2020 Reading Review and 2021 Recommendations
What a strange year 2020 has been…for everyone.
This year started with me entering the second-half of my MBA program at Cass Business School in London, hopeful for the opportunities that the program offered; travelling to Portugal, Israel / Palestine, and Kenya for international consulting trips, networking events, and lectures from leaders in business. Unfortunately, as we all well know, 2020 didn’t quite turn out the way we all planned. However, it wasn’t all bad: I completed my dissertation and finished my MBA, have been able to focus my time on the next steps of the journey, AND I was also able to read more! Onwards and upwards!
I have become a pretty voracious reader in the past few years, constantly looking to expand my knowledge in areas that peak my interest: typically focusing on business and innovation, biographical narratives, history, and science and healthcare.
This year I have finished 37 books from a variety of brilliant authors on multiple different topics.
During the MBA program, colleagues began to ask me for recommendations due to the extensive titles I’ve accumulated, and I even become a small personal library, lending out some of my favorite titles to peers. At the request of some close friends, I am offering my personal views on some of my favorites from this past year.
Below you’ll find the titles and authors of every book I read in 2020 (with the Amazon link to purchase if interested), my top-10 favorite reads of the year, and some honorable mentions that I felt were significant and compelling in other ways.
Hope you enjoy!
2020 Books Read (in-order)
1. Steve Jobs — Walter Isaacson
2. Zero To One — Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
3. What You Do Is Who You Are — Ben Horowitz
4. Trillion Dollar Coach — Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle
5. Venture Capital Strategy — Patrick Vernon
6. Goldfinger — Ian Fleming
7. The Only Plane In The Sky — Garrett M. Graff
8. Shoe Dog — Phil Knight
9. The Innovators — Walter Isaacson
10. The Nickel Boys — Colson Whitehead
11. Venture Deals — Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
12. Midnight In Chernobyl — Adam Higginbotham
13. Break Into VC — Bradley Miles
14. Dead Wake — Erik Larson
15. Evicted — Matthew Desmond
16. Barbarian Days — William Finnegan
17. Troublemakers — Leslie Berlin
18. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck — Mark Manson
19. The Innovator’s Dilemma — Clayton Christensen
20. The Five — Hallie Rubenhold
21. Becoming — Michelle Obama
22. Measure What Matters — John Doerr
23. Medici Money — Tim Parks
24. The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism — Shoshana Zuboff
25. How To Be An Antiracist — Ibram X. Kendi
26. The Ride Of A Lifetime — Robert Iger
27. Loonshots — Safi Bahcall
28. Rocket Men — Robert Kurson
29. Bitcoin Billionaires — Ben Mezrich
30. Say Nothing — Patrick Radden Keefe
31. Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World — Fareed Zakaria
32. The Audacity If Hope — Barack Obama
33. Misery — Stephen King
34. Narconomics — Tom Wainwright
35. Dark Pools — Scott Patterson
36. A Promised Land — Barack Obama
37. The Gene — Siddhartha Mukherjee
The former First Lady of the United States, in my opinion, regardless of your political views, represents what the ‘American Dream’ can be and is the epitome of a ‘good example’. Michelle Obama presents her story with humor, emotion, grace, and hope for the future. She is a gifted storyteller and offers a genuine picture into her upbringing, the importance of family, education, humility, and compassion for others.
When I read Becoming at the height of the pandemic and when the world was fraught with bad news and angst, this book offered me hope that there was still light out there. That if we focus more on what makes us the same as opposed to what makes us different, the world can be a better place.
Walter Isaacson’s biographical narrative of Steve Jobs, a man who in business and creative circles is often canonized as “less than a god but more than a man”, offers the story of how the brilliance and drive of Jobs could at times be equally matched by his narcissism and callousness. However, it was these traits that helped create one of the most iconic and valuable brands the world has ever seen.
A fascinating and enthralling book that I couldn’t put down.
The gripping story of the US space program and the Apollo 8 mission. The first to bring men to the Moon and back.
This mission came as NASA was still reeling from the tragedy of the Apollo 1 mission that claimed the lives of three astronauts, casting clouds of doubt over the program itself. The mission plan was moved forward and put on an accelerated track in an effort to beat the Soviets to the Moon.
Really interesting story of the background of the program, of the astronauts and their families, and of the mission. A great read.
We all know of the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper, who has still never been identified. What many people don’t know about is his victims. It has long been reported that “canonical five”, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly were sex workers, vagrants, or drunkards who were victims of their lifestyles.
However, Hallie Rubenhold’s masterful work paints a very different image. Through her research and findings, she shows that these women were more than just victims of a bloodthirsty and savage killer. They were also victims of the poverty and misogyny of the period that led to them being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A harrowing and educational story that sheds light on the true nature of these horrific crimes.
I’m a fan of the Obamas. What can I say?
The 44th President of the United States humorously opens with the acknowledgment that he, at times, is a little long-winded. I can attest to this fact after reading the 700 page “first volume” of is presidential memoirs.
That being said, President Obama is an extremely gifted storyteller and offers insights into everything from how he became the man he is today and developed his worldview through his interesting upbringing and supportive family, why he made the decisions he did while in office, and why he has hope for the future while also offering cautionary counsel to appeal to our better angels.
Despite its length, it reads remarkably well due to the humor, wit, care, and charm with which the story is told.
A truly eye-opening cataloging of how the information economy is shaping our lives and how many of the companies we interact with everyday are beginning to focus less on capturing our data and more on framing how we think and act.
This book provides insights into why the common business school phrase, “ if the product is free to use, then you are the product” is inappropriately used and provides reasoning as to why our data is more akin to raw material and it is human behavior that that is the true product.
This book will likely scare the hell out of you, but it is incredibly interesting to have a better understanding of the true motives of some of the companies and products we use, from something as innocuous as Pokémon Go, to the more obvious, such as Facebook.
Bill “Coach” Campbell served as an advisor, mentor, and friend to some of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneurs, from Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos to Jack Dorsey and Susan Wojcicki and seemingly everyone in between.
This book illustrates how Bill Campbell took experiences from his days playing and coaching football at Columbia University and applied them to help grow some of the world’s most valuable companies.
While the novel itself is fiction, the story is based on actual events that occurred at the Dozier School for Boys in Florida. It is knowing this fact that makes the story so chilling and compelling.
An absolute must read, especially given the times.
The American sociologist, Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in which he encapsulates the nature of the cycle of poverty in American cities.
It offers hard data and the distressing stories of people who, no matter how hard they try, the systems in place set them up for failure, keeping them in the lowest socioeconomic levels with little chance or hope of getting out.
Painting a picture for the reader of both sides of the coin, the tenant and the landlord, this Pulitzer Prize winning book helps shed some light on those that are most vulnerable.
Before moving to London for my MBA I knew very little about The Troubles. It was after a trip to the Imperial War Museum and learning that the lack of trash cans in the city, a seemingly novel fact, stemmed from the reaction of a bombing carried out by the IRA in 1993, that peaked my interest in learning more about this conflict.
The book bounces between the stories of Jean McConville, a mother of ten living in Belfast at the height of the conflict and one of the “Disappeared”, and the Price sisters, Gerry Adams, and Brendan Hughes, the leaders of the IRA at the time of her murder.
The detail in which Patrick Radden Keefe outlines each narrative and discusses how the motivations behind the conflict and the consequences of the actions enlisted in the pursuit of a unified Ireland has left deep-rooted scars for decades.
The Only Plane In The Sky by Garrett M. Graff
A look into the events of that day none of us will ever forget as told by the victims and heroes themselves.
An important and extremely powerful book to say the least.
How To Be An Antiracist — Ibram X. Kendi
An especially timely read given the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the countless other victims of oppression and police violence.
An important thought piece outlining the required language, behaviors, and understandings we must pursue if we are to build an Antiracist society.
Venture Deals — Brad Feld and Jason Rosenfeld
For anyone looking to go into Venture Capital or start their own company, this is a great book that outlines everything one may need to know about the ins and outs of the VC landscape and what a VC investment in a company will look like.
This book was immensely helpful when participating in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) and helped build a strong base-level of knowledge and understanding of key terms during my internship.
Shoe Dog — Phil Knight
Probably a bit of a cliché when it comes to reading lists and recommendations since it appears on almost every single one, but in all honesty, it’s for good reason. For anyone interested in entrepreneurship, business, sports, or just good stories, Shoe Dog is a must read.