2020 – Favorite Books List

by | Dec 30, 2020


In 2019 I met my goal of reading 100 books in a year by reading 101 (list). This year my focus was on reading long books. Not all of them were long, but many of them were over 500 pages. Consequently, I only read 50 books this year due to the focus on long books (and also because I’m writing a book about investment mental models which soaked up some of my reading time).

Here’s a link to the 50 books: 2020 – What I’m Reading.

Interestingly, my first book of the year, Station Eleven, is about a global pandemic that kills the vast majority of the human population. That fantastic book really set the tone for 2020!

It was difficult to narrow down my favorites to just five. I mean how do I not list Great Expectations, Vanity Fair, Middlemarch or The Picture of Dorian Gray as favorites? While I loved each of these classics, I chose a more modern mix of fiction and non-fiction. So, here are my five favorite 2020 reads (in no particular order):

Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life, by Lulu Miller. This book was AMAZING! It is hard to summarize what exactly what it is about. It putatively is about David Starr Jordan, a taxonomist and first President of Stanford University. But, it is really about the meaning of life and persistence in the face of tragedy and the unknown. I adored this book so much I bough multiple copies and gave them away.

Dune, by Frank Herbert. This is my favorite work of fiction. I’ve read it four times previously and this time I listened to the audiobook — also a great experience. Written in 1965, Dune is always listed at or near the top of the list of the greatest sci-fi books of all-time. It is about Paul Atreides, a ducal heir, and his family as they leave their lush planet of Calladan and relocate on the desert planet of Arrakas. On Arrakas Paul and his family are driven out of power by a rival royal house and then Paul becomes the leader of the desert people, the Freman.

 The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. I first read this book when it came out in 2012. Given the divided state of our nation, I decided to read it again and I’m glad I did. The author is a leading moral psychologist and in this book he addresses how and why rational, intelligent people can have such opposite views of the same issue. His main metaphor is of an elephant and rider. The elephant is our gut feelings and emotion. It is the elephant that decides what we believe. The rider is our rational thought and the rider exists to serve the elephant. Thus, our rational thought is devoted to defending and rationalizing what we believe, not deciding what to believe. This book is fantastic and should probably be required reading for all Americans.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, by Seth Godin. I read this book 10 years ago when it came out and it has a big effect on my views of the corporate world, how we’ve organized our firm, and how we manage our people. The main point of the book is that we shouldn’t just be cogs in a machine. Instead, each of us should work on becoming artists in our field and freely giving our art. Amazing book!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab. This book was fantastic and long-ish at 448 pages. It is the story of Addie LaRue who makes a deal with the darkness: her soul in return for immortality and freedom. But it turns out that freedom comes with a price: she will be instantly forgotten by everyone she knows or meets as soon as she’s out of view. This fantastic novel winds through 300+ years of Addie’s life as a person with no roots and no lasting relationships. I loved it.

Link to my book lists page: Book Lists!

Why reading fiction is essential: Which is Better Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Here’s a fun IFOD about Five of the Strangest Books of All-Time

And the IFOD on Five Lifechanging Books


  1. Sci-Fi fans may also enjoy the Remembrance of Earths Past trilogy, sometimes known as The Three Body Problem trilogy, which is the name of the first book in the series.

    • Yes! Amazing trilogy. Agreed.

  2. Recently discovered audio books! What a game changer. I listened to The Gatekeepers – How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. Starts with Nixon and ends with the first 12 months of Trump. A great book.

  3. Great list. Dune is a masterpiece. Agree that audiobook format can be a terrific experience. Listened to Lonesome Dove and The Boys in the Boat on Audible this year. Both of those amazing books are works of art in the audio format.

  4. Hey John – I find a lot of overlap in our reading, and I always appreciate your Best of lists. Looking back over your best of all time list, I was reviewing your Sci-Fi/Fantasy list. If you haven’t read the Murderbot Series, I can definitely recommend it. Quick read. https://www.amazon.com/All-Systems-Red-Kindle-Single-ebook/dp/B01MYZ8X5C/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1CKIJ8B068G5X&dchild=1&keywords=the+murderbot+series&qid=1609335206&sprefix=The+murder+bot%2Caps%2C172&sr=8-2

    • I’ve read the first murderbot book and loved it. Thanks for the reminder – I’ll read the rest of the series.


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