The 70 Books I Read This Year

Ben Wiener
6 min readDec 30, 2019

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers” — Harry S. Truman

Your brain is your largest muscle (at least for most people). You need to work it out regularly. Most of the people I admire most, in both business and life in general, are voracious readers, and I try to emulate them. Most of the books I read are recommended by people I follow (tweets, interviews, podcasts etc.) so I’m paying it forward with my 2019 list.

My Top Ten

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow / Daniel Kahneman

You’ve heard of this book. If you haven’t read it yet, you must.

2. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge / Edward O. Wilson

I’m going to have to re-read this one a few times. E.O Wilson is brilliant, his knowledge is expansive, and this is a book about the interconnections between different areas of thought and study. I felt parts of my brain connecting in ways they hadn’t before.

3. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World — And Why Things Are Better Than You Think / Hans Rosling

Rosling is the TED Talks guy with the cool animated graphs, who passed away shortly after publishing this book, and knew it would be his last work. Talk about writing an important book…

4. Leonardo da Vinci / Walter Isaacson

I love biographies, and this is one of the best I’ve read.

5. Working / Robert A. Caro

Shows you how a great artist does his craft with diligence and humility. But this is really just an excuse to plug my favorite writer ever, writing about his writing. Caro’s biography of LBJ, believe it or not, is one of the most amazing books (really series of books) I have read, ever.

6. Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles / Bernard Cornwell

I don’t generally love war or battle books but this is a gripping account. You really feel like you’re in the battlefield and Cornwell perfectly sets up and describes the strategic decisions, mistakes and key turning points, as they happen.

7. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World / David Epstein

I see this as kind of a response to Duckworth’s well-publicized Grit (below, which he references). I recommend it to any young person seeking career advice with whom I meet.

8. Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It / Scott Kupor

A must-read for anyone involved in venture capital or startups. A comprehensive and well-organized overview of the basic principles and methodology of venture capital investing.

9. Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries / Safi Bahcall

I already re-read this within months of the first read. I love methodologies and Bahcall frames innovation in some nice scientific metaphors like “dynamic equilibrium” and gives great examples.

10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time / Mark Haddon

Everyone — young or old — must read this book. A story told through the eyes of a young person who is clearly “on the spectrum” — as the book unfolds you start to realize that he’s got his *isht in order a lot better than most of the people around him.

BONUS #11: It Can’t Happen Here / Sinclair Lewis

Given what’s going on in America right now, everyone (Jew or non-Jew) must read this book. Recall this is fiction, written by Lewis in Nineteen THIRTY-Five.

The rest:

Science, The World and Life in General :)

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure / Tim Harford

More from Less: How We Learned to Create More Without Using More / Andrew McAfee

The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World / Ziya Tong

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Epstein’s Range, in my Top Ten, is to my mind a response/refutation of this book)

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals / Saul D. Alinsky

Meditations / Marcus Aurelius

A Discourse on Method: Meditations on the First Philosophy: Principles of Philosophy / René Descartes

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships / Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time / Jonathan Weiner

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead / Brené Brown

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity / Julia Cameron

The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love and the Meaning of Life / Alison Gopnik

The Doors of Perception / Aldous Huxley

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence / Michael Pollan

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness / Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein

History & Biography

The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time / Will Durant

The Devil in the White City / Erik Larson

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination / Neal Gabler

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics / Daniel James Brown

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman — Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual / Yvon Chouinard

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life / Brian Grazer

The Coen Brothers / Adam Nayman (I’m obsessed)

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician / Anthony Everitt

Twelve Against the Gods / William Bolitho

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World / Niall Ferguson

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World / Andrea Wulf

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life / William Finnegan

Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City / Neal Bascomb

Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly / Isaac Lidsky (just your standard story of child actor who while going blind, attends Harvard Law School, clerks on the US Supreme Court and rescues and rebuilds a successful business while raising triplets)

Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel / Matti Friedman

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln / Doris Kearns Goodwin

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds / David Goggins

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory / Deena Kastor

Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed / Matthew Futterman

Jim Henson: The Biography / Brian Jay Jones

Investing / Business / Tech

Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City / Brad Feld

Joseph Schumpeter and Dynamic Economical Change / Laurence S. Moss (Schumpeter is very important to understand venture capital, but there’s not much Schumpeter on Audible. So I get most of my Schumpeter from reading Jerry Neumann.)

The Deep Learning Revolution / Terrence J. Sejnowski

Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again / Eric Topol

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World / Clive Thompson

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions / Brian Christian

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, Second Edition /Marty Cagan

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World/ Anand Giridharadas

Alpha Girls / Julian Guthrie

That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea / Marc Randolph

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars / Jim Paul

More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places / Michael J. Mauboussin

The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing / Michael J. Mauboussin


The Count of Monte Cristo / Alexandre Dumas

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz / Mordecai Richler

The Sound and the Fury / William Faulkner

The Da Vinci Code / Dan Brown

Mr. Eternity / Aaron Thier

Ready Player One / Ernest Cline

Exhalation / Ted Chiang

Heart of Darkness / Joseph Conrad

The Way We Live Now / Anthony Trollope

To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee

Atlas Shrugged / Ayn Rand