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Book Reviews Reviews

Books Read in 2020

Ever since 2007, I’ve kept track of every book I’ve read. Ideally, I’ve also written a short lessons learned or review of each – though I have hundreds of draft reviews that I need to just hit publish on. Here’s the books I’ve read this past year.

I generally stop reading a book after 100 pages if it’s not any good. So everything that I finished is generally worth reading in some way. I plan to do full reviews of all the books. If I’ve written one, there will be a link.

*all the links below go to Amazon for convenience, but I definitely recommend purchasing books from Alibris. They support local booksellers, and often have even better used pricing.

This post covers books read in 2020. You can also read from –

2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018Most Recent Full Reviews

Year of Biblical Womanhood

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans was funny, entertaining, and deeply thought provoking book about contemporary American Christian culture. Reminded me of Rapture Ready and, of course, all of Rachel Held Evan’s other work.

Indistractable by Nir Eyal was one of the most useful books that I’ve read in a while. I immediately implemented his timeboxing recommendations and will stick to it. In a space where other books give a cursory list of banal tips, I think he actually tackled the underlying causes.

On the Plain of Snakes

On The Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux was another excellent travel book about a country that fascinates me. It reminded me a lot of Deep South in tone, format, and approach. Like most of his books, I feel like they could be edited down…until I finish and I wish that there had been more.

A Child Through Time

A Child Through Time was a gift for my history-loving son that I swiped when he was done. These series of DK books are just so well-done. I believe that if you truly want an introduction to something, the best children’s book will always be more helpful than the best adult “beginner’s book.” Definitely true here.

Ready, Fire, Aim

Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson was a business book about scaling a business. I’m not a huge fan of the author’s career…and his books come across with a hefty dose of sketchy-ness. But, he does write well. And the book had some useful recommendations and ideas.

How To Do Nothing

How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell was a good, solid read overall. The book had good ideas and a thoughtful approach. I think it suffers from massive expectations though. It was blurbed by so many people that it couldn’t quite live up to expectations.

Forest Forensics

Forest Forensics by Tom Wessels was a great reference book purchase. I wish it was more comprehensive and less region specific (the author is from New England), but the ideas, illustrations, and instructions gave me a new toolkit for hiking through forests.

Bonk

Bonk by Mary Roach was a fascinating book stunted by one flaw – that there has been a shocking lack of scientific research into sex and human reproductive organs until very, very recently. The biggest takeaway from the book was that we do not fund basic scientific research to the degree that we should. She’s a great writer and recommend her other works.

Florida by Lauren Groff was a engrossing and entertaining set of short stories.

Common Sense by Joel Greenblatt was a good but not great book in investing.

Ghost Riders by Richard Grant was an interesting travel book. Not as good as his other works like Dispatches from Pluto, but worthwhile.

The Enduring Wilderness by Doug Scott was one of the most eye-opening and useful books that I’ve read all year. It was recommended to me by Brad Borst, the President of Wilderness Land Trust, one of the most effective non-profits in America IMHO. This book is slightly academic, but details the grassroots, political, and legal strategies behind America’s Wilderness Act – a world-changing first in the world just like our idea for National Parks. Amazing read, and highly recommended for anyone looking to get involved in the conservation movement. It gave me a small idea of what consistent, dedicated individuals can do over the course of their lifetimes.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals- Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost was a re-read during lockdown in April. This book was one of my favorite travel books. Also, it was on my bookshelf when all the libraries were closed. Entertaining, funny, interesting.

How To Stop Worrying and Start Living

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie was a fast, useful read. Not as great as How To Win Friends & Influence People, but good all the same.

In a Sunburned Country

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson was a lockdown re-read. This is one of the best travel books ever written. Even though it’s 22 years old now, it doesn’t show too much age. Always fun and entertaining.

This Land

This Land: A Guide to Eastern National Forests by Robert Mohlenbrock was an amazing read about all of America’s National Forests – the underestimated, but incredible working cousins to our National Parks. It’s a great overview about the importance an uniqueness of each one. Looking forward to exploring a few.

the Business Owner's Guide to Financial Freedom

The Business Owners’ Guide To Financial Freedom by Mark Kohler was a very practical read. I highly recommend it, especially for small business owners. Also, political side note – I have the world’s tiniest violin for wealthy Americans and their personal tax complaints. I’m all for debating tax policy, but the number of completely legal, ethical, and open tax strategies that make sense only above a certain income or with certain employment status is mind-boggling. This is how Warren Buffet’s executive assistant pays a higher effective tax than he does.

How to Get Rich

How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis was the most practical, useful business book I’ve read in a while. The tone & style is grating, but the advice is right on. Ownership of assets always beats income. Excellent book.

An Hour Before Daylight

An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter is one of the best memoirs that I’ve read in a long-time. I’ve been interested in the pre-World War II South for a while. And Jimmy Carter wrote the best book out there about it. Amazing man.

Black Mecca

The Legend of the Black Mecca by Maurice Hobson was a good, enlightening read about my home city. It had more focus on Maynard Jackson than I expected…but after reading it, it made sense. Highly recommended for anyone who lives or is moving to Atlanta.

Fifth Risk

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis was one of the best reads all year. It was a well-written book about one of the most boring topics of all – the United States’ Federal Government bureaucracy. Highly recommended.

Poor Richard's Retirement

Poor Richard’s Retirement by Aaron Clarey was one of the better personal finance books that I read all year. Lots of useful ideas and strategies, but I appreciated the unexpected final chapter the most.

Everyday Life in Medieval Europe Jeffrey Singman

Everyday Life in Medieval Europe by Jeffrey Singman was an interesting read, especially during the early days of the spread of coronavirus.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami was a good read as always, though I don’t think it’s his best work. Harder to follow than others.

Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford was a great read about an underappreciated and misunderstood job. Huge respect to those who protect our most precious natural treasures.

The Overstory by Richard Powers was a good, but hard to follow novel.

Best Tent Camping Florida by Johnny Molloy was an interesting and useful guide (as are all of Johnny Molloy’s books). Got a good sense of exploring wild Florida.

Devil’s Financial Dictionary by Jason Zweig was a skim read. Definitely requires familiarity with the financial industry. I didn’t get all of it.

Windfall by McKenzie Funk was a keen look and counter-intuitive look at climate change. Highly recommended. We are in for a wild ride over the next 30+ years.

Atlanta Scenes Images of America

Atlanta Scenes by Images of America was another fascinating collection of vintage photos.

North Georgia Dixie Highway Images of America

North Georgia’s Dixie Highway by Images of America was an unexpectedly engaging book. Loved reading this while reading Jimmy Carter’s book (above).

50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains

50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains by Johnny Molloy was a great resource that I’ll keep coming back to. Love the color photos and updated formatting.

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman was the only major disappointment that I stuck through and read this year. I love His Dark Materials so much that I pushed through this book. It’s just not that great.

Looking forward to this coming year!

By Nate

I'm Nate Shivar - I live in Atlanta and love exploring the city, outdoors, books & Internet. Read about me, my Now page, or my work.

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