I didn’t beat last year’s 76 books, but amongst the 63 books that I got in during 2020 – there were some serious gems. My favorite books of 2020 span all genres and will bring you value of some form or fashion regardless of which one you pick up! Start off your 2021 with a book that I am sure you will love from this list.
Looking for a specific type of book? Scroll down for my full list of reads broken down by genre below.
THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson
If you live in the city of Chicago or are interested in American history this is a must-read! Erik Larson does a fantastic job at bringing the Chicago’s World’s Fair in the 1800’s to life. There are more historical figures and storylines embedded into this novel than I can count. Now, as I walk down the street I can only imagine what it was like to be here during that time. I’ve come to accept that my favorite genre is Historical Fiction, and this one takes the cake.
EXHALATION by Ted Chiang
I love a great collection of short stories. Exhalation’s stories revolve around technology, life and the fantastical in an attempt to explore questions about life and alternate universes. Even when the stories seem far out, you are able to relate to them and analyze your views on life, or what you would do if put in a similar situation. Simply amazing and deeply thoughtful read.
RED RISING by Pierce Brown
Who doesn’t love a sci-fi dystopian novel?! Red Rising is a cooler more complex Hunger Games. The story is set on Mars. This society runs on creating distinct castes that dictate your life experience, life purpose, access to technology and opportunities. You can imagine and visualize what these characters lives on Mars are like as they battle to succeed in their endeavors. I’m incredibly surprised that it has not yet been turned into a film or tv show. I will definitely be continuing on to the next book in this series. And I think you will too.
INVISIBLE WOMEN by Caroline Perez
This book was part of our Boothie Book Club, and was a fantastic choice. At Booth people say, “In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data”. But, what if you are bringing the wrong data? Caroline Perez explains the detrimental effects of women not being included in data sets when making decisions from healthcare to urban planning to everything in between. Mind you, we’re not even talking about women having a seat at the decision making table, we’re just talking about women being included in data points. This is a book that every leader, especially men, should invest reading time in.
THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
For months, my friend Ryan Black, the co-founder of Ruby, was pushing me to read this book. When I shared that it was on my list, I got so many messages urging me to stop before I start. But, I’m glad that I finished what I started. This book has been deemed one of the best books of the 20th Century, and rightfully so. Ayn Rand explores society and the different types of people that make it run. She makes you question and ponder which type of person you are within society and what type of person you don’t want to be via the choices that you make. It’s a long one, but it’s worth it.
21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY by Yuval Noah HArari
Yuval Noah Harari did it again – and his 21 lessons are more important than ever. While Sapiens took us through the history of mankind, and Homo Deus (my least favorite of the trio) brought us to our modern day history, 21 lessons looks at where we are now as a species and where we are going. With the turmoil hitting us from all sides with the Coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, this book could not be more relevant. A collection of essays, Harari talks about everything from the rise of data and social media’s power to how politics and religion will continue to evolve and potentially become entirely different entities. I would call this a must read.
A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles
I love a great historical fiction piece. A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles is an extraordinary story that takes you early 1900’s Russia. While you get a feel for the state of Russia post-revolution, this book actually gives you all the feels. As you follow the story of Count Alexander Rostov, you come to appreciate the importance of community despite circumstances – similar to what we are all experiencing now during quarantine. I couldn’t put it down. I’m sure you won’t be able to either.
BILLION DOLLAR WHALE by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope
This true story of Jho Low laundering over $5B in the 1MDB scandal to spend on parties and living the high life is nothing short of an epic tale that is hard to believe. It’s so outrageous that it falls in line with our surreal reality. To put this in perspective – this man was using the money that he laundered to fund the production of the Wolf Of Wall Street movie – Just for shits and giggles. This story is still unfolding in real time, as the former prime minister of Malaysia was just convicted and found guilty in the 1MDB case. Yet, the illusive Jho Low is still on the run.
THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides
This is Alex Michaelides’ debut novel and it is OUTSTANDING. A true mystery thriller rooted in a therapist and patients relationship with twists and turns that will leave you wanting more. If you like Gone Girl, then you will love this.
THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty
I did not know what to expect when a friend recommended this book. Needless to say I got way more laughs and learnings than I bargained for. This satire about a black farmer in LA will leave you in tears as the main character attempts to reinstate slavery and segregation as he recounts his childhood and what our country is moving towards. Truly hilarious and also slightly concerning.
THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE by Lisa See
Lisa See’s masterful storytelling within historical context made Shanghai Girls one of my favorite books of 2018. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane does is just as beautifully done as you put your self in the shoes of Li-yan, a tea farmer from a remote village in China who is forced to give her daughter up for adoption. This story is DEEP, as it grapples with the struggle of maintaining cultural traditions alongside the rise of globalization. And as you can imagine, there is nothing stronger than the power of a Mother’s love, and the curiosity of a child wanting to learn more about their own story.
THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME by Robert Iger
I want to be like Bob Iger when I grow up. Disney as a company has doing unimaginably imaginable things. Bob Iger gives the nitty gritty on what he struggles with as the CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world, and gives you so many takeaways that you want to keep close as you lead and manage your teams now and in the future.
STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS by Ted Chiang
I LOVE a good short story collection. After reading Exhalation, I back tracked to Stories Of Your Life. Nevertheless, Ted Chiang never disappoints. This collection focuses on science, free-will, communication and belief systems. It will make you think and question your own views and imagine what life in other dimensions and here on Earth could possibly look like.
A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama
If you have read any of Barack’s books, then you know that he has a lot to say. Considering that A Promised Land is 700 pages, and doesn’t even get to the end of his first term, you can imagine that he has EVEN MORE to say than usual. As you relive his run to the presidency and the majority of his first term, Barack does an immaculate job at putting everything in context. Every senator, congressman, staffer’s back story is shared, making them a true character in his journey. Nevertheless, he does not assume that you know American history. Every major decision that he makes is accompanied by a a little history lesson, so you’re just a little more educated on why he made the choices he made and their impact. You’ll end A Promised Land wanting more. So you may as well get started on this bad mama jama so you can be ready for the next 700 pager.
RED NOTICE by Bill Browder
What a story – a terrifying one at that. If we have learned anything about Russia over the years, we know that this is not a country to play with. As much as this is a memoir of Bill Browder’s life, this is so much more than just his story. The covers says it all: A true story of high finance, murder and one man’s fight for justice. This book delivers on that plus some. If you’re looking for a non-fiction page turner – this is the one you want to put on your list. Between you and I, I’m quite frankly surprised, and thankful, that more of Browder’s associates have not mysteriously perished throughout the course of his life.
LINCHPIN by Seth Godin
To succeed in today’s world you have to be indispensable – a linchpin. Seth Godin shows you just how important is is to be more human than ever before. I don’t want to give away all of the gems that dot this quick read. But, I will say that you will want to own this collection of knowledge.
full 2020 book list
The Institute by Stephen King
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Seven Husband of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
1984 by George Orwell
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Stories Of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
Mission in a Bottle by Seth Goldman & Barry Nalebuff
The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison
The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
Zealot by Reza Aslan
How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Crisis In The Red Zone by Richard Preston
Invisible Women by Carolina Criado Perez
21 Lessons For The 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Body by Bill Bryson
Gang Leader For A Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price
Red Notice by Bill Browder
Relationship Goals by Michael Todd
The Deepest South of All by Richard Grant
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker PhD
Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Body by Bill Bryson
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Measure What Matters by John Doerr
Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss
Range by David Epstein
Linchpin by Seth Godin
Non Rules Rules by Reed Hastings & Erin Meyer
The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
The Everything Store by Brad Stone
Biographies / Memoirs
Life Will Be The Death of Me by Chelsea Handler
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Heavy by Kiese Laymon
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger
Small Does by Amanda Seales