My Top 5 Books for 2020

Jack Yang
5 min readJan 4, 2021

Introduction

2020 has been a tough year with many ups and downs economically, socially, and politically. During quarantine, I was able to read many books that I have always wanted to read. In a turbulent time like this, wisdom from books shines lights on a dark time and comforts the readers with a sense of direction and clarity. The following 5 books are the top books that impact me the most in 2020.

My Top 5 List

1. Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

I truly believe this book is a masterpiece. Greene illustrates the traits and characteristics of humankind through a series of tales and analysis. This book allows me to see people and the human dynamics with a deeper insight as well as expose myself to an uncomfortably profound examination. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone because reading this book is like opening pandora's box. While the messages are true and revealing, it guides the readers to explore the dark side of human nature. Before reading this book, I was completely unaware of the unconscious flaws and secrets about myself. Studying this book is like performing an operation on myself because I began to see the disguises and insecurities that are pushing me to behave in a certain way. The laws can also be applied to analyze others and expose their motivations and weakness. It is extremely dangerous if the laws are manipulated by someone unethical, so I strongly recommend this book as more of a self-guiding book to protect yourself from malicious manipulation rather than a set of laws that allow you to control others immorally.

2. Homo Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

I would argue this is one of the broadest books I have ever read. Reading this book feels like standing on the shoulder of God and overlooking entirely the human species from origin to the present. I wasn’t much of a history person and always naively thought history is simply about memorization of facts. This book completely shifts my understanding of history as well as where we are at as a point in human history. Throughout the entire course of the book, I began to see patterns emerge from thousands of years ago and that is still repeating in the present society. I also have a better understanding of the many forces that drive history and society so that we end up living in a world as it is today.

3. Principles by Ray Dalio

A great book that is greatly improved my efficiency and effectiveness in work and life in general. Ray Dalio, a legendary hedge fund manager, writes down his mental models and lessons he learned throughout his career. For anyone, even ones that are not in the hedge fund business, the lessons are invaluable. The books are divided into two sections: life lessons and work lessons. Personally, I found the life part especially educational because I can apply many of the principles right away in different areas of my life. The second part on work lessons is also insightful but it is oriented for management roles, and I will re-read the work principles again as I develop more in my career. The book teaches me new ways to think about mental models for solving problems and progressing through challenges and many other lessons.

4. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

I always enjoy biology and learning how life works and this book is a paradigm shifter for me. Dawkins offers insights on how the evolution of species affects the species’ behaviors and how genes play a huge part in shaping primal instinct as well as human nature. This book, in my humble opinion, is not just a book on biology but also a book on philosophy and economics since concepts like altruism and game theory heavily influences the selfish gene theory. It is an interdisciplinary instance were concepts I learned from different subjects come together to form new ideas.

5. Peak by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool

This is the book where the term “deliberate practice” is introduced. The authors spent years learning how people in different fields practice becoming experts and the book offers concrete, science-based tips on the most effective form of practicing. I personally applied these techniques into my own practices and yield great results compare to my old ways of practicing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is picking up on a new skill or wanting to master a current skill.

Book Review: 4 Lessons from Peak

Honorable Mention

1. Experience on Demand by Jeremy Bailenson

Since I work in the virtual reality field, I read a lot of VR books to keep myself updated. I would argue this is one of the best books on virtual reality available. The book talks about a wide range of topics on the subject, from technical aspects to real-life application to guides. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about this upcoming, exciting technology.

2. Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell

This is one of the first economics books I read and certainly won’t be my last. In the book, Sowell explains difficult economics concepts in very understandable terms without using any graphics or numbers, which is truly impressive. The arguments in this book are rather conservative, which I personally find very interesting because I can hear some concepts that I don’t usually hear and understand the reasoning behind them. I would caution, that some people gave negative reviews due to the book’s political views, it is important to read this book with an open mind.

Book Review: 9 Lessons from Basic Economics

3. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

I picked this up after my reading spree on traditional economics books and it introduces me to the idea of behavioral economics. It is a thought-provoking book that challenges my original perception of economics as a science full of numbers, charts, and graphs by introducing the psychological factor. The book points out the irrationality in human decision making with many concepts and examples as well as tips to avoid those pitfalls and make the best decisions possible.

Book Review: 7 Lessons from Predictability Irrational

--

--