This year, I continued a habit I started in 2018; to read more books and use audiobooks to help achieve this. Combining physical books with audiobooks has allowed me to read a lot more than I would have otherwise. This post covers some of the books I enjoyed this year. If you're interested in my 2018 book list, see 6 books I loved in 2018.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport - The ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task is deep work. You might have also heard of this as being "in the zone" or "flow". This book is split into two parts: why deep work improves productivity and then tips for making deep work a habit. If you find yourself distracted often and deep work is something you want to get better at, reading this book is a great investment in yourself.
"The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy."
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker - Steeped in science and clinical research, Why We Sleep is an exploration of sleep and how we can use it to change our lives for the better. There are lots of details on circadian rhythm, sleep cycles, NREM and REM sleep. I particularly appreciated the discussion on "sleep opportunity" and the effect of early school start times on children. The author makes a compelling case on why getting more sleep is better for you and also better for everyone else around you.
"Sleep is not the absence of wakefulness. It is far more than that."
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell - My interest in psychology and behavioral economics started after reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman. Blink is a continuation of my exploration in those subject areas. The main concept introduced in this book is "thin-slicing" which is described as the ability to find patterns in events and making very quick inferences based on minimal amounts of information. Gladwell also looks at some of the pitfalls of thin-slicing such as stereotypes and unconscious bias. If you're interested in these topic areas, I'd recommend reading both Blink and Thinking, Fast and Slow in 2020.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden - Recently released in September, this book is a memoir of Edward Snowden and his exposure of government system's of mass surveillance. The reader is taken on a journey beginning with the story of his life, transitioning to the events that led to the public revelations and concluding with commentary on where we are today. For me, a stand-out quote from the book is one on privacy.
"Arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like arguing that you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say."
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts - Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith - After reading this book, you'll be compelled to take action. This book is a direct call to action to you to actually do what you've told yourself you'd always wanted to do. An interesting angle the book provides on why lasting change is often so difficult for many is that "our environment conspires against us". Environmental influences can trigger behavior that opposes our stated goals. Also, if you're into new year resolutions, this book is ideal.
"Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?"
The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition by Don Norman - This is an updated version of a book originally published in 1988 as "The Psychology of Everyday Things". Even for someone without a design background, this book is relatable. My key takeaway is that often, engineers blame mistakes as "user error" when in reality, bad design enabled the error and didn't nudge the user into the pit of success.
"Technologies change; people stay the same."
As 2020 approaches, what books would you recommend?