My Top 15 Books of 2019


When we gave my father a Kindle reader a few years ago, he told me he read 75 books that first year. That inspired me to keep a tally of how many books I read in a year.

First, I set a goal of a book a week. In actuality, I've read 60 or more books a year for the past few years. I read paper books, ebooks, and audiobooks. I read a number of books at one time. I read in snatches, a little here and little there. I've turned my commute into a classroom. I have to admit it's hard to highlight and annotate audiobooks while driving (don't worry, I don't even try).

Secondly, I started listing the books I read in my journal and on Twitter. It I recommend the book, I just write, "recommended." I gave up the star system quite a while back. I put it on Twitter, because people ask me if I've read any good books lately, and I think their eyes would glaze over if I started to list them. Now I can refer them to Twitter.

Thirdly, I put an asterisk next to the books on my journal list. This year I thought I would share them with you, but I had 23 favorites. I wanted to make a list of my top 10. That didn't happen. So, read on to see see the list.

These are not in any particular order of recommendation.

Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck. "People with a fixed mind-set - those who believe that abilities are fixed - are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mind-set - those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment."

Late Bloomers, by Rich Karlgaard. "There is a scientific explanation for why so many of us bloom later in life. The executive function of our brains doesn't mature until age 25 - and later for some. In fact, our brain's capabilities peak at different ages. We actually enjoy multiple periods of blooming in our lives."

Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport. "Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It's the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world."

The Allure of Gentleness, by Dallas Willard. "When Christians share their faith, they often appeal to reason, logic, and the truth of doctrine. But these tactics often are not effective. A better approach to spread Christ’s word, Dallas Willard suggests, is to use the example of our own lives. To demonstrate Jesus’s message, we must be transformed people living out a life reflective of Jesus himself, a life of love, humility, and gentleness."

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink. "In When, Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways that give listeners compelling insights into how we can live richer, more engaged lives."

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant. "Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent."

Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth, by Samuel Chand. "Reluctance to face pain is your greatest limitation. There is no growth without change, no change without loss, and no loss without pain. Bottom line: if you're not hurting, you're not leading. But this book is not a theological treatise on pain. Samuel Chand—recognized as "the leader's leader"—provides a concrete, practical understanding of the pain we experience to help us interpret pain more accurately and learn the lessons God has in it for us."

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson. "Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith and human nature, while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its readers."

Didn't See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences, by Carey Nieuwhof. "Carey Nieuwhof wants to help you avoid and overcome life's seven hardest and most crippling challenges: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and emptiness. These are challenges that few of us expect but that we all experience at some point."

Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23, Dallas Willard. "Life Without Lack reveals the secret to enjoying God’s presence and becoming utterly caught up in his abundant generosity. The more we practice living in his presence, the more we experience the peace and freedom from worry that is promised in the psalm."

Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude, by Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin. "Raymond Kethledge (a federal court of appeals judge) and Michael Erwin (a West Pointer and three-tour combat veteran) show how solitude can enhance clarity, spur creativity, sustain emotional balance, and generate the moral courage necessary to overcome adversity and criticism."

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, Dr. Susan David. "David shows how anyone can thrive in an uncertain world by becoming more emotionally agile. To guide us, she shares four key concepts that allow us to acknowledge uncomfortable experiences while simultaneously detaching from them, thereby allowing us to embrace our core values and adjust our actions so they can move us where we truly want to go."

Eternity Is Now in Session: A Radical Rediscovery of What Jesus Really Taught about Salvation, Eternity, and Getting to the Good Place, by John Ortberg. "John Ortberg dispels the myth that eternal life is something way out in outer space that we can only hope to experience after we die―and that being saved is merely about meeting the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven. Instead, John unpacks the reality that the moment we trust Christ, we are initiated into “eternal living” with God as a here and now reality, one that will continue beyond our life on this earth."

Stillness is the Key, by Ryan Holiday. "All great leaders, thinkers, artists, athletes, and visionaries share one indelible quality. It enables them to conquer their tempers. To avoid distraction and discover great insights. To achieve happiness and do the right thing. Ryan Holiday calls it stillness--to be steady while the world spins around you."

Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock. "In a world where always-connected smart devices and search algorithms educate and entertain, digital Babylon is the new context for discipleship. Faith for Exiles reveals findings from a groundbreaking three-year research study of young Christians whose faith remains resilient even in exile."

© 2020 Curt Dalaba. All rights reserved.