The best audible content and physical books of my 2019

Liliia Mandrino
11 min readJan 2, 2020

This year has been filled with audible content from Youtube, Podcasts, Audible Books; and I found myself coming back to physical books, as the joy they are able to offer is sometimes unmatched.

1. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

A lengthy and fascinating read about Warren Buffett’s life and the life of his business. For those who do not know him, Mr. Buffet is a business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, who is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

A good life story and great voice of the narrator saved me from abandoning this book halfway through when it got a bit too depressing due to some life matters described in the book. However, after 13 hours closer to the end of the book, the overall tone picked up with new and brighter notes of life. I enjoyed the story about the lifetime friendship between Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger. Both had opposite investing tactics and patterns. Thinking about the relationships that unite antipodes, one other comes to mind — Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahnemann. You’ll enjoy this read if you like memoirs sprinkled with useful lessons.


2. The Art of War

If you’re looking for this book, chances are you are often bothered by the topic of leadership. You’re looking for the recipe of wins in retrospective.

However, I would not recommend you to go into any type of “war” as the way to learn the basics of this book. You might unintentionally and unnecessarily demonize people within your organization that have the potential to be your best partners in archiving your professional and company-wide goals. Besides, many rules from the 5th century BC may not apply.

When reading such books, you need to remember that your leadership journey is your own. Universally, best leaders and bosses are movers, enablers, shakers, and fighters. They are unlocking diverse potential without screaming about it on every corner, supporting meaningful initiatives, building strong and supporting communities, and creating space for everyone to succeed. A successful transformation is a two-way process. You can’t be successful as a single Samurai fighting on your own for a change without company-wide support in creating that top-notch army of thinkers and doers and the culture changers. Modern leadership has changed so much over the past decade, and we need to rethink what we preach.


3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup — practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover.

This book is rather an invitation to accept the bundle of life if you choose to be the leader and the company CEO. Every missed step affects your company, your employees, your success as a leader. You’ll have to deal with hard things and take care of problems. Life is not Netflix; you can’t unbundle what it comes with as you choose a higher route toward your vision.


4. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

I enjoyed Kim Scott’s honesty and directness discussing such an important topic as how to be a better manager.

Kim offers her own framework on how to create a culture of guidance, how to understand what motivates each person on the team well enough to avoid burn-out or boredom and keep the team cohesive, and how to drive results collaboratively.

Kim’s knowledge comes from her own experiences in the past leading companies and teams. She unfolds her lessons on how to have a strong relationship with employees. Radical Candor offers a guide to those bewildered or exhausted by management, written for bosses, and those who manage bosses.

You’ll learn more about real-time feedback, annual reviews, conflict resolution, and giving a shit about your team’s growth and obstacles to get there.


5. The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

Mr. James Pennebaker’s book came from one of Jordan Peterson’s mentions in one of his lectures. Pennebaker uses research in computational linguistics-in essence, counting the frequency of words we use to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence.

I discovered the tool that analyzes tweets by the handle AnalyzeWords, which you can find by following this link. AnalyzeWords helps reveal your personality by looking at how you use words. I definitely was entertained by this; however, I would avoid over-indexing on a singular tool of analysis in such matters. Overall, an interesting read that will help you be more aware of the differences in how different people use words.


6. The Baddest Bitch in the Room

Bold, brave, and shocking at times memoir of Sophia Chang. An unapologetic memoir about a woman’s journey through the industry as the first Asian woman in hip hop.
Like any life story, it’s not a recipe for you to repeat, but a wise look back at an individual who had parents, children, career, friends, communal, and personal goals. Sophia had her successes and failures, and yet she is still open to new ventures, learnings, and projects. I consumed this read in one seating during one of the travels I had back in 2019.


Sweat Equity

Inside the New Economy of Mind and Body.

The global fitness and health club industry generates more than 80 billion U.S. dollars in revenue per year. Back in 2018, I was leading user experience design efforts for one of the fitness apps, and so the fitness topic and the role of human psychology in it were the paramount of my interests. I saw how certain fitness products successfully employed the right recipe when building a brand. It’s tough to reach success in the fitness field as people will always first fulfill the basic needs, ex., food, safety, etc. Through conversations with businesspeople, many driven by their own fitness obsessions, and first-hand accounts of the sports themselves, Jason Kelly delves into how the movement is taking shape.


Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight

This book is a technical guide for the reader, who is trying to learn data. This read is way more useful when bought as a physical or an online book where you can see all the material in the appendix. I would recommend to buy the physical book instead and dedicate some quality time to learning how to translate data into an insight.

I have to admit, coming to this book was not easy, as I cringe when I see the word “data” combined with awkward suffixes like “full” or “driven”. I’ve noticed many thought leaders are trying to invent and commercialize the new term and coin it as their own without really giving it a thought as to what that means for the product. You have to be data and research-informed, not driven, where both are a part of an actionable insights that can empower and improve user experience.
But thankfully, this book is a practical guide to understanding the data, not the trendy way to gain attention. Read, learn, enjoy.


The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

Robert Iger is the longstanding CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Mr. Iger is sharing his lifelong journey and lessons that come with it. A great memoir sprinkled with the description of the cultural reality of the TV industry back then.

It’s refreshing to see that we’ve made great progress since then in how we think and how we work.

The job of CEO isn’t easy and it comes as a bundle of the happiest and saddest moments you get to share with your colleagues. Read, enjoy, make up your own decisions in life, and remember, sometimes you’re ahead; sometimes you’re behind; the ride is long.


The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Video Game Design.

Great design is tactical and intentional; Great experience has high learnability; Great design delights, and empowers us.
To create a sensible and intuitive experience, one must know the basics of Human Psychology to make better choices on when and how it’s better to communicate with the user.

The stakes are high in game development. Gamers are one of the most demanding customers out there as they are well aware of the thrill and the joy of great gameplay and challenging combat scenes with meaningful rewards.

Have you played Fortnite? If yes, then you know how enjoyable and addictive this game is. I attribute the success of this game to well-crafted user experience, and it’s impossible without the internal company-wide support and support of the UX Discipline and Psychology that play a key role in its success.

Ceila Hodent, former Director of UX at Epic Games, shares some insights as she was working through the game development. I would recommend this book to any product designer or a person that is involved in product development.


How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World

We, designers, want to change the world for better through our work and experiences we create. The subtitle of this book reflects our ultimate goal and makes you want to have this book.

Michael Bierut once was working for Vignelli Associates and famous Pentagram… just that, by itself, will make you want to check his work.

This book is a great addition to any designer’s library.


Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me

To be honest, the subject of this book was less interesting to me than the firm that designed the book — Pentagram.

The book design, the layout, the grid in the foundation of this book make it a great study for a book designer.

This well made and beautiful book will be a great source of inspiration and a case study for graphic designers.


WA: The Essence of Japanese Design

The year 2019 was notable as I continued to discover more names in the Japanese School of Design.

This book unfolds the Japanese way of design thinking and craft through 300 objects in metal, paper, fabrics, ceramics, wood, and new materials.

From everyday objects and packaging to interior design and lighting elements, this book, made with a high aesthetic, will make a great addition to a designer’s library.



The book is about white in our life, in design, and in metaphor. Well designed, well written, and, therefore, a well-understood book.
Kenya Hara is a Japanese graphic designer, curator, and writer. His work is breathing with intentional simplicity, minimalism, and spaciousness.
This book soaked it in, so the minimalism and purity are in the DNA of this book.


Design: Vignelli: Graphics, Packaging, Architecture, Interiors, Furniture, Products

This book is a true and unapologetic indulgence for any designer and any design sensible person!

From the cover of the book and its color to the very end, it’s the essence of excellence in design thinking.

Most importantly, this is a story of the synergy of two creatives and two life partners side by side in a lifelong journey between Massimo and his wife, Lella Vignelli. This book won me over.


Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design

Saul Bass is one of the most influential names in the graphic design field. His identity has an unusual longevity. The average lifespan of a logo he designed is 34 years. From movie titles and movie posters to logos of the biggest corporations of the time (most famous AT&T globe logo,) Saul Bass made a mark in Graphic Design.

Bass wanted the audience to see familiar parts of their world in an unfamiliar way.


Art is Work: Graphic Design, Interiors, Objects and Illustrations

This one was a gift and quickly became one of my favorite books of the year.

The best of Milton Glaser’s output since 1974 is contained in this study of one of the world’s most influential graphic designers. He leads readers through the development of his ideas, re-acquaints them with central design principles, and shows how technology can provide opportunities.


In 2019, not too many podcasts persisted in my library, but those that did are totally worth it. I’m keen to listen to everything around health and wellness, athletic performance, neuroscience, makers, and shakers.

Finding Mastery

A great podcast featuring accomplished people from various fields. From top athletes to respected movie directors, game designers, comedians, etc. Michale Gervais takes you on a journey unfolding its way rather than giving you a ready recipe.
I remember this was the first source where I learned about imagining. If you are curious about your mind and seek to expand its capabilities and enhance your performance, you might find this podcast interesting. It’s sprinkled with some tips from Michael and his guests.

Podcast on iTunes

Remarkable people

“Remarkable People” is a new and very promising podcast; hopefully, in 2020, we’ll enjoy more episodes.

Jane Goodall is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her over 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees since she first went to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960.

This podcast captivated me with Jane’s story of life. In a sense, she was contrary to how things were done back then. Goodall used unconventional practices in her study, for example, naming individuals instead of numbering them. At the time, numbering was used to prevent emotional attachment and loss of objectivity.

Podcast on iTunes

Joe Rogan Experience

I think, by now, almost everyone is listening to this podcast or at least, gave it a try. Joe Rogan’s Experience Podcast allowed many people to be a part of conversations they would never be able to witness in a normal life.

Often lengthy and thought provoking interviews with MMA fighters, politicians, standup comedians, inventors, scientists, and many more people make our commute time feel shorter and our outlook on the world wider.

Podcast on iTunes