My Favorite Books of 2019

I am thankful to have enjoyed many great reads in 2019. This is my annual post highlighting those books I gave four or five stars on Goodreads during the year. Goodreads shows my entire year in books here. As always, nonfiction is my preference.

It is always fun to reminisce about my literary year as I write and refine this post. As I read the brief reviews I wrote about each book that earned a spot on this list, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I was reading each book. In some cases, I recognize evidence of my evolution from who I was when I read a book to who I have become with exposure to additional books and new life experiences. It is nostalgic, enlightening and exciting.

I am almost finished with a book right now that I know will go on next year’s list. I also plan to give it as a gift. (Tune in next January to find out what it is. 😊) That is the wonderful thing about reading—there is always another terrific book waiting to be read and more to learn and discover.

I am making good progress on my own book, and I look forward to completing the writing and learning the publishing process in 2020. I have submitted final revisions for my essay to a forthcoming vegan cycling anthology, edited by Carol J. Adams and Mike Wise. I am not sure of the publication date, but I am hoping it will be during 2020. Writing, editing and revising my essay has been a tremendous learning process. As I work on my own book, I am grateful for the experience.

These are the best books, alphabetical by category, that I read in 2019. This year, maybe more than most, some defied straightforward categorization. In those cases, I went with my gut instinct on where to place them. Please excuse any funky formatting in this post. I’m trying to correct it, but I want to get on my bike, so I don’t plan to spend too much more time dealing with it.

Here’s to another great year of reading! I’m so grateful for my literacy, my vision and my access to wonderful books.

I hope you find some of your next reads in my list below.

Business/Career

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau—This book was encouraging and helped me believe that I could really make my coaching business thrive. It offers practical business advice as well as many case studies from successful entrepreneurs. If they can do it, I can do it! I was at a different place with my coaching practice when I read this than I am now. I have determined in the last month that I will be evolving to a different model and taking an approach that more fully resonates with me. Still, this was a very good book, and I like the author.

The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life, by John Assaraf & Murray Smith—This book inspired me in several ways, including a modification to my daily mindfulness practice, which was meaningful to me. In some ways, it is two books in one—the first part devoted to putting Universal Laws (Attraction, Gestation, Action, Compensation) into action in our lives and the second part spent detailing business practices. I found value in both parts and have implemented actions from both.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do, by Chris Guillibeau—As I mentioned above, I really like Chris Gullibeau’s writing. This book may be even better than The $100 Startup. Guillebeau provides both advice and inspiration for finding and/or creating work that is the right mix of joy, money and flow, the combination he believes creates the work we were born to do.


Wellpreneur: The Ultimate Guide for Wellness Entrepreneurs to Nail Your Niche and Find Clients Online
, by Amanda Cook—The more I read, the more I realized how well-organized and information-packed (in a manageable way) this book is. I used her suggestions to create a more regular schedule for my blog. I utilized some of her other recommendations and still find them to be very good. I think they would have worked more effectively for me, if the model I was pursuing for my coaching practice had been right for me. I have since figured out that it is not, but I do recommend this book.

Health/Nutrition

The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People, by Dan Buettner—I am a fan of the Buettner’s Blue Zones work. This book examines happiness, which, of course, is an aspect of health. Buettner gives information and practical tips from what he has learned from the happiest places on the planet.


The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People
, by Dan Buettner—Here, Buettner elaborates on the dietary aspect of health in the Blue Zones. The book has recipes, as well as information about these locations.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey–I listened to this on audiobook and really liked it, but it was so loaded with information that I think I would have preferred a hard copy. This is a comprehensive resource for using exercise to enhance so many aspects of brain health across the lifespan.


What the Health
, by Eunice Wong—I watched the documentary a couple years ago and really liked it. This book provides greater depth, detail and context. It covers the range of health, social, political and economic issues associated with our country’s obsessive consumption of animal products. Experts in the field of nutrition and medicine are consulted, and compelling case studies are presented. If people will watch a movie, but won’t read a book, show them the film. If they want more detail, this book should convince uninformed consumers of animal products of the harm they are doing to themselves, the animals and the planet.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris—This is an interesting discussion by a skeptical news correspondent and anchorperson of his journey to becoming a meditator.


14-Minute Metabolic Workouts: The Fastest, Most Effective Way to Lose Weight and Get Fit
, by Jason Karp—Karp presents a large menu of several different types of high-intensity, efficient workouts, covering all aspects of fitness. The menu can serve as a mix-and-match strategy for increasing fitness, while minimizing boredom. I have incorporated some of his workouts into my off-season training program.

Inspiration

The Awakened Woman: Remembering & Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams, by Tererai Trent—More than a memoir, this book is so full of inspiration and encouragement. Tererai bravely tells her story of courage and perseverance. The odds she has overcome to accomplish what she has accomplished are truly unbelievable. When I doubt my ability to accomplish something in the future, I will remember Tererai.


A Survivor’s Journey: From Victim to Advocate
, by Natasha Alexenko—This is Natasha’s courageous account of being victimized by a rapist in 1993 and struggling with PTSD ever since. She also shares the startling news that there are many thousands of untested rape kits in the US. Her own rape kit sat untouched for over nine years, while she believed the rapist hadn’t been caught because of her incompetence. When she learned the truth about the rape kits, she founded a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the backlog.

Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up, by Elizabeth Smart—I read My Story, by Elizabeth Smart, several years ago. In this book, she weaves aspects of her own harrowing kidnapping and rescue into a series of interviews with a wide range of people who have experienced trying (and sometimes tragic) times in their own lives. Her own healing is evident, and she brings out the lessons others have to share from their own stories. While some of the stories are horrific, the overall tone of the book is uplifting.

Language

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, by Gretchen McCulloch—The volume of research that must have gone into this book is incredible. Honestly, I debated about whether to award three or four stars in Goodreads, because the detail was so minute at times that it became a bit tedious. Still, I was so impressed with McCulloch’s broad scope of coverage and her obvious enthusiasm (I listened to the audiobook.) for all things language, especially informal language, the category to which she assigns internet language, that I decided the book deserved four stars. She presented a great deal of fascinating data on the many ways that the online world is changing language worldwide.

Memoir/Biography

Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense, by Krista Schyler—This memoir is one of my favorite styles—a journey of personal introspection, written from the perspective of a physical journey. In this case Schyler travels for nearly a year in a car with her dog Maggie and her best friend Bill, trying to make sense of life after her boyfriend succumbs to metastatic testicular cancer at the age of 28. She tries to figure out what her future will look like, while traveling, hiking, appreciating natured and discerning the nature of her relationship with Bill.

 

Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist, by Daniel Munoz—I learned a lot about the world of cardiology by reading this book. I did not realize that the field contains so many subspecialties. Munoz tells multiple stories of patient encounters during his first year as a Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins. Within these interesting case studies, Munoz shares what he likes and dislikes about each type (interventional, preventative, echo, etc.) His descriptions helped me to understand more about what each one meant.


A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal
, by Jen Waite This was an interesting story. More than anything, I liked it because it encouraged me that an average person still had a message to share that would sell books. Waite determined that her ex-husband was a sociopath, and that very well may be true. I’m not sure the evidence was always clearly laid out to support this, but she had an interesting story to tell of shock, survival and post-traumatic growth.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt—This is a very well-written biography of a transgender girl and her family. Nutt documents the family’s journey from Nicole’s birth as Wyatt, an identical twin to Jonas. The family was supportive of Nicole throughout her many challenges and heartaches. The story is both fascinating and touching. I learned a lot.


The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
, by Jonathan M Katz—This one was hard to categorize. It is a memoir because Katz lived through the Haiti earthquake and relates his personal experience, but it is also a meticulously-reported account of the earthquake and its aftermath. I found the detailed explanation of Haiti’s political more in depth than I wanted at times, but it is a legitimate part of the story, and the whole picture would be incomplete without this background. Among other things, this book is a reminder of how very fortunate I am.


Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected
, by Nnedi Okorafor—Okorafor shares her inspiring story of going from a college athlete to someone who had to overcome paralysis to learn to walk again, after the scoliosis surgery that was supposed to ward off future serious health problems went wrong. In her suffering, she found a way to make meaning and, as she says, become more than she would have been without it.


Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action; A Memoir
, by David Fajgenbaum—In a similar vein to Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Fajgenbaum’s story is one of suddenly becoming deathly ill to finding meaning in his suffering. His story is different than Okorafor’s, though. I learned about Castleman disease, which has an incidence similar to ALS, but of which I had never heard. Fajgenbaum became afflicted while he was a medical school student, and the journey he shares of recovery and hope and perseverance is truly inspirational.

Climbing With Mollie, by William Finnegan—This Audible Original audiobook struck me with Finnegan’s obvious devotion to, and awe of, his daughter. They started rock climbing together when she was a teenager. She developed a high level of skill. His was not comparable, but they have enjoyed many years of climbing and travelling together. His discussion of their shared language reminds me of the language I share with fellow cyclists.


Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
, by Hannah Howard—I really liked this book. Howard honestly and courageously shares her story of recovery from disordered eating and a series of unhealthy relationships. It was so enjoyable that I was sad to finish it because I will miss it.


Find Another Dream
, by Maysoon Zayid—This audiobook was wonderful. Maysoon’s story is inspirational, and her delivery was entertaining. I loved listening to this courageous memoir, sprinkled with Zayid’s comedic comments. I did not know who she was, although she has had a long career in stand-up and TV. She is a terrific advocate inclusion of all people, regardless of ability, health status, religion, gender, etc.

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, by Amanda Knox—Although I was aware of who Amanda Knox is, and I knew that she had been accused of murdering her British roommate in Italy, I really didn’t know much more. This is Amanda’s side of the story, and it is fascinating. She describes her decision to study abroad in Italy, her early days there and how she became entangled in the murder investigation and trial. She was imprisoned there for four years before being exonerated, but the mess didn’t end there. I really enjoyed this book.

Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, by Ken Ilgunas— Besides being a fascinating and entertaining story, there are many lessons in this book. Ilgunas has chosen an unconventional path, and while it is not one I would follow precisely, his ideas about freedom, the value of higher education, debt, adventure and purpose gave me a lot to ponder. His adventures cover a wide range and vast geography—from lodge cleaner to AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer to tour guide to Arctic ranger to grad student living in a van to writer. I hope to read more of his work in the future. I am eager to see where his very interesting and unusual path takes him.

Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way, by Jimmy Wayne—This book contains an important message about the difference loving support can make in the life of a young person. Jimmy Wayne tells his poignant story of an unpredictable and dangerous childhood, abandonment by his mother and the critical intervention of a loving older couple who inspired him to walk halfway across the US to raise awareness for foster children, after becoming a country music star.


The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and A Life-Changing Journey Around the World
, by Kim Dinnan—I really enjoyed this book, although I felt like the story was more about the introspective journey than about the Yellow Envelope. I found myself impatient at times with the author because of her unsettledness and indecisiveness. I realized this was probably because it triggered anxiety about my own feelings of unsettledness. The story was very interesting, however, and it felt like a great escape to read.

Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace, by Kathryn E. Livingston—I found the first half of this book to be rather slow, and I wondered how I could be only 50% finished, according to my Kindle tracking. However, it became more interesting at that point, and I felt like I drew quite a bit of inspiration, including adding some Kundalini yoga to my own practice. Ultimately, I did enjoy the book, and I also felt like I grew through reading it.

Nature

Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz & Kathryn Bowers—I listened to this on audiobook, and it was fascinating! As the mother of a teenager, it was very interesting to understand that the adolescents of all species share common tasks and behave similarly as they strive to accomplish them. The authors explore how humans and other species approach status, safety, self-reliance and sex as they work toward becoming adults. It was enlightening.

Personal Development

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear—This book begins with a powerful, attention-getting story that sets the stage for James’ interest in habits. He has many good suggestions and explains the habit cycle (Cue-Craving-Response-Reward) a bit differently than several other authors.

The Best of the Happiness Project Blog: Ten Years of Happiness, Good Habits, and More, by Gretchen Rubin—I have read several of Gretchen Rubin’s books, plus an occasional blog post over the years, so much of the material in this quick read was not new. Still, it was enjoyable, and I found new tidbits of inspiration.


Everything is Figureoutable
, by Marie Forleo—I am a big Marie Forleo fan and had been looking forward to this book. At first, I was a little disappointed because it felt like I had already heard a lot of it. However, the ideas are so good, and Marie presents them so simply that I really did find value in the book. Essentially, the book is a collection of many of her lessons all gathered in on place, which is useful. I have a lot of respect for Marie and look forward to learning more from her.

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Find Success in Work, Hobby, and Life, by Chase Jarvis—I first learned about Chase Jarvis when I heard him on Lewis Howes’ podcast. I was fascinated by his story and bought his audiobook. During the time I was listening to the book, I heard Jarvis on Marie Forleo’s podcast. His message is encouraging, inspirational and heartfelt. Probably the idea I most liked in his book was toward the very end, when he said, “The best antidote to negative feeling is creative doing.” I can relate to this, and I agree with it. In my own life, I feel most alive when I am taking some form of creative action. Starting my book and making it public enhanced my well-being. Jarvis provides both practical ideas and motivational stories to encourage creativity in every person.

The Genius Habit: How One Habit Can Radically Change Your Work and Your Life, by Laura Garnett—This is another audiobook that I feel like I need to purchase in hard copy because there is so much I want to review. Garnett gave me a lot to consider in this book. One of her key points is that we each have a particular “genius” that allows us to excel in particular types of tasks. She challenges us to find that and then to apply it, along with our purpose, to our career paths. Her method for considering “purpose” is different than other approaches I have seen or taken. I need time and space to give her ideas deeper consideration.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals, by Rachel Hollis—I accidentally listened to this audiobook before I read or listened to Girl, Wash Your Face, because I got confused about which one came first. It didn’t hurt anything, although I wished I had done it the other way around. I still plan to read the other one. Rachel narrated this book and really made it come alive. Honestly, I was not familiar with her prior to listening. I feel like I know her now. She is very honest and very motivating. She speaks directly to women and gives us the pep talk and tough love to push us to pursue our dreams. I’m not sure I want to put in the hours she seems to have invested in her brand, and I don’t want to scale my business to the size of hers, but I did pick up a lot of good inspiration, as well as practical ideas for achieving certain goals. She talked a lot about her experience as an author, and I found that useful.


How to be Everything
, by Emily Wapnick—I learned so much from this audiobook! I listened to it at just the right time, when I was already in the midst of making some important changes.  This book emboldened me to own my power and my uniqueness in a deeper way. It helped me to honor my multipotentiality and to see it not as a source of wishy-washiness, but as a source of strength. I have a new definition of my professional self. I am grateful for finding this resource when I did.


The Leap of Your Life: How to Redefine Risk, Quit Waiting For ‘Someday,’ and Live Boldly
, by Tommy Baker—I listened to this on Audible and found good inspiration in it. I felt like the ending was a little weak, compared to the rest of the book, but I liked it. Essentially, the message is one I have come to believe is critical—We must live now. If we put off living or doing things that matter, we may miss our chance. Tommy Baker provides both inspiration and practical suggestions for making those things happen.

Someday Is Not a Day in the Week: 10 Hacks to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, by Sam Horn—Having recently refocused my coaching practice as a No Regrets practice when I listened to this audiobook, I found that Sam Horn’s book (to which I listened during my commute) resonated deeply with me. Her wisdom is apparent as she shares her personal stories and the lessons she has learned around living and being happy right now, rather than waiting for someday. She has an apparent affinity for quotes, like I do, and she shared so many in her book. I purchased a hard copy of this book, not just for quotes (although that, too), but because there are many terrific exercises that I want to remember. I was so moved by this book that I emailed Horn and ended up having a phone conversation with her. Although it was not specifically about my writing a book, her words provided some of the encouragement I needed to decide that this was the time to do so. She also helped me to own and honor my unique message.


You Are a Badass Every Day: How to Keep Your Motivation Strong, Your Vibe High, and Your Quest for Transformation Unstoppable
, by Jen Sincero—I really do love Jen Sincero’s style. This is the third one of her books I have read. This one is more quick bites of motivation, but she says that from the start. Rather than just read a chapter a day or turn to pages randomly, I chose to read it through. It was a very quick read, but there are lots of good reminders there.

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, by Michael Hyatt—I was surprised how inspiring and valuable I found this book. Besides gleaning many great quotes from it, I found quite a few strategies that will enhance both my personal life and my coaching practice. Really good stuff here.

Let me know if you have read any of these, and please share your favorite book or books of 2019.

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