2019 Books Read

  1. Origin - Dan Brown. I have been a fan of Dan Brown since I read Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons in high school. I find character Robert Langdon enjoyable to follow around, but this book wasn’t his best. I did find myself curious how it would end (and it lived up to the expectation of a completely ridiculous ending). Seemed like a lot of unnecessary shots at organized religion, which I didn’t really appreciate.
  2. The Fallen - David Baldacci. Book 4 in the Amos Decker series, following the life of ex-football player, ex-detective turned FBI consultant and his perfect recall solving high profile murders. I find the writing style enjoyable and the characters interesting. Only complaint is the forced use of football metaphors/football talk that, while accurate, doesn’t come off as realistic.
  3. All The Pieces Matter - Jonathan Abrams. This is the oral history of the creation and making of the hit HBO series, The Wire. This was a fascinating show at a fascinating time, and the stories from the creators, producers, and actors are incredible. Any fan of the TV series will love this.
  4. Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari. This book describes the evolution of homosapiens. It is full of detail and history regarding human development, which I found interesting (especially the idea of language and gossiping), but more often than not, I found myself falling asleep while reading. Not for me, at least at this time.
  5. Bad Blood - John Carreyrou. This is one of my favorites; an absolutely incredible story of Elizabeth Holmes and her fraud, Theranos. Her ability to keep the business alive and going for as long as she did is quite remarkable, but also speaks to some of the ridiculousness around venture capital and Silicon Valley. She was a master of trading in the credibility giver to her (from Stanford, or her former advisor, etc.), and turning that credibility into more and more power through connections (General Mattis, Sec. of State George Schulz, etc.) even with no evidence or results.
  6. Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance - Memoir detailing the life of a poor white boy in southwest Ohio. It details the life and struggles of the author, the world in which he lived and the choices he had to make. While I was reading, I could not stop thinking of the similarities of the author’s experiences to those of various friends and family. Like J.D., they were born to a family with ties to Appalachia but were living in Ohio. A very unstable childhood, bouncing around between houses, schools, etc. The toll that this takes on a child, like J.D. and others, I never appreciated until reading this. Not everyone is lucky to find a more stable environment around the time of high school with some relatives, which set J.D. and some of my friends and relatives on the right track. I came away from this book believing our top priority should be to invest in infrastructure for all children’s development if we are going to fix the issues facing society.
  7. Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - Unlike a lot of others, I did not have to read this book in high school. I first read Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and was thoroughly impressed. Similarly, in this book, Hosseini tells a poignant story of friendship and sacrifice. I especially appreciate the detailed descriptions of life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and as an immigrant in the United States. Growing up in rural Ohio without much travel, it was enlightening to learn more about these beautiful places and the devastation brought about by various wars.
  8. The Only Rule Is It Has To Work - Ben Lindbergh & Sam Miller - Written by two baseball sabermetrics writers, this book detailed the season the authors spent as general managers of an independent professional baseball team. This was a very interesting read for baseball fans, not just those interested in advanced analytics, as it gives the reader an inside look into all the other complexities related to managing and running a baseball team over a long season.
  9. Redemption - David Baldacci - The latest book in the Amos Decker series, this time regarding a cold case the protagonist had worked decades earlier. Like all the other books in the series, a fun and entertaining read with some unexpected twists.
  10. Liar’s Poker - Michael Lewis - I have been a fan of basically all of Michael Lewis’s books (and podcasts), especially the business related ones like The Big Short and Flash Boys. I finally had the chance to read his first book, detailing his time as a bond trader for Salomon Brothers in the late 80s. I enjoyed the ridiculous stories of life on Wall Street as much as I did learning about the bond market in general and the creation of the mortgage bond market.
  11. A Gentleman In Moscow - Amor Towles - This novel follows the life of a former Russian Count sentenced to life under house arrest at one of Moscow’s most renowned hotels. Towles writing is very entertaining; interweaving the stories with the evolution of Russia, post WWII, through its birth as an industrial power. I find this way of learning history more preferable to the standard textbooks in American classrooms.
  12. Barbarians at the Gate - Bryan Burrough & John Heylar - Story of the LBO of RJR Nabisco. A very detailed background of Reynolds Tobacco and Nabisco company, their merger and eventual LBO led by then-CEO Ross Johnson. Similar to Liar’s Poker in that it details the levels of greed ego on Wall Street in the 1980s and its impact on American businesses.
  13. Billion Dollar Whale - Bradley Hope & Tom Wright - Story of Malaysian businessman Jho Low who through the use of a few connections and a neverending greed was able to defraud the Malaysian people and government out of billions of dollars. This was a fascinating tale with unbelieveable details about lavishness and spending that consumed Jho Low in his pursuit of money, fame and power.
  14. I Heard You Paint Houses (The Irishman) - Charles Brandt - The life story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, his upbringing, military service, and introduction to the mafia and the Teamsters union. Interesting insight into the disapperance of Jimmy Hoffa as well as the Kennedy assassination. I found this book much more entertaining than the Netflix movie.