2020 was a strange year for everyone. I’m not going to rehash the events for you – there are enough thinkpieces out there already. But I do want to share the best books I read over the course of the year. There’s something here for everyone: entertainment, knowledge, music, sports, wealth, self-improvement, and more. Without further ado, here are my 2020 book recommendations.
2020 Book Recommendations
Musashi was hands down the best book I read this year. It’s an epic, fictionalized tale about Miyamoto Musashi, the famous Japanese samurai. Besides being highly entertaining, it’ll leave you looking at life, especially self-improvement, differently. If you’re a fan of epics, I can’t recommend this book more highly. I recently bought Eiji Yoshikawa’s other novel Taiko and am excited to read it in 2021.
I’m a sucker for good sports writing and this certainly hit all my weaknesses – an all-time rivalry (Federer-Nadal is on the same level as Ali-Frazier, Lakers-Celtics, etc), high stakes (2008 Wimbledon Final), great characters, and strong writing. If you’ve read Levels of the Game by John McPhee or Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam, you’ll enjoy this.
The oil industry (and energy in general) is such a foundational part of modern history and life, far more than we can even imagine. I was curious to understand how the oil industry came into being and after some research, came across The Prize. This is definitely a history book but reads like narrative non-fiction. It also helps that the oil industry had some WILD characters, like Calouste Gulbenkian (please read his wiki page). I did a thread about this book back in March, which you can check out here.
Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap by Ben Westhoff
This is such a fun book, especially if you’re into rap. While I’ve been a long time fan of artists like Snoop Dogg, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, etc, I wasn’t aware of their history, early lives, artistic journeys, influences, and relationships with each other. Westhoff does a good job weaving the history of Los Angeles and surrounding areas like Compton into the story – since the two are intimately connected. For example, the L.A. riots in 1992 were a huge influence on artists and music itself.
A random fact I learned from this book that I can’t help sharing: George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush lived in Compton at one point 🤯
I’ve been following and listening to Naval Ravikant since his Venture Hacks days. He’s a highly accomplished entrepreneur and investor and has been through a lot (just look up his bio). He also gives out a lot of advice for free on Twitter, blogs, and podcasts. That’s why I was originally skeptical about this book, which is basically a collection of advice he’s given out previously.
Despite my skepticism, it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the year! Getting advice through random tweets and blog posts is fine but there’s something really powerful in how the author organized this book. Some themes in this book: time, wealth, purpose, habits, relationships, leverage, and more. There’s a lot to digest and a lifetime worth of wisdom in here. I fully expect to re-read this book in 2021 and beyond.
Kobe Bryant’s death early in the year (hard to believe that happened in 2020 too…) came out of nowhere. It hit me kind of hard, in part because of similar things happening in my own life and partially because it felt like I (along with everyone else in my generation) had grown up with Kobe. His book had been on my list for awhile and Kobe’s tragic death inspired me to finally read it. The book does not disappoint. You can read my detailed notes about The Mamba Mentality here. I also wrote some raw notes the night he died, which you can find here.
I lumped these books together because together, they made me rethink business and entrepreneurship, in particular how business connects to the lifestyle I want to live. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy (and very common) to pay yourself last – but too often, this ends with you creating a job in which you work harder than ever before while making less money. What’s the point of that? “But you get to be your own boss!” is what a lifelong employee would say. Unless you have a trust fund, being broke with no boss isn’t going to be fun for long. Profit First is a granular guide in how to be a profitable business owner. The Parallel Entrepreneur helps you think about how to build a portfolio of multiple profitable businesses. I’d also recommend taking Ryan Kulp’s Microacquisitions course in tandem with reading these books. It’s excellent and a powerful combination of ideas.
That’s it for my 2020 book recommendations! If you read something great last year that you think I’d enjoy, you can contact me here. To get my monthly (ish) book and article recommendations, sign up for my newsletter.