I made a personal goal in 2019 to read 20 books. Considering I read like 5 in 2018, that was a pretty lofty goal, but I’m happy to say I just got there, finishing Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping point yesterday afternoon. I’m really happy with myself for finding more time to read this year.
That said, because not all of them are worth your time (in my opinion, of course) I wanted to pick out a few that really stuck with me.
It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work
$9.99 on Amazon - by Jason Fried
While I suspect this book paints an overly-rosy picture of what it’s like to work at Basecamp, the problems it talks about with the modern workplace hit home with me. I read this right before going back to work in January and I rad it in one sitting because it spoke to me so directly.
My professional life was going well by all accounts, but the topics of unfocused work time, of endless, pointless meetings, and communication overload resonated with me in a very deep way, and I’ve spent the past 12 months thinking about the lessons in this book almost every single day.
The moment that sticks out to me the most is a part where the author asked when the last time you had done 4 hours of uninterrupted work. Like most people, I can’t point to a time I’ve ever done that at work. Hell, I couldn’t think of the last time I did 30 minutes of uninterrupted work. My work life was a non-stop train of interruptions and being asked to focus on other people’s priorities. This book gave me the confidence and the clarity to be able to improve that situation a ton throughout 2019.
Getting Things Done
$8.99 on Amazon - by David Allen
The other part of my improvement at work and at home this year was reading the classic productivity book from David Allen. I had been using the many GTD-style apps on the iPhone for years, so I didn’t think there was any need for me to read the book that inspired them.
I was wrong.
Despite its age, reading this book in 2019 gave me tons of little ideas that help me get a grip on all of the things I want to be good at in my life.
The best part for me was the idea of treating your GTD system as a way to “offload your brain.” At its very basic core, this means embracing the idea of an inbox in your life. If something comes up and you can’t act on it right away, put it in your inbox to do something with later. For example, when I’m in a meeting at work, I don’t have a web browser or notes app open, I have my task manager’s inbox open so I can immediately add tasks for anything I need to do coming out of that meeting.
Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Get it on Amazon - by Yuval Noah Harari
On a whole other track, Home Deus was the most interesting non-fiction book I read this year. It’s from the author of the very popular Sapiens, and while that book was about how humanity got where it is today, Home Deus is a look forward at where we might be going.
The book does a fantastic job of looking at big things going on today in terms of artificial intelligence, brain science, bioengineering, social media, and war and seeing where these things could go in the next hundred, thousand, and even million years.
One thing that I found really fascinating was the idea that Home Sapiens might be the first species who will knowingly craft their next evolutionary step. We are already able to shape the world around us to our whims, and we continue to get better at changing ourselves at very fundamental levels, down to our actual genetic code. The impacts of this on everything from inequality to, well, a billion other ramifications are exciting and horrifying all at once.
I think the internet is making this one of the most exciting times in all of human history, and Homo Deus makes a strong case that we are just scratching the surface.