Top 5 Books of 2019

For those that may not know, I might as well admit it now, I am a voracious reader. I had set up the goal at the beginning of the year of reading 100 books in 2019. Although I didn’t quite reach that number this year, I did get through over 70 of them (you can take a look at the whole list here). As 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to share with you 5 of the best books I’ve read this year that can help empower you to learn anything, including another language.

I am a big proponent for utilizing the power of books to take advantage of the years (or decades worth of life experience and expertise) to enable us to gain incredible amounts of insight in a short period of time.

In fact, reading is one of the fastest ways of acquiring new knowledge. So with that in mind, I thought I would share with you 5 books I read this year that can show you how to unlock the incredible power of the brain and enable any one to gain access to what they previously thought impossible.

Speaking of the impossible, that brings me to my #1 pick for this year.

#1: Unlimited Memory – Kevin Horsely

This is a great read for anyone that has ever said, “I have a bad memory”. I myself have uttered those words more frequently than I’d like to admit, frankly because I always thought it was true. I had a hard time remembering anything from people’s names to trying to recalling the last book I read. However, one thing I learned from Unlimited Memory is that when you use doubtful phrases, you end up setting up that standard for yourself and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree!”

Kevin Horsley

I love the above quote because so many of us, myself included, convince ourselves that there isn’t much we can do to change something about ourselves such as our memory. We either have a good memory or a bad memory. However, that is simply not the case. Memory is a skill that can be developed with practice!

One simple technique from the book that can be used to help remember information is the SEE strategy.

SENSES: learn to engage your senses and make it real.
EXAGGERATION: the more you can exaggerate an image, the easier it will be to recall that information.
ENERGIZE: make a mental image, and make it as vivid as possible, not boring and flat.

If we do those three things with new information that we have learned it will stick in our minds much more vividly than if we just passively take in that new information.

Another great technique is attaching something that you recently learned that is stored in your short-term memory (STM) to things that are already embedded in your long-term memory (LTM). For instance, you could use a mental image of a car and “attach” new information to it.

For example, say you wanted to remember the 7 habits mentioned in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Habit 1 is being proactive. You could create a mental picture of a “pro” golfer sitting on the front bumper of the car to represent being “proactive”. Habit 2 is beginning with the end in mind. For that, you could think of a checkered finish line across the hood of the car. Habit 3 is put first things first. Try placing a big giant trophy in the passenger seat. Remember, make these mental images come alive by engaging your senses, utilizing exaggeration, and make it as vivid as possible. Going through this process can make recalling information a breeze (and even entertaining).

The book is chock-full of very effective techniques like this and can help anyone drastically improve their memory. In fact, in 2013, Grandmaster Kevin Horsely used many of the techniques he teaches in the book to help him break a world memory record by memorizing over 10,000 digits of pi! The techniques and strategies he teaches can be applied to anything you want to learn!

Just a couple weeks ago I taught some of these techniques to a 9 year old student at a school I work at and after about a month of practice, he was able to memorize the various algorithms in order to solve a Rubiks cube from memory.

I personally have been able to apply what I’ve learned in order to memorize key facts, historical dates, the periodic table, statistics from studies I read, and important tidbits from previous books I’ve read. It really has changed the way I think and helped me understand that I didn’t have a bad memory all these years … I simply had an untrained one.

That leads me to why I am recommending this book. The main reason this is my number one pick for learning is because it is crucial to remember what it is that we had learned. Otherwise, much of the benefit of learning is lost. For many of you learning a new language, one of the more frustrating aspects of that process is forgetting what you had learned. If that is something you are ready to get past, I’d highly recommend giving this book a read. As an added bonus, it’s currently available for free on Kindle Unlimited. There is also an audiobook version available you can listen to if you have a distaste for reading.

Kindle version is FREE with Kindle Unlimited
Audiobook version available here
Used paperbacks available on Thriftbooks

#2: The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod

If you feel like there just isn’t enough hours in the day to get stuff done, this is the book for you. This was definitely the case for me the past few months. I spent 50 hours a week interpreting, went to college full-time, started my own business, launched a website, tutored 5 students one-on-one, created several YouTube videos, and have created an online community of over 50,000 people … all while making time for my family and raising our precious 1 year-old daughter.

I don’t say this about a lot of books, but this one really can be transformational. Essentially, what Hal Elrod has done is gather some of the best practices from around the world and implement them into a regular strong morning routine.

Getting up even earlier in the day to do even more stuff may sound counter-intuitive, but it really does work. After going through a solid morning routine can end up giving you more energy, motivation, and focus for the rest of the day.

If you are a busy person or are just tired of being tired all of the time, this is a great book to pick up.

(This book is also currently available for free if you have Kindle Unlimited)

Kindle ebook

#3: The Motivated Brain – Gayle Gregory

If you are a parent, a teacher, or a student, understanding how the brain learns is essential. This book takes an incredibly complex subject and breaks it down into strategies that are easy to implement.

For example, it takes Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy, the basic premise that people will engage in activities only if they believe that they are competent in them, and explains things that inhibit learning versus things that can enhance learning.

What are some of the things that can enhance learning? Setting attainable personal goals, constructive feedback, and articulating and sharing strategies that work with others.

What can have a negative impact on learning? Being overly critical, placing blame on others, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, or bribery. In contrast, if we are supportive, offer encouragement, listen to others, be more accepting, have trust, being respectful, and negotiating differences can all have huge benefits to learners of all ages.

It also explains why stress can have a negative impact on our learning. For instance, the book teaches us that “under normal conditions, the amygdala directs incoming data to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), where the information can be sent processed into long-term memory.” However, when we experience unmanageable amounts of stress, the amygdala triggers the fight or flight response and thus decreases our motivation and learning is minimized.

This is a book worth marking up (this is my personal copy)

The book is an absolute gold mine when it comes to maximizing the learning in ourselves or others. So if you are a parent, a teacher or a student, this is a great book to pick up. It is also really cheap on Thriftbooks right now, going for as little as $4.19, which is great since I’d recommend getting a physical copy anyways so you can highlight and mark it up to your hearts content.

Amazon’s Kindle edition
Paperback version
Also available on Thriftbooks

#4: Visible Learning for Literacy

Last year I worked alongside an incredible teacher that took her class of 8th grade students, many of which were testing at a 2nd or 3rd grade level, and used a combination of the most effective teaching techniques to accelerate their learning to the point where the many of her students were testing as high as an 11th grade level by the end of the year.

To say the least, I was blown away by both her teaching and her results. Many of the strategies she utilized came from the book called “Visible Learning for Literacy”, in which literacy experts Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey collaborated with John Hattie to apply 15 years worth of research to identify the best teaching techniques that have the biggest impact on student learning.

It goes without saying that if you are a teacher, this is an absolute must read. However, even if you are a student, this book has a lot to offer and can help you understand not only the best ways to teach, but also the best ways to learn. Although it is a little more expensive than other books I’ve previously mentioned, it is worth every penny.

Available on Amazon in Paperback format
Amazon’s Kindle edition
Also available on Thriftbooks

#5: Study Is Hard Work:

If you look at the description for this book on Amazon’s page, it says that “this is the best guide ever published on how to acquire and maintain good study skills.” That sounds like it’s filled with a good dose of hyperbole, but it is actually a pretty accurate description.

It was certainly written with college students in mind, and if you are currently in college or plan on going to college soon, than you shouldn’t hesitate to pick up a copy of this book for yourself. However, even if you are not a college student, this is still a great book to pick up. That is because it can help you develop great study skills that can be applied to the way you learn in general.

One of the greatest skills one can have is to be adaptable and learn new things, and there are several things within the pages of this book that can help you do just that. Plus, you can get it on the cheap over on thriftbooks at the moment. At the time of this writing, you can pick up a physical copy for as little as four bucks.

Kindle edition

What Was Your Favorite Book of 2019?

I am always on the look out for a next book to read. What has been your favorite book of 2019? Let me know in the comments below!

Unlimited Memory – Kevin Horsley
The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod
The Motivated Brain – Gayle Gregory
Visible Learning for Literacy – Douglas Fisher
Study Is Hard Work – William H. Armstrong

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