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Books of 2020

Published on December, 2020
Kevin J. Hanna
Building Stacked | Hummus & Tech host

If you follow books recommendations from online strangers (as I do), you might like some titles I read in 2020.

I made your life easier by giving them 🏆 Top 5 of 2020 and 👎 Skip It badges, and splitting them in categories.

There’s a mix of timeless classics published a hundred years ago, and some more recent titles.


Self Leadership (6)

It’s only fair to start with this category since it got more 🏆 Top 5 of 2020 awards than any other.

But… What’s self-leadership? Being a self leader is to “serve as chief, captain, or CEO of one’s own life”. It’s developing ourselves to survive uncertainty, and becoming more effective and efficient from the inside out.

Let’s start!

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Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive

Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness

🏆 Top 5 of 2020

This book was an eye-opener for me. It taught me how to slow down and be more focused. I started reading it, but then I gave it up. I picked it up again while going through a burnout and found it AMAZINGLY helpful. I’ll read it one more time for sure.

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Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen

🏆 Top 5 of 2020

Life is filled with difficult conversations. Knowing how to navigate them is like a having a superpower. So you could say this book gives you superpowers. I read this one on my Kindle and then bought it on paperback - that’s how much I liked it.

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The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Peter F. Drucker

🏆 Top 5 of 2020

Truth be told, I already knew most of what the book teaches thanks to my manager at Guesty. I (try to) apply these lessons on my day-to-day and they work pretty well. I recommend this book to any knowledge worker.

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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Brené Brown

Look up Brené’s 20-minute TED Talk called The Power of Vulnerability - if you find it interesting as I did, then go read this book.

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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Greg McKeown

After having read Peak Performance I found this book shallow. Still, it’s an enjoyable read with good advice for anyone. It gets my recommendation.

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Discover Your True North

Bill George

Although there might be a lot of fluff in this book there’s an useful lesson inside. If you want to lead, inspire and empower others you must first discover your own purpose. This book is all about it.

Writing (4)

As an native Spanish speaker, living in a Hebrew speaking country… I decided to improve my writing skills in English.

That’s life. Don’t judge me 🤷‍♀️

Stephen Kings says that to become a better writer you need to read all the time, and not surprisingly to write a lot. However, I felt I was missing the fundamentals, the techniques, the do’s and don’ts.

The ideas in these books usually repeated themselves.

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On Writing Well

William Zinesser

🏆 Top 5 of 2020

Clear and structured advice to perfect your writing skills. A top recommendation if you want your writings (even your emails) to be more convincing, valuable, and enjoyable to read.

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Elements Of Style

William Strunk

A foundational text-book manual sometimes taught in schools. It’s a quick read, go for it!

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On Writing

Stephen King

Although I’m not a fan of his novels I loved this book. It’s a great life story on what made him who he is, filled with sound advice for fiction and non-fiction writers.

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Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method

Gerald M. Weinberg

An interesting approach to coming up with the content of what you write.

Product/Startups (5)

When it comes to improving product-building skills there’s nothing like hands on experience. Nonetheless, experts are experts, and they share their knowledge through workshops or books. This year I reread 2 classics, and picked up 3 new titles.

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INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

Marty Cagan

This was my second time reading Cagan’s book after having more product experience on me and I still got valuable lessons out of it. A must for any real product manager.

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The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses

Eric Ries

I first read the Lean Startup a long time ago and I’ve always kept its lessons at hand. This time I was inspired to start monetizing one of my side projects and wanted to refresh the lean startup concepts. Are you into startups or building products? Then go make yourself a favor by reading this book.

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Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

Ryan Singer

A book from the team at Basecamp sharing how they build awesome products with a small team and without going crazy. Not all their advice can apply to all tech companies but there are great parts to learn from.

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The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It

Michael E. Gerber

I had this book on my wishlist and never came to it. This year, I thought about starting a small business out so it was worth a read. It’s great read for anyone who wants to start their own business based on something they are good at.

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Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

John Doerr

👎 Skip It

I use OKRs at work everyday and wanted to get a more in-depth approach to them. If you are just looking for more details on OKRs you can skip the book and read a summary instead.

Nonfiction (9)

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Thinking Fast, and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

🏆 Top 5 of 2020

A masterpiece on how we think. I got hooked in the past with Behavior Economics after reading Freakonomics and Predictably Irrational. This book dwarfs all the rest. It’s a long read but with highly useful knowledge for those making decisions (that means all of us).

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari

As a history nerd I loved reading this book. Having said that, I forgot everything about it a day later.

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Hell Yeah or No: what's worth doing

Derek Sivers

A book that makes you think how you approach things in your life. A friend gifted it to me at a rough patch when I wasn’t sure what my next step was.

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It doesn't have to be crazy at work

Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Another book I got as a gift from a friend. It’s worth one or two readings, even as an employee.

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Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business

Paul Jarvis

I’ve been following Paul’s entrepreneurial journey for a while now and looked forward to every newsletter edition he sent. I’m in 100% with what the book preaches but I guess I wasn’t the right audience for this book. I do recommend the book for those thinking there’s only one way to approach business growth.

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Without their permission

Alexis Ohanian

👎 Skip It

As a reddit (a company) and YCombinator (a startup accelerator) fan from the early days, I was intrigued particularly by how it all started. I knew the book wasn’t focusing on that but on a broader topic.

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Skin in the Game

Nassim N. Taleb

👎 Skip It

I liked Taleb’s previous book Black Swan , and I’m looking forward to reading Anti-Fragile. However, I didn’t enjoy this one.

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Never Eat Alone

Keith Ferrazzi

👎 Skip It

Too shallow.

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Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days

Chris Guillebeau

👎 Skip It

Too basic. I guess I wasn’t the target audience of this book.

Creativity (3)

These books are from the same collection and the same author. You can read each one in an hour or so. They are simple and based concepts you’ve heard somewhere else.

I loved them all! Especially the first one. I participated in a book exchange and thought it would be a beautiful gift for someone else. I only accepted parting with it after ordering a new copy online :)

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Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Austin Kleon

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Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

Austin Kleon

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Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad

Austin Kleon

Fiction (7)

Too much nonfiction makes Jack a dull boy. Let’s make some room for some stories!

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The Godfather

Mario Puzo

An absorbing read even if you’ve watched the Godfather movies multiple times as I’ve done.

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The Lost World

Arthur Conan Doyle

With this book I’ve earned my Jurassic Park fan badge. This is the original novel from 1912 that inspired the 90’s novel that Spielberg based his movie on. It has nothing to do with Jurassic Park films, but still an enjoyable classic adventure story.

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The Man on the Mountaintop

Susan Trott

I really don’t know if this classifies as a nonfiction or as a self-help book. All I can say is this is a beautiful 6 hours listen. It’s not a book but an audio production done for Audible. Highly recommended.

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A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway

This is a war novel based on Hemingway’s own experiences serving in World War I. I was originally interested in exploring Hemingways’s way of writing but I got hooked on the story itself. Probably that’s why he was considered one of the great authors of the 20th century.

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The Books of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin

For those Harry Potter and the Lord of The Ring fans out there.

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Prince Valiant

Hal Foster

A comic book from 1937 about a knight going into adventures. I’m a big sucker of everything related to medieval history, what can I say?

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Alice In Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

When the first lockdown started I read whatever I found. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.

Israel (3)

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Chutzpah: Why Israel Is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Inbal Ariei

After living in Israel for a while you learn how to describe the Israeli culture. You get to see the results of the risk-tolerant attitudes and how it fosters a startup ecosystem. Only after reading Inbal’s book I finally understood how Israelis acquire those traits throughout their formative years. It’s an insightful and revealing book for those of us who immigrated here, and also for those abroad trying to understand what makes Israel the Startup Nation.

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Jerusalem: The Biography

Simon Sebag Montefiore

An epic (and long) story of Jerusalem from its foundation to nowadays. I found it fascinating. I even sent the one to my dad who also loved it. Recommended, but not for everyone!

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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Ari Shavit

It’s always good to know the history of the land you immigrate to. The good and the bad. If you made Aliyah then read this book.

That’s it. We’ve made it.
2020 was a different year indeed. I’ve never read so much before.
Let’s see what 2021 has in for us.

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