Reading has always brought me tremendous joy. It’s an activity in which I get to jump in and out of reality & imagination, sharpening my tools while also trying them out in my day to day life.
In 2018 I set out to read 100 books by 2023. Here’s a list of the top 5 books I read in 2019 that had an enormous impact on my way of thinking.
1. Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello
Anthony de Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who gave many lectures about spirituality over the course of his life. This book is a compilation of the key lessons he gave around the topic of awareness and in these pages lie many “aha-moments”. This is a book to be read once a year to reset your mind.
We are often trapped in ways of thinking without knowing and this book will open your eyes to that. De Mello doesn’t preach any religion in it, rather he uses reason and philosophy to help us understand important mental traps that hold us back in life.
“When you said, ‘I was a success’, you were in error; you were plunged into darkness. You identified yourself with success. The same thing when you said, ‘I am a failure, a lawyer, a businessman’. You know what’s going to happen to you if you identify yourself with these things. You’re going to cling to them, you’re going to be worried that they may fall apart, and that’s where your suffering comes from.”
2. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
“If we mortals are to uphold our end of the human-computer symbiosis, if we are to retain a role as the creative partners of our machines, we must continue to nurture the wellsprings of our imagination and originality and humanity.”
Similarly to his book “Steve Jobs”, Walter Isaacson left me inspired and speechless about the dynamics of human collaboration and limitless thinking that has led us to our present day.
It’s no easy feat to build a personal computer, or a software, or a encyclopedia 85-times the size of Britannica, or much less a search engine that emulates human-ranking thinking. But these were all contributions from many of the great companies we know today – Apple, Microsoft, Wikipedia and Google.
Despite the endless patent wars we see in the news, purists believe that none of these ideas “belong” to anyone. These were all expansions on a single idea originated 150 years ago by Ada Lovelace. The idea that humans and machines one day would not be put against each other, but rather collaborate to achieve unimagined feats.
3. Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse
“Power is concerned with what has already happened; strength with what has yet to happen. Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act. Power refers to the freedom persons have within limits, strength to the freedom persons have with limits”
James P. Carse is a professor of history and literature of religion at New York University. In this book Carse eloquently explains all the games hidden in our every day lives.
There are two types of games: finite and infinite games. “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.” From this simple deduction, Carse dissects all the elements that make each game unique and relevant within our lives.
When I first read this book I had 78 highlighted passages… there are way too many golden nuggets hidden in these pages, and very much like Awareness, this is a book that must be read at least once a year.
4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction with this book. It is written in the form of a letter to his son about the symbolism and struggles of being an African American in the United States.
This is an absolute masterpiece that will open your eyes to how racism has shaped the history of America and continues to be a problem today. What I thought I understood was a tremendous understatement to what Coates so brilliantly writes to his son.
“We should seek not a world where the black and white race live in harmony, but a world in which the terms black and white have no real political meaning.”
This is required reading for anyone looking to understand how racism truly manifests itself around us. It is the first step towards true empathy in a world so divided by race, religion and place of birth.
5. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
This is one of the most complete books about the evolution of human societies that I’ve ever read. It has also won a Pulitzer Prize, Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California’s Gold Medal.
Diamond does an incredible job explaining how and why certain societies advanced ahead of others by digging deep into their abilities to raise large mammals, grow certain foods, leverage their climate and landmass to migrate and trade with other groups as well as their exposure to animal diseases that helped them develop antibodies against certain viruses and bacteria.
This all-encompassing chronicle shines light into how the geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern societies we see today and answers a lot of questions that you may have never thought of.
Bonus: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley & David Kelley
The brothers Tom Kelley (partner at IDEO) and David Kelley (founder of IDEO and of the Stanford d.school) are two of the most influential masterminds in the design thinking world. In this book they reflect on the power of creativity and how all of us can unleash our creative powers to solve problems around us with the user at the epicenter of it.
Design thinking has become a powerful way of thinking to finding innovative solutions to the hard problems of today and of the future. It all revolves around 2 key elements: empathy and prototyping.
This is a powerful book that will help even the most seasoned creative thinkers to cause long lasting impact on the solutions to the problems they are working on today and on the innovations of tomorrow.
What do you have in your reading list for 2020?