20 Books for 2020

So many books, so little time. Books have the power to teach, educate, change lives, inspire and go much further than what you thought possible. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they transport you to a realm of limitless possibilities. Books can truly show you the way to a new life, a new you, and also a new way of seeing things. Many of us have a vision of our world and society entangled in stereotypes, inaccurate facts, and biased statistics. Here are a few books that have the power to expand your horizon and your life. For each book, I present a short summary and quickly explain why I recommend it. To see a book on Amazon, simply click on its cover image.

Disclaimer: I do not make any money from links included in this article. The links are only here to make it easy for you to check out the book if you’re interested.


1. The Art of Happiness

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and an increasingly popular speaker and statesman. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” How to get there has always been the question. He’s tried to answer it before, but he’s never had the help of a psychiatrist to get the message across in a context we can easily understand. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.

Why I recommend this book

I always tell myself I need to read this book again because it is so good, and I haven’t done it yet. It has opened my eyes and my heart to compassion and gratefulness, 2 values I was pretty ignorant about. I recommend this book a lot, because I really think it can have a positive impact on anybody’s life.

2. The Righteous Mind

Why can’t our political leaders work together as problems mount? Why do people assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.

Why I recommend this book

Because opinions may vary, but respect is important. If we all took the time to understand why we think differently than other people instead of taking the time to argue endlessly about things, the world would be a much better, happier and more productive place.

3. Factuflness

When asked simple questions about global trends such as why the world’s population is increasing, or how many young women go to school, how many of us live in poverty… we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers. In Factfulness, Hans Rosling (a man who can make data sing) together with his two long-time collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens, and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective.

Why I recommend this book

Simply because a lot of people have a very biased view of the world in general. We all live with stereotypes, assumptions and judgments, but some of them are more unhealthy/dangerous than others. This book does an amazing job at explaining how numbers/facts speak. The illustrations are great too.

4. Outliers: The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers” — the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band. Brilliant and entertaining, this book is a landmark work.

Why I recommend this book

We live in a world where we see a lot of the people who succeed, and very few of the people who fail. Not only that, but a lot of stories are presented as overnight successes, while it’s usually far from accurate. I think it’s really important to look at the other side of those stories, and this book does it in a great way.

5. The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Why I recommend this book

Because it has definitely helped me change some of my habits, and I believe it can help anyone who is willing to change too. This book is one of the top 5 who changed how I do things in my life.

6. Smarter Faster Better

Another book by Charles Duhigg. At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concept that explain why some people and companies get so much done. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioural economics, this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organisations don’t merely act differently. They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.

Why I recommend this book

Because it has great tips and tricks about productivity, and it’s the kind of content that keeps me going on the hard days.

7. Abundance

In Abundance, space entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis and science writer Steven Kotler document how progress in artificial intelligence, robotics and more, will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous 200 years. Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing, and it’s closing fast. The authors document how four forces are conspiring to solve our biggest problems. Abundance establishes hard targets for change and lays out a strategic roadmap for governments, industry and entrepreneurs, giving us plenty of reason for optimism.

Why I recommend this book

Because we live an age of chronic pessimism. This book presents solutions that can give you faith in a brighter future.

8. Bold

The “sequel” to Abundance. A radical, how-to guide for using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking, and crowd-powered tools to create extraordinary wealth while also positively impacting the lives of billions. Bold is both a manifesto and a manual. It is today’s exponential entrepreneur’s go-to resource on the use of emerging technologies, thinking at scale, and the awesome power of crowd-powered tools.

Why I recommend this book

Because this book a kick to the butt. It makes you want to come up with the next big thing, create amazing projects. It also has a ton of business ideas that can motivate you to go out on and start your own thing.

9. Why Nations Fail

This book answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine? Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny, and this book explains why.

Why I recommend this book

For a lot of the same reasons I recommend Factfulness. This book explains why the world is as it is through facts and history, not through clichés, stereotypes and biased views.

10. 168 Hours

There are 168 hours in a week. This is your guide to getting the most out of them. Vanderkam shows that with a little examination and prioritizing, you’ll find it is possible to sleep eight hours a night, exercise five days a week, take piano lessons, and write a novel without giving up quality time for work, family, and other things that really matter.

Why I recommend this book

This book literally changed the way I use manage my time and my life. The simple fact of managing your time in block of 168 hours (one week) instead of 24 hours (one day) is huge. This book is also in the top 5 books which changed my life.

11. The Geography of Bliss

Weiner undertakes a year’s research to travel the globe, looking for the “unheralded happy places.” Apparently, the happiest places on earth include Iceland, Bhutan, and India. But the question remains: What makes people happy? Is it the freedom of the West or the myriad restrictions of Singapore? The simple ashrams of India or the glittering shopping malls of Qatar? From the youthful drunkenness of Iceland to the despond of Slough (England), Weiner offers profound observations about the way people relate to circumstance and fate.

Why I recommend this book

Because (almost) everybody wants to be happy, and this book is all about happiness all over the world. Plus, I love Weiner’s dry British humor.

12. Shoe Dog

Knight, the man behind Nike, has always been a mystery. In Shoe Dog, he tells his story at last. At twenty-four, Knight decides that rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, new, dynamic, different. He details the many risks he encountered, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors and hostile bankers… Above all, he recalls the relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers. This book was part of Bill Gates’ top 5 reading list of 2016.

Why I recommend this book

I had always been reluctant to buy products from Nike. I stumbled upon this book around the same time I got into running, and realised I had no idea about the story behind the brand. Nowadays, Nike is a gold standard in the sports industry, but not a lot of people actually know how it all started. Phil Knight’s story is a great entrepreneurial journey, and a motivating one.

13. Steal Like an Artist

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put you directly in touch with your artistic side.

Why I recommend this book

Because it’s a great kick to the butt for anyone thinking of doing their own thing and not following the status quo. It’s a short and sweet book with great style and great illustrations. It gets into all the aspects of starting your own business, with just enough detail for you to want to find out more on your own.

14. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

Exposing the problems of popular “marketed” diets, Dr. Willett offers eye-opening research on the optimum ratio of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and the relative importance of various food groups and supplements. Find out how to choose wisely between different types of fats, which fruits and vegetables provide the best health insurance, and the proportions of each to integrate into your daily diet.

Why I recommend this book

Because good health is important, and we live in a world where healthy eating has become a business more than common sense. There are a ton of diets and “food legends” out there that make zero sense and can actually be harmful to the body. This book sets the record straight. Really dense, but worth it.

15. Wild

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. And she would do it alone.

Why I recommend this book

I read this book because I love hiking, being alone in nature, and that’s exactly what it is about. But beyond that, it is very deep and emotional. It’s a great true story of rebuilding oneself and deciding to go forward, making a hell of a lemonade even when life gives you a lot of lemons.

16. Daily Rituals

Mason Curry compiles together research on the morning rituals of 161 inspired, and inspiring minds. Among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.

Why I recommend this book

I absolutely love mornings, and that’s what this book is all about. I actually always wonder why the author didn’t title it “Morning Rituals”. Reading about the mornings of some of the most creative and innovative minds in history is really motivating. Read this at night before going to bed, you’ll want to wake up at 5am to start the day early the next morning.

17. Rework

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you’ll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. This book shows you the way. You’ll learn how to be more productive, how to get exposure without breaking the bank, and tons more counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you.

Why I recommend this book

I’m a big believer in remote work and bootstrapping. This book gets to the point and is super easy to read. It might convince you to negotiate remote work time with your boss, because you probably should.

18. Bad Blood

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup promised to revolutionise the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work. For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees.

Why I recommend this book

Because it is a great example of how greed and too much power/money can have a dramatic impact on innocent people’s lives.

19. The Path

Why is a course on ancient Chinese philosophers one of the most popular at Harvard? It’s because the course challenges all our modern assumptions about what it takes to flourish. Professor Michael Puett says to his students, “The encounter with these ideas will change your life.” You can open yourself up to possibilities you never imagined were even possible. In other words, The Path upends everything we are told about how to lead a good life. Above all, unlike most books on the subject, its most radical idea is that there is no path to follow in the first place — just a journey we create anew at every moment by seeing and doing things differently.

Why I recommend this book

Because I love the parallels Puett makes between our Occidental culture and the Oriental one. He does a great job at showing the different interpretations 2 cultures make of the same problematic, desire, emotion…

20. Running with the Kenyans

Whether running is your recreation, your religion, or just a spectator sport, Adharanand Finn’s incredible journey to the elite training camps of Kenya will captivate and inspire you. Part travelogue, part memoir, this mesmerising quest to uncover the secrets of the world’s greatest runners and put them to the test combines practical advice, a fresh look at barefoot running, and hard-won spiritual insights.

Why I recommend this book

I love running, and it fascinates me how very few humans can run a marathon in a little more than 2 hours, running faster than I go on my bike. This book is a study on this, done through traveling, which I also love. It’s also a great motivator to go out for a run.

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