Research & Writing

The best books of 2019

2019 was a year of fantastic reading. Here are the standouts.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

A must read essay anthology for all members of this generation. Jia presents some of the most original thinking around online spaces, identity, and feminism that I’ve read in years. For the short version, listen to her interview with Ezra Klein.

Make it Scream, Make it Burn: Essays by Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison is a new writer for me, and I’m grateful to have found her work this year. This essay anthology is up there with Trick Mirror for me, and spans several subjects and aspects of her life. I found myself highlighting lines and passages repeatedly.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

This debut novel from Vuong represents some of the most lyrical and poetic writing I’ve read in a long time. I was immediately engrossed by his language and prose, and also found myself highlighting and clipping the many moving passages. Another one that’s not to be missed.

How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

Jenny Odell is my current favorite contemporary artist. Don’t be misled by the title of this book, which seems a bit self-helpy. This is a fascinating excursion into creativity itself, and the role it plays in society. There are many take aways from this book which have shaped my life….contemporary art can rearrange attention which is heavily engineered in online spaces, productivity (which creativity contrasts in that it more so creates new connections with what already exists), the importance of maintenance/repair and cyclicality as an antidote to disruptive innovation (which is a death impulse, in a way). Odell herself is a complex and fascinating figure, simultaneously an urban naturalist and a digital artist. She also has an amazing interview with Ezra Klein where she recaps the most important points of the book.

Figuring by Maria Popova

Those that know me understand what a devoted fan I am to BrainPickings. Popova’s debut book is so good that I’ve been savoring every single page. It’s compact with wisdom as she explores the human aspiration for truth and meaning throughout the ages. A must-read.

These books, while not as literary, were impactful for my personal development. (And both of their newsletters are excellent and worth subscribing to.)

Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up by Jerry Colonna

Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr

If you like this kind of thing, you can also connect with me on Goodreads.

Other lists:

All my best for 2020, Renee

About Author

Renée A. Davis MA RH is a designer and educator in botanical and mycological medicine. Her training began at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York City and concluded in biomedical sciences at the University of Washington. She currently directs research and development for a nutraceutical mushroom company in the Pacific Northwest.

1 Comment

  • Kian
    April 30, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Want to learn more about medical mushrooms.


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