My #BookDNA 2019 – The Adult Gap Year Edition

Just as the last minutes of 2019 ticked by, I had my head in a book. In 2019, I read 156 books total. It was difficult to narrow down the list of books to five non-fiction and five fiction titles. I do not start the year with a predetermined number of books I challenge myself to read or even have a specific topic or set of books I desire to read. Rather, I let the book pick me – and then, when the time is right, I read the book. Some books lead me to pick up other books because of a reference made by author or because the title is similar or a natural continuation of a topic and / or narrative.

2019 was a year of personal and professional growth. My #BookDNA reading list was dominated by titles and topics to support my research. However, it was not all work and no fun! Perhaps because this past year was my self-proclaimed adult gap year, certain memoirs and biographies called out to me – the selection includes: Life Undercover by Amaryllis Fox, Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser, Home Work by Julie Andrews, Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren, Carrie Fisher: Life on the Edge by Sheila Weller, A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama and trump by Lonnie G. Bunch III.

Give yourself, a friend, or a family member the gift of a good book. We do not have to completely disengage from the craziness of the physical world and social media – rather, we can find respite and perhaps, even understanding and fresh perspectives in books. We can be anyone. Do anything. Learn about any topic.

Without further ado, here are the books that stood out for me in 2019.


Dare to Lead by Brené Brown - You do not need to have read any of Brown’s previous books to understand and put into practice the teachings of this book. I highly recommend reading this book and consider how you armor up for work and how others might be doing the same. Leadership is not about an executive title. Leadership resides in all of us at various times in our lives.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker - This book is valuable for anyone exploring how communities of practice, interest, and activism may meaningfully come together at the right place and at the right time for a specific purpose. The insights in this book are not only valid in in-person meetings, but also within online community and collaboration environments. A community manager should be well-versed in conflict-resolution and this is one book (with actionable insights = tools) you should have in your toolbox.

The Age of Heretics by Art Kleiner - Being a change agent is not easy. The bruises and scars are hard won and often not visible to others. It can be easy to feel like you are all alone battling for change, but you are not the first one to walk this path. In this book, discover the power of questioning the status quo.

The Good Fight by Liane Davey - Conflict facilitation is a much-needed skill as more of our work and communication moves from the physical space to the digital space. Surrounding yourself with people who look and think like you is not the answer for a healthy workplace, whether or not the work is conducted online. Read this book and discover how you might unravel the myths of workplace confusion with healthy tension, conversation, and collaboration.

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy by Amy C. Edmondson - No matter how smart you are or how talented you may be, you cannot achieve success on your own. Teamwork does not have to be a draining and dreaded experience, but an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Perhaps the time is near when individuals are no longer recruited, but successful teams are acquired, and individuals who can plug-and-play or function with various project teams are prized over the lone wolf.


The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer - A fictional story about the actual Lee Miller and her time in Europe during WWII. This is a self-discovery journey about a woman who changed her career multiple times to suit the world where she existed, but at what cost?

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon - I had to get the taste out of my mouth (so to speak) after the disappointing end of Game of Thrones and this book did the trick. This book was complete with beautiful prose, a gripping plot, and magical characters you will grow to love.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - If you enjoyed the 2018 best-seller, Circe, you will enjoy this feminist perspective of what happened after the battle of Troy.

Arm of the Sphinx by Bancroft (Book 2 of The Babel Trilogy) – I included Book 1 in my 2018 BookDNA list and the sequel does not disappoint. I cannot rush this book…instead I savor every morsel of detail and dialogue. There are just too many lessons in this trilogy. Can’t wait to complete the trilogy in 2020.

The Toll by Neal Shusterman - I included the first book of the trilogy in my 2017 BookDNA list and the second book in the 2018 BookDNA list. I was sad to see this story end, but of all three books, this book took more risk and the payoff is spectacular. This is a cautionary tale of what might become of humans in a world where we become complacent due to technological advances.

Honorable Mentions

Walk, Climb, or Fly: Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace Wilderness by Leigh Durst - Forget all the workplace personality tests that box people into a set of traits and offer little insight into how to get along with and work alongside people with other strengths and weaknesses. This book is a roadmap for understanding how you work and how you may best communicate and collaborate with others.

Books of the Decade


The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

The Arc of the Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

The Themis Files Trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel

The Fifth Wave Trilogy by Rick Yancey

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer


Dare to Lead by Brené Brown (Anything by Brown in the past decade, but this book is my favorite and will be added to my seasonal re-read list too!)

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Walkable City by Jeff Speck

What will I be reading in 2020?

As an independent researcher / consultant involved in digital literacy and digital leadership / organizational transformation projects, I stay-up-to-date with current trends and published research, but I find the most valuable insights occur when I reach beyond my comfort zone and read about biology and urban planning. I have several such books in my BookDNA reading queue, so that I may consider how such insights might help revolutionize or evolve ecosystem / organization design. But, just as I find inspiration from science and architecture, I derive greater creative inspiration from science fiction / fantasy. Who knows? Perhaps this is the year, I finally complete my own work of fiction.

What will YOU be reading in 2020?

I want to know! I share many of the books I am reading on Instagram and Twitter. Follow #BookDNA and tag your own recommendations.

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