I will keep this short and sweet. Reading has been my escape in 2020. In quarantine poetry tethered me to nature as we lacked the ability to hike, spiritual books replaced sermons, and fictional books kept me connected. Through the craziness of 2020 reading was one of the few constants in my life. It rooted me with new ideas, worlds, and characters that helped me better understand the chaos around me. Even though I fell short of my desire to read 70 books this year, I realized that reading is no longer a goal for me… its how I engage with the vastness of this world.
1. My friend Andrew Ferro and I started a book club during 2020 getting through 4 books.
2. 32 of the 68 books read came as recommendations from friends and colleagues.
3. I dove into poetry like never before. 4 books and countless individual stanzas.
As I look forward to 2021 I want to take it slower by engaging with the literature that makes me laugh, cry, and think. The focus will be around biographies and fiction that have pulled my interest over the years. Biographers such as Walter Isaacson and David McCullough. Fiction epics like Dune, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and Harry Potter. My schedule to read will not be set by accomplishment but by enjoyment.
Top Ten Books:
1 & 2. American Primitive, Dog Song, (Most of) Devotions by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver above any poet was the most impactful writer for me in 2020. I first discovered her through Thirst in 2019. This lead me to read two of her other collections and end the year working through her combination of works titled Devotions. Her work is simple yet emotionally piercing. I would encouraging everyone to grab a collection of any of her work. Below I share not my favorite poem by Mary but the poem that help transport me to a simpler time.
When I was growing up we had several raspberry and blackberry bushes around our fire pit. During August we would gather and start a fire knowing that all we had to do was lean back and pluck the berries off the bush… there is the happy heart and tongue.
When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend
all day among the high
my ripped arms, thinking
of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body
accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
the thick paw of my life darting among
the black bells, the leaves; there is
the happy tongue.”
3. Red Notice by Bill Browder
Red Notice was my favorite non-fiction book of 2020. It details the rise and fall of free markets in Russia over the past several decades. Bill details his riveting and emotional journey through Russian markets after the fall of the USSR. Its a story of high finance, politics, law, and social order. Anyone in business needs to read this book.
4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Look up Bryan Stevenson and learn about his life. Bryan Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School but instead of cashing in he started a free legal clinic for inmates on death row in Alabama and Georgia. Through his work he has single handedly changed the legal precedent for thousands of inmates in the US. This book only scratches the surface of his work and the brokenness of our criminal justice system. Just Mercy shook me to my core.. yet it give me hope as I became aware that people like Bryan Stevenson are battling for the least of these.
5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck has slowly become my favorite American author. Of Mice and Men was simply the most enjoyable piece of fiction I read this year. I read it while backpacking around Ouray Colorado which added to the mental landscape of the book.
6. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
This books is the most comprehensive resource on how sleep, or the lack thereof, effects our health. It was very impactful for me in 2020 and helped me in conversations with friends as we all dealt with the stress of 2020. This book is not a must read but is worth a review to better understand Why We Sleep!
7. Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
Have you ever thought about how the universe will take shape over time? What is at the center of all galaxies? These are some of the big questions Olaf tackles in this science fiction piece. It was not a fun book to read but I thought about it often once completed. It details out the birth, life, and death of stars. These stars provide life and subsequent death to all life through out the universe.
8. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
This review of Warren Buffets life was a fun read. The only downside was it felt overly detailed at times for someone that is still living. You learn that Warren can only eat basic American food even though he is the king of high finance you wont see him eating a plate of sushi. The most interesting part for me was reviewing his friendship with Bill Gates.
9. Harry Potter: Books 1–3 by J.K. Rowling
When I mention reading Harry Potter to just about anyone the response I get is passionate if not exuberant. No other book has sparked such responses on a consistent bases. My only conclusion is that Harry Potter embodies the millennial generation like no other book series. Harry and his slew of friends are brave, impulsive, talented, and above all else caring. Most of them are misfits or rejects yet they are forced into a impossible situation, stop the Dark Lord from conquering the wizard world. This is not only a impossible task but its overshadowed by the death of Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom parents. This ever increasing dark world has yet to take full form as I will be reading books 4–7 this year.
10. Greenlight by Matthew McConaughey (Audible)
Matthew McConaughey might be the best story teller of our generation. This book was by far the most entertaining thing I listened to or read all year. It made me laugh and think! The Audible is narrated by Matthew which adds so much life to the book. Anyone that wants to read this book needs to get the Audible vs hard copy.
List of Books Read:
A High Impact Life: Love your Purpose, Live with Passion, Leverage your Platform — Pete Ochs
A Spirituality of Fundraising — Henri J.M. Nouwen
A Visit from the Goon Squad — Jennifer Egan
Adam: God’s Beloved — Henri J.M. Nouwen
American Primitive — Mary Oliver
Americanah — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Becoming — Michelle Obama
Blue Like Jazz — Donald Miller
Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World — Peter H. Diamandis
Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants — Malcolm Gladwell
Day In, Day Out: The Secret Power in Showing Up and Doing the Work — Nicholas Dancer
Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You — Bill Burnett
Dog Songs — Mary Oliver
Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference — William MacAskill
Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery — Scott Kelly
Farming, a Hand Book — Wendell Berry
Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography — Richard Branson
Grace Behind Bars: An Unexpected Path to True Freedom — Bo Mitchell
Greenlights — Matthew McConaughey
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3) — J.K. Rowling
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis — J.D. Vance
I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life — Brad Formsma
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership — Henri J.M. Nouwen
Jayber Crow — Wendell Berry
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption — Bryan Stevenson
Letters to a Young Poet — Rainer Maria Rilke
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention — Manning Marable
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster — Adam Higginbotham
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything — Joshua Foer
My Friend is Sad — Mo Willems
Of Mice and Men — John Steinbeck
One Blood: A Parting Word to the Church on Race — John M. Perkins
Outliers: The Story of Success — Malcolm Gladwell
People of the Book — Geraldine Brooks
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination — Toni Morrison
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice — Bill Browder
Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon — Craig Nelson
Rooting for Rivals: How Collaboration and Generosity Increase the Impact of Leaders, Charities, and Churches — Peter Greer
Star Maker — Olaf Stapledon
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know — Malcolm Gladwell
That Hideous Strength (The Space Trilogy, #3) — C.S. Lewis
The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do about It — Warrem Farrell
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears — Mark Batterson
The Day I Became a Floating Bubble of Awareness — David Lloyd
The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People — Gary Chapman
The Five People You Meet in Heaven — Mitch Albom
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers — Ben Horowitz
The Help — Kathryn Stockett
The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics — Michael Bennet
The Lost Shipwreck of Paul — Robert Cornuke
The Message of Mark — Donald English
The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America — Gabe Lyons
The Nickel Boys — Colson Whitehead
The Retroactivist — Nate Ragolia
The Second Bounce of the Ball: Turning Risk Into Opportunity — Ronald Cohen
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life — Alice Schroeder
The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead — Eugene B. Habecker
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference — Malcolm Gladwell
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds — Michael Lewis
Things Fall Apart — Chinua Achebe
When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man — Jerry Weintraub
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism — Robin DiAngelo
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams — Matthew Walker
You’re Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life — Bill Rancic
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Phaedrus, #1) — Robert M. Pirsig
1. Trapped in Iran by Nicolas Pelham with The Economist 1843 Magazine.
2. What Liberals Get Wrong About Work by Michael Sandel with The Atlantic
3. Abstract: Immigration and Entrepreneurship in the United States with Northwestern Kellogg School of Management