Reading reflections from 2019

Reading Reflections from Chelsea at Lulu

For the past two months, my inbox has been inundated with top picks for the best books of 2019. After seeing every newsletter include some list of this type, I thought to myself, “Wait a minute…I read books* in 2019, too! Maybe I can make a list!”

And here we are. What’s different about this list is that most of these books did not come out in 2019, but for me personally, they were the best and most helpful books I read in the past year. So, if you’re looking for a list of wonderful books that are not necessarily new and fresh, you’ve come to the right place!

*Full disclosure, when I say “read” I really mean listened. For the most part. What? I have a long commute!


The 48 Laws of Power

By: Robert Greene
Narrated by: Don Leslie
Length: 9 hrs and 52 mins

The 48 Laws of Power Cover Image

I bought this book because I wanted to learn all the tried-and-true strategies for moving up in the world and becoming more formidable along the way. However, when the book started I was a bit put off. It basically seemed like a handbook for how to be awful. However, after listening to the audiobook once (and the gentleman who reads it is fantastic so I would recommend listening to this one if possible) I was so entertained I immediately restarted it.

This book does an excellent job of outlining how people consciously (and at times subconsciously) act when they are serving their self-interests, which is basically all the time. So, rather than coming away from this book with an arsenal of ways to leapfrog the competition, I became more aware of what’s going on past what the eye can see. This book essentially gave me a new mental model to work with, plus a ton of fascinating historical anecdotes that make it the pinnacle of edu-tainment

Who this book is for

Anyone interested in learning from some of the most successful, at times diabolical, figures in history or anyone interested in human nature in general.

Biggest takeaway

People act in their own self-interest the majority of the time but go to extreme lengths to pretend they don’t, so be sure to read between the lines. A close second would be that when you become emotional, you lose all of your power, giving your opponents the upper hand. 


How To Win Friends And Influence People

By: Dale Carnegie
Narrated by: Andrew MacMillan
Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins

How To Win Friends And Influence People Cover Image

Oldie but a goodie. This should be recommended reading for anyone that works with people so basically, everyone. My job involves a lot of communication with other businesses and organizations and I wanted to learn how to have more successful and productive interactions. Anyone with an email address can attest to how frustrating it is to receive an unsolicited email from someone who is asking for something and clearly has no idea what you do or why.

Conversely, it can be difficult to be the person staring into the blank abyss of an email draft trying to connect with a person, company or organization they have no previous correspondence with. I see both sides on a daily basis and this book helped me formulate a better process for reaching out to new contacts and evaluating the requests that land in my inbox on a daily basis.

Who this book is for

As I mentioned previously, anyone who works (or interacts) with other people and wished it was just a touch easier to connect and get what you want.

Biggest takeaway

Don’t ask for something while offering nothing in return. If you’re reaching out to a new potential partner or client, take the time to do some research to find out what’s important to them. Then figure out how you can help them get there.


Influence
The Psychology of Persuasion

By: Robert B. Cialdini
Narrated by: George Newbern
Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins

Influence The Psychology of Persuasion

This book goes over all the psychological tricks that marketing agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses everywhere use to pull you in and compel you to buy and use their product or service. It’s a great book that helps you analyze the bazillion ads and commercials you’re served up daily and see why they’re designed the way they are.

Cialdini fills the pages with examples to help you connect the theories with real-world experiences which makes the information entertaining and easy to digest. Basically, when you finish this book, you’ll feel like an executive on MadMen every time you’re advertised to. I’ve never seen that show, but it felt like a good comparison?

Who this book is for

Anyone interested in learning more about why people respond to things the way they do, and why certain marketing tactics have stood the test of time.

Biggest takeaway

This may seem like common sense, but human psychology and what makes people respond to stimuli has been tested and studied and recorded since the dawn of time and all of that information is available to marketers. So, the next time an ad really resonates with you, you will have the tools to understand why (and if it really does) before telling Alexa to give all of your money away to said company.


Atomic Habits

By: James Clear
Narrated by: James Clear
Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins

Atomic Habits book cover image

This book probably should have been first on the list but I guess it really depends what you’re after so here we are. Atomic Habits is phenomenal for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the change they would like to see in their lives.

We’ve all been there, you start out with something small like saving money which you could probably do by eating in more which will be great because then maybe you can lose some weight, too and that would be good because then you can use the exercise equipment in your closet which needs cleaning out anyway but what will you even do with all that stuff because you can’t put it in the basement since the three bikes you’re “building” are taking up so much space but you’ll definitely get back to working on them soon you just have to find the tools in the closet behind your exercise equipment and the guitar you bought 5 years ago but still can’t even hold correctly.

See what just happened there? Feeling overwhelmed? This book can help! The author is also the voice of the audiobook and presents you with a multitude of tips, tricks and tactics he and others have used to improve the habit building process.  It breaks down the system of adopting better habits and makes it so easy it’s almost impossible not to improve some facet of your life. This is another one that I go back to regularly whenever I’ve hit a rut or gone off the rails. 

Who this book is for

Anyone looking for an insanely simple and practical way to improve their habits and reach their goals.

Biggest takeaway

Improvement in any area of your life doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By breaking the process down into simple, doable steps, you can start today with what you have available. Spending 1 minute working on a new positive habit is better than 24 hours of stagnation. 


You Are a Badass

By: Jen Sincero
Narrated by: Jen Sincero
Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins

You Are a Badass Cover Image

Everyone can use a little reminder of how inherently awesome they are and this book does just that. Like the rest on this list, I listened to the audiobook and Jen Scincero was my companion to and from work for about two solid months since I immediately restarted when it finished.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it makes working towards your full potential seem like such a no brainer. And Sincero is the perfect guide through all of the ups and downs you experience along the way to becoming a fully realized badass. She’s basically like the cool older sister you wish you had that’s made all the mistakes for you so you don’t have to!

Who this book is for

Anyone who’s looking for a casual and hilarious reminder that there is greatness within them and with some practice and intentionality they can live it everyday. 

Biggest takeaway

You are uniquely amazing and are here to live a uniquely amazing and fulfilled life! And you totally deserve it! 


The 10X Rule

By: Grant Cardone
Narrated by: Grant Cardone
Length: 7 hrs and 24 mins

The 10X Rule Cover Image

This book is actually hilarious. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the main objective, but Cardon reads the audio version and if you choose to read this book, I cannot recommend the audiobook enough.

This is basically a giant kick in the balls to all of your excuses and small thinking. Cardon makes it seem so ridiculous to not swing for the fences and just f#!&ing do it. I just love that attitude. He’s a go-getter and his zeal and determination are infectious. The cliff notes of this book are essentially, figure out what you need/want to do, multiple that times 10, stop being a little bitch and go do it.

Who this book is for

Anyone who feels like they’re playing too small and want to be coached into greatness by someone who is a combination of your high school gym teacher and a drinking buddy but also a millionaire. 

Biggest takeaway

Go for it. And go bigger than you originally planned. Falling short of a goal that was 10x your original will feel better than hitting a menial milestone. 


The Compound Effect

By: Darren Hardy
Narrated by: Darren Hardy
Length: 4 hrs and 44 mins

The Compound Effect Cover Image

Former publisher of Success Magazine, Hardy has worked with and interviewed some of the biggest and most successful names in business. And he has kindly made the most useful bits of information available to you in this book. Hardy reads the audiobook and sounds like he’s smiling the entire time and I love it.

The essence of this book is all about making small changes that compound. Choosing to walk a lap around your neighborhood today may seem trivial, but if you make it a habit and build on it, by the same time next year you could have evolved that trivial task into running 3 miles a day and signing up for half marathons.

That could lead you to taking more of an interest in your health and the food you eat, which may lead you to cook more at home, which could lead to you saving money and being more financially savvy, which could allow you to buy the mansion you’ve always wanted and reach your dream of finally getting on MTV cribs.

The last part was probably a stretch but I think you get the point. I have a bad habit of coming up with a goal and then overwhelming myself or canceling it out with thoughts like, “Well if I would have started (insert desired habit) a year ago it would have been great but now what’s the point?” Hardy does an excellent job of showing you exactly what the point is and how taking a step in the right direction, no matter how small, is worth it every time.

Who this book is for

Like Atomic Habits (and if you liked Atomic Habits, go ahead and pick this one up), this book is fantastic for anyone who has tried and failed to make changes in their lives or reach their goals and would like some practical, friendly advice on how to get back on the horse. 

Biggest Takeaway

The little decisions we make every day add up. If you take care of the small things, the big things will fall into place


On Writing

By: Stephen King
Narrated by: Stephen King
Length: 8 hrs

On Writing Cover Image

Anyone who enjoys literature would enjoy this book. Stephen King himself reads the audio version and it is fantastic. The first half of the book is autobiographical (and highly entertaining) and the second focuses on the craft of writing and best practices from the King. There’s something so classic and earnest about his style of storytelling that I feel the best way to experience this book is by listening to the man himself.

It endeared me to him so much, I almost felt compelled to read some of his books but then immediately remembered how terrifying they are. But he sure sounds like a nice guy when he reads. It’s actually a bit creepy to think about how that kind, sincere, laid back voice could concoct such frightening tales… Anyway, 5/5 stars. This list doesn’t have a ranking system but it’s my list and it feels appropriate.

Who this book is for

Fans of Stephen King and literature, as well as anyone looking for advice on the art and craft of writing.

Biggest takeaway

When it’s time to write, write. And don’t half-ass it. Respect the craft and make something worthwhile that you love. 

Bonus!


A Well-Behaved Woman

A novel of a family as they rule Gilded-Age New York

A Well Behaved Woman Cover Image

I was a late adopter to Downton Abbey so am speaking to you now with over half of the last season left to watch, yet am obsessed with it and so I was intentionally looking for a book about that time period. And insanely rich people. This was a perfect combination! It’s a thick book but doesn’t feel like it. I was endlessly fascinated by the goings on of the Vanderbilts at the turn of the century as well as the principled and determined Alva Vanderbilt throughout all 500 or so pages. Again, I was specifically seeking this out so if you’re not interested in history, rich people or biographical fiction about women, maybe move this to the bottom of the TBR pile.

Who this book is for

People who love historical/biographical fiction and are interested in the customs of high society in the early 1900s.

Biggest takeaway

Being filthy rich isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I would still give it a shot.

Bonus Bonus!


Wasteland Bestiary

A fully illustrated bestiary as drawn by the wasteland explorers Shia and Turtle as they try to categorize and document the strange forms of life raising up in post apocalyptic West Virginia

Wasteland Bestiary Cover Image

Where would this list be if I didn’t include a Lulu title? We’ve published over a million books on Lulu, so it’s not easy to pick favorites, but I came across this one recently and loved the artwork and feel of the story. Taking place in post apocalyptic West Virginia, this book is like cracking open the diary of two young adventurers as they explore their new habitat and document all of the strange creatures they encounter.

Who this book is for

Anyone who enjoys fantastic illustrations and a bit of whimsy to compliment a post apocalyptic narrative.

Biggest takeaway

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only animal that seems to have come through the radioactive apocalypse unscathed are cats.

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