2020 wasn’t a great year for a lot of things, but it was a good year for my reading list. This year I did a couple things different that lead to a lot more reading. First, I listened to a lot more audio books (I’ve noted which books were audio books). Listening to books while I worked out and when I drove on long road trips gave me hundreds more hours of learning in 2020. Because I listened to so many audio books, I developed an understanding of the types of books I like to listen too versus the books I’d prefer to read. I enjoy listening to stories, biographies, and informational books (True Believer, Lone Survivor and The Future is Faster than you Think). I do not like listening to “how-to” books (Insight and Deep Work) because it’s harder to take notes.

I also made it a point to buy more books this year, many on the Kindle. If my local library didn’t have the book or if it was one I thought I might want to revisit in the future, I just bought it on Kindle.

The last thing I did differently was I ranked and wrote down my thoughts on the books immediately after finishing them rather than waiting until the end of the year to do so. This lead to a fresher perspective on what I’d read and how it affected me.

So without further ado, here is my books list for 2020.

Most Transformative

Ultralearning – Scott Young

This one was a bit of a struggle to get through but the information was worth it. After finishing, I embarked on my own Ultralearning project for Web and Graphic Design which was aided by the Covid 19 quarantine. I’ve since begun building websites again and I’m excited at the possibilities for this skill.

The Code. The Evaluation. The Protocols. – Jocko Willink

I’ve said before that if Jocko writes it, I’ll read it. I’ve enjoyed every book he’s written, but this one was probably the most impactful since Extreme Ownership. The book is very brief and isn’t so much a book to be read but a book to be consistently referenced. The evaluation portion of the book gives a great way to judge whether each of your days has been utilized to the fullest and you can download a spreadsheet to keep track of your daily scores.

Call Sign Chaos – Jim Mattis and Bing West

They say most books are written at a Jr. High reading level. “Call Sign Chaos” is not one of those books. I was stopping at least once a page to look up the definitions of words. In the end, it was worth it. Jim Mattis is the man. Tough but tactful, diplomatic but total badass. Intelligent enough to hold his own against any academic or world leader, yet gritty enough to live in the trenches with his men. There’s a reason his Marines loved him. You’ll understand it after reading this book.

Consider This – Chuck Pahalaniuk

I love to read books on writing and this is one of the best that I’ve read. Chuck Pahalaniuk is such and interesting writer. His personal stories in this book are hilarious and tragic and the advice is like none other I’ve read. I took several nuggets from this book and immediately implemented them into my own writing. I plan to read it again in 2021.

No More Mr. Nice Guy – Dr. Robert Glover

I picked up this book on a recommendation from a friend and I’m glad I did. I’ve known for years that I suffer from “Nice Guy Syndrome.” I thought I’d fixed most of my problems, but this book made me realize I’ve still got plenty of issues to work through. Most importantly, this book helped me realize that behaviors I thought to be assets are actually liabilities that have been holding me back. I’ve already noticed changes after taking the advice of this book and I plan to read it again in 2021.

Reaching the Animal Mind – Karen Pryor

Towards to the middle of 2020 my wife and I committed to adopting a couple dogs. In preparation for their adoption, I wanted to bone up on my dog training. Dogs can be the joy of your life or they can terrorize you for years. It all comes down to how you train them. This book helped me understand how animals think as well as how to properly train them. It’s extremely valuable for anyone who wants a well trained pet.

Most Fun

The Future is Faster than you Think – Peter Diamandis (audio book)

This book absolutely blew my mind as to the kind of technology we’ll be looking at in less than ten years. Predicting the future is never easy, and this book certainly didn’t see a major pandemic sweeping the world, but if it’s half right in it’s predictions, the next five years will be a wild ride.

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science Of Creating Magic in Brands, Business and Life – Rory Sutherland

The idea behind this book is that humans are irrational. Many of the reasons we think do things aren’t the actual reasons we do them. We also like to think that if we make the logical decision it’ll be the right one, but often times the best answers are illogical. If you want to put your brain in a blender and completely change the way you see the world, this book is a must read. I smiled through most of it. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Masters of Doom – David Kushner

I LOVE entrepreneur origin stories and I LOVE Doom. I still remember the day I went over to my buddy’s house and fired it up for the first time. I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I heard there was a book that chronicled the rise of the “Two Johns” who created Doom, I had to read it. Not only was it a nostalgic romp into my pre-teen and early teen years, it’s a powerful lesson in what “to do” and what “not to do” when growing a business.

The Terminal List – Jack Carr

I love a good revenge story and I like books written by Navy SEALS, but this is the first novel written by a Navy SEAL I’ve had the chance to read. I picked this one up because I wanted to read it before the Amazon show starting Chris Pratt came out (still no release date. Thanks Covid). As a writer, there were some things that bugged me about the book, but it was still a blast. I plan to read the next two books in the series and look forward to when number four comes out in 2021.

True Believer – Jack Carr (audio)

I enjoyed this one more than The Terminal List. I checked the audio book out right before a big road trip and listened to the first eight or so hours in a couple days. I feel like the story is better developed than the first in the series and it dives into geo-politics in a way that makes me think I may have actually learned a thing or two. I’m looking forward to part three of the series as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey’s interview with Tim Ferriss piqued my interest in the book. I had a free credit on audible so I downloaded the audio version. McConaughey is a crazy genius and I’ve enjoyed a lot of his movies. He reads the audio book himself, and that’s how I’d recommend you consume it, as it gives you an even deeper insight into his uniqueness.


Red Platoon – Clint Romesha (audio book)

This is the best war memoir I’ve ever read. Generally war stories are told from one perspective. Romesha went above and beyond in involving as many people’s perspectives as possible. From the men in Red Platoon, to the medics, to the Apache pilots fighting above them, to the F-15 pilot coordinating everything from 30,000 feet. Highly, highly recommended. One of my absolute favorite books of the year.

Coach – Michael Lewis (audio book)

I’ve been aware of Michael Lewis for ages, but this is the first of his books I’ve read. There’s a reason he’s a best selling author. This book is a short read. It’ll take you about an hour, but the story is wonderful. In short, it’s the story of the importance of a coach on a young man’s life and the importance of parents staying out of the way. Reading it made me want to hug my coaches and immediately redouble my effort in the gym and in life.

Talent is Overrated – Geoff Colvin

This book was recommended by Derek Sivers and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in improving their own performance or understanding where good performance originates. This book explains how much of what what we believe as “innate talent” boils down to long-term, deliberate practice.

Thinking in Bets – Annie Duke

This one was recommended by Seth Godin and was very informative. The goal of the book is to strengthen your decision making by helping you think like a poker player. Sometimes bad decisions lead to good outcomes. That doesn’t mean you should make more bad decisions. Sometimes good decisions lead to bad outcomes. This doesn’t mean you should make less good decisions. Even the best poker player can lose with pocket aces. “Thinking in Bets” will help you better understand how to navigate decisions and the probabilities of their outcomes.

Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell (audio book)

I watched the movie with Mark Wahlberg several years ago and so I didn’t feel the need to read the book, but when it popped up as an audio book on my library app, I decided to give it a listen. Hearing the story first hand is altogether different and the lengths to which the team went to support each other is inspiring.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics – Jocko Willink

I pre-ordered this book many months before it was released. It wasn’t as ground breaking in it’s subject matter for me like Extreme Ownership, but it’s a good refresher on the principles. What Jocko writes, I read.

Fortitude – Dan Crenshaw

I picked this book up on Kindle because I’d heard so much about it. It did not disappoint. I’m not generally a fan of politicians but I am a fan of Dan Crenshaw. His logical and level headed approach to the issues is refreshing. I feel like he’s someone telling me the truth as he sees it rather than someone trying to spin the story to get me on their side. The lessons in this book are of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, the people who need it the most are the ones who wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

Three Simple Things – Thom Shea

I’d been waiting for this book for a long time. After interviewing Thom on the podcast I was interested to hear his completed thoughts on this idea and the book did not disappoint. If you’re looking for a method of overcoming challenges in almost every area of your life, this book can help you, but it’s not easy. Not even close.

Stillness is Key – Ryan Holiday

This is another book I picked up for a big discount on Kindle. I’ve read all of Ryan’s books and they’ve been instrumental in my life. This one didn’t quite have the impact that the other three books in his stoicism series had, but it was certainly worth the read. I imagine I’ll revisit the entire series again in the future.

The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald (audio)

Somehow I missed reading this book in high school. I hadn’t really given it much thought until I read Chuck Pahalaniuk’s “Consider This” where it was mentioned many times. I somehow stumbled on the audio version of the book read by the actor Tim Robbins and it was fantastic. Classics are classic for a reason. I enjoyed the book so much I immediately went out and rented the Baz Luhrman directed Gatsby movie.


$100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau

This book was recommended by one of my oldest friends and a mentor in helping me get my web design business off the ground. Written in 2012, it’s a touch dated, but worth the read. I gleaned a couple good nuggets of information from it and I always enjoy reading the stories of how entrepreneurs get their start. If nothing else, it proves you don’t need venture capital to start a great business.

Insight – Tasha Eurich (audio book)

“Insight” is all about developing both internal and external self-awareness. I went into the book thinking I was generally self-aware (even though the subtitle warns we’re not as self-aware as we think.) For the most part, the internal self-awareness information wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but the external self-awareness information was eye opening. Regardless of how self-aware you think you are, it’s worth the read. On a side note, this is a book I wish I read instead of listened too. There’s a lot I would have liked to highlight and take notes on.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami

Brian Koppleman suggested this book on an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast. I’m a fan of his work and his work ethic and he said this book was one of his favorites. It’s a quick read written by and internationally known fiction author who also loves running. It’s beautifully written and there are several gems of wisdom to be gleaned. Not my favorite book of the year, but good none the less.

Built To Sell – John Warrillow (audio)

I picked up this book on the suggestion of a friend. It’s a lesson on transforming a business from one that’s an unsellable time-suck, to one that’s well designed and fetching of a multi-million dollar buyout. Good information for someone who may be looking to sell their business or are interested to see if their business is even sellable.

Team Dog – Mike Ritland

I asked for and received this book for Christmas but didn’t sit down to read it until we’d committed to adopting two rescue dogs. This book has a lot of good information for new dog owners. I will admit I was familiar with most of it, but it was still worth the read. The most important part of this book to me was that Mike recommended the book “Reaching the Animal Mind” by Karen Pryor. I was already familiar with Karen but not of this specific book. You already read its description in the “Most Transformative” section above.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari (audio)

This book was recommended by a friend  and when I saw the audio version was available through my library, I snapped it up. Books like this remind me how dense and uneducated I really am. One of the major points of this book is that none of us really know all that much. The author has a gift for taking a topic and then looking at it from what seems like every possible angle, angles I’ve never even considered looking from. This book will make you uncomfortable and poke holes in many of your beliefs, regardless of what you believe, but I think this is an important exercise to undertake from time to time.

Trident K9 Warriors – Mike Ritland (audio)

This was another dog book I listened to in the build-up to adopting my dogs. Ritland’s other book got me interested in this one and I enjoyed it. There are plenty of funny and intense dog training stories in this book.

Pygmy – Chuck Pahalanuik (audio)

I grabbed this one from the library app before a long road trip. Chuck Pahalaniuk is one of my favorite authors. This book is an experience… The entire thing is written in the voice of an Asian kid who doesn’t have a complete grasp on the English language. It’s bizarre and disturbing (as most of Pahalaniuk’s books tend to be).

Beautiful You – Chuck Pahalaniuk (audio)

This book rounded out my Pahalaniuk kick for the year and I picked it because the main character is from Omaha, Nebraska. Pahalaniuk has a way of taking the most awkward subjects and then pushing them to their extreme. This book is no exception. Read the description before you decide to check this one out.

The Practice – Seth Godin

I’ve been looking forward to this book for  a while so I bought it as soon as it was available. It’s Seth’s take on creativity and I think it will be very valuable for many people. I’m putting it under “Good” rather than “Great” only because I’m already very familiar with the subject matter. Most of what is written in the book, Seth has talked about on his podcast which I listen to religiously. If you want to learn how to bolster your creativity, this book is a good place to start.

Deep Work – Cal Newport (audio)

I picked this one up on a whim since it was immediately available on my library’s app. I enjoyed it but I wish I would have read this book rather than listened to it. I would have loved to take notes, but listening while driving makes that impossible. Regardless, I still took some valuable wisdom from it and have implemented a few of its practices in my everyday life.

Books I started and didn’t finish (formerly known as “Meh”)

This year I made it a point, regardless of how much the sunk-costs pained me, to stop reading books I didn’t find interesting or useful. These are those books.

Atomic Habits – James Clear

I found this book on sale for a couple bucks and bought it. I’ve been familiar with James Clear for a long time and actually had a brief correspondence with him many years ago. I think this book would be valuable for people who haven’t already instilled good habits in their life, but to me it seemed like a book I could have written myself.

Small Giants – Bo Burlingham

I was very excited to find this book on sale because I’d wanted to read it for years. Unfortunately I wasn’t what I thought it would be. The businesses described in this book weren’t the type I was hoping for, and I found I wasn’t learning the information I wanted.

Grit – Angela Duckworth

Once again, this book wasn’t teaching me anything. Valuable for people who have never developed grit in their own life, redundant for those who have.

Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill (audio) – Mark Lee Gardner

I’ve wanted to read a book on Roosevelt for a long time and this one sounded good, but I found myself losing interest very quickly.

Where Men Win Glory (audio)- The Odyssey of Pat Tillman – Jon Krakauer

This book was actually pretty good, I just didn’t find myself captured by it like I’d hoped. I may return to it later in 2021 to see if it sparks anything new.