The 8 best books I read in 2020
If you consider yourself “self-made” or one who “pulls himself up by the bootstraps,” taking a look at this book may be a humble reminder of how flawed that thinking is.
Being born in the mid-1950s with incredible intellect would position someone to thrive at the dawn of the computer age. But might other variables play a role?
How does the man with the highest IQ ever recorded spend his career as a bouncer, struggling to find anyone interested in publishing his extensive research work? Having grown up in small-town without parents who valued education may have something to do with it. The fact that I cannot remember his name speaks volumes.
Meanwhile, a man born in the same year to a lawyer and influential businesswoman who enrolled their teenage son in computer classes long before most even knew they existed began creating some of his own programs. His name? Bill Gates.
Each of us has unique opportunities and natural gifts that have little to do with our own effort. The question is, how can we steward what we’ve been given?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari
I enjoy books that not only teach me something new but also challenge my deeply held beliefs. No, this book did not convince me I descended from a monkey, and I don’t think the author’s deconstruction of faith really adds up, but his storytelling and organization of history into various time periods made for an interesting read.
What has stuck with me is the consistent theme throughout the book of people in various time periods and areas of the world who have all attempted to insert themselves into the place of God, all the way back to Gilgamesh trying to achieve immortality over 3,000 years ago.
I am generally not very interested in what present-day pastors have to say about theology. You studied the Bible in your office? You know Greek? Great… But what about real-life scenarios?
That’s where this book differs from my past experience with pastoral writing. David Platt takes the reader with him on his journey through the Himalayan Mountains on a quest to discover how his deeply held beliefs would fare when facing some of the worst suffering imaginable on the other side of the world.
Questions such as “Where is God in the midst of suffering?” “What makes my religion better than someone else’s religion?” and “What do I really believe about eternal suffering?” are all explored in-depth, with an urgent call to make our lives count before it’s too late.
I have never had much interest in reading devotionals. Likely because the ones I have come across seem to be geared toward middle-aged women. This one, however, is different.
With short, punchy, daily excerpts that directly target the issues we as men struggle with most, there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom to motivate men to embrace a sense of urgency with their lives by passionately going after the work that God has laid in front of us.
I love business origin stories. Getting to hear how this one transpired simultaneous to my college roommate and I attempting to create “the next Facebook” was fascinating. While he and I kicked around picture-only website ideas that were light years away from what would eventually become Instagram, the eclectic cast of entrepreneurs in The Upstarts had the same dreams and ambitions and ended up creating companies that would change the world.
The chapters rotate back and forth between these revolutionary companies with a stark contrast of the leadership styles of the abrasive Travis Kalanick driving Uber and the polished Mr. Nice Guy, Brian Chesky, leading Airbnb. Insightful, entertaining, and even nostalgic of my college days, dreaming of building a tech company of this stature.
What better company to learn about than the one I am partnering with most to launch my book into the world? Reading about Jeff’s origin story, Amazon expanding beyond books in the late nineties, and the negotiations with various companies that led to the development of the Kindle and Amazon Prime all made for fascinating business anecdotes.
But what I will remember most is the practical business principles that can apply to all aspects of life: Make bold bets. Reject the status quo. Define your long-term vision. Focus on creating value that will stand the test of time. Persevere through temporary setbacks and rejection from others.
Now you have my list of my favorite reads from 2020. I am stockpiling ideas and books to explore in 2021.
I would love to hear from you.
What was your favorite read in 2020?