After Reading 120+ Books in 2019; These 5 Changed My Life

'The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.' - Dr. SeussClick To Tweet

Do you love books?

Does shopping in a bookstore bring you more joy than walking through a mall?

Would you rather crack open a book you’ve always wanted to read rather than the door of a fancy restaurant?

If so, email me — maybe we are actually long lost twins separated at birth. 😜

As a “book omnivore,” I’ve often been criticized for “reading too much” — mostly by my mom: thanks, Mum! (Just kidding ❤).

From children’s fiction to murder mysteries, personal development to business books, you name it, I’ve read it.

But can one ever really read too much?

I leave that to you to decide.

Either way, this year, I’ve read 120+ English books (126, to be exact), and of course I can’t remember them all in detail, but in order to remind myself and contribute to your book list (and/or save you some reading time), here’s the comprehensive list of all the books, starting with the 5 most life-changing books I’ve read all year.

Some caveats:

  • Yes, I actually read (or listened to) all of these books. Yes, it took a lot of time. And yes, I didn’t necessarily read each book word-for-word. I’m not exactly a speed reader, but I know how to read strategically.
  • The vast majority of these books were ebooks. A handful were audiobooks, and half a dozen were print books. Some of these books were re-reads from last year (because I wanted to remind myself, or they were just too good)
  • Books on the list are books I read, not necessarily books I enjoyed/agreed with, although for the most part I do tend to read books I think I will enjoy and hopefully agree with. Either way, I learn something from every book.
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In either case, here are the 5 books that really stuck out to me, and how they changed my life:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

1. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Most people (myself included) don’t know what makes an actual story. We tend to think a story consists of a string of events (plot) that have a beginning, middle, and end. But a real story is not about the plot. A real story is about how a character responds to the elements of the plot and how that changes him or her internally as a result. Sounds simple, right? But how do you use that to actually write a story?

Cron has laid it all out in Story Genius. What makes this book particularly effective is Cron uses a real-life example — one of her student’s works-in-progress, to illustrate each stage of the process.

How this book changed my life

This is actually my third time reading this book. It’s one that I think I will continue to go back and review every year or so, at least for the foreseeable future. When I put into action the lessons I learned from this book, I achieved immediate success in completing a novel (well, it took 3 months, but that’s plenty fast for a person who’s spent more than a decade never finishing a novel).

The Bullet Journal Method

2. The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

What makes the Bullet Journal so powerful?

It’s a flexible, modifiable method of journaling that conveniently organizes your life so that you can finally keep all of your thoughts, ideas, and tasks in one place and figure out what you need to do each day to achieve your long term goals.

This book goes over the WHY and HOW of bullet journaling as well as the philosophy behind systematic success and living a fulfilling life.

How this book changed my life

I’ve always been a journal writer, but adopting the BuJo method revolutionized the way I organize my days and structure my life. I don’t follow the BuJo method EXACTLY, but close enough. This is another practice I will be keeping up with for the foreseeable future, if not for life.

Mind Map Mastery

3. Mind Map Mastery by Tony Buzan

Mind Map Mastery is a short but helpful book written by the inventor of mind maps himself, Tony Buzan.

Buzan describes how mind maps work (by mimicking the way the brain thinks), what makes a mind map a mind map (and other mapping techniques that are similar, but not the same), and how you can use mind maps (not just for academic subjects, but for making life decisions, resolving conflict, etc.

How this book changed my life

I thought I knew how to create mind maps, having been taught the process in middle school. Turns out, my middle school teacher taught me wrong.

Now that I know how to ACTUALLY create mind maps, I use it for all kinds of things, from planning life goals to learning new languages to planning articles and writing sales copy. It’s a super useful tool and playing with colors and pictures is also very gratifying for my artistic side.

The Chronicles of the Kings

4. The Chronicles of the Kings by Lynn Austin

The Chronicles of the Kings is a mind-blowing epic saga of a true Biblical story, painstakingly researched and presented in brilliant story form. The novels cover the stories of two major characters: King Hezekiah and Eliakim ben Hilkiah.

How these books changed my life

The older I get, the harder it is to find fiction novels and fiction writers that really touch me. But Lynn Austin is a shining exception.

Austin taught me that it IS possible for a Biblical fiction writer to create a riveting story that reflects not only the Bible and recorded/archaeological history accurately, but also teaches important eternal themes without being heavy-handed AND includes believable, likeable characters you can’t help but root for.

She gives me hope. Because, honestly, it’s been hard for me to find role model writers in the Biblical fiction space, which, in itself, is a very tiny niche already.

And it isn’t only Austin’s Biblical fiction series that are amazing. Austin also wrote a set of Civil War historical novels that are incredibly good in too many ways to describe.

You can Have an Amazing Memory

5. You Can Have an Amazing Memory by Dominic O’Brien

Memory champion Dominic O’Brien shares his strategies for memorizing massive loads of information (in sequential order, too) in this amazing book. He goes step-by-step over the method of loci and other specific strategies for memorizing numbers, cards, faces, to-do lists, and more. If you put these techniques into practice, they really work!

How this book changed my life

I’m currently learning Japanese, and this book has been massively helpful with that. Using the strategies of loci and replacement pairing, I’ve created images for each character in the hiragana and katakana alphabets and was able to memorize 1,000 new words in a little more than a month. I’m still honing the system and using it to learn vocab.

I already knew about the method of loci prior to reading this book, but his strategy of turning symbols into other symbols was super helpful. I combined it with strategies I learned from Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever to learn a forieng language.

Honorable Mentions: Top 5 Books Organized by Category

See below for more details and summaries on each of these titles 😃

Writing / Business

  1. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
  2. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
  3. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
  4. Opening Up by Writing it Down by James Pennebaker
  5. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Faith, Philosophy, and Personal Development

  1. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
  2. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
  3. The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi
  4. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist by Andy Bannister
  5. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcy

Fiction & Memoirs

  1. The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater
  2. Dog Medicine by Julie Barton
  3. Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin
  4. Restoration Chronicles by Lynn Austin
  5. Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin van Draanen

The Complete 2019 Book List


  1. The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute
    A story-based treatise on how to have better relationships with people.
  2. Here’s the Deal by Howie Mandel
    The autobiography of Howie Mandel, with a focus on OCD.
  3. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
    Why people are driven to create and consume stories.
  4. My Life Without God by William J Murray
    The story of the son of the woman who campaigned to get rid of prayer.
  5. When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T Anderson
    On current issues regardin gender, sexuality, and science.
  6. Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute
    A story-based lesson on becoming a competent leader.
  7. Motivational Interviewing by William R Miller
    Detailed textbook on how to use MI to work on psych challenges.
  8. Relentless by Tim Grover
    A sports trainer shares stories and strategies for becoming successful.
  9. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
    Podcast/Youtube show host shares his method for getting out of debt.
  10. Courageous by Randy Alcorn
    Fiction: About firefighters who learn also how to be fathers.
  11. Cole & Sav by Cole Labrant
    Social media influencers tell their love story including struggles with parental adultery, teen pregnancy, and more.
  12. Learn Better by Ulrich Boser
    Outlining skills needed to become a better student and apply studies to real life.
  13. Emotional Agility by Susan David
    How to become an emotionally stronger person.
  14. Brain Lock by Jeffrey M Schwartz
    The 4-step process to overcoming a mental illness.
  15. Unplanned by Abby Johnson
    The memoir of a former Planned Parenthood employee and leader.
  16. The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
    An ingenious system for journaling that combines scheduling with dairy writing and more.
  17. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
    Humans don’t make rational decisions, but there are patterns in this irrationality.
  18. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
    Stories of people who have been chewed up and spit out by the outrage machine, and the implications for us all.
  19. 101 Salary Secrets by Daniel Porot
    How to negotiate with an employer.
  20. Negotiation by Brian Tracy
    How to negotiate with anyone, from a business writer.


  1. The One Minute Negotiator by Don Hutson
    Quick strategies for negotiation.
  2. The Freelancers Union Guide to Taxes Sara Horowitz
    What freelance writers, etc., need to learn about taxes.
  3. The Big Short by Michael Lewis
    The true story of the 2008 economic crisis — what caused it, and the men who benefitted from it.
  4. Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin
    Historical fiction of a Dutch immigrant and a young woman’s search for her father.
  5. Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin
    Historical fiction: three generations of women as they live through Prohibition, Women’s Rights, and more.
  6. Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin
    Finale of the Waves of Mercy story (see above).
  7. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
    How your relationship to your physical body is affected by and affects your metaphysical existence.
  8. Mindset by Carol Dweck
    How your worldview shapes your future and potential.
  9. Not Forgotten by Kenneth Bae
    One man’s true story of being arrested and held in a North Korean prison.
  10. Tactics by Gregory Koukl
    How to reason and communicate with people who disagree with you.
  11. Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra
    How to overcome obstacles to become a great negotiator.
  12. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
    Life lessons and stories from the creator of the Dilbert comics.
  13. The Triple Package by Amy Chua
    The ingredients that make certain groups of people more successful than others.


  1. Getting More by Stuart Diamond
    How to get more when negotiating.
  2. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
    Fiction: an orthodox Jewish girl goes through the process of courtship and marriage while a rabbi’s wife questions her life.
  3. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
    Fiction: A 1950s Irish immigrant to America must decide between two lives, two countries, and two men.
  4. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
    The classic guide on how to write well, in any form.
  5. Fly Away by Lynn Austin
    Fiction: An elderly woman contemplating suicide meets a pilot who doesn’t have long to live.
  6. Hidden Places by Lynn Austin
    Fiction: A widow left with an orchard meets a mysterious stranger who may or may not have something to do with her husband’s past.
  7. On This Foundation by Lynn Austin
    Fiction: The story of Nehemiah, a Babylonian king’s cupbearer who returns home to rebuild.
  8. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis
    Fiction: An Egyptian slave works undercover to overthrow a corrupt leader.
  9. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
    An FBI negotiator’s guide to communicating and negotiating with difficult people.
  10. Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley
    How to be so attractive that clients are lining up outside your door.


  1. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
    How to use obstacles in life rather than become trapped by them.
  2. The Killer Book of Cold Cases by Tom Philbin
    True stories of crimes that remain unsolved.
  3. Dangerous Personalities by Joe Navarro
    What types of personalities make up the criminal class.
  4. The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi
    The most important book in the world: its history and influence in the world.
  5. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel by Christopher Yuan
    A former drug dealer/gay man discusses the role of sexuality in the Christian worldview.
  6. The Passion Paradox by Brad Stulberg
    Why following your passion sometimes ironically holds you back.
  7. The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod
    The factors that contribute to success.
  8. Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
    A husband and wife dish out the good, bad, and ugly (and beautiful) of a real marriage.
  9. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W Phillip Keller
    A literal shepherd reveals his insights of the famous Psalm 23.


  1. The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard
    A business book in the form of a story about a young businessman learning the success principles of generosity.
  2. Stuff by Gail Steketee
    Why people hoard, and how to help them.
  3. The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian
    How people with bad intentions can take over the public discourse.
  4. Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
    A classic novel about a spoiled boy who is saved from drowning by a group of fishermen.
  5. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
    How to use story structure to communicate in the business world.
  6. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
    A controversial figure delineates 12 principles for having a healthy life.
  7. Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
    Learn the principles of advertising psychology.
  8. Return to Me by Lynn Austin
    Biblical Fiction: The story of Israel’s restoration from Babylon, from the eyes of the prophet Zechariah.


  1. The Chronicles of the Kings by Lynn Austin
    Fiction: The story of ancient Israel’s King Hezekiah, and his fight to restore a decaying country.
  2. Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker by Marla Martenson
    The memoir of a professional modern matchmaker.
  3. The One Thing by Gary Keller
    How to figure out the habits that lead to success.
  4. How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead
    Discovering and owning your brand’s unique personality.
  5. Dog Medicine by Julie Barton
    A memoir of a broken woman who grew to be healthy with the help of her dog.
  6. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist by Andy Bannister
    A laugh out loud look at the biggest questions in life.
  7. Give and Take by Adam Grant
    How to gain success in interpersonal relationships to be successful in everything.
  8. The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman
    Learn how to use different identities to become successful in different fields of life.


  1. The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu
    A history of how America’s advertisers have operated through history.
  2. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
    12 strategies for becoming a stronger salesperson by a corporate trainer and business strategist.
  3. The Fallen by David Baldacci
    Fiction: detective Amos Decker and his FBI partner Alex must investigate murders that involve Alex’s in laws.
  4. Getting Back to Happy by Marc and Angel Chernoff
    The most famous personal development blogging couple compiles lessons learned.
  5. Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise by Wendelin Van Draanen
    Fiction: Kick-ass middle school detective investigates a missing person case on a cruise ship.
  6. Opening Up By Writing it Down by James Pennebaker
    Researcher makes the case for why writing is a great mental health tool.
  7. Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher by Wendelin Van Draanen
    Fiction: Middle school detective investigates a school vandalism case that quickly becomes dangerous.


  1. Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque
    How to create and keep a successful, healthy email list.
  2. The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater
    Memoir by an American writer and teacher who marries a Japanese student and moves halway around the world to Japan.
  3. First Comes Marriage by Huda Al-Marashi
    A Middle-Eastern-American’s memoir on her semi-arranged marriage.
  4. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
    A collection of art and aphorisms about the creative life.
  5. Redemption by David Baldacci
    Fiction: Detective Amos Decker made a mistake long ago that comes back to haunt him.
  6. Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings
    Fiction: A female sharpshooter and aspiring politician must work together to help protect a young orphan and save their town from corruption.
  7. Hiring and Firing by Brian Tracy
    How to hire and fire employees to create your ideal team.
  8. Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin
    Civil War fiction about a Southern woman abolitionist who must secretly work against her whole family.
  9. A Woman’s Place by Lynn Austin
    WWII fiction about four women working in a shipyard and the ways the war affects them and their families.
  10. Shadow Girl by Jennifer Archer
    Fiction: A girl discovers something about the “invisible friend” she’s had all her life.
  11. Life is What You Make It by Peter Buffet
    The son of Warren Buffet shares his life story and lessons learned.
  12. How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey
    The elements that all great mystery stories must have.


  1. Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi
    An overview of the content marketing industry.
  2. Redemption by Karen Kingsbury
    Fiction: The aftermath of adultery and how a family deals with it.
  3. Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner
    A polyglot shares his strategies for learning a language well.
  4. The Pixar Touch by David Price
    The history of the Pixar company and the story behind the stories they tell.
  5. The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
    Fiction: A prince is arranged to marry a princess who has a strange relationship with her dog.
  6. Ender’s Game and Philosophy by Kevin S. Decker
    The philosophical underpinnings behind the famous sci-fi Ender’s Game series.
  7. Ender’s World by Orson Scott Card
    Card and other writers comment on different aspects of the world created for the famous Ender’s Game sci-fi series.
  8. You Can Have an Amazing Memory by Dominic O’Brien
    A European Memory Champion shares techniques for memorizing anything.
  9. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
    How statistics really work and how not to be fooled by bad stats.
  10. The Vanished by Lena Mauger
    Nonfiction: A couple travel to Japan to research the people who voluntarily disappear from society.
  11. Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend
    Two psychologists comment on how to form and maintain healthy relational boundaries for mental wellness.
  12. How to Learn Any Foreign Language by HowExpert Press
    Basic tips on learning a foreign language.


  1. My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody
    The memoir of a girl who was kidnapped by her abusive ideologue father and how she survived the aftermath of the trauma.
  2. The Drawing Lesson by Mark Crilley
    A comic book on the basics of drawing.
  3. The Barefoot Lawyer by Chen Guangchen
    The fascinating true story of a blind human rights lawyer and his daring escape from Communist China.
  4. The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne
    A classic guide on memory strategies to remember anything.
  5. How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff
    How to use and understand statistics.
  6. Audio Engineering 101 by Tim Dittmar
    The basics of sound engineering, and how to start a recording career.
  7. America at the Crossroads by George Barna
    Socio-political-spiritual trends in America and what they mean for our future.
  8. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
    How to write a novel using Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! method.


  1. The Two-Pencil Method by Mark Crilley
    How to draw anything (in black and white) using only two pencils.
  2. Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer
    A Japanese-American girl’s comic-book-style memoir on one trip to her mother’s country.
  3. Peak by Anders Ericsson
    How and why the best performers become the best of the best.
  4. Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
    Fiction: A woman who is addicted to shopping discovers a nefarious banking scheme.
  5. Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
    How to win people over in business and in life.
  6. There’s No B Plan for Your A Game by Bo Eason
    A former football player discusses the importance of having a 20-year plan.
  7. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
    A researcher reveals the impact trauma has on people physically over the long term.
  8. Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith
    Environmental cues (triggers) and how they cause us to act the way we do.


  1. The Membership Economy by Robbie Baxter
    A new model of marketing and money making, its pros and cons, and how to make it work.
  2. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
    A journalist’s foray into the world of competitive memory and the history of memorization.
  3. How to Learn a Foreign Language by Pimsleur
    Well known language teacher shares his principles for language learning.
  4. Ultralearning by Scott Young
    Celebrated blogger gives his strategies for self-learning fast and well.
  5. Help! 50 Songwriting, Recording and Career Tips Used by the Beatles by David Rowley
    Tips on writing songs from a researcher of the Beatles.
  6. The Best of Enemies by Osha Gray Davidson
    A KKK leader and black community leader in North Carolina learn to work together for the sake of their children and schools.
  7. Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton
    A thinker who influenced CS Lewis explains his view on Christian orthodoxy in comparison to modern philosophies.
  8. Dear Father, Dear Son by Larry Elder
    A poignant memoir of a father and son’s terrible relationship and how one conversation changed everything.
  9. What Women Don’t Know (and Men Don’t Tell You)
    What women need to know to have healthy long-lasting relationships with their husbands.
  10. Romance is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last
    An editor of romance novels tells her own love story — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  11. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
    A fascinating look into the function of sleep for humans at all stages of life…and how deeply sleep deprivation really affects us.

Want to Find More Incredible Books Like This?

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6 thoughts on “After Reading 120+ Books in 2019; These 5 Changed My Life”

  1. Thanks for the info Sarah;
    I already read Story Genius but I’m reading it again-
    The other ones look great- My writing’s going good; I’ll be in touch again-

  2. I have read the post minutely.
    How did you finish long-listed jobs?
    It needs a strong discipline life.
    It needs strong confidence in the way you go step by step ahead.
    I read and felt joyous but how can I achieve that?
    Thank you for getting inspiration from a tiny part of your life story.

  3. Hi Hasan! Wow, I’m impressed that you read the post minutely 🙂
    I’m not sure you mean long-listed jobs, but if you mean long books, the truth is, I just make time to do it. Most of my free time is spent reading. And I listen to audiobooks while doing chores and the like. Hope that helps! 🙂

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