My Year in Books
Going into the year 2020, I had set a personal goal to read 52 books throughout the year. I set this goal because I wanted to push myself to complete one book for every week out of the year. I was excited about this goal because although I love reading, I hadn’t been allocating much time to it due to my studies. This goal created a silver lining from COVID-19 because the pandemic freed up lots of time to read and I took full advantage of that. As 2020 comes to a close, I am currently at 63 books that I have completed. All of these books were read from physical books (I’m not a big audiobook guy) and I took detailed notes on 43 of them. When I was reminiscing on the books from this year, I thought it would be fun to throw together a list of my top ten most impactful reads. These are ten books I would highly recommend to any reader and I would be more than happy to lend someone my personal copy. For each of the top ten, I included a brief description along with my biggest takeaway from the book. I have also listed all the books I read in 2020, in case you are looking for some ideas for 2021. Enjoy!
1) Man’s Search for Meaning
Author: Victor Frankl
Description: In this impactful read, Victor Frankl takes the reader along his journey surviving the Nazi concentration camps. From the story of his experience, Frankl shares several insightful and profound viewpoints on the meaning in one’s life. He explores his theory of logotherapy outlining how humans can find meaning in work, in love, or through courage in hardships.
Biggest Takeaway: “When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves.” Although thrust into the death camps during the Holocaust, Frankl learned how he still maintained one final freedom, his outlook on the situation. Regardless of how badly he was treated, he could control his outlook. I applied this invaluable lesson during the pandemic on a routine basis. Although COID-19 took many things from us such as loved ones, trips, experiences, etc…the one thing it cannot take from us is our outlook on life and the future.
2) Can’t Hurt Me
Author: David Goggins
Description: This book takes you through the life story of arguably the world’s toughest man, David Goggins. Through his life story, Goggins shares a series of tactical advice and tools he has leveraged throughout his life to tackle the toughest challenges. From running 100 mile races to breaking the world record for pull-ups in 24 hours, Goggin’s achievements and the mindset he developed to achieve them are bound to be invaluable for any person regardless of their position or occupation.
Biggest Takeaway: Cookie Jar Concept: When facing life’s toughest challenges, think back to all of the tough things you’ve already done in life. Goggins utilizes this technique when facing an apparent obstacle to remind himself of the challenges he already has overcome. This technique seems small and insignificant, but can make a world of difference on the toughest days.
Author: Marcus Aurelius
Description: Although written several thousands years ago, Meditations continues to dispense timeless wisdom from one of the greatest Stoics to ever live. The book is composed of journal entries that Marcus wrote to himself and contains some of the greatest lessons on humility and how to live the best life that you possibly can. I firmly believe that it is a must read for any serious reader.
Biggest Takeaway: Honestly, you could write an entire blog post on the takeaways from Meditations. Personally my biggest takeaway came from the following exerpt, “At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”—But it’s nicer here.… So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?” Although a simple passage compared to other portions of the book, this part rocked my world. Popular Stoicism writer, Ryan Holiday, also found this to be quite impactful when he first read it. I found it impactful to think that even a great emperor such as Marcus Aurelius felt the common urge to sneak “just a few more minutes in” on some mornings. After reading this, I found myself launching out of bed regardless of how tired I was to start doing my task as a human being.
4) Tools of Titans
Author: Tim Ferris
Description: This book is an invaluable read that compiles the habits and routines of some of the most successful people in the entire world. If you’ve ever wondered what makes champions tick and what separates the winners from the losers, then this is the book for you. Some of the accounts of people that Ferris includes pack more tactical information than entire college courses. This book is over 400+ pages of pure gold from some of the biggest icons in multiple industries.
Biggest Takeaway: There are almost too many to count from this book. The one I found most impactful for my personal life is about hunting antelope, not field mice. Ferris describes this as, “Newt uses a brilliant illustration to explain the need to focus on the big things and let the little stuff slide: the analogy of the field mice and the antelope. A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death.” This story changes how you perceive your tasks for the day and really challenges you to determine if the task you are going to do is an “antelope” or if it is a “mouse.”
5) Atomic Habits
Author: James Clear
Description: I read several books on habits in 2020 and Atomic Habits was my favorite by far. In the book, Clear does a fantastic job of not only making the case for the importance of habits in our lives but also some actionable advice to use. The book is extremely well written and includes insights backed by science on the best ways to create new habits in your life.
Biggest Takeaway: Clear writes about the Four Laws of Behavior Change in the book which outline how we can build better habits in our lives. These four laws are 1) make it obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, and 4) make it satisfying. By leveraging these laws, you can create any habit and change your life for the better.
6) Chop Wood Carry Water
Author: Joshua Medcalf
Description: A very quick read, Chop Wood Carry Water, is a story outlining a man’s journey to become a samurai archer. Along his journey, there are several invaluable lessons in achieving success and greatness in life. The story along with the lessons it contains make it a very impactful book and one I intend to re-read every year.
Biggest Takeaway: You’re building your own house throughout your whole life. This lesson comes from a fable in the story that emphasizes that the decisions we make every single day are the foundations of a future house. In this analogy, the “house” is the life we are constantly building for ourselves. As we go about our lives whether it is our careers, our academics, or our personal lives we are always building our home, whether we realize it or not.
7) Never Eat Alone
Author: Keith Farrazzi
Description: Never Eat Alone is a modern day version of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. When it comes to the soft skills that lead to success in business, this book can help you regardless of what your current level is. In the book, Farrazzi explains why you should make relationship-building a way of life, and how to build your personal network and brand. In every chapter there is tactical information to help you expand your social circle and become what Ferrazzi calls a “super-connector.”
Biggest Takeaway: Ferrazzi describes a concept that he calls a “conference commando.” After learning this, it completely transformed how I view any conference or large gathering. Simply put, a conference commando is someone that approaches a conference proactively and intentionally seeks to foster meaningful relationships throughout and after the event itself. Ferrazzi also outlines a handful of very effective techniques a conference commando can utilize to be effective in their relationship building.
8) The Third Door
Author: Alex Banayan
Description: Alex Banayan’s book is so entertaining you’ll have a hard time putting the book down. The day before his freshman year final exams, he hacked The Price is Right, won a sailboat, sold it, and used the money to fund his journey seeking wisdom from the world’s most successful people. His journey is fascinating as he interviewed people such as Bill Gates, Tim Ferris, and Katy Perry. On top of a fun story, this book contains, in my opinion, one of the most valuable perspectives for young people to have.
Biggest Takeaway: The Third Door Concept: If you want uncommon results you have to take uncommon approaches. As Banayan says, “Life, business, success… is just like a nightclub.” In life, you can either wait in line at the first door like the majority of others. You can take the second door or VIP entrance if you’re lucky enough or you can take the “third door.” By taking the third door, you are taking an unconventional approach to be proactive and create opportunities for yourself. For any college-age student, I think this is extremely valuable advice for life. I personally implemented this in my life as I decided to graduate early and sought ways to create a “third door” option in my own life.
9) The Coddling of the American Mind
Author: Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff
Description: This book highlights a growing issue on college campuses across the nation. Haidt and Lukianoff explore how the problems on campus have their origins in three terrible ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. This book is non-partisan and approaches this issue from an impartial perspective as they uncover a critical issue on our college campuses. This book is a fascinating read for anyone growing increasingly concerned about the expanding inability of Americans to live, work, and cooperate across party lines.
Biggest Takeaway: The authors describe a concept they have labeled antifragility. Antifragility describes the requirement of stressors and challenges in order to learn, adapt, and grow and how without them we become rigid, weak, and inefficient when nothing challenges us. In a way, the authors implore us not to prepare the road for the child because you can’t eliminate every challenge but rather to prepare the child for the road ahead. This lesson is timely during the pandemic regarding personal growth.
10) The Dichotomy of Leadership
Author: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Description: A book that beautifully blends story-telling and some powerful insights on leadership. Throughout this book, Willink and Babin pair stories from their time deployed overseas with impactful insights on what it takes to be a leader. Very applicable information for anyone to implement in their day to day lives. One of my favorite books I have read on leadership. (Note: If you like this book, you definitely should give Extreme Ownership a read as well.)
Biggest Takeaway: Own everything, but empower others. Great leaders are never about the extreme, but always walking a fine line; especially with your people. As a leader, the aim is to maintain ownership of the team’s results and outcomes while also empowering others on your team. To truly be a great leader, you must empower your team to be leaders themselves.
2020 Books: (In Order of Completion)
Chop Wood Carry Water
The Third Door
Designing Your Life
The Dichotomy of Leadership
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck
The Courage to be Disliked
Profiles in Courage
The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life
Never Eat Alone
Total Rethink: Why Entrepreneurs Should Act Like Revolutionaries
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters
The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
Start Something That Matters
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Be Obsessed or Be Average
The Coddling of the American Mind
Your Money or Your Life
A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Good Habits, Bad Habits
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
The One Minute Millionaire
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook
Eat That Frog!: 21 Ways to Stop procrastinating
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama
Can’t Hurt Me
Dare to Lead
Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions that Matter the Most
Ethics at Work: The Worker and the Workplace
You are a Badass at Making Money
Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary
Who Moved My Cheese?
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers
Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in life and Business
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
A Wrestling Life 2: More Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable
Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Man’s Search for Meaning
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter
What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
#Maxout Your Life
Humankind: A Hopeful History
How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Good Companies Never Give In
Tao Te Ching
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
Hard Times Create Strong Men
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change
Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life