My 8 Favorite Reads of 2020
As I’m reflecting on 2020 and preparing for the new year, I started to think about my favorite reads from the past year. While most of these relate to my job as a Sports Performance Coach, some of them were read for pleasure. I love the idea of reading for personal growth but I have found that I can give more mental energy to those sources if I break up the monotony occasionally and read something for fun.
Each of these books has impacted me in some way, and through the post I will go over the highlights of each. The list these will also be accompanied by an affiliate link to Amazon for each book. These links could provide me with a small percentage of the sale, at no additional cost to the buyer, if someone were to buy from the link directly. The list is in no particular order, just a collection the 8 books I enjoyed most over the past year.
The Warrior Within
I am a huge fan of Bruce Lee and his philosophies. I think he had such an amazing outlook on life and navigating obstacles. Full disclosure, this isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. This book is extremely easy to read and has a lot of little nuggets to walk away with. On top of that, it’s a fun read and helps me to reset my mind. I actually read this after another book on the list (Behave) which was very technical and required a lot of mental power each time I opened it.
If you’re a fan of Bruce Lee, Taoism, or philosophy I’m sure you would enjoy this book. Once again it is easy to read, really informative, and has a fun feel to it. There are times when the book/ areas of emphasis seem redundant, but I didn’t find it overly distracting or unbearable.
Skin in the Game
Skin in the Game made this list for one reason and that is: it was very thought provoking. It challenged me to look deeper into some core concepts of coaching and programming. The book itself was fun to read at times, but at points it was a very distracted read. I felt like there wasn’t a good flow or structure and the author seemed very angry at times. I’ve read both of his other books, and I understand that is kind of his persona and he feeds into it.
The message of the book is very clear, in order for any system to work efficiently and fairly there must be a requisite amount of “skin in the game”. Systems are also scale dependent and need to be looked at differently depending on that scale. There were some other key concepts throughout the book that made me think such as the rule of the minority. Overall, I enjoyed the read because of the challenge to think differently and dig deeper into subjects. It also gave me a great insight into breaking things down.
Chop Wood Carry Water
Chop Wood, Carry Water was a book that I continued to move down my “to-read” list. I finally decided to give it a read and I’m glad I did. It was an extremely easy read with very short chapters. The book requires about a second-grade reading level, but is filled with a lot of solid life lessons.
Nothing in this book is ground-breaking but it does go about explaining and teaching in an easily digestible way. The main concept is no matter how advanced you become, it’s always important to remember and practice the basics while learning to love the process instead of the outcome.
The Obstacle is the Way
Ryan Holiday has quickly become one of my favorite authors and social media follows. Most of his writing revolves around Stoicism and the idea of slowing down in order to charge ahead. This book has gotten tons of press over the years, most of it coming from the professional sports world. For instance, it was read by the 2014 New England Patriots who went on to win the Super Bowl that year as well as Rory McIlroy prior to winning the 2019 Masters.
The idea of the book is very simple; reframe obstacles as opportunities in your mind. Instead of shying away you should embrace the opportunity at hand.
James Clear is a blogger turned author who has made a name for himself in the self-help world. Most of his writing centers around the ideas of habit stacking, efficient time use, and creating better systems and processes. I really enjoy his writing style and I think he does a good job of breaking down complex concepts.
I enjoyed this book for two major reasons. First, the message was very clear and well organized. The ideas were actionable and easy to implement in my own life. The framework for success is also very clear throughout the book. Second, the tone of the book was great. As someone who works in athletics, you can tell James was a former athlete and this made it feel very familiar to read. I also think he did a great job of simplifying major concepts into smaller more attainable goals.
With the purchase of this book you get access to his “3-2-1 Newsletter” as well. This is a great additional benefit and something I look forward to each week. It’s really short, which I like, and it’s filled with great concepts. James is currently offering the newsletter for free which I highly recommend jumping on. The link is here.
This was, by far, my hardest read of the year. I have read one of Sapolsky's earlier books, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, so I knew what to expect from the author, but it was still a very tough read. With that toughness came a much better understanding of human behavior. The book was very technical at times, but also was filled with stories and examples that were very engaging and exciting.
I really enjoyed the structure of this book as it was constantly building on its earlier chapters. At the core of the book it traces an action from the moment it happens, to seconds before, minutes before, hours before, and even years before. During this logical progression a lot is explained about hormones, neurotransmitters, and genetics as well as their role in the decision-making process. I found this very interesting and although it was a very difficult read, it was ultimately worth it.
This was a book I had wanted to read for a long time. I’m a fan of history and I know that David McCullough is a highly respected author on the subject. He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice and this book won the American Compass award for best book of 2005. There were times when the stories seemed to drag on, but they all tied together very well and offered an interesting look at the year 1776, the first full-year of the Revolutionary War. The book primarily looks at George Washington’s army and their campaigns from Boston, New York, Pennsylvania, and ends with the crossing of the Delaware River into New Jersey for the Christmas attack on the Hessians.
This was a great book for me to break the monotony of self-help and work-related readings. This book had some high expectations heading into the read, but I would have to say it lived up to those.
I consider myself an introvert and for that reason this book jumped out at me. I found it to be very informative and kind of inspirational at times. It definitely provided some affirmations for me. I also found some of the anecdotes on extroverts and their perceived success very interesting. I also enjoyed how the author used statistics, case-studies, and research to back her claims about how being introverted can be beneficial in business.
I actually enjoyed the stories and history from this book more than the self-help aspects, but there were certainly some take-aways. Overall, I thought the book was entertaining and helpful. I will likely read this again at some point. It was easy enough to digest when reading, but I feel like I didn't take away as much as I could have.
That's the list! I tried to keep the list and the descriptions as concise as possible. I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope it gave you an idea or two for a new book to read. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Holiday season.