Life Lessons in 85 Books

On a path to healing, I found myself reading nonstop. Here's what always having a book in your hand, a download open on your tablet, and an audiobook streaming in your earbuds will do for your life.

In 2019 I Read 85 Books

Most of them were audiobooks and I have learned to love having the words wash over me as I walk around the city, work out, commute to work, and spend time in my apartment. I love a physical book for reading before bed and studying. I write in my books and come back to passages I’ve annotated in highlights and colorful margin notes. The e-books come in many forms- PDF, Kindle, and documents downloaded from the web, the library, or shared from friends. They’re the easiest to travel with and share. 

Overcoming Obstacles

The last year of the decade was a curvy one for me. I had a health issue, I left a senior position at a nonprofit (that I had helped start), my husband and I traveled to some wonderful places, we fully enjoyed living in a vibrant city, and I lost my sister to cancer. There were many ideas for projects that floated through my head, including several that I consulted my mentors on. And there were a few opportunities that I let gently pass by. Behind the scenes, I was growing from the experiences of life and learning about diverse subjects from books. 

Selecting the Right Reads

I always have several books going on at once. I enjoy going between genres. I like both fiction and nonfiction. And I’m never ever afraid to abandon a book that just doesn’t speak to me anymore. I have put away or returned several that I was more than half way through. Life is too short to stick with a bad book. To me, a bad book isn’t one I disagree with- indeed, I intentionally read many that challenged me politically, religiously, or diversely. I want to be open to hear the ideas of others, even when I want to contest the premise or logic of the author. No, a bad book is one that rambles without getting to a point, one that has dry prose, one that’s not intelligent enough to use thoughtful words, or one that simply loses my interest.  

Several books topped my list of outstanding reads. Either the subject matter was handled with expertise or the topic was extremely interesting. Perhaps they were just read at the right time and place for me in my life. As I mentioned, I will abandon a book if it’s no longer fulfilling, so I won’t do a list of “worst” books here. The worst ones were let go already. Every book I read had value. But there were some that will stay with me for a long time.

Here is a list of the books I read in 2019:

  1. The Paris Wife – Paula Mclain

  2. Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

  3. The Women Who Flew for Hitler – Clare Mulley

  4. The Perfectionists – Simon Winchester

  5. Hardwiring Happiness – Rick Hanson, PhD

  6. The Babylon Code – Paul McGuire, Troy Anderson

  7. Weapons of Math Destruction – Cathy O’Neil

  8. Super Genes – Depak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

  9. Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi

  10. The Narcissist Next Door – Jeffrey Kluger

  11. Origin – Dan Brown

  12. Calm the F*ck Down – Sarah Knight

  13. Thrive – Arianna Huffington

  14. How to be a Bawse – Lilly Singh

  15. My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem

  16. Magical Negro – Morgan Parker

  17. Thirst – Scott Harrison

  18. The Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore

  19. The Man Who Designed the Future – B. Alexandra Szerlip

  20. Circe – Madeline Miller

  21. The Seventh Function of a Language – Laurent Binet

  22. The Natural Mind – Andrew Weil, MD

  23. Nudge – Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

  24. Golden State – Ben H. Winters

  25. Endurance – Scott Kelly

  26. Range – David Epstein

  27. Mind and Matter – John Urschel, Louisa Thomas

  28. Thank You for Being Late – Thomas L. Friedman

  29. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli

  30. The Second Mountain – David Brooks

  31. Unshakeable – Tony Robbins

  32. The Threat – Andrew G. McCabe

  33. Naked Economics – Charles Wheelan

  34. Fascism – Madeleine Albright

  35. The Moroccan Girl – Charles Cumming

  36. Smarter, Faster, Better – Charles Duhigg

  37. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

  38. When Women Ruled the World – Kara Cooney

  39. Magnificent Desolation – Buzz Aldrin

  40. City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert

  41. The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene

  42. The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo

  43. Daring Greatly – Breneé Brown

  44. Measure What Matters – John Doerr

  45. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

  46. Essentialism – Greg McKeown

  47. The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer

  48. The Personality Brokers – Merve Emre

  49. My Friend Anna – Rachel DeLoache Williams

  50. Energy Anatomy – Caroline Myss

  51. The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis

  52. A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer, Charles Fishman

  53. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

  54. Switchers – Dawn Graham

  55. When Life Gives You Lululemons – Lauren Weisberger

  56. Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell

  57. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

  58. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari

  59. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

  60. Archetypes – Caroline Myss

  61. The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

  62. Out of our Minds – Ken Robinson

  63. The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

  64. What It Takes – Stephen A. Schwarzman

  65. Life Undercover – Amaryllis Fox

  66. Then She was Gone – Lisa Jewell

  67. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

  68. Grit – Angela Duckworth

  69. Becoming – Michelle Obama

  70. Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

  71. It’s All Good – Gwyneth Paltrow

  72. The Starlet and the Spy – Ji-Min Lee

  73. Justice on Trial – Mollie Hemingway, Carrie Severino

  74. Hazards of Time Travel – Joyce Carol Oates

  75. The Winemaker’s Wife – Kristin Harmel

  76. Everybody Always – Bob Goff

  77. Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist

  78. Less – Andrew Sean Greer

  79. Dare to Lead – Breneé Brown

  80. The Power of Nunchi – Euny Hong

  81. You Are a Badass Every Day – Jen Sincero

  82. The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

  83. The Great Pretender – Susannah Cahalan

  84. The Longevity Diet – Valter Longo, PhD

  85. You Don’t Get a Map, You Get a Compass – Cindy M. Hartner

How I Change My Life

My life changes every time I encounter a timely message or a different perspective. It changes when I discuss things like what makes great art, how people think, why we behave the way we do, or how science advances our lives. It changes when I have loss or joy or encounter a major change in my life that exposes me, indeed FORCES me, to live differently. There are some things that can only be explained or soothed by themes in books, the beauty of art, or the comfort of my community. So here are just a few things I’ve learned from these 85 books that shared space in my head in 2019: 

  • Situational awareness will make you a better person. This involves being hyper aware of your environment, respecting your surroundings, and paying the utmost attention to the people in your presence.

  • Healing takes time and is different for everyone. You also can’t see the wounds on other people- and we all have wounds.

  • You can’t control the world. But you can strive to know the history of different geopolitical issues, political stances, gender disparities, and other socio-economic differences. Nothing is “today’s” issue. It all goes way back. And it will continue in directions we can shape if we only know the history and actually take some action. 

  • Knowing yourself better helps you understand others.

  • You are stronger than you think, even when the world falls apart.

  • Not knowing is easier, but seeking understanding is imperative.

  • Following your dreams isn’t comfortable, smooth, or straightforward. 

Taking care of yourself involves more than eating right and exercising. You have to challenge your perceptions, grow your intellect, and create space to be alone to meditate, pray, or regroup.

For a better description of the books individually, see my Instagram page. Enjoy your reading list in 2020, and be sure to challenge yourself with new topics or opposing points of view. You may surprise yourself. #blog #reading #healing #learning #growthmindset