My Best Books of 2019

I managed at least a book a week again in 2019. In no particular order, here are my favourites:

“Meaningful Work” by Shawn Askinosie

In addition to making some of the best chocolate in the world, Askinosie have fed over 1 million students in Tanzania and the Philippines by feeding 2500+ students a day, they have drilled wells in remote villages, supplied thousands of text books to schools, and funded empowerment programmes for young girls and boys in Tanzania. They involve their local schools [they are based in the US] in their ‘Chocolate University’, which includes taking high school students to Tanzania. They also profit share with the farmers who grow the cocoa beans they use in their chocolate.

Askinosie Chocolate have 16 staff. Sixteen.

If you want some inspiration for how you might increase your impact, start with this book.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig

Any ageing hippies out there may remember this one, as it was originally published in 1974. It is essentially the story of one man’s search for ‘quality’ in his life, and it’s not always the easiest read – at times, Pirsig’s musings and philosophising get pretty complex … but like all the best things in life, you’ll get out of it what you’re prepared to put in.

“His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman

OK, so I’m cheating a bit on this last one as it’s a trilogy – one that I returned to for the umpteenth time in 2019. These are extraordinary stories containing incredible characters who deal with themes including friendship and sacrifice, courage and fear, the line between good and evil, and – ultimately – love and loss. Don’t be thinking this is ‘just for the kids’.

“Levels of the Game” by John McPhee

I have heard Tim Ferriss recommend this book on numerous occasions and now I understand why. Ostensibly it’s about a tennis match – but this is in fact a masterclass on writing a beautifully concise, fascinating story.

“This Is Marketing” by Seth Godin

As Seth explains in this fantastic book, in today’s world, we are all marketing, all the time. Whether you call it ‘brand’, ‘reputation’ or something else, every action we take says something about us. What are you saying? And how might you say it better?

“The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers

Jeffers writes stunning picture books for children, and this one deals with love and loss. It is wonderfully illustrated, and may well have more to offer adults than children …

“Rework” by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Written by the founders of Basecamp, this provides an alternative to the ‘growth at all costs!’ mentality that is currently pervasive in the business world. Even if you intend to take over the world, this will provide food for thought.

“Keep Going” by Austin Kleon

Kleon describes himself as ‘a writer who draws’, and his books are an absolute joy to look at … they are also packed full of useful, practical ideas. This book is essentially the final part of his trilogy that began with ‘Steal Like An Artist’ [where to get your ideas], continued with ‘Show Your Work’ [how to get your ideas out into the world], and now concludes with ‘Keep Going’ [what to do when things aren’t going to plan]. They are all worth reading, but if you feel a bit stuck – as I did at times in 2019 – then ‘Keep Going’ contains a lot of great advice.

“Darkness Visible” by William Styron

I thought long and hard before including this one. It is a short, but dark, exploration of the author’s battles with depression, and absolutely will not be for everyone. However, with the growing understanding around the importance of mental health – our own, and that of the people close to us – if you are looking to understand extreme depression a little better, then this book may help.

“How To Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh

This short book will only take you an hour to read, but contains incredible wisdom on how to better connect with yourself, the people you care about, and the world around you … and what could be more important than that?






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