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The 40+ Books Leaders in SportsTech were Reading in 2020

2020 was one for the books.

It was a year that forced us all to hunker down and turn our homes into both an office and a retreat. What wasn’t affected though is that we at SportsTechX had the opportunity to speak with great entrepreneurs and business leaders on our SportsTech Allstars Podcast. Like every year we’ve asked all our guests for their book recommendations, to get some inspiration for our readers and of course ourselves as well :)

Our 23 guests in 2020 shared 48 books with us, more than twice as many titles as in the 2019 article. Within the list there were some familiar names but, of course, there were unique mentions from categories outside of sports and business too and we’re excited to share them all.


  • Bill Walsh: The Score Takes Care Of Itself (Link)
  • James Andrew Miller, Tom Shales: Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World Of ESPN (Link)
  • Josh Appelbaum: The Everything Guide To Sports Betting (Link)
  • Micheal Lewis: Moneyball (Link)
  • Phil Jackson: Eleven Rings (Link)


  • Aaron Ross, Jason Lemkin: From Impossible To Inevitable (Link)
  • Ben Horowitz: The Hard Things About Hard Things (Link)
  • Dan Thoma: The Corporate Startup (Link)
  • Peter Thiel: Zero To One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Link)
  • Salim Ismail: Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) (Link)
  • Walter Isaacson: The Innovators (Link)


  • Clayton Christensen: The Innovator’s Dilemma (Link)
  • Deepak Malhotra: Negotiating The Impossible (Link)
  • Don Norman: Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes In The Age Of The Machine (Link)
  • Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle: Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell (Link)
  • Geoffrey A. Moore: Crossing The Chasm (Link)
  • Jocko WIllow, Leif Babin: The Dichotomy Of Leadership (Link)
  • Karen Berman, Joe Knight: Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean (Link)
  • Keith Ferrazzi: Never Eat Alone (Link)
  • Ken Kocienda: Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs (Link)
  • Kenneth Blanchard: The One Minute Manager (Link)
  • Ozan Varol: Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life (Link)
  • Pedro Domingos: The Master Algorithm (Link)
  • Satya Nadella: Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone (Link)
  • Simon Sinek: Start With Why (Link)
  • Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner: Freakonomics (Link)


  • Andrew Yang: The War On Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future (Link)
  • Barack Obama: Dreams From My Father (Link)
  • Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths: Algorithms To Live By (Link)
  • Daniel Kahnemann: Thinking Fast And Slow (Link)
  • Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson: Why Nations Fail (Link)
  • Jeremy Rifkin: Hydrogen Economy (Link)
  • Jon Gordon: The Energy Bus (Link)
  • Laura Spinney: Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 And How It Changed The World (Link)
  • Melinda Gates: The Moment Of Lift (Link)
  • Paramahansa Yoganand: The Law of Success (Link)
  • Phil Knight: Shoe Dog (Link)
  • Ray Dalio: Principles (Link)
  • Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Link), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Link), 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Link)
  • William Dalrymple: The Anarchy — The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire (Link)


  • Adam Johnson: The Orphan Master’s Son (Link)
  • Dale Carnegie: How To Win Friends And Influence People (Link)
  • JD Salinger: Catcher In The Rye (Link)
  • Jonathan Frazen: Freedom (Link)
  • Kurt Vonnegut: Cat’s Cradle (Link)
  • Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist (Link)

How 2020 stacked up

This year’s list was certainly the longest and possibly the most unique as well. Once again, the business-related category seemed to lead the way in recommendations, and in the midst of a pandemic and all the challenges that have come along with it, these books might have offered some useful strategy, tips and inspiration. A few familiar titles resurfaced in this year’s list: Peter Thiel’s ‘Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future’, Nike founder, Phil Knight’s memoir, ‘Shoe Dog,’ and Keith Ferrazzi’s business success guide, ‘Never Eat Alone’ (which might have been hard advice to follow in 2020).

What seemed to have changed, however, is the amount of non-fiction and “other” titles which was a mix of fiction novels, memoirs, historical works and self-help guides. It’s almost as if SportsTech leaders (and probably most people around the world) were both taking the opportunity to learn about new topics and taking a break from the here-and-now to travel to imaginary worlds this year (can you blame ‘em?). Yuval Noah Harari’s trilogy of books that break down the history of humans, our current reality and a look at what the future might hold was also included in this group — may be an attempt at understanding the chaotic happenings 2020 presented to mankind?

While 2021 will (hopefully) allow us to do a bit more traveling and spending time with friends and family than the year prior, there should always be enough time to pick up a good book. Hopefully, there’s a title or two within this year’s cluster of books that catch your eye and can inspire learning and discovery in the year 2021. For another sports-focused read, check out our collection of SportsTech leaders’ favorite sports moments from the same group of guests that joined us on our podcast in 2020.

Be sure to listen to new episodes of The SportsTech Allstars Podcast this year for more inspiring stories from leaders in the global SportsTech ecosystem and keep a close eye on us at SportsTechX — we’ve got more cool stuff coming your way soon!

Benjamin Penkert is the Founder of Berlin based SportsTechX — Data & insights about SportsTech startups and the surrounding ecosystem. You can get in touch via Linkedin, Twitter or email.



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Benjamin Penkert

Benjamin Penkert

Founder of @sportstechx. All about #sportstech and #startups.