The Books I Read In 2019

I’ve written before on the books that I’ve read in 2018 and 2017. This year I’ve read far more than I’ve done in the previous 2 years mainly because I’ve stopped using Twitter and Instagram. (I quit Facebook back in 2016).

For 2020, I’ve decided to cut down the number of business books, self-help books and biographies; instead, I would prefer to delve deeper into the classics and philosophy.

Stoicism

Previously I read up mostly on secondary literature of Stoicism. This year, I explored the primary source material through the writings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca.

Seneca: A Life by Emily Wilson and Seneca: Dialogues and Essays – My impression of Seneca has been coloured significantly by this biography and while he’s the most articulate of the three, he’s also the most polarising one (he was one of the richest men in Rome while he lived)

The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot – I didn’t really understand the Meditations until I read the Inner Citadel. Pierre Hadot made the meditations so much easier to understand – my summary of it here won’t do it justice. Perhaps if I can spare the time, I will write about it sometime in the future.

The Discourses and The Enchiridion by Epictetus – The Meditations was heavily influenced by the teachings of Epictetus; the Enchiridion is too short to be helpful but reading The Discourses was more rewarding.

Existentialism

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. – The struggle with negativity, anger, self hating and despair is so poignantly and thoroughly captured in Dostoevsky’s book.

Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard – Kierkegaard can be so verbose. At the crux of it, it’s about the absurdity of Faith recounted through the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Nietzsche by Walter Kaufmann – Only late this year I’ve begun to unearth the surface of the Nietzsche’s mystique – easy to read yet difficult to comprehend (the same can’t be said of some of the other works of philosophy that I’ve read – Kant and Hegel the guilty parties)

Biographies

Sherman by B.H. Liddell Hart , Montaigne and Magellan by Stefan Zweig and The Essays by Montaigne, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Plutarch’s Lives, Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk and I didn’t have the patience to complete the titanic book Titan by Ron Chernow.

Practical Books

Getting Things Done by David Allen – I wrote an entire post on his framework and the workflow is something that has helped me in my daily work. The upshot: Get things out of your head and into a well constructed, reliable system.

So Good that they Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work by Cal Newport – Working right trumps finding the right work.

I liked How to Read A Book and The Story of Philosophy too.

Others

There were also some underwhelming books that didn’t do much for me. Like Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke, Average is Over by Tyler Cowen, Competing against Luck by Clayton Christensen, Alexander the Great by Arrian, 12 Caesars by Suetonius just to name a few.