The 10 Best Books I Read In 2020


2020 was a challenging year for all of us. The nature of these challenges might’ve differed- health-related challenges, job-related challenges, family-related challenges – but it is often the most difficult of times that gives us the opportunity to come together, building stronger bonds with one another than ever before.

The Work-From-Home phenomenon which kicked in from March 2020 put serious pressures on individuals who celebrated separating life from work. People’s ability to adapt to these changes comes from connection, discovery, and application of the wisdom we’ve learned from our lives and from one another.

COVID-19 gave us a look behind the curtains of how difficult it is to craft a book, design a life, cook a meal, and take that call from work when we have our families looking forward to us being more involved. Maybe some of us cracked it, but it’s still a work in progress for a majority of us. We are all looking for sanctuary, for respite, for our caves to retire in. A good book gives you precisely all of those things.

I feel immensely lucky to have gotten out of the chaos of 2020 without as much as a scratch. However, it has also given me the opportunity to really think about how might I repay life for the good fortune it has bestowed on me.

In the spirit of my trying to answer those questions, discovering new dimensions of ideas and having a deep desire to form frameworks to optimise living and decision-making, I present to you the 10 best books I read in 2020.

What You Do Is Who You Are: How To Create Your Business Culture

“Culture can feel abstract and secondary when you pit it against a concrete result that’s right in front of you. Culture is a strategic investment in the company doing things the right way when you are not looking.”

Author: Ben Horowitz
Genre: Business/Management
Pages: 288

One-Sentence Synopsis: From Toussaint Louveture to Dropbox, Genghis Khan to the Uber, Horowitz’s book is outlines a systematic set of perspective and methods to think about people, processes, and performance in the context of building and sustaining your business culture.

One-Sentence Review:
An incredible book which helps you think about culture from first principles through a combination of historical lessons and insights on contemporary company-building.

How Google Works

“The most valuable result of 20 percent time isn’t the products and features that get created, it’s the things that people learn when they try something new.”

Author: Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg (with Alan Eagle)
Genre: Business
Pages: 288

One-Sentence Synopsis:
A playbook of sorts outlining Google’s way of thinking about People, Technology, Strategy, and Decision-Making.

One-Sentence Review:
Simply put, this book is The HP Way for my generation.

The Lessons of History

“The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality. East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet.”

Authors: Will Durant and Ariel Durant
Genre: History
Pages: 120

One-Sentence Synopsis:
The Durants have applied their incredible skill as historians to identify the core-patterns they saw repeating time and agains when they were almost done writing their monumental work, The Story of Civilization.

One-Sentence Review:
Verbose at times, but the book’s desire to codify the lessons our civilisation’s actions comes through clearly and the book’s potency and value are tied to the hours you dedicate in re-reading and reflecting on its lessons.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

“If you had a thought once, it has no power over you. Repeat it again and again, especially with emotional intensity, feeling it, and over time, you’re creating the grooves, the mental river. Then it controls you.”

Author: Kamal Ravikant
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 224

One-Sentence Synopsis:
Stuck somewhere between a memoir and an exposition on meditation, the book ties the author’s survival (and revival) to a meditation technique he developed.

One-Sentence Review:
The meditation technique prescribed here is quite therapeutic and the author’s not-so-subtle sales pitch that it’ll work for us because it worked for him was strangely convincing yet weirdly overdone.

Man’s Search For Meaning

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Author: Victor Frankl
Genre: Psychology
Pages: 160

One-Sentence Synopsis:
This book is a combination of the author’s memories as a prisoner at the Nazi Concentration Camps and an exposition on logotherapy– Frankl’s theory which posits that one is not motivated by pleasure, but by the pursuit of what is meaningful and fulfilling.

One-Sentence Review:
This tiny book cuts the bullshit on hope and positivity and shines a light on why a deeply defined sense of Meaning will shine a light through your darkest moments and keep you grounded when all the lights are on you.

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

“Great teams are not created with incentives, procedures, and perks. They are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want nothing more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what the challenge is.”

Author: Patty McCord
Genre: Leadership
Pages: 228

One-Sentence Synopsis:
The book offers a tactical perspective on how HR can positively impact business outcomes and is tied to the lessons learned by the author during her successful tenure at Netflix.

One-Sentence Review:
A Fascinating book as many of the policies developed by McCord and her team (along with Reed Hastings) have revolutionised how startups (and by extension, large corporations) think about culture, talent, and 21st century business pragmatism.

The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will Feel Better

“It would make my life a lot better to have a teleportation machine. It makes my life only slightly better to have a larger refrigerator that makes ice in cubed or crushed form.”

Author: Tyler Cowen
Genre: Economics
Pages: 120

One-Sentence Synopsis:
Is a correlation between state policies and the drop in real innovation- why an app to buy dog-food is great, but we are unable to find a cure for cancer; why global productivity statistics show an increase but its frameworks are logically flawed?

One-Sentence Review:
A fabulous little book to understand why innovation in the world of atoms is the need of the hour.

Anatomy of the State

“We may test the hypothesis that the State is largely interested in protecting itself rather than its subjects by asking: which category of crimes does the State pursue and punish most intensely — those against private citizens or those against itself?”

Author: Murray N. Rothbard
Genre: Politics
Pages: 62

One-Sentence Synopsis:
A very short book on what a State is and what it is not- how it operates under false covers and disrupts freedom, liberty and social cohesion.

One-Sentence Review:
I loved the Libertarian aspects of the work, but the shades of Anarchist thinking makes the work enjoyable yet forces you think differently then what’s conventionally offered to us to think about as citizens.

Note: I put out a Twitter Thread on the best lessons I learned from this book. You can check it out by clicking here.

The Crime of Reason: And the Closing of the Scientific Mind

“The right to learn is now aggressively opposed by intellectual property advocates, who want ideas elevated to the status of land, cars, and other physical assets so that their unauthorized acquisition can be prosecuted as theft.”

Author: Robert B. Laughlin
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 192

One-Sentence Synopsis: The Nobel Prize winning author tells us that in a world where creativity in the sciences are related to information and technology, forces in the Government and Private Enterprises are working in the shadows to usurp academic freedom.

One-Sentence Review:
Revelatory- it all seems to read like a massive conspiracy theory and the ramblings of the madman until you learn that when the author went looking into the University in search of fake science, found it, and was essentially cancelled; he lost funding and his graduate students couldn’t get PhDs.

What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence

“The best executives are made, not born. They absorb information, study their own experiences, learn from their mistakes, and evolve.”

Author: Stephen A. Schwarzman
Genre: Autobiography
Pages: 384

One-Sentence Synopsis:
The co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Blackstone’s memoir covers the major moments of his life and the lessons they have taught him.

One-Sentence Review:
The book is super-insightful on how to lead, work and operate at an exceptional level, yet is funnily self-congratulatory in a banker-sort-of-way.


One thing that stands out to me is the absence of fiction in my general reading diet, not just in this list alone. And that is going to be one of my goals for 2021- to be read three or four works of fiction. Baby steps, folks. 🙂

Reading stuff isn’t enough. The questions that follow are:

  1. How do you find out what’s valuable in a book?
  2. Do you know how an opinion is shaped by a book?
  3. Do you disagree with anything in a book?
  4. Is reading what everyone else around you is reading very valuable?
  5. How do you really find a super-insightful book?

Opinions to these questions are often whirlpool-ing serenely in a reader’s mind. Putting these opinions to words is the first step in the intellectual journey- transitioning from a reader to a thinker.

And in the spirit of that I also plan to write book reviews. Maybe one review, every month or something like that, but yes- it is happening.

Being alive is a privilege and we owe it to ourself to make the most of every second we are given. In the long run, being fulfilled and wise is just as important as being productive. Hell, I’d say that your ability to be fulfilled and wise boosts your ability to be productive. And when you combine fulfilment, wisdom, and productivity, that’s when you give your chance to really change the world.

I wish you the best as always and if you have your list of the best books you read in 202o drop the link you post or share your list in the comments section below.

You can connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn for more stuff like this

Have an awesome 2021.

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