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The Best Books of 2019 and What I’m Reading in 2020

In 2019, I read 10 books. I track this all with my Goodreads app and set reading challenges for myself every year. This year, I’m going for 15!

I used to not, but I’ve started including audiobooks just because I am still getting the benefit of the information in the book, even if I’m not physically reading it. Still kinda feels like cheating, but I want to include it in my tracking.

From the books that I read in 2019, here are some of my favorites.

My Favorites from 2019:

How Democracies Die

This book is all about how leaders sometimes subvert democratic processes for personal gain and how these actions can turn into a full-slide into an autocracy or dictatorship.

The authors examine how this has happened in several countries around the world, compares them, and creates a model for measuring when democracy is in danger. While this book does analyze the behaviors of the current President and shows how they do/do not line up to those of other leaders around the world, it is an interesting read regardless of your political affiliation.

It’s fascinating to see how democracy works and is affected by individuals and to learn some of the history behind it.

Becoming

This is the well-known memoir of Michelle Obama. As a lover of memoirs in general, I loved hearing all about her childhood in Chicago and how she ended up where she is today. I would have still been interested in and enjoyed the book immensely even if it had not mentioned the Obama presidency at all. Her way of telling her story is beautiful and is even more enjoyable if you listen to her read it herself in the audiobook version, in my opinion.

Educated

I am a sucker for memoirs and for stories about unconventional upbringings and life struggles. If you enjoyed The Glass Castle, you’ll like this memoir as well. The author tells the story of her experience growing up with a Mormon survivalist father, never getting a formal education throughout her childhood, and how she ended up educating herself and studying at Harvard and Cambridge. It’s a very well written, fascinating, and somewhat tragic, story that I think it’s hard to not become interested in.

The Great Alone

While this book is fiction, some of the themes reminded me of Educated. The main character’s father is a veteran who has some leftover issues from the war. He ends up moving his daughter, Leni, and her mother to Alaska on a whim after years of moving around because he couldn’t hold down a job. They learn to face the brutal Alaskan winters and find a community in a wild corner of Alaska. As Leni passes through her teen years, her father’s mental state gets worse and the family begins to fall apart.

This book is wonderful because of the striking imagery that makes you feel like you can taste the cold, Alaskan air and because of the palpability of the characters and their struggles as they go through increasingly difficult times, find and lose love, and face new challenges.

Talking to Strangers

This book, like many of Gladwell’s, is fascinating and eye-opening. In Talking to Strangers, he examines how we interact and interpret each other’s actions and intentions and shows how that often ends up in misunderstandings, miscommunications, and misjudgments. He does this through stories about Cuban spies, Sylvia Plath, Hitler, Sandra Bland, Jerry Sanduski, Amanda Knox and more.

I recommend listening to this as an audiobook because Gladwell did so much more with the audiobook version than just reading out the book. It’s a cross between an audiobook and a podcast and includes live interviews and music that make it even more interesting.

What’s Next in 2020:

2019 was a good book year. I’ve started to move away from just fiction and am reading more and more informational and developmental books. This year, I really want to read some books about finance but I haven’t decided which ones specifically yet. For now, these are the books that I’m reading/going to read in 2020.

The Giver of Stars

For a pleasure fiction read, I’m reading this book that I got for Christmas. It’s about the women who become the “librarians” in the traveling library that’s part of an initiative started by Eleanor Roosevelt. If you love historical fiction and strong female characters, you will probably like this book!

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***

This very colorfully written book addresses the idea that we spend too much time caring about the wrong things and that’s why we’re unhappy. Using many expletives, not for those faint of heart, Manson explains how to start caring only about the things that really matter and how to free yourself from ideals and expectations that caring about too many things creates.

Ask For It

For women, it can often be hard to ask for what we want. More women than men find it difficult to ask for things and to negotiate in order to get what we want. This book is a guide geared towards women to help them learn how to effectively ask for what they want and get it.

The Cheat Code

Brian Wong offers a series of helpful “shortcuts” that help people get off the typical script and find a better, and hypothetically faster, path to their goals.

What books are you reading? Share with me on Instagram (@lotsoflora).

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