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Books I read before 2017

  • Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann
  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • The Neverending Story – Michael Ende
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger
  • The Love Machine – Jacqueline Susann
  • The Portrait of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
    gift from my best friend; LOVED it
  • Sisters – Danielle Steel
  • Once in a Lifetime -Danielle Steel
  • Once Is Not Enough – Jacqueline Susann
  • Everyone Worth Knowing – Lauren Weisberger
  • Living History – Hillary Clinton
  • The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella
  • Snobs – Julian Fellowes
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – Victor Hugo
  • Follow Your Heart – Susanna Tamaro
  • The Great Gatsby -F. Scott Fitzgerald
    the worst $4 I’ve ever spent
  • Le Rouge et Le Noir – Stendahl
  • The Stranger – Albert Camus
  • Three Comrades – Erich Maria Remarque
  • The New Life – Orhan Pamuk
  • The Night in Lisbon – Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel García Márquez
    This is on my must-read books list. I’ve written a bit about Gabriel García Márquez’s concept of circular time.
  • Zahir- Paulo Coehlo
  • Arch of Triumph – Erich Maria Remarque
    first time Remarque made me cry
  • Il Paradiso E Un Cavallo Bianco Che Non Suda Mai – Adriano Celentano
  • The Black Obelisk – Erich Maria Remarque
    least favorite book of him
  • Restless Nights -Dino Buzzati
    gift from someone very dear for my 18th
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers -Paolo Giordani
    gift from someone very dear for my 18th
  • All the tulips in the world – Viktor Canosinaj
  • Memoria de mis putas tristes – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Charterhouse of Parma – Stendhal
  • The Double -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    speechless really
  • The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  • Time to Live, Time to Die – Remarque
    it was about time
  • The Black Cat- Edgar Allen Poe
    1$, but still
  • The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • Conversations with Kafka – Gustav Janouch
    thrifted and read by the river
  • Shakespeare never did this – Charles Bukowski
  • L’exil et le royaume – Albert Camus
    short stories i didn’t like
  • Love Lasts Three Years – Frederic Beigbeder
    me gusta
  • Strange Pilgrims – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    short stories I didn’t like
  • Autism- Edmond Tupja
  • Love-Leo Buscaglia
    LIFE CHANGING/what I need(ed)
  • La delicatesse-David Foenkinos
  • The Power of Negative Thinking- Bobby Knight
    gift from dad; not my thing
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
    unusual beauty
  • The Fall- Albert Camus
    speechless… in love with him again
  • Aphorismes sur la sagesse dans la vie -Shoppenhauer
  • The Damaged Woman-Simone de Beauvoir
    got me thinking SO MUCH
  • The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
  • Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite – Paul Arden
    gift from dad; astonished
  • The Misanthrope- Moliere
  • Love in the Times of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre
  • The Art of Loving – Erich Fromm
  • Ulysses – James Joyce (not really)
  • Think and grow rich- Napoleon Hill (not really)
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness -Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Waking Time – Jodi Piccoult
  • Les Jolis Garcons- Delphine de Vigan
  • She Came to Stay- Simone de Beauvoir
  • Loving each other – Leo Buscaglia
  • Crime and Punishment- Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Genuine Happiness Meditation as the path to fulfillment – B. Alan Wallace
  • The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway
  • One More Day – Fabio Volo
  • The Prisoner of Heaven (El cementerio de los libros olvidados #3) – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • The Orange Girl – Jostein Gaarder
  • 13 Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  • Lead In- Sheryl Sandberg
    gift from dad; such a good fucking book
  • Essentialism – Greg McKeown
  • milk and honey – Rupi Kaur
  • The attention revolution – B. Alan Wallace
    not reading him ever again
  • How Not to Be Wrong – Jordan Ellenberg
    not really
  • Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  • Anxiety – Dr. Sadik Lala
    I helped make this!
  • John Barleycorn – Jack London
  • The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry – Fay Weldon
  • The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown
  • Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
  • Harmless Like You – Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
  • enough – Patrick Rhone
  • We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    muy bueno
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
  • The Royal Game – Stefan Zweig
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – Mark Manson
    If you’ve also spent hours reading Mark’s articles, you’ve already read this book. He thinks everyone reading is desperately unhappy with their actions/behavior/life. It was alright, I just expected better/more.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
    Not really

39 books I read in 2017

  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
    what the?!?!?!
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
    really puts things in perspective, will kindly recommend this to people who’ve lost dear ones
  • Notes from a Dead House – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters – Jessica Valenti
  • I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression – Terrence Real
    Please read this
  • Woman: an intimate geography – Natalie Angier
    too scientific for my liking
  • Deep Work – Cal Newport
    pretty good, but the more you read the worse it gets. Here are some thoughts & excerpts.
  • Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
    Mark Manson recommended; WOW
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Brain Over Binge – Kathryn Hansen
  • Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
    have a slight crush on this guy
  • The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
  • Anything You Want – Derek Sivers
    I love this guy
  • Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship – Mira Kirshenbaum
  • Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit
  • This Is How You Lose Her – Junot Díaz
  • One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays – Scaachi Koul
    in love
  • The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking -Oliver Burkeman
    enjoyed, but it felt like he purposefully missed the point at times
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches – Audre Lorde
  • Poke The Box – Seth Godin
    b(l)a(n)d writing
  • The Case Study to Freelance Writing – Jacob Jans
    so helpful!
  • Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence – Lisa Cron
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    bad writing
  • Personal Development for Smart People – Steve Pavlina
    I love him
  • Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferrazzi
    twas ok, but not my kinda life
  • Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
    on racism, bonus the best writing
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Scott Adams
    how to excel at life basically, I really enjoyed it
  • Sex Object: A Memoir – Jessica Valenti
    ummmm, okay?
  • Models: Attract Women Through Honesty – Mark Manson
    very good, I’ve recommended this to at least 12 people by now
  • Feminist Fight Club An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace – Jessica Bennett
    so good
  • The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth – Scott Peck
  • Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving – Michelle Stevens
    couldn’t go through with it, triggering AF
  • Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Enlightenment – Robert Wright
  • Difficult Women – Roxane Gay
  • Hunger – Roxane Gay
  • The Art of Public Speaking – Dale Carnegie
  • The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking – Chris Anderson
    unsurprisingly very good

15 Books I read in 2018

  • Ask and It Is Given – Abraham Hicks
    forgive me LOA gods, couldn’t go through with it, maybe I’ll revisit in a few years
  • The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur
    her books are intoxicating
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
    Reni is an award-winning journalist and you can see why throughout the whole book, MUST read for white people
  • The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: Guidance on the Path to Mindfulness from a Spiritual Leader – Haemin Sunim
    I had missed mindfulness books
  • Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin
    a hard must-read, will go back
  • Neuroplasticity – Mo Costandi
    only if you’re a psych/medical geek SVP
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
    not really
  • Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight – M.E. Thomas
  • Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon
  • Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives – David Eagleman
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport
  • Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine – Derren Brown
    not reading similar books again, I’ve had it
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
    loved it!
  • Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People- Jackson MacKenzie
  • Bad Blood – Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup – John Carreyrou
    worth it

18 books I read in 2019

  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly – Anthony Bourdain
    must read
  • Everything Here Is Beautiful – Mira T. Lee
    hard, necessary read
  • Rework – David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
  • The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love – bell hooks
    forever thankful for her relentless work
  • The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner
  • Becoming – Michelle Obama
  • Unwifeable – Mandy Stadtmiller
    extremely beautiful, important read
  • Cherry – Nico Walker
  • The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
    emotionally draining, creatively empowering
  • Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World – Erica Keswin
  • Comedy Sex God – Pete Holmes
    umm.. amazing
  • Crudo – Olivia Laing
  • Secrets of Six-Figure Women – Barbara Stanny
    here’s something I learned from it
  • Baby Proof – Emily Giffin
    Internalized misogyny is a cruel, cruel beast. Book is about a couple who doesn’t want kids, until.. I wouldn’t have picked this book, I read it because it was there. (Long story.)
  • The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You – Julie Zhuo
    loved this
  • The Divided Mind – John E. Sarno
    a must-read for the medical community and people with chronic pain
  • Breakthrough Advertising – Eugene M. Schwartz
  • Copywriting Secrets – Jim Edwards
    my manager gave me this 🙂

16 books I read in 2020

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage – Elizabeth Gilbert

“At the end of her best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship. They swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married.”

very good, 9/10

Company of One – Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business – Paul Jarvis

“Paul Jarvis Jarvis makes a compelling case for making your business better instead of bigger. A must-read for any entrepreneur who prioritizes a rich life over riches.”


The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

“a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.”

teary-eyed of course. 7/10

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them – Meg Jay

Beloved (1988 Pulitzer Prize) – Toni Morrison

“Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of a family of former slaves whose Cincinnati home is haunted by a malevolent spirit.”

7/10. I was so excited to finally read her work, but this wasn’t exactly my thing. I can see why she won a Nobel and a Pulitzer though.

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott


Heartland – Sarah Smarsh

“We are given a unique and essential look into the lives of poor and working class Americans living in the heartland.”

Amazing. 10/10.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert

“The path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.”

Amazing. 10/10.

The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient, and Conscious Children -Shefali Tsabary Ph.D.

“A radically transformative plan that shows parents how to raise children to be their best, truest selves.”

Amazing. 10/10.

Breathing Lessons (1989 Pulitzer Prize) – Anne Tyler

“As Maggie and Ira rediscover the magic of the road called life and the joy of having somebody next to you to share the ride . . . bumps and all.”

Needed some fiction in my life. 8/10.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

“He uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust.”

Amazing! Must read. 10/10.

The Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis

“The plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues, primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it.”

My boss sent me this. The writing’s out of this world. A great read for anyone questioning their faith. 10/10 writing style, 8/10 book.

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal – Nick Bilton

Read this with my boyfriend. Captivating if you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes of successful businesses. I loved the drama. Jack sucks.

Where Reasons End – Yiyun Li

“An imagined conversation between a mother and the son she lost to suicide.”

I’m a simple girl, I’m sent a New Yorker article, I like it, I get the author’s book. Learned ~50 words & a new way to cope with suicide. The author’s son killed himself after his 16th birthday and the book is her conversation with him. Felt a bit like an intruder in a mother/son conversation or like I was reading someone’s diary. Very powerful.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

I learned so much. 10/10. Please read this.


Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career – Laurence G. Boldt

“Goes beyond inspiration, providing a proven formula for bringing creativity, dignity, and meaning to every aspect of the work experience.”

I found one of the chapters amazing, I knew most of the points in the book, but I still enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to people that want impactful careers. 7/10.

June 13, 2021 update: I talked about this book in Winners, losers, and choosers, let’s play a game.

13 books I read in 2021

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life – Rory Sutherland

Nothing is as it appears. A must-read for anyone who: is in marketing/ enjoys behavioral design/ has felt alone in their war against corporate-speak and corporate-think. I really, really enjoyed this. 10/10.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb

Reading a book written by a therapist writer/writer therapist felt meta since this is what I want to eventually do. I loved the writing, loved the stories, loved the psychology aspect of it, oh my God, I devoured this book and I stayed up till 2 am to finish it. 10/10.

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – Gay Hendricks

This was wonderful. I included an excerpt in my article We Did It, Joe! Reflections and Tips After Writing New Weekly Articles for a Year:

“After he heard me talk about Einstein Time at a seminar, a Manhattan stockbroker sent me an e-mail telling me about what had happened recently on his daily subway ride to Wall Street. He said that he was running late one morning and had sprinted to catch the train, trying to balance a cup of coffee, a bagel, and his briefcase.

Jammed in with the other riders on the crowded train, he started to look at his watch but couldn’t raise his arm because he was wedged in so tightly between people. He felt a wave of panic building because he couldn’t see what time it was or assess how late he might be for his meeting. Suddenly he recalled our conversation about Einstein Time.”

Check it out. 8.5/10.

June 27, 2021 update: I wrote We All Have the Same Problem based on this book.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion – Jia Tolentino

“In her debut essay collection, the writer unveils nine new pieces that help cement her place in the essayist canon. She’s an expert in the sweet spot where contemporary politics and youth culture meet and make out.”

As I said for Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons End: “I’m a simple girl, I’m sent a New Yorker article, I like it, I get the author’s book.” Her piece, Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston, is out of this world.

However, named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, I didn’t really enjoy this collection of essays as much as I thought I would. As other readers have pointed out, while she is a magnificent writer, the book was often depressing, rambling, and often feels like it lacks a point. I skipped a few pages. 6/10.

2022 update: Coming back here to say that I think about parts of this book often and I also follow Jia on Instagram and think her presence on Earth is a gift.

Humankind: A Hopeful History – Rutger Bregman

When I wrote Humanity’s Best Kept Secret, I hadn’t finished this book yet, but it had already moved me to tears. That article is mostly based on what I learned from the book, it quickly turned into a reader favorite and I can see why.

After finishing it, find out what I had to say about it below.

All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks

Made me think. Her love for love is contagious. Made me feel extra grateful for the endless love in my life. I really loved some chapters, others not so much.

I shared some book excerpts on my Instagram. Someone messaged me saying “Imma read every book you read” and I loved that.

May 9, 2021 update: I talked about this book in Why People Who Are Perfect For Each Other Break Up.

Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth – Stuart Ritchie

Amazing read for anyone in science and anyone who idolizes science from afar. Quite eye-opening about how research works and how flawed a lot of it and how we can make it right. There’s also a chapter about learning to read scientific research that is pretty helpful in this day and age. 9/10

Own Your Weird: An Oddly Effective Way for Finding Happiness in Work, Life, and Love – Jason Zook

I absolutely loved 40% of the book. The other 60% was anything but weird or revolutionary. Great read for “weirdos”, entrepreneurs, and those scared of what society will think of them if they do X. I learned a lot. The blueprint does not exist. 10/10 on some chapters, 4/10 on others.

Content Design – Sarah (Richards) Winters

“Between 2010 and 2014, Sarah Richards and her team at the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service did what many thought impossible: they took over 400 separate government websites and transformed them into a single site designed to effectively serve its users. In doing so, they defined a new discipline: content design.”

I read this in a day. It’s perfect for people who are “just” writers or “just” UX designers who want to do more strategic work. Great for those who really, really care about people and their time and attention. 10/10.

Related: Listen to How to be an exceptional content designer, with Sarah Richards, creator of the content design discipline on the Content Design Podcast

Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning – Benjamin K. Bergen

The writing style isn’t my thing, so 6.5/10, but still a great read for anyone who spends time thinking about words, what makes sense to us and why, and the meaning of things in general.

Words like eat, pray, poop mean different things to different people.

In Japan and Korea, the way you hand over small objects to someone depends on who the person is.

“Suppose I tell you that I was in the park and saw a guy in a purple track suit jog past me. Which way did you see him jogging?

There’s a lot of evidence showing that you’re likely to have seen him going from your left to your right than any other direction.”

The book is filled with similar fascinating studies and facts related to meaning.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close – Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

I was so excited to read a book about friendship! Why are there so few books solely about friendship? As the authors also note, if we’re facing relationship or family issues, there are hundreds of books and resources to our help.

Does your lifelong friend feel like a stranger? Good luck figuring that out.

“There’s an expectation that friendship is the easy part of life. All support, no strife. If it gets hard? Well, it wasn’t meant to be. While there are piles and piles of books to help you through a crisis in your marriage and offer you advice on repairing estranged family relationships, not much guidance exists for best friends who can sense things falling apart but don’t know how to put them back together.”

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close – Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

Big Friendship focuses on the importance of friendship and how friendships have changed throughout history. For me, it felt like the part I was waiting for was coming in the next chapter, but it never did. After sharing how they met, why they were best friends, and research on friendship, I was expecting to hear how they fixed their friendship after ruining it.

Spoiler alert: they went to couple’s therapy together. The therapist helped them realize how they differed, how these differences were hurting them, and how to change that. Then, they lived happily ever after. 

Favorite idea from the book: while we expect our relationships to hit rough patches and go through hard times, we assume friendships run smoothly forever. They don’t. We need to express our love, gratitude, and investment in our friends frequently.


Everyday Information Architecture – Lisa Maria Marquis

A book on how to craft more thoughtful and effective digital spaces. It’s just 126 pages, but it covers everything IA-related:

  • Systems of Organization
  • Content Analysis
  • Categories and Labels
  • Site Structure
  • Navigation and Wayfinding
  • Tags and Taxonomies

“Of course, user needs aren’t the only consideration on a website—otherwise, something something downfall of capitalism.”

Kudos to Marquis who somehow wrote a book about IA that was very fun to read.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

I intended to throw some kind of party after finishing this book. It took me 6 months to finish it.

  • 1,300 pages
  • more than 25 main characters
  • a story that spans almost 10 years.

The timing’s far from ideal (March 2, 2022 as I write) so I’m postponing celebrations until further notice.

Besides being a classic, one of the main reasons why I read it was Mark Manson:

War and Peace may be the most epic thing ever created by a human being. I know the word ‘epic’ gets thrown around these days as if it means nothing, but I’m actually not exaggerating when I say that. The sheer scope of the story, combined with its unrivaled depth of humanity in each character — I have never seen anything like it anywhere else in any art form.

– Mark Manson, 5 Massive Books That Are Worth Your Time

This is not the best book in the world. There’s good stuff in there, but I wouldn’t necessarily reread or recommend it.

10 books I read in 2022

Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams by Mike Dooley

First update: I’m a die-hard believer in manifestation, but I don’t read a lot of books on the subject. I think I know what they’ll say, I find some of them very repetitive, I’m turned off by the language used, etc. This one’s pretty great so far. Recommended by Lauren Toyota.

Last update: I finished this on an NYC – Tampa flight. After War and Peace, I was excited to finally be unable to put down a book and be able to finish a book fairly quickly.

  1. The book offers two simultaneous, contradictory perspectives. It seems like it’s written for people (like me) who have a high tolerance for woo-woo stuff. “Of course every wish will be granted!” Yet, the author speaks in a way that suggests his readers don’t currently have a manifestation practice and are moderately unhappy with what they have or who they are. Similar to my The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck review in this regard.
  2. The author offers a lacking explanation for why bad things happen (“They happen”). At the end of the book, he answers readers’ FAQ questions, one of which was around the victim blaming mentality that this book (and other similar ones to it) exude. I understand his point of view (he often makes it sound like the reason you feel that way is because you don’t yet understand), I just don’t necessarily agree.
  3. I skipped the section about weight without skipping a beat (no pun intended), just like I skip the guided meditations related to weight loss that Insight Timer—my meditation app of choice—recommends to me.

Despite what those sentences above might have you believe, I really enjoyed this book. I deeply felt and understood so much of it. Often while reading, I literally felt like crying happy tears.

The book wasn’t US-centric and challenged American presumptions directly, which is a rare, also very pleasurable occurrence to me.

“First, are you so sure they have it so bad? I’ve visited and spoken in some extremely poor countries, and perhaps the biggest shock I routinely experience is how happy and carefree the people are. South Africa is perhaps my favorite destination. Joy radiates from even the poorest people in ways the typical Westerner cannot even imagine.

It would not surprise me if some of their elders whom I have been blessed to meet actually pity us in the Western world, with our towers of glass, wireless, high-speed internet, and so little free time. Are they really disadvantaged? Or do they have perhaps an entirely different set of priorities and values than we are accustomed to that makes them far richer than we can imagine?”

Other quotes from Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams that really resonated with me

  • See life sending to you all that you want, because it does.
  • Reflect on how little the animals in the wild have to worry about their survival, food, and shelter. And recall every incident in your life in which you were miraculously provided for. Dwell on life’s magic and strive for that certainty of knowing that you are perfect, you are loved, and all is well.
  • Lately, you feel you could cry tears of joy virtually every single day.

Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life by Ashley Whillans

I’ve already talked about the concept of busyness as a status symbol in an article and a podcast episode (below) based on Whillans’ findings, so I’m excited to dive in.

Update: This was great. Simply written, clear instructions, and a very solid research-backed point being made. A must-read especially for people in the US.

About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory – Barry Lopez

In My Favorite and Most Impactful Reads from 2021, Tim Ferris said:

This is probably my favorite nonfiction book of the last five years. I received it as a Christmas gift, I devoured it in one week, and nearly every page is covered in highlighter. It’s truly that phenomenal. […] Repeatedly, I found myself saying aloud, “Wow. How does someone DO this?” 

Now, Tim was referring to Lopez’s other book, Of Wolves and Men, but I didn’t want to read that one for reasons I won’t get into. Tim suggested About This Life too, so I went for this book instead.

I read the introduction without realizing the “actual” book hadn’t started yet and wow, I’m so glad I did. His writing is extremely rich and poetic. His answer to a stranger who asked him what advice he should give his daughter (an aspiring writer) has stuck with me to this day.

My favorite excerpt that I found extremely relatable:

“If I were asked what I want to accomplish as a writer, I would say it’s to contribute to a literature of hope.”

I stopped reading the book after the introduction and the first story, it wasn’t for me, but I can see how it can mean the world to someone.

The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another – Ainissa Ramirez

“…a clever and engaging look at materials, the innovations they made possible, and how these technologies changed us.”

Very interesting.

August 2022 update: To this day, my boyfriend and I often talk about specific things we learned from this book.

Articulating Design Decisions – Tom Greever

This book was strange. It verged from “This is the most Captain Obvious thing I’ve heard in my life” to “This makes absolutely no sense and I’m not sure how the author still has a job after publicly stating this.”

The author also made some fantastic points now and then.

For a while there, I was using two highlighters with different colors:

  1. one for excerpts I actually liked and wanted to remember,
  2. one for the outrageous bits I planned on using in the article I’d write about the flaws and faults of this book.

Now, I’m not a reviewer. Not a critic. I’d have to passionately, actively hate OR love something to dedicate an entire article to it. While I certainly didn’t love this book, I didn’t hate it either.

I figured I could post about it on my LinkedIn, even though I have never posted anything on there (ever), lest it be tarnished by the absence of nuance and critical thinking that consumes that space.

But while I got over that (not that deep), I still didn’t want my first post to be criticizing an industry leader. Not my M.O. So, this is my review/rant.

TL;DR If you’re a junior UX designer, you’ll benefit from reading this book, even if it’s just to spot the type of UX-er you do not want to be.

The Vagina Bible – Dr. Jen Gunter

The last time I updated my Now page I was reading this book so I will basically add what I said there in here:

Fun fact: I started posting daily TIL Instagram stories. TIL stands for Today I Learned. I try to post a new thing I learned every day. This book singlehandedly made up like 50% of my TIL posts. 

I’m learning so much about vaginas. The Vagina Bible is also radicalizing me in the sense that it makes you painfully aware of all the things women have to go through to give birth, breastfeed, or even have sex sometimes even though studies show that half of women who sleep with men can’t reach climax.

Plus, all the other gender disparities. It’s a lot and it’s enraging and this book reminds you of a lot of it.

Maybe I won’t stand by this a year from now, but now I think every expecting father should read this book, especially the first few chapters. 

I booked an appointment with a gynecologist because of this book and felt like Jen would be proud of me.

Meaty – Samantha Irby

“Irby laughs her way through tragicomic mishaps, neuroses, and taboos as she struggles through adulthood: chin hairs, depression, bad sex, failed relationships, masturbation, taco feasts, inflammatory bowel disease and more.”

Picture this: 2am. Flying to Barcelona in the morning. Couldn’t sleep (never happens). I started this book. Almost stopped reading after the first 2 chapters and OH MY GOD I’m so glad I didn’t! That sleepless night, I laughed and cried and felt all the things. Read ~22% of the book.

My afterparties in Barcelona/Valencía basically consisted of reading this book. I read it on flights (it’s not exactly SFW, but YOLO) and laughed out loud while waiting in queues and ahh <3

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – Amelia Nagoski, DMA and Emily Nagoski, PhD

“This groundbreaking book explains why women experience burnout differently than men—and provides a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions, and live a more joyful life. “

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

Learned so much. Helped me a lot. 10/10.

20/10 if I don’t forget to actually do these things.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth – Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mare

I didn’t know the DuckDuckGo founder co-wrote this. The book met my (high) expectations. Not pretentious at all. A must-read for any business owner/founder, not just startups.

If you’ve been in the game for a while, you might not learn anything new and find this repetitive.

The Kindness of Strangers: How a Selfish Ape Invented a New Moral Code – Michael E. McCullough

A short book description: “How did humans, a species of self-centered apes, come to care about others? Since Darwin, scientists have tried to answer this question using evolutionary theory. In The Kindness of Strangers, psychologist Michael E. McCullough shows why they have failed and offers a new explanation instead.”

Update: I stopped reading halfway through to honor a promise I’ve made myself: Don’t read books you don’t enjoy. I learned a lot and I would have loved getting this as a reading assignment in university. This book coincided with a quite hectic period of my life and reading it felt like more work on top of all the work. So I stopped 🙂

21 books I read in 2023

Normal People by Sally Rooney

“Normal People is a poignant and deeply moving story about identity, friendship, and young love. Rooney perfectly captures the loneliness of growing up and the desire to feel understood by peers.”

I started and finished this on a flight just like I finished my first book of 2022.

My best friend told me to read it. I did find Rooney’s writing style and the characters very offputting at times, but overall, I loved the book. I cried on the plane and I appreciate every piece of art that evokes such strong emotions.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

“A metafictional novel by Ruth Ozeki narrated by two characters, a sixteen-year-old Japanese American girl living in Tokyo who keeps a diary, and a Japanese American writer living on an island off the coast of British Columbia who finds the diary of the young woman washed ashore some time after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan.”

I can’t begin to explain how amazing this book was. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an author cover so many important topics in such a way that it breaks your heart and rebuilds it back up, again and again, so beautifully. Ruth Ozeki, you’re marvelous! Please never ever ever stop creating.

I Didn’t Do The Thing Today: On letting go of productivity guilt by Madeleine Dore

Exactly what I needed to read. Talked about it in I’ve been lying to you.

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

This is one of those books that you know while you’re reading it that you’re gonna want to/have to reread it a few times. I’ve flirted with Brené’s work (research, blog posts, talks) for years now, but had actually never read a book of hers. I devoured it. It was sooooooo good. If you’ve been working for more than 3 years and if you often find yourself thinking about how you show up at work as a human being rather than an employee, I highly recommend it.

Just Enough Research by Erika Hall

“Good research is about asking more and better questions, and thinking critically about the answers. Done well, it will save your team time and money by reducing unknowns and creating a solid foundation to build the right thing, in the most effective way.

Erika Hall distills her experience into a guidebook of trusted research methods you can implement right away, no matter what size team you’re on or budget you’re working with.”

Finding a work-related book that I agree with almost fully is difficult. This was it. A great start for anyone wanting to learn more about user experience research.

The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer

I’ve heard about this book frequently over the years, but always resisted it for some reason. I finally did it after asking an AITA type of question related to cultural differences in a Slack channel I’m part of and getting a resounding “read this book” answer.

I plan on writing more about this and returning to it. Sure, I said this for Brene’s book and the productivity guilt book and probably many more… A girl can dream.

If you work in international contexts, you need to read this book.

How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo

How to Read Now explores the politics and ethics of reading, and insists that we are capable of something better: a more engaged relationship not just with our fiction and our art, but with our buried and entangled histories.”

I found this book in Roxane Gay’s book club list. Another one that I’ll need to return to.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

“With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface takes on questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation not only in the publishing industry but the persistent erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society. R. F. Kuang’s novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.”

Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

Chlorine by Jade Song

“In the vein of The Pisces and The Vegetarian, Chlorine is a debut novel that blurs the line between a literary coming-of-age narrative and a dark unsettling horror tale, told from an adult perspective on the trials and tribulations of growing up in a society that puts pressure on young women and their bodies… a powerful, relevant novel of immigration, sapphic longing, and fierce, defiant becoming.”

As a past competitive swimmer, I read it in 2 days, in 2 takes really. Fantastic writer.

It was very triggering tho 🙁

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.”

I kept reading, expecting more, expecting something, but it never came. Full of clichés, both at the sentence level and in the overall themes.

Old Babes in the Wood: Stories by Margaret Atwood

This was on the bestseller list in my local library. I picked it up, having heard a lot about Atwood, but never having read her work or seen The Handmaid’s Tale.

What she does with words is so good it almost feels illegal.

I laughed, I cried, and I felt seen in ways that so often go unnoticed.

Content Design – Sarah (Richards) Winters

Reread while I got my nails done (mustard yellow to match my new handmade ring).

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Very reassuring. I don’t think it was the author’s intention, but this made me feel really proud of who I am. I realized I am an introvert. This book answered a lot of my “why do I do this” questions (because I’m an introvert).

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I was considering 3 books before my flight to Barcelona, but couldn’t pick one. I asked my husband to pick and I also asked a stranger since he was taking a while to respond. Both picked this. I took it as a sign.

Amazing story that I’m choosing to consider a real story. What’s real anyway?

This book, the 14th I read this year, was the first one from a male author.

The Guest by Emma Cline

COULDN’T put it down. I guessed what the ending would be like from the start but still was a bit disappointed when I got to it. Excited to read more from this author, she puts these hyper-specific sensations into words and I felt so seen.

Shout out to nikki nasty for the recommendation.

Presentation Patterns: Techniques for Crafting Better Presentations by Neal Ford, Matthew McCullough, Nathaniel Schutta

A long book breaking down presentation patterns (á la design patterns).

Presenting Design Work by Donna Spencer

Read on the train on my way to Prague. Super short, but packed with good stuff.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Couldn’t stop reading. Disturbing. Highly recommended.

Women of Ideas by Suki Finn

A curated list of 30 conversations from this famous philosophy podcast. It took a while because I couldn’t read more than two interviews in one go, but I enjoyed the conversations and learned I deeply resonate with this type of philosophy which Beauvoir roughly describes as NOT ‘system’ philosophy

“I think it’s partly because she claimed herself that (and this is a very controversial and bothersome claim to many feminist philosophers) Beauvoir was not a philosopher, whereas Sartre was. But when she said that, she was, I think, actually being critical of Sartre. This is because one of the distinctions she makes in other places about different types of philosophers is that some are ‘systems’ philosophers and some are ‘subjectivity’ philosophers. To the extent that someone emphasizes a philosophical system—someone like Spinoza or Leibniz would never write a novel, for example. But to the extent that someone is interested in the subjectivity of an individual person trying to become free and discover what their projects are for their…”

The Institute by Stephen King

“As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.”

Couldn’t stop reading. Disturbing. Highly recommended.

You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

“Money flows to and from me easily. I love spending it and I love making it.”

Knowing that money is freedom, the realization that there is plenty of money to go around brings me joy. I love Sincero’s writing style and I keep her OG You Are a Badass book by my bedside table.

If you’re struggling financially or would like to improve your relationship with money, I highly recommend this book.

Books I’m reading this year

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

Jenny Colgan said: “Every one of its many characters, no matter how small their part, is beautifully rounded out.”

The Guardian said ‘There are riches here. All the components of modern identity are laid out: race, class, gender, faith, sexuality… engaging, entertaining and relevant.”

I agree with both statements and also I felt uncomfortably seen as someone who’s also planning a wedding.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling

This is one of my partner’s favorite books and I don’t know how I went so long without reading it. It’s right up my alley. 10/10

I’m glad to say I guessed right many times (definitely beat the chimps).

Also, damn, are all Swedish people this ruthless? I respect it.

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell, Katie Cotugno

A book I’d recommend to every 13-18 year old girl. I also personally enjoyed it and devoured it despite the book being fairly predictable.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Time to reread. I first read this in 2020 and gave it 10/10.

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

“From Pulitzer Prize–winning author Elizabeth Strout comes a poignant, pitch-perfect novel about a divorced couple stuck together during lockdown — and the love, loss, despair, and hope that animate us even as the world seems to be falling apart.”

I love “this is a story about being human” books. Fantastic writing, it took a while to get used to though.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I waited 3 months for this book to become available at my local library. Weirdest book so far this year.

Also, I spent 2 hours at 1 am reading author interviews because Ottessa’s fascinating.

Die With Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life by Bill Perkins

Life-changing book (if you don’t mind finance/non-fiction books). Great way to think about work/money.

The TLDR is yolo.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

From Obama’s reading list. I counted 47 characters, but pretty sure there were more. Egan is a fantastic writer, bringing to the surface emotions and experiences you hadn’t been able to articulate so far.

I wanted to create a character map to make reading the book less disorienting for other readers. How are character maps built? I started reading on the topic, found out someone had already created a character map for The Candy House (thank you!), so I’m currently debating creating one or not since there are some updates I’d like to see (and no spoilers which this map has).

How to do nothing – Resisting the attention economy by Jenny Odell

“Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book will change how you see your place in our world.”

Highly recommend it especially if the idea of “doing nothing” doesn’t sit right with you. The last chapter felt out of place, but I can say I learned and got something valuable from every other chapter.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Read this on my way to Barcelona and back – so good, so powerful, so terrifying. Single mothers are the strongest people on earth.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

“In This Is How You Lose Her, Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz takes a courageous and honest look at male attitudes toward women.”

A reread started in Barcelona, shamelessly prompted by the small physical space the book occupies (perfect fit for the only bag I had packed, a 15cm x 15cm crochet bag).

I didn’t finish it in Barcelona, but of course, my FANTASTIC local library had the book in English so I got it in Vienna. This book is both hard and super easy to read.