What do you do when your mother gives you a book recommendation? You read it, of course.
I don’t get a lot of book recommendations from my mom. One of the last ones that I remember getting was Boys in the Boat, which I enjoyed. So when I get a recommendation from her, I take it seriously.
The most recent recommendation I got was for Giving It All Away…and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously by David Green. If you don’t know who David Green, don’t be ashamed. I didn’t know who he was either until I started reading the book.
In 2018, I added a daily reading to my morning routine. I read The Daily Stoic, which had a short passage by an ancient Greek or Roman Stoic philosopher, followed by a written summary that provided more insight into the passage. It was similar to a daily devotional, although it was more secular than spiritual in nature.
For 2019, I decided to read a ‘true’ daily devotional. I’ve always wanted to read, learn, and understand more about The Bible, and a devotional seemed like a good way to get started. I chose Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which was recommended to me by a close business associate.
As I like to do every year, here are my book recommendations for you to consider adding to your 2020 reading list. I like to break the recommendations into sections – general recommendations, personal development, business reads, and fun reads.
I read 32 books in 2019, which is more than I usually read. For some reason, the books leaned more towards non-fiction, so this year’s list will be a bit light on the fiction side. I’m planning to read a more balanced selection of books in 2020, which I addressed when creating my reading list for this year.
Here are this year’s recommendations:
When I was growing up, my parents taught me to be wary of strangers. “Don’t take candy from strangers” was ingrained in my memory. My parents also taught me to avoid dark alleys and the areas of town where danger lurked. They taught me how to stay safe in the real world.
While I’ve passed those lessons on to my children, a new danger has emerged. It’s the danger of the online world, of surfing the internet. It affects all of us, both young and old.
Criminals, who are always looking for ways to exploit weaknesses, have moved online to carry out their nefarious activities. Not only are the weaknesses easier to exploit on the internet, they are also easier to scale. In the real world, a thief has to rob a person or a store one at a time to make their money. They take the risk of doing it face-to-face hiding behind a mask. In the online world, a thief can write a script that can steal the credit card information for thousands of people at one time. The internet makes it easy for them to hide their identity and cover their tracks. They can also carry out their attacks from anywhere in the world, which can make it difficult to bring them to justice in the countries where the victims are located.
In Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World, Marc Goodman looks at how criminals are carrying out their online attacks, the risks posed by future technology, and what can we do to improve online security now and in the future.
Each year around this time, I dust off my master reading list, review, organize, and prioritize it for the coming year. There are currently 230 books on my master list, so it took a little effort this year to rearrange it into the subset of books you’ll find here.
I usually read around 25-30 books a year. According to GoodReads, which I use to manage my reading lists, I read 32 books in 2019. However, to be fair, 4 of these were short stories, and 1 was my daily devotional. Still yet, 27 books read is a good year for me.
I added 34 books books to my master reading list in 2019, which is an improvement since I usually add a lot more. I tried to be more disciplined about adding books than in the past. There have been years where I’ve added over 50 books. So the master list only grew by a couple this year, rather than the usual 15-20.
For the coming year, I used the same process as I have in years past to prioritize my annual list and narrow it down to the 50 or so candidates you see below, with one slight adjustment. I know this is far more than the 25-30 books I typically read in a year, but I like to have a buffer just in case my reading pace is faster than usual.
Let’s start with the selection parameters for the list.
One of my favorite books from last year was The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. It’s similar to a daily devotional. There is a passage for each day from an ancient Stoic philosopher, such as Marcus Aureilius, Seneca, and Epcitetus, followed by a short interpretation of it. I liked it so much that I decided to read through it a second time this year with The Daily Stoic Journal. I had wanted to start journaling daily, and this was a good way to kick-start the habit. The Journal has a prompt that follows along with the daily reading to inspire and direct my thoughts and writings.
Ryan Holiday has written other books based upon Stoic philosophies as well. Since I enjoyed his work on The Daily Stoic, I decided to read Ego Is the Enemy.
One of my favorite books from 2018, and one of my top reads for 2019, was The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. There was so many important and essential takeaways that could be readily applied to living both a better and more successful life. As I wrote in my review (linked above), it really helped to connect the dots and codify a lot of personal development concepts that I had been studying over the past few years. The book made such an impact that I made it a point to read Burg and Mann’s follow-up book, The Go-Giver Leader, during this year.
While getting my MBA, a professor told us that we should get our news from multiple sources. Why? Because each editor has an opinion, a story they want to tell, a way of interpreting the facts and presenting them.
I can apply the same argument to books, particularly personal development books. I’ve read enough books in this genre to recognize that many of the books cover the same concepts. However, each author has their own way of interpreting, presenting, and applying them. The way one author presents a topic can resonate much better with me than the way another author presents it.
Where am I going with this?
It applies to one of my latest reads, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. According to McKeown, essentialism is the practice of focusing on and doing fewer things to make progress on what matters most. Since I’ve recently read Eat That Frog!, Getting Things Done, and the 80/20 Principle, Essentialism seems like it would be more of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol – get organized, de-clutter, prioritize, focus, achieve results.
Turn on the evening news, and you will be overwhelmed with the tragic events of the day:
- Terrorist attacks
- Horrific storms and natural disasters
- War, or the imminent threat of one
- Mass shootings
- School violence
- Animal attacks (e.g. sharks, bears, lions, etc.)
And the list goes on. It’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that the world is a lot more dangerous, unsafe, and scarier than it’s ever been.
If you subscribe to the premise that the world is a more dangerous place, you should grab a copy of Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Rosling takes a measured, fact-based approach to show that the world is not as dangerous as the media would lead us to believe. Using numbers and statistics, he shows us that the world has never been a better and safer place than it is today.