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My favourite books 2019

My reading this year fell mainly into three buckets: Memoirs, novels by Sally Rooney and books by the historian Thomas Madden.

These were my favorites:

  1. Maoism: A Global History”, by Julia Lovell. Explains how maoist thought and actions by the Chinese government influenced movements in other countries. Not much talked today - especially by the Chinese government.
  2. Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World”, by Thomas Madden. A fascinating start-to-end story of the Eastern Roman and the Osman Empire taking place in the city on the Bosporus.
  3. Aladdin: A New Translation”, by Yasmine Seale. This is the first documented Aladdin story, intriguingly first published in France in the early 18th century. I wonder about the morality of it: If you had some tool (a Jinn in this tale) that could get you whatever you want, I don’t think the acceptable way to behave would be to kill a magician, get the biggest house full of diamonds and force the terrified princess to sleep in your bed.
  4. Writing My Wrongs”, by Shaka Senghor. He describes life on the streets of Detroit, the murder he committed, 19 years in prison of which he spent 7 years in an isolation cell (4 years in a row).
  5. The Education of an Idealist”, by Samantha Power. I liked the start of the book more than the part when she became ambassador. I think the legacy of her administration’s foreign policy doesn’t hold up well and I didn’t learn much from her time at the UN. They seemed to spend a lot of time on symbolic gestures, but got the big things on Syria wrong. I much prefered her very personal story of her long path through war journalism, academia and government.
  6. Open: An Autobiography”, by Andre Agassi. Samantha Power recommended this book in her interview with Tyler Cowen on her memoir.
  7. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams ”, by Matthew Walker. This book has influenced how I think about sleep and has made me more protective of mine.
  8. Venice: A New History”, by Thomas Madden. History writes the greatest stories.
  9. Conversations with Friends”, by Sally Rooney. There are lead characters that I would have guessed to relate better to than a female bisexual Irish poet, but this is a book I knew from the first page I would enjoy and read to the end.
  10. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike”, by Phil Knight. Fascinating story of the founding of Nike, touching on how the early running subculture and post-war Japan. Knight is a different founder from those we have in our minds today: He first finished his MBA and worked in accounting when he needed funds for his business. He had very supportive parents and also turned to them at the beginning for money. (Olli’s review)