A round up and summary of all of the books I read in 2019.
Every year, I track the books I read and write short summaries of the books all on one page. This page is now my final tallied reading list for 2019—if you’re following along in real time, I update this list at the end of each month and then tally up the books at the end of the year.
I’ve been recording what I read every year for the past several years. Scroll to the end to see my book lists for previous years. Overall, I want to read more books and I want to pay attention to the quality and diversity of what I read. Tracking what I read has improved the quality, breadth and number of books I read, which inspires me to keep doing it. If you’re curious, you can read more about why I track the books I read, how to decide what book to read next, and how to finish a book. Or you can read my book summaries, below, for new book ideas and recommendations.
2019 goals: read 36 books, at least half of them by women and half of them by people of color.
This year, my goal is to read at least 36 books, and have half the books I read by by women and half the books be by people of color.
2019 accountability: 43 books finished, with 88% of the books written by women, and 18% of them written by people of color.
Total number of books: 43
Total number of authors: 43
Women authors: 38 (88%)
POC authors: 8 (18%)
I was really surprised to notice how much easier it is for me to pick up books by women, but also how many books in the public narrative are continually by white women. I was surprised how low the number of books I read were by people of color—this is something that’s continuing to be eye-opening to me and something to really pay attention to and work even more to even out.
The best books of the year go to… Priya Parker, Tara Westover, Julie Zhou, Kelly Corrigan, and more.
This year was a year filled with GOOD BOOKS. There were some duds—I’d definitely skip a few of the books on this list and I share my reviews honestly down below—but overall the number of quality books that I’ll return to and recommend was really high.
For all-around wonderful reads, I thoroughly enjoyed Forward: A Memoir, by soccer star Abby Wambach. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert was an easy and delightful summer read and page-turner, and the surprise hit, for me, was the beauty and complexity of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. This was a book that caught me off guard, made me laugh out loud at the unexpected observations of everyday life, and then brought me deeply into the world of loneliness and the state of ‘being fine’ that afflict so many of us all.
For business books this year, I’d recommend The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker for anyone that is building communities (hint: that’s everyone. The Making of A Manager, by Julie Zhuo, is quite good for those building and leading teams. Chillpreneur, by Denise Duffield-Thomas, which looks a bit like a lifestyle business book for people who only want to travel was surprisingly relevant and good—honestly, I still have Denise’s catchphrases in my head and they are sticky and helpful.
Tell Me More is an all-around wonderful book to read for any human being that wants to connect more deeply with others.
If you’re a parent or thinking of becoming one, or you are interested in gender dynamics and the future of our society, then take a look at All The Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership, by Darcy Lockman. It’s a thoroughly researched book about domestic labor and the work still left to do on the home front. Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley is a beautiful and heart-wrenching graphic novel about infertility and pregnancy struggles that I think everyone, men and woman and parents and non-parents, should read. Lastly, What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood is a beautiful guide into the emotions and feelings of becoming a parent that I highly recommend.
Read on below for all of my recommendations and reviews.
January? I was returning from maternity leave, figuring out daycare and a nanny, and beginning to set up the plans for launching our Startup Pregnant community mastermind, and I don’t think I read a single book.
The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles & Optimize Your Fertility, by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack. In health, we often look to the four vital signs (body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiration rate) as our key indicators of wellness. Women, however, have a very clear and regular pattern that most health providers do not track, and it’s a huge clue and window of opportunity for learning about our own health: our menstrual cycles. Lisa Hendrickson-Jack shares how and why to track our menstrual cycles (and also what to look for if you’re not yet cycling or post-menopausal), and why this immense amount of data and information can be so important for our long-term health, our fertility, and our own body awareness.
GuRu, by Ru Paul. I picked up this book in the library because I love the body positivity, self-awareness, and philosophical perspectives by this gender-defying, drag beauty who constantly challenges us to rethink what we think we know and how we think we’re supposed to show up in the world. The book was a very quick read, filled with single-page quotes and full-color images and playful stories, I flipped through it while on the subway one week while doing daycare pickups and drop-offs, and very much enjoyed it.
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet And Why It Matters, by Priya Parker. We used Priya’s book as the foundation for our yearlong mastermind program, to meet and gather together as a community. We kicked off our time together talking about how to best come together in community. I loved the intentionality of having a purpose, designing the beginning (which comes far before the “start” of an event), and thinking through not just the sequencing of events, but also the closing. Perhaps my biggest takeaway was that intentionality requires edges and boundaries. It’s okay to say no in pursuit of a better event. A twelve-person table is very different than a party of 45 people. Decide what it’s for, and then design from there.
Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach To Time And Energy Management For Busy Moms, by Kate Northrup. I always feel like Kate is reading my mind, and she and I joke that we’re swimming in a similar ocean during this lifetime. Her recognition of the physical and bodily cycles we inhabit and how they relate to our work and ‘productivity’ has been instrumental in women shifting their work schedules to align with their cycles of energy and creation. It’s a magical process. In this book, she has 14 different ‘experiments’ to tap into a new way of managing your time and reducing your workload, both literally and energetically. Even just doing one experiment could shift things.
Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, by Lucy Knisley. This stunning graphic comic is a heart opening novel of the trials of getting pregnant and how hard pregnancy can be. Lucy shares her stories around how hard it was to get pregnant, having surgery to help get pregnant, and then suffering through preeclampsia and swelling up during the third trimester. She undergoes a traumatic and intense delivery and has to return to the hospital after the delivery. Ultimately, they decide that the risk is too high to try for another kid, and decide to be a one-child family. The story is beautifully written and illustrated, and full of pause moments that open up a chance to educate the reader about the realities of miscarriage, pregnancy challenges, nausea, and trauma.
Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches, by Hillary Frank. This book is a collection of advice from parents. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful, it’s a quick and easy read to skim through parent wins, even the weirdest ones. I liked the narration by the author most—I found myself craving more of Hillary’s stories, and being a little disappointed that it was a collection of quotes from other parents. Still, I laughed and by the end I was really enjoying it.
Best Articles: The Open Secret of Mom Bias At Work, I Was A “Lean In” SuperFan But Lean In Failed Me, It’s Not Enough To Be Right, You Have To Be Kind, The Rise Of SnowPlow Parenting, Where Are The Mothers?
New Podcast: The Double Shift.
What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood, by Alexandra Sacks, MD, and Catherine Birndorf. MD. How can a book cover all of the emotions and feelings you have about getting pregnant or becoming a parent? This one does a really good job. I felt seen and heard, but also witnessed hundreds of other threads that I’ve also seen and heard in my friends, and left feeling relieved, because the complex and layered emotions of becoming a parent are just that: complicated, overlapping, intense, and totally normal. It’s okay if you feel these things, and it’s normal to feel like everything is changing. From your relationships with your partner, your own parents, and your family, to the way that you feel about work, to being unsure about what’s next—this book was a guide to feeling a little less alone and a little more aware of all that was going on for me in my inner world and mental landscape. Highly recommend for new and expecting parents.
Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool, by Emily Oster. Another winner from Emily, a book that deals with so many of the conflicting parenting choices that can come up when raising young kids. From vaccinations (get them!) to screen time (not as bad as everyone says) to her personal household management tools (asana, #geekalert), to whether or not sleep training is something you choose to do (your choice, and kids are fine either way)—I love the way she presents data and evidence and shows how to make choices within a range of evidence, and why many choices can be the ‘right’ choice in some cases. I think her Expecting Better book was such a standout; this one repeated the idea of “using that data” a few too many times (in my opinion), but on the whole was a great read and very informative.
Forward: A Memoir, by Abby Wambach. I LOVED this book. It was easy to read, fluid, and the story just unfolded over the pages. Abby shares her memoir and the inside of her journey as a gay teenager to her soccer playing to her addictions and struggles on and off the field. One of the longest USA champion players and a dominant force on the soccer field, Abby is an incredible leader and powerful voice in our generation.
Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game, by Abby Wambach. Short, sweet, and punchy: this book is the manifesto companion to her memoir. This is a rally call for girls and women everywhere to become a unit, to band together, and to join the wolfpack.
Articles that stood out: The Truth About A World Built For Men
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, by Austin Kleon. I’m a huge fan of Austin’s work and books, and loved this book overall. I keep it on my nightstand because the cover is a mantra to my life right now: Slow down, okay, but don’t stop. Just keep going. At times I wished I could hear more of Mr. Kleon’s voice—the number of quotes and assembly of characters was well-done, but almost too well done. I wanted to know more of what he thought, too. Still a solid, wonderful book.
All The Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership, by Darcy Lockman. When you become a parent, you add a shitload of work to your plate. In partnerships where heterosexual couples believe they are relatively equal, men add about 30% more work to their daily load, whereas women add about 70% to their workloads. The perception is that both are adding a ton of work, but the reality is that women are still shouldering the majority of the caretaking, invisible, and mental labor required to raise kids. In this detailed and important book, Lockman studies the truth about parenting and partnership and how far we still have to go on the domestic front when it comes to true equality.
Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work, by Jenny Brown. Women’s reproductive work is going down—dramatically. Fewer women are having babies, with almost half of all women opting out of having babies entirely. Is there a correlation between the declining birth rates and the urgent political action to make it harder than ever to maintain reproductive freedom? Brown raises an important question about the policies governing women’s bodies, and the politics behind prohibiting abortion, contraception, and more. Perhaps our economy is predicated on the free labor of women reproducing, and if birth rates decline, we’ll have a big problem.
🎧 Podcast episode with Jenny Brown coming!
Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover. Brilliant book, page-turner. The author has captured what it’s like to grow a mind from a child-like observational acceptance of the world and the way it is, to an expanded, vast reach of information and knowledge. Her story—growing up in Utah in a home unlike many others—is gripping and dark; her journey to finding herself uplifting and inspiring.
Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel, by Celeste Ng. I listened as an audio book and loved it. A story of everyday suburban life, with the complications and competitions of parenting, motherhood, real estate, and raising teenage children.
The Body Has Its Reasons: Self-Awareness Through Conscious Movement, by Therese Bertherat and Carol Bernstein. This book was first passed on to me through yoga teacher training in 2013, and I read part of it but never finished it (there were stacks of textbooks to get through and I wasn’t able to finish this one. It called back to me this year, and I read through and found this book easy to read and absorb and yet the implications of understanding our body and how it really works still seems like such a foreign concept to our modern world. Even now,
The Making of A Manager, by Julie Zhuo. A young twenty-something joins a rapidly growing team—one of the largest in the world, at Facebook, and soon becomes a manager. Julie documents her growth and the steep learning curve of becoming a manager, including the ways she excelled at leading a team, and the hard lessons she had to learn about doing too much herself, how to run efficient operations, what to look for when hiring, and how to become not just a good manager, but a great one. This case study of her experience gave me a ton to learn from, with lessons I’ll use on my own teams.
Dare To Lead, by Brené Brown. I struggled through this book. I’m a huge Brené Brown fan, and this book felt sleepy and like it could have used another round of organization. I imagine that the book was on a tight deadline amidst more projects happening than I can fathom, and I aspire to be as prolific as this author. I was probably not the target audience, either; it felt directed at a more corporate crowd and managerial crew that needs the data around vulnerability and shame before being able to make institutional change. Some good nuggets and workflows, but it took me several months to finish.
Brave, by Rose McGowan. McGowan is known for her direct, honest messages and tweets and her tireless work in breaking down the misogyny built into the Hollywood institutions. As such, she’s become unabashed about talking about sexism, ageism, and other -ist problems throughout the media and movie industries. At first, I had a hard time listening because she sounded so fed up and angry: but to be clear, the struggle was all mine—not hers—because I’ve been raised in a world that tells us women shouldn’t be angry, loud, or direct. After a few chapters in, I settled in and found I quite enjoyed hearing it, frankly and clearly. Listened via audiobook.
City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Who doesn’t love an easy summer read about the busiest city in America at the height of the 1940s and 1950s? Gilbert writes about girls and theater and sex and counter-culture, and of women who remain single but not asexual in a time when neither was culturally appropriate. Delicious read.
The Modern Meeting Standard, by Al Pittampalli. I’ve been writing more about how to organize teams and run clear communications, so I picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. This was quick, aimed at a corporate office, about how to simplify and reduce meeting overhead. I wished, at times, it had provided more visibility into the root of the problem of meetings—why ARE they so bad?—(I have a few additional ideas.) Spurned my thinking and reminded me just how bad most meetings and gatherings really are.
Kickass, by Mel Robbins. Robbins is captivating and delightful to listen to. With a no-nonsense directness and a capacity for getting to the root of any problem, Mel takes us into 8 coaching sessions with people who are struggling with everything from lack of motivation, to procrastination, to fear, to bad situations. She unpacks why people do what they do and inspires them to make change. It was especially easy to listen to because it felt like 8 podcast episodes and I could pick it up at any point. Listened via audiobook.
Overcoming Underearning, by Barbara Stanny. Most workbooks drive me nuts, because as a book, I want to read and be transported and absorbed, not given a bunch of homework that stops me from indulging in that reading-philosopher-dreamer space. That said, this was a workbook I expected—and that really helps. Five steps, with journaling exercises and thoughtful prompts to help you unpack your baseline money stories and re-examine how to grow your income—and wealth. I’m definitely going to go back to this book time and time again.
Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties, by Camille Pagan. The book was… fine. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Not a ton of page-turning plot, the scenes felt predictable, and the choice of outcomes—whether she rekindled her marriage to the husband who left her nearing retirement, or she struck it up with a fancy new fling from her new life—both felt too clean and tidy, and unremarkable. “Woman is saved by having a choice of men to marry, because to remain single is too hard.” Wait, now that I write this, I think she ended up choosing neither at the end—but perhaps the decision itself, even as a red herring, felt a little too neat. The pros: the book was a quick page-turner, it dealt with agism by reminding us that 50-year olds are independent and intriguing, and women can make choices that aren’t about men. Sort of? Listened via audiobook.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. Amazing. This book caught me off guard, made me laugh out loud at the unexpected observations of everyday life, and then brought me deeply into the world of loneliness and the state of ‘being fine’ that afflict so many of us all. Brilliant book. Even better as an audio book, when read with British accents by a superb narrator.
Chillpreneur, by Denise Duffield-Thomas. Don’t let the title deceive you. This book might be Denise’s best book so far, and I loved it—the stories were delightful to read, and she takes big business concepts and distills them into practical, easy-to-follow steps. For example, marketing, in her words, is simply showing up and making offers. Most people forget to do one (or both!) and get afraid of showing up consistently, or, if they do show up, they forget to make offers. If you own a business and you have a product or service that helps people, then tell them about it! Chillpreneur was a great read to regain confidence in business skills and get creative about my next moves as an entrepreneur.
The Ripple Effect, by Greg Wells. This one grew on me. I originally described it to my husband as an “okay pop-science-self-help book,” but the more I read, the more I appreciated how comprehensive it is. It also firmly puts me in the tribe of geeks who like to nerd out about intermittent fasting, food and nutrition, health and wellness, and understanding how to maximize the relationships between sleep, nutrition, exercise, and meditation. If you’re into this kind of thing and want a broad refresher on the latest science, dig in.
The Power, by Naomi Alderman. An intriguing book with a rich premise: women—mostly young girls, coming of age—awaken to find that they have a new sort of power, a skein, that runs across their collarbones. With it, they can shoot electricity from their bodies and stun, or even kill, other people. Women can electrocute men, and they begin to realize the power that they have, and how everything has shifted. Where men used to have physical strength, women now dominate. Will the world work? This dystopian novel shows how power corrupts, no matter who has it, and how power ultimately does what it wants: power wants to grow.
In Pieces, by Sally Field. I’ve only loosely followed Sally Field’s career, and reading about her body of work took me through the decades someone can use to build a career. From following her instincts to act, to the desperation for work in a line of work that’s fickle, to the impact the men around her had on her life, Sally writes a memoir that’s hard to put down. Sorrowful, wistful, beautiful, human.
Small Animals, by Kim Brooks. Why are we living in a world of parenting that’s so fear-based? Only a few decades ago, Ramona Quimby—the beloved character of the book series—was allowed to walk to school by herself at age 5, and had responsibilities at age eight that would shock us in today’s world. Or, worse, get a parent locked up. Today, parents are unable to let their children run to the park alone, and forget about leaving your kid in a carseat (with the windows rolled down!) if you need to pop into a store and get a coffee or a pharmacy pick-up. Today’s parents must be constantly attached, monitoring, observant, never losing focus. More sinisterly, they are also always being monitored, as people report others to CPS, the police, and neighborhood watch groups. Rather than support each other in raising our future generations, we’ve gone bonkers and now live in a police state of our own making. Kim Brooks writes about what happened to her—and the years taken from her life—when she was reported by someone who filmed her leaving her kid unattended for a few minutes. When—and how—will we stop creating havoc by insisting that parents and families live in fear?
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean. Beautiful foray into the world of libraries and the way books move—I didn’t know how much we could lose when a library is vandalized or burned, and how important libraries are as a part of our society. Tracing the history of some of the most significant fires in US history, and the way that archives are built and collected, this narrative non-fiction piece was look into the world of books beyond just reading them.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. What would you tell your daughter about being a feminist? Here it is. Everyone should read this book.
Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, by John E Sarno. This marks the year I’ve been struggling with back, hip, and pelvic pain since having my babies. Recommended to me by my therapist, I’ve been looking at books that go beyond physical mechanisms and tap into emotional and mental patterns that can affect the way that we feel about—and in—our bodies.
Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. A novel about a very poor girl who grows up in the swamplands and lives alone after her family leaves or dies—how she survived, what she learns, and who she relates to. I loved so much of this book and the beautiful writing and ease of storytelling, but questioned the stories we keep telling of human triumph over such poverty and cruelty—is that the perpetual story we tell, or can we forge a better life?
Black Milk: On the Conflicting Demands of Writing, Creativity and Motherhood, by Elif Shafak. The many split personalities of an artist, a writer, and a new mother—from the deeply maternal to the wickedly independent—how do you reconcile motherhood with making work? In this book, writer and mother grapples with the conflict between parenting and writing, leaning on previous texts by child-free authors and authors with children alike, wondering if children prevent our create work, and how to cope and manage.
See You At The Top: 25th Anniversary Edition, by Zig Ziglar. Listened to this on Audiobook. Zig is a pre-eminant sales and marketing figure from past decades, and I heard about him because many of my business icons listened to his audio books on tape until the tapes broke. His messages—about mindset, gumption, and developing a great attitude—are as powerful as ever, but some of the stories (including the nods to wives and sweethearts) are outdated. As I listened, I kept wanting to find someone who was the modern day Zig Ziglar, but female and able to also address the intersectional + systemic undertones that are missing from his work.
Everything Is Figureoutable, by Marie Forleo. I have always been a fan of Marie’s work and her ability to focus, grow, and spread a message. She is a powerhouse business owner and damn impressive. When her book came out, I wanted both to read it and support her. Turns out me and fifty thousand or so other people—her book became an instant New York Times Bestseller in it’s first week. The book was pretty good; parts of if suffered from a lack of nuance and a bit of white privilege, but by the end I was humming the phrase along to myself and using it when I got into a pickle. So, it worked.
Own Your Self: The Surprising Path beyond Depression, Anxiety, and Fatigue to Reclaiming Your Authenticity, Vitality, and Freedom, by Kelly Brogan. I have so many conflicting thoughts about this book. As a long-time depression navigator and examiner of mental health, I am curious and skeptical of antidepressants. In a world where almost a quarter of women are given antidepressants, I don’t think it’s women’s bodies or minds that are failing—I think structural, systemic failures across work and politics and patriarchy are the root of the problem. Yet how do you deal with depression in a world that is, in short, depressing? Kelly Brogan is an MD who challenges people’s desire for medication and asks them to rethink their lives through food, sleep, and wellness efforts. Pain is something to be examined and dealt with—your feelings are not wrong, she enthuses. Yes, I agree, but I am deeply worried over a doctor’s book prescribing people to taper off their medications. Maybe for some, but not for everyone—and not alone. This book might be dangerous.
You’ve Got 00:08 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World, by Paul Hellman. This was a short, four-hour audio book and I could not even finish it. I got an hour into it and stuck out my tongue; it felt like be yell-lectured at to make things simpler and easier to understand, but I couldn’t keep a single takeaway in my mind long enough to do anything with it.
The Choice: Embrace The Possible, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. When all has been taken away from you, what do you have left? The choice to decide your reaction and your attitude. Dr. Eger survived the unimaginable—Auschiwtz, as a Jewish child in Poland at the time of the Nazi invasions. She and her sister survived, barely, and her story recounts the horrors of her time there as well as the world after. Because when the war ended, it wasn’t the end of hatred or anti-semitism. And for survivors, finding a way back into the world was challenging and fraught. She describes her PTSD, her path to America, and seeking a degree into her fifties. Her work in psychology and understanding the human mind is brilliant, and her book is deeply moving.
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, by Kelly Corrigan. “Tell me more” is one of my favorite phrases to use when deep in conversation with someone else, and the title of the book captured me immediately. These lessons about the hardest things she’s learning to say were brilliantly demonstrated in narrative detail. From her children growing to teenagers, to the death of loved ones, to her relationships with her parents and grandparents, Kelly shares how important phrases are, from both “Yes,” and “No,” to the humility of “I was wrong,” and the heartbreak of “I don’t know.” I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, by Brittney C. Cooper. We should all be angry. Rage is a natural expression in reaction to the abysmal injustices doled out to people across the country, black women in particular. Professor Cooper writes about the intersections of sexism, racism, and classism and how they conspire against people who aren’t white or wealthy. While at times I didn’t follow the arguments in each chapter, and got a little mired by the winding path towards the thesis, nevertheless the book on the whole is critically necessary in today’s world. Important read.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb. A therapist talks about therapy and goes to therapy—the book is better than it sounds! Lori is a delightful writer with a knack for telling stories that show the human condition and how we can shift our mindset over time. Despite being a bit too tidy—all the character’s plot lines seemed to resolve far too satisfyingly—the book was still a delight to read and was a window into how therapy works, and how we can benefit from self-examination, especially in the presence of kind people outside of our own selves.
Books I want to read next: Birth Strike. Programmed Inequality. How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin. Eloquent Rage, by Brittney Cooper.