Books I Read in 2019

January 1, 2020

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 6 books this year. For most people, this would be an extremely modest goal.

For me, however, this was definitely a stretch goal. I hadn’t read more than one book a year since college. I never seemed to “have the time” to read (ie. mindless scrolling through feeds or watching Youtube).

That is not to say I didn’t read at all. All of my time was spent on reading blog posts and articles – shorter forms of reading. On my commnute, I would open up my Instapaper and work through the queue I had there.

Below are the books I read and some tips that helped me create my book reading habit.


⭐⭐⭐⭐★

Quiet

by Susan Cain · Nonfiction

A book about introverts and introversion. It goes through the history of the rise of extroversion (ride of mass media), the science that drives introversion, and some practical tactics for introverts.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

by Claire North · Fiction/Sci-Fi

This was a fun read. Left to my own devices, I would only read nonfiction so I asked Laura for a fiction read I'd enjoy.

This was a fun read - it starts off sort of like a thought experiment of what would happen if you could reincarnate with all of your previous memories before it gets into an engaging story.

⭐⭐★★★

The Social Photo

by Nathan Jurgenson · Nonfiction/Social Media

I was really looking forward to this book, but it ended up being immensely unsatisfying.

The book was written by the sociologist on staff at Snapchat (yes, they have a sociologist!). He has written a bunch of insightful writing about social media that I enjoyed.

This book had interesting concepts, but there were not enough to fill even a short book. On top of that, the writing style made me feel like I was reading a 100+ page tweetstorm.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

1984

by George Orwell · Fiction

I was suposed to have read this book at various points in my life (high school, college), but ... I was a lazy student 😁

I really enjoyed this - it gave me chills, both good and bad.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sapiens

by Yuval Noah Hariri · Nonfiction

At the risk of being a tech stereotype, I picked up this book. That aside, this book did live up to the hype for me. It was a nice high-level walkthrough millenia of human history and presented concepts in a new light.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan · Fiction

This was such a fun and fast guilty pleasure read. I'm normally a slow reader but I was able to tear through this book.


Going from 1 book (maybe) a year to 6 required a change in my habits. Here are a few things that helped me:

  • **ABR - always be reading.** Starting off, I made a concerted to reach for my Kindle instead of the remote for Youtube when I had a free second. It was tough at first - Youtube is too enticing - but it has turned into the most helpful long term habit.

    I got this tip from [Rick's](https://twitter.com/rickwebb) blog post: [My Reading Habits](https://medium.com/rick-webb/my-reading-habits-1e4039966f18). Actually, most of my success reading came from following advice in that post. Go read it 😁

  • **Quiet environment** ...or noise cancelling headphones elsewhere. I tend to get distracted by any sounds so finding quiet places to read was super helpful.

    That's not always possible – like on a subway commute – and noise cancelling headphones were a godsend. I would just turn on the noise cancelling and listen to nothing while reading on the subway.

  • **Trying not to read on a phone**. Before I got a Kindle, I would always try to read on my phone. Inevitably, I would get a push notification and get dragged into some other app. Having a distraction free device allowed me to focus on the book.

    That said, I don't always have my Kindle on my person and reading on my iPhone was better than not.

  • Alternating between fiction and nonfiction. As I mentioned above, I would only read nonfiction if I could. However, it was helpul to force myself to alternate. Nonfiction books can sometimes be a slog since they can be dense and fiction is a nice respite from that.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t think I’d make this goal. Having come out the other end successful, I’m really happy I did. The reading I’m doing feels more meaningful and durable that the treadmill of blog posts that I used to read.

For 2020, I’m setting a goal of 10 books. Again, probably not a big deal for most, but will be for me 😅 I’d love any recommendations you have!


Benny Wong is a technologist born, raised, and living in NYC.