Books I Read in 2019

below is a list of books I read in 2019, and my thoughts on them.

  • Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

I have written about this book in a separate post, so I will not say too much here. This book, in contrast to the first one, is actually a life changer for me. Upon finishing reading it, I compiled a list of my favorite quotes, printed it out and attached it to the wall in front of my desk, so I have easy access to it when I’m feeling down, angry, or need motivation. The wisdom of the book can be applied to so many aspects of my life. For example, if I am in the office and feeling not very motivated to do work, “Your worth is measured by what you devote your energy to”, reminds me that I should do work that can make a positive impact on the society rather than browsing YouTube. This year I have been much calmer, happier and feeling more grateful and fulfilled, thanks to Marcus. I recommend this book to everyone.

  • A Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The first time I read this book I read it in Chinese, I was 21 and had just graduated from college. I decided to read it again this year, I read it with Spanish and English side by side, so I can strengthen my Spanish and experience the novel in its mother tongue. It was quite interesting, and it is the first book that I’ve read in 3 languages. I was reminded how fun it was to read magical realism, particularly in the first few chapters when the gypsies came to town and people were so excited to touch ice (which was thought to be a new technology), and take a ride on the flying carpet. Later in the book the plot was less “fun” and more “dark” because of the war and the deaths, but it was still a very enjoyable read.

  • The Art of Seduction + The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

I had wanted to read Robert Greene a while back, but I finally did it when I was browsing in Barnes and Noble and had just enough time to read 1 chapter, I was hooked. Both of these books are based on many historical anecdotes, for example, how Cleopatra seduced Caesar, and what we can learn from it. I enjoyed learning about history and the biographies of high profile people. However, I don’t think it would be a good idea to follow his rules and execute them. They seem highly manipulative.

  • Evicted – Matthew Desmond

This book was also recommended by a friend. The author follows real people living in poverty in Milwaukee, and documents their lives in trailer parks and rundown apartments, and many times getting evicted for being short on rent. It was a really depressing read, and it broke my heart knowing there are millions of them out there, not having a stable residency and struggle to even get food everyday. One story really stood out to me. A woman who was barely getting by by working at a fast food joint, saw on the news one day about a hurricane, she decided to volunteer and help out the aftermath of the hurricane. She was away for 20 days, by the time she got back, due to missing work hence not having enough money to pay the rent, she and her 3 daughters were evicted ruthlessly. I hope I could come up with solutions someday so that people suffer less.

  • Bad Blood – John Carreyrou

This is a book about a defunct Silicon Valley startup, it had been a year since the book first came out, but it was still a very thrilling read. The plot is about a woman, Elizabeth Holmes, started a blood testing company and claimed their technology can perform hundreds of tests simultaneously, she gathered billions of dollars in fund, but in the end turned out to be a phony. The book vividly depicts how Holmes exhibited sociological behaviors to earn the trust of investors and employees. Similar to some characters depicted in Robert Greene’s books, she used psychological tricks to manipulate people to do stuff for her. I admire her determination and work ethics, but lies and manipulations should really be minimized when running a healthcare company, where the well being of millions of lives could be influenced.

  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Thomas Kuhn

I was aware of this book a few years ago, but I decided to finally read it this year is because I took a metaphysics class and was reminded of my interest in the philosophy/ history of science. Thomas Kuhn was a physicist turned science historian, and it was this book that popularized the phrase “paradigm shift”. The book consists of 13 essays, each of them examining the different aspects scientific revolutions, how they start, evolve, integrated into the existing paradigm, and eventually changes the world view of the scientists involved. The author uses many examples in the history of physics and chemistry to make his points, being familiar with some of them helped me to grasp his ideas. I recommend this book to scientists who likes to look at the big picture outside his narrow research area, and anyone who enjoys learning about the history and the development of science.

  • 12 Rules for Life – Jordan B. Peterson

This book came highly recommended by a friend, who had read it multiple times and swore it would change my life. Well, it didn’t. Sure, the rules in the books are all good ideas, have good posture and be confident, always be honest, etc., but it felt really generic and most of the book was the author running in circles saying why those rules are good, which seemed quite pointless to me. This is a self help book for people who desperately need to feel warm and fuzzy.

There were a few other books that I have started but did not finish, so I did not include them here. One being Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I first read it in high school, I really admired his free spirit and living a self-sustained life. I decided to read it again. But mid way through the book I ran into a philosopher friend who told me that during him time living in his cabin, his mother was doing his laundry and cooking him food. That somewhat shattered my image of him, so I did not keep reading.

I have lined up some books to read in 2020, but recommendations are always welcome.

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