The books I read in 2019
I’ve made a habit in previous years of writing a blog post listing the books I’ve read over the year — partly to offer suggestions to friends that might share some of my taste in books, and partly also to help me remember what I’ve read. Please don’t take them all as recommendations — there are some here that I really wouldn’t recommend unless you were also doing a PhD in my topic.
My top 10 (not in any order) are:
- ‘The Good University: What universities actually do and why it’s time for a radical change’, by Raewyn Connell. As well as a convincing critique of the status quo, this short book offers a vision of how universities could better serve society.
- ‘Gun Island’, by Amitav Ghosh. I loved this only slightly fantastical novel set in a world discovering the effects of climate change.
- ‘Solar Energy Finance Without the Jargon’, by Jenny Chase. I learned a lot from this, and enjoyed reading it.
- ‘Talk on the Wild Side: why language won’t do as it’s told’, by Lane Greene. I really enjoyed this guide to the science and politics of language.
- ‘Blackout’, by Matthew Warren. An excellent description of the challenges Australia is facing with balancing electricity supply and demand.
- ‘W.H. Auden: a biography’, by Humphrey Carpenter. I really enjoyed this biography of a poet who I had long wanted to know more about.
- ‘Planetary Economics’, by Michael Grubb. The toughest book I read in 2019, but filled with powerful ideas.
- ‘Shortest Way Home’, by Pete Buttigieg. I loved this political reflection.
- ‘The book of why: The new science of cause and effect’, by Judea Pearl. Not a light read, but I really enjoyed this blend of philosophy and probability.
- ‘Exceeding my Brief: Memoirs of a disobedient civil servant’, by Barbara Hosking. I really enjoyed this political and business memoir.
The other books I’ve read this year:
- ‘How to be miserable: 40 strategies you already use’, by Randy Paterson. It was alright for a self-help book.
- ‘After the party: A novel’, by Cressida Connelly. I enjoyed this novel from the perspective of a woman caught up in Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
- ‘The Misinformation Age: How false beliefs spread’, by O’Connor and Weatherall. Provides good insight into how societies learn, and sometimes get it wrong.
- ‘Doing Interviews’, by Brinkmann and Kvale. One for my PhD, on how to use interviews for qualitative research.
- ‘The hidden half: how the world conceals its secrets’, by Michael Blastland. A journey into why scientific discovery is challenging.
- ‘On Earth we’re briefly gorgeous’, by Ocean Vuong. Some of this novel was lovely to read, other bits were a bit too poetic for my taste.
- ‘The Breakdown’, by Tatton Spiller. An accessible guide to politics, why we disagree and how we can get better at listening to each other.
- ‘Burn Out: the end game for fossil fuels’, by Dieter Helm. It got me thinking, though some of it was unconvincing.
- ‘To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the future of Catholicism’, by Ross Douthat. I learned a lot about the story behind a number of stories I had read over the past decade. I thought it did a good job of providing both sides.
- ‘Doing Justice: a prosecutor’s thoughts on crime, punishment, and the rule of law’, by Preet Bharara. Some bits were interesting, but a lot was quite underwhelming.
- ‘A Simple Scale’, by David Llewellyn. I enjoyed this novel about two musicians, one in the USSR and one in Hollywood.
- ‘Beyond Belief’, by Hugh Mackay. I had been meaning to read this for several years, and enjoyed the respectful, honest look into the different ways in which Australians believe or don’t believe.
- ‘How to write a better thesis’, by Evans, Gruba and Zobel. If nothing else, I learned a few pitfalls to avoid.
- ‘Protest and Power: the battle for the Labour Party’, by David Kogan. I learned a lot from this, and thought it did a good job of portraying the good and bad in Corbyn. Could be quite relevant over the next few months.
- ‘At the Edge of the Night’, by Friedo Lampe. It came recommended, and it wasn’t a long read, but I was a bit disappointed by this 1930’s German novella.
- ‘Renewable Energy Finance’, edited by Charles Donovan. A collection of chapters by different people, some better than others.
- ‘A brief history of everyone who lived: the stories in our genes’, by Adam Rutherford. I learned a lot from this interesting book about what we can (and more importantly can’t) discover from genetic differences.
- ‘Equal Power: Gender equality and how to achieve it’, by Jo Swinson. I admit I read this as much to learn about Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, but I am really glad I did.
- ‘South of Darkness’, by John Marsden. A novel of a boy sent to Australia as a convict. I wanted to like it, but I found it a bit simplistic and preachy.
- ‘Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World’, by John Broome. I didn’t agree with everything but this book did get me thinking.
- ‘Help’, by Simon Amstell. An easy comedy read — some of it was brilliant, and some was a bit average.
- ‘Tribe: on homecoming and belonging’, by Sebastian Junger. A short read, but ultimately a bit disappointing.
- ‘The Growth Delusion: The wealth and wellbeing of nations’, by David Pilling. It is an important topic, but ultimately it didn’t tell me much I hadn’t previously read.
- ‘Night School: Wake up the power of sleep’, by Richard Wiseman. Sleep is important enough, it would have been worth reading for even one or two takeaways — unfortunately I was still left disappointed by this book.
- ‘Research Methods for Business Students’, by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill. Worth reading if you’re doing a PhD in the field.