2019 – Top 10 Books

For the past several Decembers, I’ve been sharing a list of my favorite 10 books from the year. This year I couldn’t limit myself to ten titles – I loved the 11 books below. If you’re interested in my favorites from prior years, check out 2018, 201720162015 and 2014.

I read very little fiction. I love reading about people, history and books that describe how things work. I’ve broken this list into Business/Technology, How Things Work, and Biographies/ History.

Business / Technology

  • Range by David Epstein. This is an extremely well-written and well-researched book that focuses on how generalists tend to outperform specialists at discovering breakthroughs and avoiding systemic failures. Epstein is a great writer. One of my true favorites – provocative and profound.
  • Dawn of the Code War by John Carlin. While I’ve read a lot on the rise of cybercrime, Carlin does the best job of describing what the federal government has done to counteract our adversaries and of exploring what needs to be done to continue to improve our posture.
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. Although Rovelli is a theoretical physicist, he writes clearly and concisely. This book is very approachable and covers Einstein’s general theory of relativity, quantum physics and particle physics. A great review for those, like me, who got caught up in the math of physics but not the theories and why they matter.

How Things Work

  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling. This book blew my mind. Rosling, who has since passed away, was a physicist and professor of international health. In the book, he systematically exposes the logical flaws in our thinking about the world and proves that, across many dimensions, the world is becoming a better place – safer and more prosperous. Please read this book if you want to become a better consumer of news media.
  • Tribe by Sebastian Junger. Junger, the author of The Perfect Storm, explores the overwhelmingly tribal nature of human beings in this book. He uses vignettes from the first colonial settlers and how they dealt with native Americans and from returning World War II veterans to make several salient points. Highly valuable insights.
  • The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. One of my favorite contemporary authors, Lewis explores the federal government and the role it plays in everyday life. Using the Trump administration’s systematic disdain for and dismantling of US federal bureaucracy as a backdrop, Lewis features members of several key federal agencies. Lots of surprising findings – I learned a lot.

Biographies / History

  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing. This is an older book written about the 1915 Shackleton voyage, attempting to cross the South Pole. The heroism and resourcefulness of the crew was mind-blowing and the book is an exciting read.
  • Fault Lines by Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer. This book is a history of the US since 1974. There are so many great reminders in this book of the key events and people that have contributed to our current day US including the Reagan/ Gorbachev years, the rise of our ideology-based media, and the work of Phyllis Schlafly to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. Very worthwhile.
  • Fascism by Madeleine Albright. In this book, Albright, the first female secretary of state, profiles several fascist regimes, pointing out commonalities and the risks these regimes present to the world. Its a frightening but important read.
  • George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade. This is a really cool story about a spy ring of unknown patriots who helped tip the scales in the Revolutionary War. The outcome of the war was uncertain for some time and had it ended differently, the world would be a very different place today.
  • The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre. This book tells the story of Oleg Gordievsky, a senior KGB agent who, given his ideals, became a spy for the UK in the 1980s. He was discovered and was successfully exfiltrated from the USSR by UK diplomats. The story is thrilling and the impact he had on the cold war is incredible.

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