in Books

The Books I Read in 2019

Covers of the books I read in 2019

At the end of each year, I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2019. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

This was a slow reading year for me: I only managed to read 39 books for a total of 10.350 pages (last year I managed 52 books and 12.417 pages). It was a busy year, where I was trying to close out and hand over my work at Bits of Freedom, while also preparing for a year of travel and organising a huge real life game.

Only about 24% of the authors that I read were women. That is a bad result and reflects the fact that I didn’t put a lot of intentionality in my reading: I mostly just read in a very instrumental way, picking up books as I felt that I needed them.

I’ve ordered the list of books into categories that make sense to me (and that are in many ways overlapping and arbitrary). These are the books that I’ve read and what I thought of some of them:

Digital rights and technology

None of the books that I read in this category gave me huge new insights nor a new framework of looking at technology. Kaye’s short book is a good introduction for people who haven’t thought much about the topic. Brunton was less on the ball than in his previous books. And Van Dijck and Poell give a useful definition of platforms in the context of an argument for public values. The book with the most staying power (at least for me) is probably Odell’s.

  • David Kaye — Speech Police (link)
  • Finn Brunton — Digital Cash (link)
  • Jenny Odell — How To Do Nothing (link)
  • José van Dijck and Thomas Poell, Martijn de Waal — The Platform Society (link)
  • Marjolein Lanzing — The Transparent Self: A normative investigation of changing selves and relationships in the age of the quantified self (link)
  • Jan Kuitenbrouwer — Datadictatuur (link)
  • Alexander Belgraver and Silvia Belgraver — Eerlijk nieuws zonder censuur (link)

B00k C7ub 4 N3rd$

We only read six books with the book club this year. The most monumental and thought provoking is certainly Zuboff’s book, which gave us a whole new vocabulary with which to critique what we now call ‘surveillance capitalists’. I enjoyed finally hearing how Snowden managed to get those files out of the NSA, and thought that Modderkolk did some amazing pieces of journalism in his book about ‘cyber security’. Stross proved once more that I am not the type for science fiction (I’ll keep trying though). Both Van Essen and Pomerantsev had some memorable scenes in their books, but both didn’t manage to fully convince me in other ways.

  • Shoshana Zuboff — The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (link)
  • Edward Snowden — Permanent Record (link)
  • Huib Modderkolk — Het is oorlog maar niemand die het ziet (link)
  • Peter Pomerantsev — This is Not Propaganda (link)
  • Rob van Essen — De goede zoon (link)
  • Charles Stross — Accelerando (link)

Self improvement and how-to

The book that has had (by far) the most practical impact on my life is Pastoor’s book about how to get a grip on your work. Although I wasn’t bad to start with, it really helped me to easily accomplish some of the things that I would find difficult in the past. I would truly recommend the book to anybody who wants to accomplish anything. I was ready to hate De Becker’s book, but found that it had some profound insights on how to deal with difficult people (e.g. stalkers). Den Dekker has written a beautiful book about Chi Kung, and if you ever want to go and hitchhike across the ocean on a sailing boat, then I think that Van der Vreeken’s book is required reading.

  • Rick Pastoor — Grip (link)
  • Gavin De Becker — The Gift of Fear (link)
  • Chris Guillebeau — The $100 Startup (link)
  • Matt Kepnes — How to Travel the World on $50 a Day (link)
  • Peter den Dekker — The dynamics of standing still (link)
  • Royal Yachting Association — RYA Competent Crew Skills (link)
  • Suzanne van der Veeken — Ocean Nomad (link)
  • Jelmer de Boer — Thuisblijven is duurder (link)
  • Tom Hodgkinson — Business for Bohemians (link)

Fiction

Once again, I didn’t read a lot of fiction, but the things that I did read were all very good. My mind was completely blown by Marlon James, I absolutely loved his book. Murdoch and Baldwin are both skillful interpreters of the human condition. The graphic novel by Altaribba was completely haunting (and beautiful). If you have young children, get them Tori.

  • Marlon James — A Brief History of Seven Killings (link)
  • Iris Murdoch — A Fairly Honourable Defeat (link)
  • James Baldwin — If Beale Street Could Talk (link)
  • Antonio Altaribba and Kim — The Art of Flying (link)
  • Barry Smit — Bloedwonder (link)
  • Brian Elstak and Karin Amatmoekrim — Tori (link)
  • Joke van Leeuwen — Toen ik (link)

Non-fiction

Judah wrote a harrowing and brilliant portrait of London. Tolentino is an incredibly talented writer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her essays. Walker’s book made me change my sleeping habits but also made me understand much better how sleep actually works (so listing it under self-improvement wouldn’t do it justice). Bythell managed to make me laugh out loud on many occasions with his wry diary entries from the frontier of a second hand bookshop. Abdurraqib shares my love for A Tribe Called Quest, which made his book a pleasure to read.

  • Ben Judah — This is London (link)
  • Jia Tolentino — Trick Mirror (link)
  • Matthew Walker — Why We Sleep (link)
  • Daan Dekker — De betonnen droom (link)
  • Hanif Abdurraqib — Go Ahead in the Rain (link)
  • Harry G. Frankfurt — On Inequality (link)
  • Peter Wohlleben — The Hidden Life of Trees (link)
  • Shaun Bythell — The Diary of a Bookseller (link)
  • adrienne maree brown — Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (link)
  • Mark Traa — De Russen komen! (link)

My consumption of other media

2019 was dedicated to saving as much money as possible (in order to travel for all of 2020). I therefore cancelled all my regular subscriptions to magazines. As The Correspondent’s subscription continued well into 2020, I continued to read their pieces on the basis of their daily newsletter. At the end of the year I took out a subscription to The Economist, mainly for their excellent daily Espresso news app, but also as I way to stay in touch with what is happening with the rest of the world while I am traveling. I continued to read Stephen Downes and Audrey Watters (luckily they continued to write!) and am still subscribed to the Dipsaus newsletter.

The rest of my reading comes via my RSS reader (which I consider to be my personal inoculation against misinformation). I used the reader to read Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing, Maxim Februari and Marcel van Roosmalen at the NRC, and Karin Spaink, Caroline Haskins, Jaap-Henk Hoepman, Ben Thompson (Stratechery) Linda Duits, Kashmir Hill (until she went to the New York Times), Evgeny Morozov, Ian Bogost, XKCD, Zeynep Tufekci, danah boyd, James Bridle, Matthew Green, and a whole bunch of digital rights organisations. I also read Tweakers and Guardian Tech via their RSS feeds.

Not much has changed for me in podcasting land. I listened to all new episodes of This American Life, Een Podcast over Media, This Week in Tech, Dipsaus, Ear Hustle, 99% Invisible (although I am behind), and Reply-all. Next to that I listened to three interesting series: Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales and two podcasts created by AudioCollectief Schik, namely Laura H. en El Tarangu. When I see an interesting episode I will listen to podcasts by The Correspodent, RadioLab, Glitch, Philsophical Disquisitions, Philosophy Bites, Freakonomics, Philosophy 24/7, New Books in Philosophy, Planet Money, Radio Rechtsstaat, The Tim Ferris Show, Triangulation and Your Undivided Attention.

What will I be reading in 2020?

As I will be traveling for all of 2020, I will likely mostly read books that relate in some way to the country where I am at or to the activity that I am doing. I already know that this will mean reading books about a few places in South America and a few books that are about (long distance) sailing and the sea.