The best books I read in 2020

What a year 2020 has been. The below is a list of the books I read this year. For me, the best books are those that if they were the only books I read, it would still be a good year of reading. 

“The Halo Effect…. And the eight other business delusions that deceive Managers” by Phil Rosenzweig 

Everything we know about how businesses become successful is coloured by one of these delusions. The author goes through several delusions and dismantles them. My favourite delusion: We attribute a company’s success to anything in sight – culture, leadership, strategy, etc. When a company is not successful, we attribute its failure to the same things. All the attribution is based on prior performance. After reading this book, you’ll never look at another business book or article the same way again.

“How to take smart notes” by Sonnke Ahrens

In order to develop a good question to write about or find the best angle for an assignment, one must already have put some thought in the topic. 

Writing does not start from a blank page. The best ideas come from connecting ideas across disciplines that you come across in different contexts. This book teaches you a different way to collect notes as the basis of coming up with ideas. Read this book if you consume a lot of interesting content and you’re looking for a way to get more from what you read or watch.

“Anatomy of a swipe” by Ahmed Siddiqui

Ever wondered how payments systems work together? What does PayPal do and how is it different from Stripe or Apple Pay? What happens when you swipe your card in store or online? This book runs through the complex payments system and the payers for each space.If you’re even marginally interested in payments, you should know everything in this book. That’s the only reason not to read it if you are curious about how payments work.

Honorable mention for other great books I read in 2020

  • Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri: “The Build trap is when organizations become stuck measuring their success by outputs rather than outcomes. It’s when they focus more on shipping and developing features rather than on the value [it produces]”
  • The Book of Why by Judea Pearl: To really understand if / how A causes B, you need an accurate model of how the world works built on causal analysis. Data is not enough. Insight is model-driven.
  • No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings: Exceptional people deserve an exceptional workplace. To build this and attract exceptional people, you have a duty to push the boundaries to hire and retain only the best and diligently keep it that way. Whatever it takes. 
  • Shape Up by Ryan Singer: 2020 was the year I “discovered” Basecamp. I signed up for Hey and started using Basecamp for my personal projects. Basecamp is a company run differently. Shape Up outlines how they build products, prioritize features and think about backlogs. It’s different from most of the industry. And they’ve clearly had some success with their approach, growing Basecamp to 3m+ accounts. Read if you’re curious about a different approach to building products and managing teams.