Monday, January 20, 2020

2019 Reading Overview and Recommendations

Since I started tracking my annual reading in 2010, my annual goal has always been to complete 52 books per year. Somehow I blew right past that number and went all the way to 121 books completed in 2019.

People often ask where I find the time, and the simple answer is that I don't really watch TV. Each night after the kids go to sleep I spend about an hour reading and try to get through 100 pages per day. I also have a lengthy commute that I mostly use for listening to audiobooks and podcasts which make up about 1/3 of my total reading. Smartphones and social media have lead to more distractions but since I get most of my books from the library, the deadline of a due date forces me to pace myself and make sure I finish the books on time.

According to Goodreads.com, my reading added up to 41,470 pages with June being the busiest month (15 books read), and February and April tied for lowest (6 books each). Prior to 2019, the most books I had finished in a year was 76 back in 2013. I try to split my reading evenly between fiction and non-fiction but err on the side of non-fiction.

I try to read everything I can about the 2008 financial crisis and also really enjoy Corporate Biographies, Behavioral Finance, and Sociology/Demographics. For Fiction I enjoy Action, Legal thrillers, and the occasional Sci-Fi/Fantasy series and tend to avoid anything you might find in paperback at the grocery store.

My Ratings Methodology:

While I don't do full write-ups of each book I read, I do assign a rating (1-5 stars) to every one I finish. I tend to be very stingy with 5-star ratings, and only gave that distinction to 3 books all year. In general I use the Goodreads criteria for ratings, below with my distribution of ratings:

5 stars: 'It was amazing' (3)
4 stars: 'Really liked it' (38)
3 stars: 'Liked it' (43)
2 stars: 'It was ok' (31)
1 stars: 'Did not like it' (6)

Most books therefore, end up in the 3-star or 4-star category. I might still recommend a 4-star book, but not quite as vigorously as a 5-star.

For non-fiction, a 5-star book is one that causes me to think about something differently than I have before or causes me to change something I do or a way of thinking. 5-star fiction books must be reasonably believable but not predictable. As a rule I do not re-read books but I try to own everything I rate 5-stars, partly to support the author and partly to be able to lend to friends.

Here are the best books I read in 2019. I highly recommend you check them out. 

Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson - This has not been made into a movie that is currently in theaters. I'm sure the book is better, but am very glad that the message will get more attention since so many people don't read. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer whose primary goal is to overturn wrongful convictions.

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman - I had already seen this movie and loved it. Even though the book followed the movie pretty closely, I still felt like I was getting to know the character even better than the movie depiction allowed. I recommended this to my grandpa in his 80's and he called me belly laughing after reading a particularly humorous part, so maybe it's the inner old person in me that really like it.

Dare to Lead - Brene Brown - I have read a lot of leadership books over the years but this one seemed to be very relevant to where I am in my career right now but also felt like it shared more real examples of how to implement the principles it taught.


2020 is the year for me to finally catch up on my 'to-read' list. I am down to under 40 books left and have been particular about what gets added to it, but always need new material. If you have any great recommendations, please share!