It’s officially December and the rush is on for holiday shopping. This time of year, I typically get a few requests for book recommendations for Christmas list making or stocking stuffers. In light of that, I thought I would compile a list of the favorite books I read in 2020.
I began the year with a goal to read less, but longer – a goal I outlined in this post Why We’re Reading Less in 2020. Namely, I had identified 12 books that had always been on my to read list, but have never risen to the top.
So how’d I do?
Short answer – not great. I started 7 of 12, and ultimately finished 5. The two I started but did not finish were lengthy biographies. I read about 250 pages of each and got tired. While I can appreciate the long biography, 700+ pages about a single person can be taxing…Five of the books I was not interested in reading yet – so they sit on the shelf awaiting the right time. In all, I have read ~34 books this year.
Below are the top 5 and then the rest grouped by genre. (Disclaimer – These are Amazon Affiliate links and pay a small commission if you choose to order). You can view my all-time best books list here
- Personal History by Katherine Graham – A long biography I actually finished – so good.
- Night by Elie Weisel – Tough to read, but feels like it should be required reading for anyone who calls earth home
- Playing the Enemy by John Carlin – Great reflection about Mandela’s thoughtful work to unite South Africa – lots of interesting parallels to today
- I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – Creepy but fascinating
- I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman – Great story of a mother and her daughter as they navigate late and emerging adulthood simultaneously. It’s not high literature, but was thoughtful and entertaining.
Business & Investing
- In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters – It’s a classic for a reason – opening 4 chapters are fantastic on organizational theory
- Playing to Win by Lafley and Martin – The easiest to use, most systematic approach to corporate strategy I’ve seen – surprisingly good
- Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez – A straight-up academic paper but super helpful for understanding what is going on in the modern world
- A Wealth of Possibilities by Ellen Perry – Chock full of insights from a career of working with wealthy families
- The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients by David A Fields – Applicable to any professional service firm
- Completing Capitalism by Roche and Jakub
- The HP Way by David Packard
- Aesthetic intelligence by Pauline Brown
- How to think like Shakespeare by Scott Newstok – Immensely interesting and a pleasure to read
- Range by David Epstein – In a world specialization mad, this was a breath of fresh air
- Give and Take by Adam Grant – Super consistent with my own experience of the world
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – The audio book here is great – almost like a podcast in its production quality
- Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl – Like Weisel above – a must read
- Dear Girls by Ali Wong – Hilarious, but definitely not G rated!
- Murder in Music City by Michael Bishop
- Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
- Calypso by David Sedaris
Fiction – Disclaimer – I do not typically read a lot of fiction, but we had a few long road trips and I was looking for some beach reads as well
- When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger – Not as good as When the Devil Wears Prada, but still pretty entertaining
- Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews – Haven’t seen the movie, but the concept was interesting here
- Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – Too long, tighter editing could have made this better
- The Bear and The Dragon by Tom Clancy – Jack Ryan never disappoints
Faith / Personal Development / Contemplation
- The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson – For Brene Brown fans, this layers in a several additional dimensions on the topic
- On the Road with Saint Augustine by James K.A. Smith
- From Aging to Sageing by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
- The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut
- The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
- The Enneagram by Richard Rohr