The 2020 Booklist Challenge I Made with Myself.
But like a good workout, the first few minutes are always the toughest. Once you get going, the value of reading presents itself. I become immersed in the author’s story. I am transported out of my own life and begin seeing the world from a different lens. The ‘a-ha’ moments start racking up and my horizons become expanded.
Reading builds empathy and understanding. It is a superpower.
In 2018 I started the Strong and Free Podcast as an attempt to create more balance in our discourse. To facilitate its development and for me to be a better host, I knew I had to read more. It would help me become informed, ask better questions and showcase empathy in trying to understand someone else’s perspective. Thus I put out this goal so that everyone can see:
The results were not what I expected. I did not achieve a balance between male and female authors, nor did I read enough books representing opinions I disagreed with. My booklist was overwhelmingly by male authors and I tended to gravitate to books that were popping up on my radar instead of sticking to my goals.
That said, I had never read as voraciously as I have in 2020. I found myself to be quieter, learning as much as I possibly could and putting aside my own bias to fully understand what the author is trying to convey.
Here are the books I read in 2020.
Books (In no Particular Order)
- Charlotte B. Beyer — Wealth Management UnwrappedAshvin B. Chhabra — The Aspirational Investor
- Dan Gallagher — Secrets of Successful Financial Planning
- John C. Maxwell — How Successful People Think
- Malik Johnson — Secrets to Intermittent Fasting
- James Nestor — Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
- Walter Isaacson — Einstein
- Walter Isaacson — Leonardo Da Vinci
- Nancy Isenberg — White Trash
- Ian Kershaw — Hitler
- Ayan Hirsi Ali — Heretic
- Caroline Criado Perez — Invisible Woman
- Bell Hooks — Feminism is for Everybody
- Sarah McBride — Tomorrow Will Be Different
- Iljeoma Oluo — So You Want to Talk About Race
- Margot Shetterly — Hidden Figures
- Peter Frankopan — The New Silk Roads
- Mark Jaccard — The Citizens’ Guide to Climate Success
- Douglas Murray — The Strange Death of Europe
- Bill Nye — Unstoppable
- Thomas Sowell — Wealth, Poverty and Politics
- Jessica Stern — ISIS
- Sun Tzu — Art of War
- Paul Krugman — Conscience of a Liberal
- Charles Murray — Coming Apart
- Steven Pinker — Enlightenment Now
- Thomas Sowell — Discrimination and Disparities
- Ricky Atkinson: The Life and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson
- Roy Baumeister — Willpower
- Viktor Frankl — Man’s Search for Meaning
- Atul Gawande — The Checklist Manifesto
- Daniel Kahneman — Thinking Fast and Slow
- Stanely McChrystal — Team of Teams
- Barbara Oakley — A Mind for Numbers
- Benjamin Perron — Overdose: Heartbreak and Triumph in Canada’s Opioid Crisis
- William Zinsser — On Writing Well
What I Learned
Interestingly enough, I found if you want to learn about a given topic, it helps to read something completely different. If you want to understand the economy, read Nature books. It may seem counterintuitive, but when I was reading Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds, I learned how efficient and intelligent these animals are. Birds are highly adaptable to any environment and can make nearly any corner of earth their home. This ability, as Bruce Lee famously said, to be like water is what makes this species survive even the most challenging predicaments. And if 2020 has not forced us to adapt, what will? If you’re a Chief Economist for a major bank, understanding adaptability is critical to your role.
Second, books that are highly praised are partly due to the authors’ ability to lay out the evidence against their point in a coherent manner. If readers see that an author has considered the very best evidence against what the purpose of their book is, it will be a worthwhile venture. Likewise, authors who distort or demonize arguments against their opinion come across as harsh and too aggressive.
Finally, a good read should be appealing to all across the spectrum. Anyone, regardless of knowledge on a topic should be able to read and feel engaged. Some authors lose me with references that only those in their specific professions would understand.
While 2020 presented its challenges, there are still many things within our control. Picking up a book can expand our horizons and perhaps be one of the greatest investments we can make in ourselves. After all, the world needs empathy now more than ever.