The 10 Best Books I Read in 2019
The theme for 2019 is about surrendering and allowing. This year has been quite a whirlwind. A lot of distractions, disruptions, and adventures along the way.
- Some are self-created due to my indecision: I shouldn’t have agreed to teach my previous student Economics or become an organizer of a meetup group.
- Some are unexpected: I was sick for almost a month. Two uncles passed away. The whole neighbourhood had to undergo a toilet upgrade. Found and joined a new meetup group that I resonated with.
- Some are expected and planned in advance: Busy preparing my students for their O Level examinations. Had my first holiday in four years.
With so many things happening in my life, I found it difficult to sit down and focus on my writing. By the time I reach the end of the year, I just want to shut myself in my room and write.
Riding the Flow
What I learn from this year though is things can get crazy, but there’s no need to resist the changes. Just surrender and go with the flow. When I was sick or when my neighborhood was too noisy due to the renovation, I didn’t force myself to get the same amount of work done. I allowed myself to rest and relax. Even though I didn’t complete the book that I set out to publish this year, I have my best year yet financially ever since I left my corporate job.
I’m doing less but I’m actually getting more.
Also, I had been writing my book for more than a year now. But it wasn’t until late November that I realized that this book and the books to come needed a more spiritual approach. So I had to edit and remove a huge chunk of what I had previously written. Once I gained clarity on the direction of my book, everything just flowed naturally and I completed the second draft within a month. When you ride the flow and be one with the flow, you don’t have to put in much effort to get the work done. It’s not about getting; it’s about letting.
This Year the Donation Goes to…
This year, I read 81 books, 19 shy of my 100 books goal that I set for myself each year. Towards the end of the year, instead of rushing to reach my goal, I decided to cut down on reading. I have this bad habit of finishing books and sometimes, I read just to fill up my time. Going forward, I want to read with a much clearer intention and purpose. If I realize a book doesn’t resonate with me, I will give it up as soon as possible. There’s no need to finish it. I don’t want to read a book just for the sake of reaching a goal.
Follow What I Read:
However, each year I play the role of a “Santa” and donate an amount based on the number of books I’ve read. (You can read the previous posts here.) So I have to change my “pay it forward” tradition a bit. Instead of donating US$1 for each book I read, this year I double my donation by donating US$2 for each book. In this way, I don’t donate less because I read less.
Vote with your money.
Support the kind of world you want to live in.
This year, I donated US$162 to Eckhart Tolle Foundation. Eckhart Tolle has been one of my favorite authors and spiritual teachers of all time. His books are on my list every single year since 2016. (Not this year though because I had already read most of his books.) I feel compelled to support his movement of raising the consciousness of humanity because his vision of the new earth is the kind of world I want to live in.
Furthermore, I have not spent a single dime buying his books, courses or seminars. Yet, I have benefited tremendously from his teachings just by reading his books from the library and watching his videos online. It’s time to pay it forward to help communities that have little or no access to his teachings.
Lastly, I read his story about how he sat on the benches in the park and watch the world goes by for two years before he became a spiritual teacher. I always wanted to do the same. I finally did this November after a friend encouraged us to sit in a park for three hours. It is a blissful experience and I received a lot of insights. I have gone back twice ever since and I’m going to make this a regular thing going forward. After the experience, I don’t listen to audiobooks during my morning walk anymore. Nowadays, I just enjoy the stillness and listen to the sound of nature. It feels so good to be in touch with nature.
You can see what Eckhart Tolle Foundation does on their Facebook Page here.
My Top 10 Favorite Books: 2019 List
I have a rule of thumb though. I only feature one book from the same author for my list. So even if I like two to three books by the same author this year, I only select the one that I like the most.
Disclosure: Please note that the links below are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase, but it will be at no additional cost to you.
1. The Vortex by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks
“Anytime what someone else thinks about you becomes more important than your own balance with self, you are in a less-than-healthy position.”
I remember borrowing this book once but I didn’t manage to read it. It wasn’t until my friend recommended me Abraham Hicks September last year that I started reading their books again this year.
Esther Hicks (often credited as Abraham Hicks), co-writes many of her books with her late husband, Jerry Hicks. This book delve into the subject of relationships from a rather different perspective than most books I’ve read. It’s based on the natural Laws of the Universe. It also talks about various types of relationships including romantic relationships, parent-child relationship, and the relationship with your inner being.
I know about the Law of Attraction (LoA) many years ago but I stopped reading books on this topic after I had my spiritual awakening in 2015. Watching Abraham Hicks videos and reading her books rekindled my interest for the topic again. I find that Abraham teachings are more advanced and practical than what I had learned previously. It changes my perspective on many areas of my life, especially relationships. So I highly recommend this book and many of their other books.
2. The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut
“Being able to change your behavior is central to any personal growth effort, and at the same time, it’s incredibly difficult, given the power of our unconscious habits.”
Enneagram is a personality system that helps you understand more about yourself and other people. I got deep into it last year after a friend introduced me to this system. It’s more than a personality tool, it can help you grow spiritually too. Once you become aware of your ego’s habits, you can choose to not act out your habitual way. This then allows you to be more in touch with your soul.
In this book, the nine Enneagram types are further divided into 27 subtypes based on the three instinctual variants — sexual (sx), social (so), and self-preservation (sp). I’m a Type 4 with a sexual (sx) instinct.
When I first read the description in this book, I was like, “This is not me!” But after some self-reflection and comparison with the other subtypes, I come to realize that I embodied a lot of the traits mentioned, especially when I was a kid. I do this at a lesser degree now but I still catch my mind going into such thinking patterns from time to time. So this book has brought me new awareness to my unconscious habits.
However, this book is more suitable for advanced readers. If you are new to the Enneagram, here are other books on the Enneagram.
3. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
“Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.”
A friend lent me this book after I told him that I seldom read fiction books, except the spiritual ones like The Alchemist.
Usually, a story is written in the first person or third person from a character’s perspective. However, this novel is written from the perspective of multiple characters in both the first person and third person. Each chapter begins with the character’s name so that the readers know that they are viewing from that character’s perspective. I find this format rather intriguing.
What’s more interesting is that there are two stories running parallel at the same time. The main story is about Ella, a forty years old woman in a passionless marriage. She takes a job as a reader and her first assignment is to read Sweet Blasphemy, a novel about Rumi and his spiritual mentor, Shams. This is the second story in the book. Through reading the transformation of Rumi from a successful but unhappy cleric into a passionate poet, Ella learns rules about love and realizes that Rumi’s story mirrors her own.
I love how the stories are so beautifully woven into each other. It’s not confusing at all to read and I finished the book within a week!
4. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
“Death ends a life, not a relationship. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there.”
After reading The Forty Rules of Love, I wanted to read more spiritual fiction and in the midst of researching, I found this bestselling memoir instead. This book is an autobiography between a dying professor and his last lessons with his beloved pupil.
Morrie Schwartz is a wise, sociology professor who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Mitch Albom is a successful sports journalist but also a workaholic who has lost his way in achievements. He is Morrie’s student from nearly twenty years ago. They have a wonderful relationship but they lost contact with each other ever since Mitch graduated from college.
The two reconnected in the final months of Morrie’s life when Mitch saw his professor’s interview on television. They had their last lessons every Tuesday in Morrie’s house and the subject was The Meaning of Life. The book recounts the last fourteen lessons they shared together.
Adapted into a television movie in 1999, this book shares many valuable insights based on Morrie’s life experiences. I listened to the audiobook and was touched by the beautiful friendship that the two have.
5. Sexual Intelligence by Marty Klein
“Most of us have emotional needs that we try to address with sex, but sex is not the best way to satisfy them.”
Almost every year, there’s a book that I didn’t have the intention of reading at first but later discover that it is amazing. This book is the surprise find for this year. I bought this book at a discount through a weekly email newsletter that consolidates the latest eBook deals.
Funny story. After I bought it, I put it aside for seven months. When I started reading it, I was impressed by the author’s knowledge on the subject but I didn’t know if it’s written by a male or a female. I only checked the author’s name half-way through the book.
In the author’s thirty plus years as a sex therapist, he discovered that most people want pleasure and closeness from sex. However, oftentimes they let shame gets in the way. Most people focus on how they look, smell, sound or perform during sex, they suppress their emotions, they indirectly use sex to get validation from their partner, and etc. All of these are distractions that prevent people from experiencing the sex they desire.
What I enjoy the most is the author’s sense of humor. I love how he makes a sensitive subject like this fascinating. It’s also interesting to read his patient’s stories and understand their frustration around sex.
6. How to Fight by Thich Nhat Hanh
“When we’re able to love our enemy, that person is no longer our enemy. The idea of “enemy” vanishes and is replaced by the person who is suffering and needs our compassion.”
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite authors and similar to Eckhart Tolle, he has been on my list ever since 2016. I have read 34 of his books so far, 11 of them this year, and there are still a lot more to read.
Most of the time people read nonfiction to gain new knowledge. But when I read his books, I’m not reading for the mind; I’m reading for my soul. His books help me to be in touch with the stillness within myself. Reading his books is like a spiritual practice that you have to do regularly. So even though all his books are similar to each other and there’s hardly anything new, there is always a sense of renewal whenever I read his books. Whenever I wonder what book to borrow next, I will go to the library and see if any of his books is available.
This year, the book that I want to feature is this little book on how to calm yourself down when you feel like hurting someone. The title, How to Fight, is brilliant and unexpected from a mindfulness teacher. It’s a great book to remind ourselves not to get reactive, especially when we feel angry.
7. Turn My Mourning into Dancing by Henri Nouwen
“I am less likely to deny my suffering when I learn how God uses it to mold me and draw me closer to him.”
I find that a good writer is someone who can capture the heart’s of non-believers. It’s like how Thich Nhat Hanh’s books are read and loved by many non-Buddhists. As a non-Christian, I am captivated by Henri Nouwen’s writing. It’s so personal yet universal. Everyone can relate to it regardless of their religion.
Last year, a friend told me that my writing reminds him of this Catholic priest. After reading many of his books, I feel that both of us have the same attitude towards emotions and wounds. We don’t avoid them; we embrace them. We allow suffering to teach us and mold us into better versions of ourselves. To many people, we might appear weak. But our strengths actually lie in our abilities to grow from vulnerability and not get drowned by our sorrows.
This is exactly the crux of this book. The author suggests that the way through suffering is not in denial. It’s in the facing of the wounds and finding hope in hard times. This book helps people go through the grieving process and it doesn’t have to be for the mourning of a loved one’s death. Anyone who is mourning the loss of friendship or love relationship will find comfort in his words.
8. Conversation with God (Book 4) by Neale Donald Walsch
“This is not about saving the world. This is about your personal spiritual journey; it’s about your individual evolution.”
This is the first book I read in 2019. I started reading Neale Donald Walsch’s books last year after completing his course, Awaken the Species, on Mindvalley. A friend recommended me to this author. (It’s the same friend who recommended me Abraham Hicks!)
After reading as many of his books as I could possibly find in the library, I must say I prefer the books where he has a dialogue with God. They are more interesting, thought-provoking, and insightful as compared to his other books.
Published before the year 2000, the first three books in this Conversation with God (CwG) series helps you to awaken to who you really are. This book that was published in 2017 take it a little further. Similar to the Mindvalley course, this book invites us to demonstrate who we really are by being a model for others and inspiring them to awaken to their True Self.
If your soul is calling you to do something greater and grander than what you are doing now, this book will resonate with you.
9. How Not to Die by Michael Greger and Gene Stone
“The primary reason diseases tend to run in families may be that diets tend to run in families.”
After hearing my brother’s story about how his friend had to go through heart-bypass surgery and other surgeries at the age of 40 plus, I decided to pay more attention to my health. So at the beginning of this year, I started reading a lot of books on nutrition and healthy eating.
But most books are too boring for my liking. Reading about scientific or medical research is not my cup of tea. Plus, all the books I read on this topic are pretty much the same. If I were to summarize, the biggest lesson that I learned is “Don’t eat processed food. Eat more whole plant food.”
I place this book on the list because it is the best out of all that I have read. Perhaps it’s co-written with another author and not solely written by a physician. It has a great balance between information and storytelling.
Furthermore, the title is attention-grabbing. Unlike other books, this book doesn’t start with nutrition and what food to eat. It starts with the top fifteen diseases of premature death in America and the food that have been found to prevent, reduce and reverse these lifestyle diseases.
10. Energy Medicine by Donna Eden and David Feinstein
“When all your energies are brought into harmony, your body flourishes. And when your body flourishes, your soul has a soil in which it can blossom in the world.”
After reading many books on nutrition and healthy eating, I stumbled upon this Mindvalley course called Energy Medicine and I signed up for it. This book is written by the bubbly, energetic course instructor and her husband. The former is an intuitive healer while the latter is a logical clinical psychologist. Their strengths combined make this book both informative and insightful.
Some people only believe in traditional medicine, while others only believe in alternative medicine. But I find that it’s the marriage of the two that is the most powerful. When I got really sick in July, I used some of the energy medicine techniques that I learned and it boosted my energy level and helped me get out of the constant daze that I was in. However, as I was running a fever, I couldn’t sustain the energy for a long period of time. I still had to eat the medicine for a full recovery.
This book has a lot of information. I haven’t fully digest everything in the book. It’s more like a reference book with pictures to tell you how to move the energy in your body. You will have to take some time and a lot of practice to integrate the techniques into your life.
Below are a few others good book I read in 2019 which didn’t make it to the list, but worth mentioning:
The Books I Published in 2019
I didn’t publish any book this year. As mentioned, there have been some delay due to the events that happened this year. But several of my books did get published in Czech Republic and Greece this year. I’m looking forward to more versions from various countries in the coming year.