Favorite Books of 2019

Dec 29, 2019

Photo by Paul Schafer on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again! I always enjoy the process of reflecting on the books I’ve read over the year. It’s a great way to do a gut check on whether the time I’m spending reading books is yielding the right results (whether that comes in the form of learning or joy).

This year, I decided to expand beyond my usual five and include a selection of both fiction and non-fiction reads. Let’s dive in!


The Courage To Be Disliked

This is the most impactful book I’ve read in a long, long time. It has had a profound effect on my life. The authors wrote this book to share the ideas of a psychotherapist named Alfred Adler, whose teachings provide a framework for how to think about the foundational issues of human relationships, self management, and finding meaning and purpose.

I found the book so compelling that I ended up reading it twice in quick succession, and went on to publish a post about my learnings: Finding the Courage to be Disliked.

Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution

This is an incredible book about the journey of Janette Sadik-Khan as she took over the NYC Department of Transportation, and the amazing changes she was able to bring about in her tenure. In addition to being an inspiring account of the scrappy approach she took (known as ‘tactical urbanism’) to change the landscape of New York, the book also provides an excellent education on the basic principles of urban city design. I’ve been reading and studying the area of urban transit in depth over the past year, and this was one of my first (and favorite) reads on the topic.

If you’re looking for more books in the study of urban transit, here are a few other recommendations:

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

This was a really fun book to read. It’s very short and concise, yet still manages to explain seven very important (and complex) concepts in the world of physics. You’ll get a playful, simplified introduction to topics like Einstein’s general relativity theory, quantum mechanics, gravity, black holes, and a framework to understand the fabric of the universe itself. Although I had studied some of these topics in school, I found this did a better job explaining them then I had ever seen.

One section of the book elegantly connected the concepts of gravity, Earth’s motion, and relative passage of time — it blew me away. Hopefully one day I can go even further and finally read The Science of Interstellar…if only there was a Seven Brief Lessons for that too!

P.S. I would highly recommend listening to the Interstellar soundtrack while reading this book!

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

I read this book to get some tips on drawing comics (I started to dabble in drawing a few this year), but found that the book offers much more than that. Somehow, McCloud explains the evolution of the format of comics, art and drawings themselves, all within a series of comics. Even if you’re not interested in comics, it’s a pretty wild ride through the different ways in which humans perceive images. I’d recommend getting a physical copy rather than eBook for this one.

Refactoring UI

This is a strangely specific book to recommend, as it focuses entirely on how to do effective web design for software products. Even so, I found this to be one of the best investments of time and money I’ve ever made in the realm of technical learning. Even if you don’t build web products currently, the principles are often universal, and it’s explained so well with incredibly clear targeted examples that you’re sure to get value out of it. I’m sure I’ll be returning to this book very often over the years.


I won’t go into detail on each of the fiction reads, but sufficed to say these were each moving and thought provoking in their own right.

I also re-read two of my favorite books of all time, so if you’ve never read these, they absolutely deserve your time:

That does it for 2019! If you’d like to see the full list of books I read, you can visit my Goodreads Year in Books.