I went into 2019 with an appetite for reading. In 2018, I read 127 books and as I’ve written about, a lot of that reading has to do with the fact that I’ve been leaning into reading the types of books that I want to be reading and not worrying so much about what I ‘should’ be reading. 

In 2019 so far I have read 75 books and have discovered some real gems. I also spent more time reading self-improvement and business books in 2019. 

I’ve noticed that I have a cycle when it comes to reading self-improvement vs. fiction. I can’t always be reading business books or self-improvement because too much of it feels draining to me. For a lot of those books, it takes time for the lessons to sink in and really take hold. Plus, it’s not always possible or effective to work on several improvements at once. 

In 2018, I barely read any self-improvement, and it meant that in 2019 I was interested in several of them again. I spent 2019 reading a much more diverse portfolio of books than just fiction, and as a result, I’ve had a few books really impact me this year. 

Here are the three books that taught me the most this year: 

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl

This book popped up as recommended for me on Kindle Unlimited and I’m not ashamed to admit that I downloaded it purely based on the title and had no idea what I had picked up when I started reading it. This was one of the Kindle Unlimited books that came with an Audible version as well, so I wound up listening to this one. It’s very well narrated so if audiobooks are your thing I can recommend this one. 

The story of Allene Tew is a fascinating one, she was born in Upstate New York in the late 1800s and the book follows her life through her five marriages. This book is a beautiful reminder that whatever life throws at you, it’s possible to come out on the other side, sometimes as an even better person. Allene Tew married at 19 into a family that wasn’t keen on her joining them. She lost many people in Word War I and she survived the financial crash of 1929. Allene’s story is one of resilience. She endured troublesome marriages, difficult families, the loss of children, and financial problems. She weathered it all and continued to give to others throughout. Her story is very inspirational. 

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

This book came up as a book club read for MakeWorkWork, if you’d like to listen to the episode where we discuss it, this is it

I was very hesitant to read this book at first. Nothing about the title with the words spiritual or creativity was appealing to me or my identity. I believe one of the only reasons that I made it through the book was because I was being held accountable by the podcast. 

In the end, I’m endlessly grateful that I picked this book up and did the exercises. I wasn’t sure how much this book would translate into my work and life and it has truly made a lasting impact. It turns out that it does take creativity to continue to come up with pitches and ideas in my public relations role, and that with as much writing as I do the lessons that Julia Cameron shared very much applied. 

The biggest takeaway for me from this book has been the morning pages — the ritual of writing three pages every morning day with all the thoughts that come into your mind. Julia Cameron instructs you to keep writing, even if you continue to write “I don’t know what to write.” This routine has helped me sort through thoughts far more quickly than I think I ever would have on my own. I now start my day feeling refreshed and focused after doing morning pages and on the mornings when I don’t do morning pages there is a noticeable difference in my thoughts throughout the day. 

Be warned that this book is really a 12-week course so before you dive in make sure that you are mentally prepared to be doing exercises on creativity for a while, but I promise it’s worth the effort. 

Becoming by Michelle Obama 

I was initially quite slow to start reading this book but once I got into it I couldn’t put it down. All of her stories were highly motivational, reading about how she worked in a demanding job while raising two children and with her husband in politics often away from home made me feel like anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it. I also felt like I could take on just about anything while reading this. 

One of my favourite parts of her book is how many hurdles she encounters in the form of people telling her she won’t be able to do something, and then her experiences as she overcame those hurdles one after another. It’s so easy for someone to tell you that something isn’t possible or that something isn’t for you and if they are in a position of power, or if you are susceptible to other people’s opinions, then that might stick with you for a long time. It takes a lot of self-knowledge and internal strength to prove them wrong but in the end, Michelle Obama is proof that only you can limit yourself, not other people. 

10 More Books From 2019 

I read a lot of other books this year and while not all of them had super clear takeaways, there were still many other very good reads. Here are 10 other books that I absolutely loved reading in 2019: 

  1. Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
  2. Company of One by Paul Jarvis 
  3. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  4. Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West
  5. My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams
  6. Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
  7. Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn
  8. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (A note here: I like every book that I’ve read of Brandon Sanderson’s and I’ve read 15 of them this year. So really any of his books are a recommendation from me!) 
  9. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself 
  10. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam 

What were you reading in 2019? Send me a tweet so I can add it to my Goodreads. 

5 thoughts on “The Three Books That Taught Me The Most in 2019 (Plus Other Favourites From This Year)

  1. Thanks Hailley for these suggestions. I downloaded the American Princess book on Audible. I will check out the other books once done.
    Happy New Year to you , your hubby and furry friends.


    1. Thanks so much, Barb! So lovely to hear from you. I hope you are having a wonderful 2020 and that you enjoy the American Princess audio book!

    2. Thanks so much, Barb! So lovely to hear from you. I hope you are having a wonderful 2020 and that you enjoy the American Princess audiobook!

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