Books I Read in 2019

January 1, 2020

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 6 books this year. For most people, this would be an extremely modest goal.

For me, however, this was definitely a stretch goal. I hadn’t read more than one book a year since college. I never seemed to “have the time” to read (ie. mindless scrolling through feeds or watching Youtube).

That is not to say I didn’t read at all. All of my time was spent on reading blog posts and articles – shorter forms of reading. On my commnute, I would open up my Instapaper and work through the queue I had there.

Below are the books I read and some tips that helped me create my book reading habit.



by Susan Cain · Nonfiction

A book about introverts and introversion. It goes through the history of the rise of extroversion (ride of mass media), the science that drives introversion, and some practical tactics for introverts.


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

by Claire North · Fiction/Sci-Fi

This was a fun read. Left to my own devices, I would only read nonfiction so I asked Laura for a fiction read I'd enjoy.

This was a fun read - it starts off sort of like a thought experiment of what would happen if you could reincarnate with all of your previous memories before it gets into an engaging story.


The Social Photo

by Nathan Jurgenson · Nonfiction/Social Media

I was really looking forward to this book, but it ended up being immensely unsatisfying.

The book was written by the sociologist on staff at Snapchat (yes, they have a sociologist!). He has written a bunch of insightful writing about social media that I enjoyed.

This book had interesting concepts, but there were not enough to fill even a short book. On top of that, the writing style made me feel like I was reading a 100+ page tweetstorm.



by George Orwell · Fiction

I was suposed to have read this book at various points in my life (high school, college), but ... I was a lazy student 😁

I really enjoyed this - it gave me chills, both good and bad.



by Yuval Noah Hariri · Nonfiction

At the risk of being a tech stereotype, I picked up this book. That aside, this book did live up to the hype for me. It was a nice high-level walkthrough millenia of human history and presented concepts in a new light.


Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan · Fiction

This was such a fun and fast guilty pleasure read. I'm normally a slow reader but I was able to tear through this book.

Going from 1 book (maybe) a year to 6 required a change in my habits. Here are a few things that helped me:

  • ABR - always be reading. Starting off, I made a concerted to reach for my Kindle instead of the remote for Youtube when I had a free second. It was tough at first - Youtube is too enticing - but it has turned into the most helpful long term habit.

    I got this tip from Rick's blog post: My Reading Habits. Actually, most of my success reading came from following advice in that post. Go read it 😁

  • Quiet environment ...or noise cancelling headphones elsewhere. I tend to get distracted by any sounds so finding quiet places to read was super helpful.

    That's not always possible – like on a subway commute – and noise cancelling headphones were a godsend. I would just turn on the noise cancelling and listen to nothing while reading on the subway.

  • Trying not to read on a phone. Before I got a Kindle, I would always try to read on my phone. Inevitably, I would get a push notification and get dragged into some other app. Having a distraction free device allowed me to focus on the book.

    That said, I don't always have my Kindle on my person and reading on my iPhone was better than not.

  • Alternating between fiction and nonfiction. As I mentioned above, I would only read nonfiction if I could. However, it was helpul to force myself to alternate. Nonfiction books can sometimes be a slog since they can be dense and fiction is a nice respite from that.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t think I’d make this goal. Having come out the other end successful, I’m really happy I did. The reading I’m doing feels more meaningful and durable that the treadmill of blog posts that I used to read.

For 2020, I’m setting a goal of 10 books. Again, probably not a big deal for most, but will be for me 😅 I’d love any recommendations you have!

Benny Wong is a technologist born, raised, and living in NYC.