.
21. Goldstein, Martin & Cialdini – Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion
I bought this because of how much I liked Robert Cialdini’s earlier book Influence. I had high expectations and this did not disappoint. There is lots of great advice in here for how you can here yes more often, with is something that we all want.
22. Colin Pooley – Promoting walking and cycling
This was a book that I really enjoyed reading in 2019. It was exceptionally well written, with lots of useful information to help the reader learn more about cycling infrastructure. Lots of the solutions were not what you would think. Overall, this was a great book that I recommend to anyone interested in cycling.
23. Pablo van der Lugt – Booming Bamboo
This is an incredibly well written, detailed and important book. I very much enjoyed reading this in 2019. Pablo has a tough case to make, the construction industries in Europe and North America are not set up to be accepting of new material such as bamboo. But the detail and infographics in each chapter allow Pablo to make this case methodically. By the end of it, you are left utterly convinced about this. This is a great book that everyone working in sustainability should read.
24. Simon Sturgis – Targeting Zero
This is another really important book that I read in 2019. Buildings and the materials that they are comprised of are responsible for massive amounts of carbon emissions. This needs to change. Simon Lays out his strategy based on his life’s work in a clear and concise manner. This is a must read for anyone working in sustainability.
25. Stanley McChrystal – Leaders: Myth and Reality Hardcover
I had seen a lot of the press promotion for this book when it first came out and I knew it was a book that I wanted to read at some point. I really enjoyed reading this. Even though it was broken down into different sections, which were all quite compartmentalised, it is well written and keeps you guessing about what is next. Stanley McChrystal had an amazing military career and so is a major authority on the subject of leadership. If you are looking to learn more about this subject in 2020, read this book.
26. Blake Masters and Peter Thiel – Zero to One
I originally read this book in paper copy in 2016, but I decided to buy the audiobook version in 2019 so that I could listen to it whilst exercising. There is so much good advice in here, a lot of which is relevant for people who are thinking of starting their own business, but some of it is just good life advice. I definitely recommend reading or listening to this book in 2020.
27. John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan – The Power of Unreasonable People
From the cover of this book, you would definitely not be able to predict what was inside. I was really looking forward to reading this book after I bought it and it did not disappoint. Social entrepreneurs have a big role t0 play to make sustainability happen in the 2020s. If you want to learn about this, then you should definitely read this book.
28. Mike Berners-Lee – There Is No Planet B
This was probably one of the only books released in 2019 that I read in 2019. I have to say that I had high hopes for this book, as How Bad are Bananas is one of my favourite books. But on the whole, I found this to be quite disappointing. There were one or two facts in it that were just plane wrong. I also felt that it came across as the sustainability industry talking to itself.
29. E. Freya Williams – Green Giants
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I was very inspired by all the incredible case studies that it contained within it. Sustainable companies can inspire their employees, customers and other stakeholders to achieve incredible economic success that does not damage the environment. That is a positive, optimistic future that I think a lot of people can buy into.
30. Patrick Moore – Green Spirit
This is absolutely one of the best books on forestry that I have ever read. You can tell that Patrick is an experiment forestry as it is supremely detailed. Patrick is also an extremely good writer.
31. Yvon Chouinard – Let My People Go Surfing
I really enjoyed this book. Yvon has an amazing story to tell about how he built Patagonia into a successful and sustainable enterprise. If you work in sustainability, you should read this book.
32. Thomas Friedman – Thank You for Being Late
This was one of the more challenging books that I read in 2019. T was challenging, but worth it. Thomas weaves together an interesting story about technology, the environment and accelerations. I thought the whole book was very interesting. Except for the last 2 chapters on Minnesota, I think all bar U.S readers may get bored by them. But overall, I recommend reading this book.
33. Roberto Escobar – Escobar
I was really looking forward to reading this book on holiday and it did not disappoint. Roberto had a close relationship with his brother Pablo and tells of the many amazing stories and experiences that they shared together as they built their notorious criminal empire. This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there was a lot I learned about Colombia and Pablo Escobar by reading this book.
34. Hunter S Thompson – Kingdom of Fear
I really enjoyed this Hunter S Thompson book. I had heard that it is not considered to be one of his best, but I very much enjoyed reading it. There were lots of things that I learned about his life and his legal struggles that I found out by reading this book. Whether you are a die-hard fan or looking to learn more about this mercurial figure, this is a good place to start.
35. Sylvia Ann Hewlett – Executive Presence
I listed to this audiobook on the way back from my holiday in January. I found it to be extremely useful and full of information that can help you succeed in the workplace and in life.
36. Steve Hilton – Positive Populism
I am a huge fan of Steve Hilton’s other books Good Business and More Human. So, I had high expectations before I even begun to listen to this audiobook. I think more authors should narrate their own audiobooks, as I think it makes them a lot more engaging. Steve has a great set of arguments in this book about how populism should be seen as a positive force for change. It is well thought out and well argued.
37. Charles Mackay – Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Listening to this audiobook, which I only finished recently was a huge highlight of 2019. This book has lasted for so long and become a classic, because it is extraordinarily well written and researched. I question anyone to look at society the same way after listening to this audiobook.
What you need to know
This article provided a short commentary on all the books that I read in 2019. I hope you found it to be useful.
I did not read as many books last year as I would have liked to and I will try to do better this year.
That being said I did read a number of exceptionally high-quality books this year, quality not quantity should be the goal.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What was the best book that you read in 2019?