Documenting the books I read (or listened to) in 2020, along with ratings and 1–2 sentence reviews. 24 this year. Less than I hoped for since I listened to a lot fewer audiobooks after a back injury sidelined me from running for part of the year. Did end up reading a lot about back injuries, and ultimately having back surgery. If anyone is struggling with back issues, happy to be a resource (and have some good book recommendations on this below).
Non — Business/Finance
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage ★★★★★ One of the best books I have ever read. Absolutely incredible story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew. I don’t think anyone is tougher or more impressive than these people. If you have not read this book, read it now.
- The Fox Is Crazy Too ★★★★★ This book is out of print and somewhat difficult to get, but find yourself a copy and buy it — you won’t regret it. Unbelievable story of one of the most interesting men ever. Numerous bank robberies, skyjackings, tricking a stripper into thinking she married you in order to get a plane….that’s just a sample of what you get in this book.
- Run Gently Out There ★★★★★ The musing of a lifelong ultramarathoner. Not an elite racer, just a lifelong runner. If you are a long-distance runner, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this book.
- Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America ★★★ Series of interviews with under-privileged people in left behind communities across America. A good first-hand account of the other side that many of us don’t really know.
Business & Finance
- The Infinite Machine: How an Army of Crypto-Hackers Is Building the Next Internet with Ethereum ★★★★★ Great history of crypto with a focus on Ethereum. Highly entertaining, and even more so if you have been in crypto for a while and were at some of the events described. Must read for anyone in crypto.
- 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy ★★★★ After hearing Patrick O’Shannessy repeatedly talk about this book on his podcast, finally read it. One of the best books I have read on building sustainable competitive differentiation. (Btw, 7 Powers are: Scale Economies, Network Economics, Counter Positioning, Switching Costs, Branding, Cornered Resource, and Process Power)
- Money: The Unauthorized Biography ★★★★ Very interesting history of money going from the Island of Yap to recent times. Is very relevant to thinking about crypto. If you are interested in the history of money, this and “Debt, The First 5,000 Years” are both recommended. Key takeaway: Money is a social construct.
- Kings of Crypto: One Startup’s Quest to Take Cryptocurrency Out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street ★★★★ The history of Coinbase — entertaining and informative, particuarly with their pending IPO. Gives a good look at many of the Coinbase personalities who are now household names (if you live in a crypto household).
- The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King ★★★★ Out of all the startup / business stories I read this year, this one was by far the craziest. Story of someone who came from nothing, built an empire, and overthrew a Central American government when they got in his way.
- Invested: Changing Forever the Way Americans Invest ★★★★ As as investor in companies including M1 Finance, Tradingview, and Personal Capital, I became very interested in how the first generation of discount brokerages built their businesses. This was a excellent read about how Charles Schwab (the man) build Schwab (the company) — by bringing investing to the middle class, carving out a unique and differentiated position in the market, and riding out significant ups and downs along the journey.
- The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get: An Entrepreneur’s Memoir ★★★★ I continued my education on the history of discount brokerage with the story of how Tom Rickets build Ameritrade. While I got more out of “Invested”, I appreciated the authenticity of Tom Rickets describing both his successes and the many mistakes he made along the way.
- Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber ★★★★ Wildly entertaining history of Uber. After reading, I exclusively use Lyft.
- Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal ★★★★ Another entertaining startup story, interesting due to all to pivots and power struggles throughout Twitter’s history. Doesn’t paint Jack Dorsey in a great light, which was a surprise.
- Keeping at It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government ★★★★ Life story of Paul Volcker — a high integrity and principled man committed to doing the right thing to build strong government institutions. Wish there were more people like Paul Volcker in government right now.
- The Grapes of Wrath ★★★★★ Extremely well written story about a family seeking a better life during the Great Depression. Listened to this around April of this year when I thought we were headed for the next Great Depression. I will never forget the harrowing feeling I got while listening to this book while running through the streets of downtown Chicago and looking around at all of the stores boarded up.
- Atlas Shrugged ★★★★★ Finally got around to reading this libertarian classic, and was not disappointed. The story of what can happen when government is allowed to run amuck hit close to home with some of the calls to break up tech giants and increasingly bloated government spending.
- The China Study ★★★★ The most comprehensive and in-depth scientific research I have found on the impacts of eating meat. The conclusion — a whole food, plant-based diet is proven to reduce the risk of most serious ailments.
- Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat ★★★ Insightful behind the scenes look at the meat industry and one man’s journey from being a cattle rancher to a vegetarian. Not as good as “Eating Animals” which I think is an excellent and balanced look at the decision to eat meat, or the “China Study”, which is much more deeply rooted in science.
Health (Back Injuries)
- Back Mechanic ★★★★ If you are having back issues, start here for a program to treat your own back.
- Do You Really Need Back Surgery? ★★★★ If thinking about surgery, this is the go-to guide. I think the right answer for most people is to avoid surgery, but for me, this helped clarify that it was time to go under the knife.
- I’ve Got Your Back: The Truth About Spine Surgery, Straight From a Surgeon ★★★ Similar to the one above, but not quite as good. If you are considering surgery, probably worth reading both though.
- Gift of Injury ★★ Story of a professional weightlifter who recovered from serious back injuries without surgery. Some good takeaways for people looking to recover from back injuries and avoid surgery, and probably a great read if you happen to be a weightlifter.
- Treat Your Own Back ★★ Short book on the McKenzie Method of back treatment. It’s a well known method used by physical therapists, but I did not find particuarly helpful.
- Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance ★ By the author of “Back Mechanic” and “Gift of Injury”, this is supposed to be his book targeted at physical therapists. However, I found it was mostly filler and was tough to get through. Could be a good resource if it was 1/3rd of the length.
Started these, but they couldn’t hold my attention long enough to get through them:
- Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism
- Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies
- The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy
- This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
- America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve
- The Execution Factor: The One Skill that Drives Success
That’s it for 2020. Hoping that 2021 brings a year of health, a return to ultrarunning, and the hours of Audible that it enables.