My 2020 Reading List

These are the books I read during the Year of COVID

I enjoy reading. It’s not only part of my life, it’s part of my life’s work; as a writer and content developer, reading and learning and growing is an essential part of what I do on a daily basis.

Because of that, I tend to set a hefty reading goal each year. Normally, I don’t set a numeric goal because I don’t want my reading to simply become a numbers chase. I usually pick a theme that drives my selections and helps me with my personal growth.

Since my word for last year was “Expertise,” I chose books that would either help me develop my professional skills or help me develop greater spiritual and emotional awareness. Some books were just for fun, to reacquaint me with my love of reading or my love of a good plot twist or turn of phrase. Other books were to stretch my thinking and challenge me to look at the world through a different lens.

All told, I ended up reading 53 books in 2020. There are other books I started, but I don’t count them as read unless I get at least halfway through them. It’s just my personal rule.

So what did I read? Here’s the complete list, in no particular order, with the occasional comment on specific books.

  1. Built Not Born by Tom Golisano.
  2. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.
  3. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. I loved this book. It’s a much needed call for American capitalism and business to wake up from its profit-driven fever dream and remember that you need the people you’re selling to.
  4. Hemingway on Writing edited by Larry Phillips. Good book for quotes, not necessarily a helpful “how-to” on the craft.
  5. Light the Dark edited by Joe Fassler.
  6. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Lots of people love this book, and you can add me to their number. Haven’t read anything as engaging since I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
  7. Writing that Works by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson.
  8. The Scenic Route by Tavis Taylor. Tavis is a local entrepreneur and single mom who has an inspiring personal story, told compellingly in this memoir.
  9. How to be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi.
  10. The Sacketts, Volume 2 by Louis L’amour. This is an anthology of twelve of L’amour’s classic Western novels, featuring The Daybreakers, Lando, Sackett, Mojave Crossing, The Sackett Brand, The Sky-Liners, The Lonely Men, Mustang Man, Galloway, Treasure Mountain, Ride the Dark Trail, and Lonely on the Mountain. For me, these are comfort reads that take me back to my teenage years when there was nothing better than a good book about mountain-bred Southerners trying to make their way in the world with their hands, values, and quick use of a pistol.
  11. The Marvel Story by Charles and Stephanie Wetzel. Charlie happens to be my writing mentor and a good friend, so it was a joy to walk with him as he brought this book to life. Seeing his and Stephanie’s names on the cover was among some of my best moments in 2020. If you’re a comic nerd or love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you need to read this book; it’s a thorough history of one of the 21st century’s most influential entertainment companies.
  12. The 180 Revolution by Rick Ruperto.
  13. FOR by Jeff Henderson. Another book that makes a compelling case for why businesses need to quit taking their customers for granted.
  14. The Leader’s Greatest Return by John Maxwell.
  15. Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? by Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
  16. Deep Work by Cal Newport.
  17. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
  18. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. Obviously I went on a bit of a Newport run this year, but all three books were excellent. If I had to recommend only one, it would be Deep Work because it is an examination of a missing component in much of our corporate spaces today: the ability to really focus on and complete meaningful work.
  19. Think, Learn, Succeed by Dr. Caroline Leaf.
  20. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. Sadly, this is the first time I picked up one of Sedaris’ essay collections, as opposed to just reading various pieces from him online. Alternately tragic and hilarious, this book is worth the time for the laughs it yields.
  21. Hope Rises by Dr. Randy Ross.
  22. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. Another comfort read for me. I absolutely love Phillip Marlowe as a character and am infatuated with the world that Chandler created for his hero. One of my first books was a short story anthology called Bulldawg that was my attempt at an homage-slash-blatant-ripoff of the Marlowe mythology.
  23. Atomic Habits by James Clear.
  24. God’s Ways Work in Business by Steve Dulin and Don Yaeger. This is one of a handful of books that I read that were still in the submission stage. But it will find a home for publication, and when it does, it will be a must-read for any person of faith seeking wise counsel on growing a healthy and faith-honoring business.
  25. Facing Fear by Nik Wallenda and Don Yaeger.
  26. The Advantage by Pat Lencioni. One of the best business books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a bunch of them.
  27. Pictures of God by Collin Sewell. Another book submission I was privileged to read, Sewell does an amazing job of presenting a compelling case for his Christian faith.
  28. The Undervalued Self by Elaine Aron.
  29. Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens.
  30. Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner. One of my all-time favorite books on the Christian faith, this book is full of amazing quotes and thought-provoking ideas on how the message of Jesus is equal parts tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale.
  31. Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump. One of the few political books I read this year. I’ll leave it at that.
  32. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines.
  33. Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines.
  34. Millennials by Brett Dillon. Brett is an entrepreneur and thought leader, and this brief book does an excellent job of explaining how the misunderstood Millennial generation can be the key to explosive growth for your business.
  35. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  36. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. The classic locked room murder mystery except the room is an entire island.
  37. The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. A very interesting book examining the “safety” culture that has invaded some college campuses and resulted in a volatile academic environment with far-reaching consequences for business, life, and the future of America.
  38. Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets by Andy Stanley.
  39. What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. The other political book that I read this year, and it’s an uplifting reflection on what makes America great.
  40. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
  41. Change Your World by John Maxwell and Rob Hoskins. I saved this one for last because I was part of the writing team that helped bring the book to life, and it was one of the best experiences of my writing career. That’s also why this is the only book I linked to. This book releases everywhere on January 26th, and I believe it is the book we need for the moment in which we find ourselves. With trust in one another — our fellow humans, our leadership, our governments, and other institutions — at an all time low, our world is ripe for falling into despair or coming together in transformation. This book is a hands-on practical field guide for how ANYONE can bring transformation to their community and do their part to make the world a better place. Instead of cursing the darkness, we can be a light and this book will lead the way.

So there you have it: my 2020 reading list. I’m already one book in on my 2021 list and my theme for the year is “Presence.” If you have a suggestion for a book you think would fit that theme, please leave a comment and let me know.

Otherwise, I’d love to read your comments on the books you read in 2020 and which ones left their mark on you.

Writer. Observer. Humorist.

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