Top 10 Reads of 2019

There are so many books we could pick up, and only so much time! I’m a big fan of hearing from others which books they found particularly worthwhile, and these annual blog posts are always among the most popular, so I know many of you feel the same. In aid of that, It’s time for my annual round-up of the books I’ve read during the year, including the ten that I found most compelling.

As always, these are in no particular order apart from being roughly the order in which I read them, first within the Top 10 and then within the rest of the list.

1 – Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Kwame Anthony Appiah)

“So there are two strands that intertwine in the notion of cosmopolitanism. One is the idea that we have obligations to others, obligations that stretch beyond those to whom we are related by the ties of kith and kind, or even the more formal ties of a shared citizenship. The other is that we take seriously the value not just of human life but of particular human lives, which means taking an interest in the practices and beliefs that lend them significance.”



2 – Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on it (Chris Voss and Tahl Raz)

“Remember, a hostage negotiator plays a unique role: he has to win. Can he say to a bank robber, “Okay, you’ve taken four hostages. Let’s split the difference—give me two, and we’ll call it a day?” No. A successful hostage negotiator has to get everything he asks for, without giving anything back of substance, and do so in a way that leaves the adversaries feeling as if they have a great relationship. His work is emotional intelligence on steroids.”



3 – Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace (John Maxwell)

“As Malcolm Gladwell said, ‘That’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.’ Maybe as leaders we need to recognise the value of ‘mental floss’. Dentists encourage us to use dental floss daily to promote the health of our teeth; we need to use mental floss to get rid of old thinking and promote the health of our leadership.”

(See the book spotlight here


4 – The Mueller Report: Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election (Robert S. Mueller)

“The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation—a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prigozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin [redacted].

In mid-2014, the IRA sent employees to the United States on an intelligence-gathering mission with instructions [redacted]

The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation… The IRA’s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons…

…the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials… The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.”


5 – When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Daniel H. Pink)

“Timing, we believe, is an art. I will show that timing is really a science – an emerging body of multifaceted, multidisciplinary research that offers fresh insights into the human condition and useful guidance on working smarter and living better. Visit any bookstore or library, and you will see a shelf (or twelve) stacked with books about how to do various things… the output is so massive that these volumes require their own category: how-to. Think of this book as a new genre altogether – a when-to book.”

(I talk about one of Pink’s concepts from the book in this post)


6 – How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Walter Rodney)

“From the beginning, Europe assumed the power to make decisions within the international trading system. An excellent illustration of that is the fact that the so-called international law which governed the conduct of nations on the high seas was nothing else but European law. Africans did not participate in its making, and in many instances, African people were simply the victims, for the law recognized them only as transportable merchandise. If the African slave was thrown overboard at sea, the only legal problem that arose was whether or not the slave ship could claim compensation from the insurers! Above all, European decision-making power was exercised in selecting what Africa should export – in accordance with European needs.”


7 – Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (Frederick Douglass)

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”



8 – The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World (John Mark Comer)

“Psychologists tell us anxiety is often the canary in the coal mine, our souls’ way of telling us something is deeply wrong and we need to fix it, fast. In one recent study 39 percent of Americans reported being more anxious than they were a year ago. That’s not something to keep your eye on; it’s an emotional epidemic.”




9 – Sleep (Nick Littlehales)

“It is estimated that, on average, we’re getting between one and two hours’ sleep less than we were in the 1950s…

The average person in Britain gets a little over six and a half hours’ sleep a night. Furthermore, over a third of the population get by on only five to six hours a night, 7 per cent more of us than just three years before. It’s a similar story around the world, with over 20 per cent of the population in the USA reporting less than six hours’ sleep on work days, and Japan not far behind. The statistics show that in these countries, as well as the likes of Canada and Germany, most people ‘catch up’ on their sleep at the weekend. Their work lives are limiting their sleep. Almost half of the UK population report being kept awake by stress or worry, and when you take a look at the schedules of many people, it’s not difficult to see why.”

(Note: I would still rate the sleep book from my 2017 list as the best on this subject that I’ve read so far)


10-12 – Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Home is behind, the world ahead, And there are many paths to tread. Through shadows to the edge of night, Until the stars are all alight. Then world behind and home ahead…”





And the rest:

13. The Finish Line (Bob Creson)

14. Everybody Always (Bob Goff)

15. Tailor Made (Alex Seeley)

16. Digital Minimalism (Cal Newport)

17. An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story (Jeremy L. Sabella)

18. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge (Clay Scroggins)

19. Death by Meeting (Patrick Lencioni) [Reread]

20. Girls and Boys (Dennis Kelly)

21. Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (Maya Angelou)

22. How to Fight a Hydra (Josh Kaufman)

23. The Way of the Warrior (Erwin Raphael McManus)

24. I Declare War (Levi Lusko)

25. Bartleby, the Scrivener (Herman Melville)

26. The Path Made Clear (Oprah Winfrey)

27. Human Errors (Nathan Lents)

28. Free to Focus (Michael Hyatt)

29. And So to Bed (Adrian Reynolds)

30. Micromegas (Voltaire)

31. The Three Strangers (Thomas Hardy)

32. The Elixir of Life (Honoré de Balzac)

33. The Million Pound Bank Note (Mark Twain)

34. Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln (James C. Humes)

35. Lessons From Critical Thinkers (Albert Rutherford)

36. 8 (Dustin Lance Black)

37. The Tempest (William Shakespeare)

38. The Testaments (Margaret Atwood)

39. Notorious RBG (Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik)

40. Over The Top (Jonathan Van Ness)

41. A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway)

42. Power Moves (Adam Grant)

43. The Irony of American History (Reinhold Neibuhr)

44. Delivering the Neural Nudge (Roger Parry)

45. The Golden Thread (Darlene Zschech)

46. There is More (Brian Houston)

47. The Half-Life of Marie Curie (Lauren Gunderson)

48. Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)

49. Lead and Influence (Mark Fritz)

50. The Scarlet Plague (Jack London)

51. 9 Things You Simply Must Do (Henry Cloud)

52. Atomic Habits (James Clear)


Previous lists: