The Best Book I Read in 2019


– Hey, what’s up, guys? My name is Thomas Frank
and as you might know if you’ve been watching my
channel for any length of time, I make a lot of videos on productivity and on how to work better. And in this video, I want
to share the best book that I read this year
for my own productivity and the one that taught me
the most important lessons that I applied to my work. Now given the nature of my work, is that book “Principles” by Ray Dalio? No. Is it “Ultralearning”? No again. Is it some big long book by Robert Greene with tons of annoying
red texts in the margins? No, it’s actually a book by somebody who doesn’t really
work in the productivity or self-help or career
success industries whatsoever. The book is “How Music
Works” by David Byrne, who is the founder or at least
one of the founding members of the band at Talking Heads. Now like I said, the author of this book is
not a productivity consultant, he’s not some self-help guru, and this book isn’t a
productivity book at all. It’s a book about how music works. A lot of it is about his
own life and performance. It’s about recording technology
and how it’s changed, it’s how the production
of music has changed. Nonetheless, the lessons
that I took from this book have impacted my work and
improved the way that I do it more than the lessons I
took from any other book that I read this year. And in this video, I want
to share three of them that I think are gonna help you as well. So the first big lesson that
I took from this book is that creative works often come
out of a specific context, like a specific audience that
an artist is trying to reach or a specific venue in
which they have to play. In other words, creativity is improved by having limitations placed upon us. This is actually kind of the opposite view that most people have when
they think of great artists. We often think that artists just have this amazing idea come to them in the middle of the night, that they just have some sort of genius the rest of us don’t have. The book puts it this way. “The accepted narrative suggests “that a classical composer
gets a strange look “in his or her eye and
begins furiously scribbling “a fully realized composition “that couldn’t exist in any other form. “Or that the rock and
roll singer is driven “by desire and demons “and out bursts this amazing,
perfectly shaped song “that had to be three
minutes and 12 seconds, “nothing more, nothing less.” And this view is actually
the complete opposite from the truth that we
either unconsciously or consciously make things that fit into predetermined
contexts or formats. Some examples could include the audience, their current tastes, their demographics. The venue could be outside,
could be a cathedral, a sports arena, headphones in your ears, or it could be the medium. Say a vinyl disc that only
holds so much information. To hone in on one specific example, cathedral music often
stays within the same key throughout the entire duration of a piece and utilizes long haunting notes. And the reason for this, as
Robert Jourdain points out in his book “Music, the
Brain, and Ecstasy,” is that some cathedrals
have reverberation times of up to seven seconds,
which is incredibly long. And within an environment like this, music that uses lots of
complex percussive sounds or that modulates between different keys becomes a chaotic mess
really, really quickly. So a lesson that I took from
this part of the book is that a lack of limitations
or a lack of context is actually a bad thing for being creative or for getting things done. Because when you have limitless options, you often just choose none of the above. You’ve probably seen the
power of limitations at work in your own life as well. I mean, how many times
have you found yourself under a tight deadline and actually been more
focused as a result? So one thing that I’ve been
trying to do recently is to give myself some sometimes
arbitrary limitations when I take on a project. For example, my one hour
morning routine video that I published about a month ago and which was one of the
more successful videos on my channel recently
had some rules in place before I ever touched a camera. Number one, the video could be no more than seven minutes long and number two, during the part where I
explained the routine, I had to do it off-camera
as a voice-over narration, which is something that
I had never done before. So these limitations actually helped me to generate better ideas than
I would have without them because once I had boundaries, they gave me a small area of focus in which I could be creative. Lesson number two had to do with the value of building up anticipation before doing something big or surprising. And this lesson comes
from the part of the book where he was talking about
his life as a performer, specifically when he was putting together the stage production for the
album “Stop Making Sense”, which was actually very well received. And the concerts they
were putting together for this album weren’t your
normal average pop concerts. There were all kinds
of additional elements. He tried to take inspiration from different types of Broadway
theater and Asian theater, so there was a lot going
on in these productions. And during the filming
of the first few shows in Los Angeles, he was able
to meet and get some critiques from a Beijing opera performer who was pretty blunt
with what he had to say. And one of those things
was about the value of building up anticipation
for the audience before doing something surprising. Here’s how he puts it in the book. “One adage was along the lines “of needing to let the
audience know you’re going “to do something special before you do it. “You tip them off and draw
their attention to you “and you have to know how to do it “in a way that isn’t obvious, “or toward whoever is going
to do the special thing.” Now you notice that this
is kind of counterintuitive and you’d think so as well because if you tell the
audience what you’re going to do before you do it, you
spoil the surprise, right? Well, no. If you do it correctly, you actually draw their
attention to the surprise because if you don’t do it, then half your audience is
just not paying attention and they’re going to miss it. And in the book, Byrne
notes that this is a rule that doesn’t just apply
to stage performances or to musical performances. He notes that stand-up comedians probably have very similar rules for getting the audience
ready for a punch line. And you can probably think of
several other applications. This is why drum rolls happen in circuses, why movie trailers now
have teaser trailers, like trailers for trailers, and why pop songs have pre-choruses that build things up for the main chorus. Now this is a lesson that I haven’t seen in any other productivity book
that I’ve read in the past, yet I could immediately see how it would help me do my work better. Yes, I don’t get up on stages, I don’t do musical performances, but as a YouTuber, as a writer, as somebody who creates media and shares things with the world, I can see the value of using hype, using anticipation to
get my audience ready for what I’m going to do. If I don’t do that, like he says, I’m probably going to surprise people to the point where they’re
just gonna miss it or not care. And that brings us to the third lesson, which actually isn’t contained within the pages of this book at all but is more a meta lesson
that kind of dawned on me as I was reading this. Don’t just learn from productivity people, don’t just learn from self-help gurus and people who write about career success. Instead, try to branch out a bit. I know that when I was younger,
I was pretty single-minded about trying to become more productive, trying to get ahead in my career, and as a result I had tunnel vision. Whenever I’d go to a bookstore, I would immediately make a beeline for the business section
or the self-help section. I would kind of exclude
all other sections. And I know a lot of other people who do the exact same thing. People are always asking me what’s the best productivity
book that you read this year? But the thing about people
who write about productivity, the thing about people who
are in the self-help industry, is that they tend to
have a pretty narrow band of work experience,
especially when we’re talking about careers that span
many, many decades. People in these industries
tend to make their livings in just a few ways, either
in mass media production, you know, recording audio,
recording videos like this one because I am including myself
in this group of people, or writing books, or other
people who run businesses or who speak on stages. And I’m not saying this to
belittle any of those things or to belittle these people because those are important things and there’s a lot you can learn from them. But again, it’s a very
narrow band of experience compared to all the different professions and pursuits that are out there. So don’t just focus your
attention on the business and the self-help gurus at the exclusion of all other voices. At the very least, read
accounts from people who have done what you want to do or work in the industry
that you want to break into. Personally, I want to play
more music in the future, which is why I read a book by a musician. But I think you should go
even further than that. I mean, I don’t particularly
want to go get into the opera but the lessons I took
from that opera performer who was talked about in this
book are definitely applicable to my work as a YouTube producer. People who work in specific
industries often learn lessons that really can’t be
learned in other places but that are applicable to
those other places nonetheless. And this is also an argument
for digging into new fields and exploring new areas on your own. When you do this, you gain new insights that you can then creatively apply to anything else that
you’ve already been doing. For just one example, Brian
May, the guitarist for Queen, used his physics background
to figure out how to create that stomp clap effect
in “We Will Rock You.” And most people wouldn’t think that you would use a physics
background as a musician but well, there you go. And if you want to learn about physics or math and science in general, then you should check out Brilliant. Brilliant is a learning platform that helps you quickly
improve in these areas, along with computer science, through an incredibly active
hands-on learning experience that includes interactive
challenges, storytelling, and even code writing. Their library of more
than 60 courses includes a complete math suite
that spans everything from the fundamentals of
number theory to calculus and differential equations and statistics. There are science courses
like classical mechanics and the science of waves and light, and computer science courses
that cover algorithms, data structures, and even
how search engines work. And because all these
courses are so interactive, you’ll find yourself really stretching your problem-solving abilities
as you work through them, which helps you become an
overall better thinker. Now you can start learning for free with their daily challenges
feature right now by going over to and signing up. And if you’re one of the first 200 people to use that link and sign up, you’re gonna get 20% off their
annual premium subscription which gives you access
to the entire library of in-depth courses. Big thanks as always to Brilliant
for sponsoring this video and supporting my channel and thank you for watching as well. Hopefully you found this video helpful and if you did, hit that like button, get subscribed right there, and maybe check out one
other video right over here if you haven’t seen it already. Thanks again for watching and I will see you in the next video.

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100 thoughts on “The Best Book I Read in 2019”

  1. Paige Del says:

    I would recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for a book on creative living. She talks about writing a lot but it can also be applied to other creative endeavours or just to making sure you have balance in your life. Good advice and even therapeutic. I think it would be a book most people in a more business/productivity side might overlook.

  2. A P says:

    Why I am subbed to this channel although I never did? I saw this in my sub news feed. Youtube is going down soon.

  3. Cash College says:

    Not going to lie, this was an unexpected recommendation but I am thoroughly pleased!

  4. AladinLeMalin says:

    Good video but you called Robert Greene's books annoying and that is unforgivable haha

  5. Red Ruby says:

    Always always like book recommendations

  6. O'SSÉIN - Master Your Mind With Me says:

    From not liking literature to reading a lot of books and transforming the living situation.
    "Why do your own mistakes, when you can learn from others?"

  7. Deathwish says:

    Where r the life savers who write what books he recommends so i don't need to watch all of this….

  8. Rien says:

    i recommend reading How Emotions are Made by lisa feldman barrett. the book is not merely about emotions but also about construction

  9. Evandro Paul says:

    I've been recently thinking of buying Everything is F*cked but I've heard it's not as good or even good as the author's previous book. What do you think?

  10. mats de koning says:

    0:38 but is better to watch the vid from the start

  11. Meisterling says:

    I expected you to say Tools of Titans

  12. Reuben&Lemn says:

    Here I was thinking this was gonna be his book club video, but then homeboy nerded out on us. 😆 jk

  13. John Marshall says:

    Go, Dog, Go! Best novel ever. Literary masterpiece.

  14. Priya Patel says:

    Why can't I like it more??? The queen reference was gold

  15. Thomas Castelo {Old Account} says:

    0:39 not to be mistaken with How Music Works by John Powell

  16. Milan Jana says:

    Okk I don't watch it fully…I just want to figure out the contents of the book on my own…Can anyone tell that book's name ??

  17. Slyphean anims says:


  18. Google Is A Cruel Mistress says:

    Oh didn't know Robert Green had another book, can someone who's read it give me a quick summary of it and is it worth to buy?

  19. Moe K says:

    Reading quality material is always important. But equally important is writing or executing what you read.

  20. Udie Bhadra says:

    Robert Greene isn't a writer who focuses on Productivity.

  21. Backspin says:

    Where did you got the wallpaper on your screen from?

  22. Sara Makes Art says:

    I need to find a book by someone who's made a living as an artist to read. Also, I'd like to figure out how to apply the "let the audience know when something good is coming" rule to my youtube videos.

  23. Taarush Goyal says:

    Read the practicing mind by Thomas M sterner…

  24. Frankie Frankie says:

    No money to buy books, so I go with no mercy and download them from the internet.

  25. Anas Alam says:

    My favorite one is "Algorithms to live by: The computer science of human decisions" and the author is Brian Christian

  26. Will Reil - Finance & Investing Videos says:

    The best book I read in 2019 was Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk. It was one of the big inspirations for me to take my YouTube channel seriously. Ever since I have been magnitudes happier.

    If anyone is interested in becoming a YouTuber, Instagramer, or whatever; I highly recommend checking out all of Gary's books.

  27. Avinash Reddy Kamireddy says:

    I really loved reading "The laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene". It changed my perspective on life and helped me to gain momentum in my life.

  28. JUSTyna ME says:

    The 7 habits of highly effective people- Stephen R. Covey! Life changing book for me:-)
    Happy reading 🌞

  29. muskan sharma says:

    Amazing !!!

  30. Abdullah Umar says:

    Thomas seems kinda sad and burnt out

  31. ננסי טראוטמן says:

    It would appear that 16 people don't like music – as evidenced by the thumbs-down vote.

  32. معتز محمد says:

    I read one in English it is who moved my cheese

  33. Ali Mahdi says:

    I had to slow down the speed to catch up you 😁

  34. Samuel J. Martin III says:

    #1 = constraints give birth, just like the act of mammals giving birth through contractions…

  35. Samuel J. Martin III says:

    #2 = peaking interests & build suspense; i.e. Wait For It… Wait For It… 💥

  36. Samuel J. Martin III says:

    #3 = best life 🆚 only a specific aspect of life; + valuable principles can be applied any & everywhere…

  37. Samuel J. Martin III says:

    By The Way… I absolutely LOVE the concert film Stop Making Sense by Jonathan Demme (I saw it in the theater when it first came out)! 🎶🎥🎞📽

  38. Kevin says:

    Great video! Adapted from the newsletter to the YouTube audience 👍

  39. Mace B says:

    Bruh you couldn’t post this before Black Friday? I already blew a bag on a bunch of books

  40. Erick Ferraz says:

    Awesome video.

  41. Karena Tkach says:

    Omg hasan minhaj!!!!

  42. Tycho Brahe says:

    Would you recommend reading this book even if you're not very musically savvy? I love David Byrne and Talking Heads, but I don't play any instruments and I know pretty much nothing about music theory.

  43. Omnia Mohammed says:

    I don't speak engish but I listen to you for imbroving my engish thank you 🙃🙃

  44. muzzyy Z says:

    I hope this aint a behind the scenes promo for that artist and to get sales on their book

  45. David Narbecki says:

    Always love your work excellent video!

  46. Amadeus Akreveus says:

    Getting really creative with those thumbnails Tom!

  47. Víctor Navarro says:

    Fantastic video Thomas! I loved the final message, maybe it had to do with the anticipation 😀

  48. Matt Loberstein says:

    New desk backdrop looks dope. 👌🏼

  49. Andriy Vasylenko says:

    2:17 Thomas, didn't know you were one of us m/

  50. Jan W says:

    Where can I get that desktop backround?

  51. Back2TheBasix says:

    Best book I read was how to think like a Roman emperor

  52. M Ha says:

    You should listen to how not to die on audible, it's not for productivity, but it's very good.

  53. Chris Aguilar says:

    0:07 he uses a slide from a Matt D'Avella video?

  54. Chandasouk says:

    Duhigg's books are cool as hell

  55. July July says:

    Redeeming Love.

  56. Frau Nunez says:

    Amazing how you can place a product in your videos… almost not feeling the sale of BRILLANT! Brilliant man! 🤣🤣🤣

  57. JL B. says:

    Principles by Ray Dalio for me. Best non fiction business read probably ever

  58. Jahidul Alam says:

    Hi Thomas. Could you do an updated top 10 books list. Would love to see what you've been reading and what you recommend.

  59. D H says:

    Nobody ever tricked me so hard with a sponsor.

  60. Tim Ashby says:

    I’m starting to get really into #3. I’m an actor but I read a book by Kobe Bryant that was amazing. Kobe broke down his basketball strategies and philosophies and so much more. It was so great to see an obsessive master work on something I initially had less interest in. Now I strive to be as well prepared as he was for game time.

  61. Jenny X says:

    There’s nothing like not enough time or money to make us non-creative types think of new solutions to get things done.

  62. Laura Humpherys says:

    Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon- a quick, easy read that is essential for anyone trying to pursue their passions. Best book I’ve read all year

  63. Franklandish says:

    Big takeaway – move outside of a narrow path to build perspective. I’m a big reader of non-fiction, but ensure I read at least one short story or novel each month. This allows me to “live” another’s life and gain perspective on my “why” in productivity.

  64. Anil Palan says:

    "How is one supposed to think outside the box if there is no box?"

    Creativity is born out of limitation.

  65. Brian Gutierrez says:

    Wack video

  66. Dantick09 says:

    This video belonged BEFORE black friday

  67. sien jong says:

    Thank you sir.

  68. deadmelodies says:

    YES! That book is amazing! LOVE me some David Byrne!

  69. RAHIL AHMAD says:

    Atomic habbits by James clear

  70. Guila says:

    I learned more about life, productivity, following your passion, and creativity from novels and their fictional characters than I ever learned from any self-help book.

  71. Liam Rice says:

    It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it

  72. Uran zaya says:

    What's your occupation?

  73. Productivityist says:

    Now I’m going to have to read this book. Great and insightful video!

  74. K J says:

    Tq for not adding that annoying music in the back

  75. brightskysyl says:

    Are you going to post a sort of top list of books you've read in 2019?

  76. Squintillions says:

    Interesting choice. Love finding unexpected gems within books. Been awhile since I’ve read something truly inspiring.

  77. W B says:

    Read The Practicing Mind…another book by a musician.

  78. Kevin Alexander NZ says:

    Just keep going honeybunch. The future is yours x

  79. whatsupdate says:

    There is some rule of thirds thing that is killing me on your current setup. Can you raise your computer monitors or speakers while filming or fill in some of the dead space at the top of the frame? You have one of the most amazing channels on YouTube and your content is second to none, but something about this framing really gets me like nails on a chalkboard. You got me really interested in David Byrne’s book is really like to read it sometime. Maybe audible …

  80. Putu Sita says:

    For lesson number 3, it is an ultimate truth! We shall learn from anything or anyone to enrich our knowledge and make our mind more flexible. As long as our main intention is clear and precise, precious lessons can come from many 'directions' (just like the lesson number 1 in this video.) Thank you for sharing, Thomas. 🙂

  81. NewTech | نــيــوتــك says:


  82. Naj Renchelf says:

    Ooh, plot twist! I like this! 😊

  83. Ketan says:

    Just my 2¢ about how it's important to execute and not just keep reading. Self help books can be so addictive because it feels like self improvement but it isn't

  84. Flex says:

    More books

  85. PP says:

    Physics example was brilliant

  86. Aiden Berzins says:

    Did you just casually put a matt de'avella video in your stackup lol

  87. Karol Dąbrowski says:

    Your videos look avesome

  88. Soumya Shankar Ghosh says:

    Deep work by Cal Newport

  89. JPEG SALLY says:

    thank you so much !!

    1.Creative works come out a specific context. Limitation make you more creative and more productive

    2. Building up anticipation by drawing the attention before doing something

    3. Don't limit yourself to productivity gurus. Try to find your answers everywhere, there are good tips to take from in every domaine.

  90. Jan Kohut says:

    I really wonder, why you get so few views lately.

  91. Razor Reznov says:

    Don't mind me just searching for the comment which gives me the summary of this video

  92. Bidhan Chan says:

    Mine was Deep Work by Cal Newport. I know it is an old book, but I got around to reading it in 2019

  93. 0wen.j says:

    I subscribed because of your YouTube banner

  94. Ludmor says:

    I would recommend any and every musician to get a basic understanding of physics, with an obvious focus on acoustics and the science of vibrations. Using principles with understanding sets you free! 🙂

  95. Ishika Shanai says:

    I literally came to terms with the necessity of limitations this month with regards to my comic: 3 colours with black and white and 15 scenes only.
    As I boarding it out before, I kept adding unnecessary scenes that had nothing to do with the progression of the story. At points, it even drove away from the point of the story.
    Sometimes you gotta take a couple steps back to realize you were going in the wrong direction.

  96. RolyPolyPanda says:

    I really value the insights that was shared in this video. This was phenomenal thank you!

  97. Sara Burgess says:

    I love your productivity videos and find it really cool that you're encouraging people to branch out and find other sources of inspiration outside of the typical "self help" genre (which frequently results in the same tips being recycled by various authors). One good book that fans of self improvement should look at is "Mind Over Mood" a CBT workbook. Working on your own mental health is a huge part of being more productive and effective. It's hard to follow habits or build a routine or network when a person has crippling anxiety, depression, anger or struggles with addiction.

    I appreciate that your videos can be used as a tool for people with those issues as well.

  98. John Abercrombie says:

    Hey Thomas, great video. Lesson #2 really resonated with me and it's stimulated an interesting train of thought in my own noggin. Building anticipation is one of the hallmarks of any greater performer whether they do it consciously or unconsciously. This subject deserves an in depth look all on its own. Do you think you could whip out your magnifying glass and do a video on this? Definitely looking forward to it if you do.

  99. Norbert Szabó Zsolt says:

    How do you organize your ideas, thoughts? I need an organizing principle…

  100. Saikul Hassan says:


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