My 2020 Reading List

In 2020, I reached my goal of finishing 24 books by finishing a total of 25 books. This makes around two books a month, which is a pretty good number compared to the past couple of years. In 2018 and 2019, I spent a lot of time abroad, which affected my reading since books make up lots of luggage. My reading habits changed in late 2019 when I finally started listening to audiobooks. Indeed, 22 of the books that I finished in 2020 were audiobooks, and three were physical books.

My Audible stats for 2020:

  • I spent 227 hours listening to books
  • I spent 201 hours listening to nonfiction and 26 hours listening to fiction
  • I did 44% of my listening in midday, 39% in the morning, and 16% at night

In addition to finishing 24 books in 2020, my other reading goal was to read more fiction. I have read the Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter series, and also some Tolkien in the past, but generally I have inclined heavily towards nonfiction. My little brother convinced me to check out the Discworld and the Witcher series, and I did finish the first book from each of the series. So far so good, and I intend to continue dwelling deeper into these series.

My reading habit mostly consists of:

  • Listening to an audiobook while exercising or doing chores
  • Reading a physical book in the evening before going to sleep
  • Reading a magazine when I need a break from staring a screen

This is the first time I’m compiling such a reading list. My wife told me about the power of summarization, which is a relevant skill in this context. Being able to summarize what you have learned helps you to better internalize and remember the message. I still have a lot to learn in this regard. When I have lots of time on my hands, I use it to consume books as if they were coming on a conveyor belt. Maybe I should start summarizing them on my blog?

Anyways, let’s see how well I can summarize!

The best

  1. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear – A book on personal productivity, which discusses habits and how they can be engineered by utilizing various methods, such as habit stacking. My biggest takeaway from the book was the idea of an Annual Review. I discuss the Annual Review on my recent blog post about personal productivity. These ideas are also discussed on the author’s official website. Definitely worth a re-read.
  2. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki – This book talks about money! Kiyosaki reflects on his upbringing, where he had the opportunity to witness two very different approaches to handling money. Kiyosaki himself became a successful businessman, and in this book shares the principles that guided him along the way. Kiyosaki underlines the importance of investing in one’s financial literacy, and reading this book is a great way to get started.
  3. Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, by Arnold Schwarzenegger – It’s a hefty autobiography, and the audiobook lasts over 20 hours. Having watched Arnold’s movies as a child and later becoming interested in following bodybuilding and strongman, it was an obvious and inevitable book choice. The book tells Arnold’s story of becoming an iconic bodybuilder, and also describes his transformation to an actor and a politician.
  4. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcom Gladwell – This book describes outliers, or people who, due to various circumstances independent of their choosing, have better chances of success in various aspects of life. For example, being born earlier in the year can give a child an advantage in sports over their peers at an age of rapid growth. This book opened a new perspective to my own childhood. Worth a recommendation.
  5. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari – Not for those with a vivid imagination! This book describes challenges that the mankind is likely to face in the 21st century. Most of the challenges are the result of technological advancement in STEM fields such as biotechnology and artificial intelligence. If you’re writing a dystopian novel based in the near future and suffer from a writer’s block, this book might give you some inspiration.
  6. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – Some fiction for a change. I’m a big fan of dystopian entertainment, whether video games, movies, or books. Brave New World is set in a dystopian future where people are produced on a conveyor belt and bred into different castes by subjecting them to various prenatal conditions. The gloomy future is contrasted by the humorous writing style and the melodramatic characters.
  7. Unequal Childhoods, by Anette Lareau – This book describes the author’s research, which studied how social class in the United States affects parents’ styles of child rearing. While the language in the book is quite dense, the numerous case studies of children make it an interesting read. It was a personal eye-opener for me, and helped me better understand how my own childhood circumstances have affected my life.
  8. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Jonathan Heidt, Greg Lukianoff – The 2010s was a tumultuous decade in the United States. This was especially so in the college and university campuses, where many of the societal phenomena discussed in the book first manifested. The book discusses the the apparent fragility of students who entered the campuses in early 2010s, and promotes the idea of anti-fragility.
  9. Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor – My biggest takeaway from this book is the fact that humans are supposed breathe through their nostrils instead of breathing through their mouths. While this was admittedly the first time I ever heard this, the arguments presented in the book make sense. After finishing the book I started thinking back and realized that I have always been an unconscious nose breather. What a relief. Phew!
  10. The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name, by Brian C. Muraresku, Graham Hancock – And finally, this fascinating book that I heard of on the author’s interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The book delves into the forgotten origins of Christianity and the so-called forgotten religion that preceded it. A highly recommended read. It is also a subject that I am curious to read more about in the future.

The rest

  • Permanent Record, by Edward Snowden
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, by David Goggins
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
  • Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
  • The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone
  • Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built, by Duncan Clark
  • The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, by Amy Webb
  • I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons, by Kevin Heart, Neil Strauss
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us, by Jean M. Twenge
  • The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Goals for 2021

My goal for 2021 is to finish 36 books – two audiobooks per month and one physical book per month. But I do have another goal this time as well. Something that you might have missed while reading this blog post is the fact that all the books are in English. But English is not my mother language! Indeed, my goal is to start reading more in my own language, which would be Finnish. More specifically, I want to start reading Finnish fiction, which has received some critical acclaim in the recent years.

On my 2021 reading list

  • The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Uskollinen lukija, by Max Seeck
  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle
  • A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
  • Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, by Tom O’Neill, Dan Piepenbring
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
  • Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger