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My 2019 in Review… And 62 Book Reviews

My 2019 in Review… And 62 Book Reviews

A look back on a whipsaw year for me accompanied by all the books I read over the last 12 months.

This year was a big year for me, both personally and professionally, but also one of the most difficult.

Here’s a pro tip of life advice: know that when following up something insanely successful, no matter how well your next thing does, it will never feel like it was enough.

I launched Everything is Fucked: A Book About Hope on May 15th. A lot went into it. In fact, I probably overdid it on many dimensions because of my insecurity with following up on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

My editor once told me that good writing can be summed up in one phrase, “Stop trying so hard.” He said the role of an editor is to tell the author when they’re overdoing it. I probably overdid it in places.

It’s a more challenging book—probably more challenging than it needed to be. In hindsight, I think I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. After the success of Subtle Art, I felt this weird itch to prove that I could write a much more intellectual book than just a run-of-the-mill, fun self-help stuff. I still think the book turned out great, but looking back, I probably could have chilled a bit on some of the sections.

When it came to launching the thing, I also went a bit overboard. I did 27 speaking events in six different countries. In hindsight, that was probably about 10-12 too many. I physically and mentally destroyed myself traveling. And while speaking and meeting fans were really cool, it probably wasn’t worth doing as many events as I did.

All that effort and stress looks somewhat silly in hindsight because what I eventually discovered was that my expectations were so warped, I was going to feel disappointment no matter what happened. The book sold over half a million copies in six months, spent 14 weeks on the NYTimes Bestseller list (including debuting at #1). It was #1 in six different countries. Yet, because of the size of the shadow cast by Subtle Art, it all somehow felt meager and unworthy. I had a mini-breakdown in early June and then quickly managed to get over myself. I feel fine about it now. I’m a young author. I will have 20-30 books in my career. Just learn from this one and move on.

Going into 2020, I feel better than I have in a long time—mentally, emotionally and physically. I’ve got an Audible Original Audiobook about relationships coming out in a few months, and work on Will Smith’s autobiography continues to go well (even if it’s slow). Look for that in 2021.

In the meantime, I’ve redoubled my efforts to the website. You’ve probably noticed me being more active around here lately. That’s because for the first time since 2017, I actually have time to dedicate to it. It feels good to be back. No matter what I do and how successful it is, this is still my home.

My Favorite Books of 2019
But the books… Every year, I list each book I read that year. I write reviews for my favorites and give 1-2 sentences summarizing how I felt about all of the others. You can also find the round-ups for my reading in 2018 and 2017.

This year I read 62 books. 56 were nonfiction and six were fiction. Of the 56 nonfiction, a whopping 22 were either biographies or memoirs. I focused on these because I’m currently working on Will Smith’s autobiography/memoir. In total, I read 19,054 pages (far fewer than the past two years), averaging 52 pages per day, and 307 pages per book. I also started and abandoned nine other books (which, you’ll remember, I encourage you to do).

I am pleased to announce that, after having been bothered for years by readers, I made an effort this year to read more female authors. In 2019, a full half of the books I read were written by women. Yes, even here we can find equality.

What I learned from the effort was… well, not much actually. A good book is still a good book. And a bad book is still a bad one.

Anyway, I’m glad I put the effort in, but it didn’t really offer any large realizations. However, I did update my reading recommendation list with more female authors—something I’ve been yelled at to do for years now.

OK, on with it. My top five books that I read in 2019 were the following: This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom by Martin Hägglund, Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Behind

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