The Best Books I Read In 2020
After what feels like an epoch, 2020 finally draws to a close. For many, myself included, this has been a long, arduous and trying year. This has also been the first year — at least in my lifetime — where all of humanity has endured a unique and common foe. And that’s why my recommendations this year focus on a common theme: the human condition. What it means to be human, what are our intrinsic motivations, how our intuitions work, how we’ve evolved over time and how our futures might look. So, this holiday season, take some time out to read any (or all!) of the books below. You’ll end the year on a high and learn a little about how resilient our species really is. You have my word.
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
Right vs Wrong, Left vs Right, Liberal vs Conservative, Us vs Them — partisanship impacts our discourse every day, more so in these times of rampant tribalism. But are our political views rational or intuitive? Emotional reactions or calculated responses? How did we, a slightly advanced breed of a chimp, glean obscure concepts such as morality? From what age do we let bias (conscious or otherwise) seep into our psyche?
This book is simultaneously both assiduous and urgent that I can easily recommend to anyone on the planet and an innately personal journey that will make you question your beliefs, assumptions and political stances on every issue.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
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Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Our hyperbolic imaginations powered by our gossip-loving, intuition-driven brain, renders us unable to estimate the prevalence of the most basic issues affecting our planet. Rosling’s book, written in collaboration with his son and daughter-in-law, explains the pitfalls of our logical reasoning and attempts to develop a fact-based framework to view humanity’s standing today for what it is: a barnstorming success by almost every measure.
Read this if you feel overwhelmed by the goings-on this year or feel hopeless and gloomy about your lack of agency — it’ll give you context, reassurance, a sense of wonder, a tinge of optimism and a handy toolkit to continue navigating the world.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
Pink gives us an actionable toolkit to bridge the widening schism between business practices and advances in human motivation research. Science has established three distinct drives of human motivation: Biological (our drive for food, shelter and companionship), Reward (our drive to attain rewards in lieu of work) and Intrinsic Motivation (our drive to be part of a greater whole).
Creativity is painful and the “carrot and stick” approach hinders it, short-term goals are achievable and even rewarding at first but will cause stress, burnout and a loss of productivity in the long run. As cited in the book, nurturing and cajoling our intrinsic motivation leads to enhanced output and satisfaction.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
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This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
Rarely does a biography, of a seemingly nondescript junior doctor at that, make for riveting reading. But Kay’s magnum-opus blew my perception out of the water. It’s simultaneously hysterical, heart-wrenching, urgent, personal and profound — a warts-and-all, tell-tale exposé of the unquantifiable peaks & troughs of a doctor’s life in the NHS, told with acerbic wit and grotesque angst.
This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident
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Human Compatible by Stuart Russell
Every year computer chips get smaller and faster (Moore’s Law) and experts predict Machine Learning, AI and automation will eviscerate our jobs. Is this the harbinger of the AI apocalypse or our sci-fi soaked imagination running wild? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Human Compatible: AI and the Problem of Control
Shared via Kindle. Description: A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: 'The most important book I have read in quite…
Rebel Ideas: The Power Of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed
As brave as it’s brainy and as holistic as it’s honest, this book gives the reader a new lens to view the world. Incorporating insight from psychology, economics, nutrition, academia and biology Syed makes a compelling case for more diversity. He forces us to question why diversity in business, culture and society is a feature, not a bug.
It’s smart, informative, optimistic and ambitious. It’ll enrich your cognitive toolkit, broaden your horizons, challenge your status-quo and look splendid on your bookshelf.
Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking
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Want more unique recommendations? Check out the best books I read in 2021 (so far) here.