In the year 2020, I undertook another profoundly impactful reading journey as I take great joy in this pastime and find it a very rewarding activity. As we near the end of the year, I look back on all of the captivating books I have felt fortunate to get my hands on and I have made a selection of my best reads of the year.
I have compiled a list of 10 amazing books on subjects that range from analyses of cultural phenomena and historical figures to best business practices and personal development. They have given me tremendous insight into several societal issues, made me take heed of my personal habits, and gave me hope for the future. And, of course, they gave me a nice dose of reading enjoyment along the way.
I now present to you my list of 10 Amazing Must-Reads: 2020 edition.
10. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company (2019)
by Robert Iger
In 2005, Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company during a difficult time. Morale had deteriorated, competition was more intense, and technology was changing faster than at any time in the company’s history.
Twelve years later, Disney became the largest, most-respected media company in the world, counting Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox among its properties. Its value is nearly five times what it was when Iger took over and Iger continues to be recognized as one of the most innovative and successful CEOs of our time.
In this book, he shares the lessons he’s learned while running Disney and leading its 200,000 employees.
9. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business (1997)
by Clayton M. Christensen
This book is one of the most — if not the most — important books chronicling how innovation takes place. Jeff Bezos lets all his execs read this book and moreover it’s been said that the only business book Steve Jobs ever liked was The Innovator’s Dilemma.
The author states that outstanding companies can do everything right and still lose their market leadership — or worse, disappear completely. And he not only proves what he says, he tells others how to avoid a similar fate.
Using the lessons of successes and failures from leading companies, The Innovator’s Dilemma presents a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.
8. The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives (2020)
by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
You think we have squeezed every advancement possible out of technology? Think again. In the next decade, rapid technological advancements are going to reach a fever pitch, addressing the most pressing issues of our time. This includes several key technological inventions that are being used to combat deforestation, foster reef restoration, and allow us to harvest more from far less land as part of specialized campaigns to reverse the factors that are leading to mass biodiversity loss.
Not to mention tech inventions that are facilitating safe drinking water to millions of people and projects that will be extending high-speed broadband internet — and all the benefits that come with it — to every single member of the global population.
This book provides an encouraging look at the steps that are being taken to leverage technology not to deplete our planet’s resources, but rather to find solutions to the problems we thought for so long were being ignored. We still have a long way to go, but this book shows there are many people who are taking these issues seriously and are doing something about them.
7. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992)
by John Gray
Once upon a time Martians and Venusians met, fell in love, and had happy relationships together because they respected and accepted their differences. Then they came to Earth and amnesia set in: they forgot they were from different planets.
In Layman’s terms: this book gets to the core of why men have trouble understanding women and women have trouble understanding men and bridges that gap. It helps men and women realize how different they really are and how to communicate their needs in such a way that prevents conflict and gives intimacy every chance to grow.
6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t (2001)
by James C. Collins
In the 1990s, there was a management study that showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning. But what about companies that don’t necessarily have this recipe for success baked into their DNA from the outset. How do they achieve greatness?
This book answers that very question and so much more about what it takes to become the type of leader that takes a company from mediocrity to reasonable profitability to the type of greatness that inspires. This book has been praised by several members of The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council as the best management book they’ve ever read, inspiring many.
5. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017)
by Matthew Walker
The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep. In it, he explains how the industrialized world is currently experiencing a sleep loss epidemic and why we must harness the transformative power of sleep to change our lives for the better.
Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? A must-read for anyone who underestimates the power of a good night’s sleep.
4. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal (2003)
by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
We live in digital times. Our pace is rushed and relentless. And facing crushing workloads, we try to cram as much as possible into every day. We’re wired up, but we’re melting down. You would think better time management is the solution, right? Wrong. It’s about balancing your energy.
This book is a highly practical, scientifically-based approach to managing your energy more skillfully both on and off the job by laying out a powerful, step-by-step program that will help you do things like mobilize your key sources of energy, balance how you spend your energy, and expand your capacity the way top athletes do.
But above all, this book gives you life-changing tools to become more physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aligned. I just couldn’t put it down.
3. Mastery (2012)
by Robert Greene
In this book, Robert Greene demonstrates that the ultimate form of power is mastery itself.
By analyzing the lives of such past masters as Amadeus Mozart, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as by interviewing nine contemporary masters, including tech guru Paul Graham and animal rights advocate Temple Grandin, Greene debunks our culture’s many myths about genius and distills the wisdom of the ages to reveal the secret to greatness.
With this book as a guide, you learn how to unlock the passion within and become a master.
2. Talking to Strangers (2019)
by Malcolm Gladwell
How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?
Through a masterful look at societal phenomena across cultures and history, Gladwell calls into question many notions we often take for granted about how we form our opinions about people we hardly know (but we think we do). A captivating read from beginning to end, this book really makes you realize that you should take an extra second to consider more contextual factors when assessing the actions of strangers.
1. Everything is F*cked (2019)
by Mark Manson
At this moment in history, when we have access to technology, education, and communication our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, so many of us come back to an overriding feeling of hopelessness. What’s going on? If anyone can pinpoint that, it’s Mark Manson.
This is another gem from the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck (which, incidentally, was number 1 on my list of amazing must-reads in 2017). In Everything Is F*cked, he looks at our relationships with money, entertainment, and the internet, and how too much of a good thing can psychologically eat us alive. He openly defies our definitions of faith, happiness, freedom—and even of hope itself.
This book reached the top of my list because it truly made me rethink my connection to every facet of society and technology that I interact with on a daily basis. It was the fresh perspective I didn’t know I needed and I could not be more grateful I got it.