Below are the books I read in 2020. Just like previous annual lists I’ve shared (2018 and 2019), I haven’t included books I didn’t finish due either to time restraints or because they were boring. I believe it’s important to discard a book if it bores you, and I did that a handful of times over the past twelve months. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish 25 books.
This was an interesting year–both in terms of the state of the world and what I read. I finished one of my all-time favorite American novels, which was a wonderful experience, but I admit my interests resulted in a random 2020 list.
The titles have been placed in reverse chronological order, so the first book listed is the last book I read for the year. I hope there’s a book waiting for you that enriches your life and inspires you to face the New Year with knowledge in your head and hope in your heart.
1. The Great Mental Models Volume 2: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology by Riannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish.
Super interesting and accessible. I found it fascinating to reflect upon how we can take scientific principles and apply them to everyday life.
2. Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry
Intense, unsentimental, heartbreaking, meaningful… Larry McMurtry plays for keeps. Streets of Laredo is the fourth book in the Lonesome Dove series but the second one written; McMurtry wrote this after Lonesome Dove, and then he published two prequels. I’ll have to read those next.
3. The Distance Learning Playbook for School Leaders: Leading for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Dominique B. Smith, and John Hattie.
My big takeaway from these distance learning books being published by the Visible Learning folks: teacher clarity is of the upmost importance in both in-person and remote teaching.
4. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson.
Wonderful. I read this book very quickly. Naval Ravikant’s thoughts are important, and I’m finding it wise to listen to him.
5. Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
This contained interesting information regarding the early Stoics, but I have to admit I found it boring. I think this will be more rewarding as a reference when I want to look up specific philosophers later.
6. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
A masterpiece. The Godfather, The Brothers Karamazov, and Blood Meridian come to mind when I think of masterpieces; Lonesome Dove holds its own with these titles. The characters stick with you long after you’ve finished, and there are scenes that occur about 400 pages into the novel that truly shocked me. I love this book.
7. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport.
This was just as good as the first time I read it. So Good They Can’t Ignore You is perfect if you’re pondering one of the two following questions. 1) What’s my passion? and 2) Why am I not promoting within my organization?
8. The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock.
Again, here’s another book I reread. Rereading books is not a common practice of mine–although I think it should be. As I get older, I’m valuing the books that have already enriched my life, and I’m finding it important to revisit them. I reread The Devil All the Time because the Netflix movie was released. The movie’s good, but the novel’s better.
9. The Distance Learning Playbook, Grades K-12: Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie.
This was the number one resource for how I approached this year as we prepared for distance learning.
10. The PBIS Tier Two Handbook: A Practical Approach to Implementing Targeted Interventions by Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and John E. Hannigan.
This was helpful for one main reason—it prompted me to begin a Tier Two Sub Team, which morphed into an MTSS Leadership Team.
11. The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns.
These stories were a nice way to wind down in the evening before going to sleep.
12. The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Rhiannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish.
If you’re not familiar with mental models and how they can improve your decision making, then there’s a lot of value in reading this book.
13. Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.
I read this with a fellow principal who recommended it. It’s a light read with an interesting take on turning an organization around.
14. The Quick and Easy Guide to Winning No Limit Texas Hold’em by David Harris Griffith.
I shouldn’t be sharing this book because you’ll know my poker strategy. Or maybe I jettisoned the book’s advice and created my own way of playing… You’ll just have to play me to find out.
15. Robert’s Rules: Quick Start Guide – The Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Robert’s Rules of Order by ClydeBank Business.
I wouldn’t recommend this, but that’s because I probably needed more of an intermediate reference book.
16. Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat.
The unimaginable happened when Mo Gawdat lost his son due to an error during surgery. This book shares his thought process for how to find happiness in an unforgiving world.
17. Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different by Chuck Palahniuk.
This was a delightful book. If I were to boil down the advice from all the books I’ve read on writing, the commonalities are to write simply, clearly, and because you enjoy it. Do not write stories to make money or be famous. And above all else, don’t be boring.
18. How the Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, and the Battle Over School Choice by Robert Pondiscio.
I found Pondiscio’s exploration of Success Academy very interesting. Love them or hate them, the charter schools in this book get good test results. The conflict arises regarding how a person answers this question: What are the results schools should be seeking?
19. The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities by Patrick Lencioni.
Some people should be leaders and some people shouldn’t—that’s the message of this book. Leading isn’t easy, and it’s important for a person to quickly recognize whether leadership is the right path. Just because it isn’t now doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future.
20. Call Sign Chaos: Learning To Lead by Jim Mattis.
Jim Mattis is an impressive American, and this book is a fascinating look into Mattis’ career and recent history.
21. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven.
This is a quick and fun read. I like the idea of accomplishing small things every day that eventually add up to big changes in the long run.
22. The Outsider by Stephen King.
A great beginning, a pretty good middle, and a clunky ending. This can be said for many King novels. Overall I liked it, and the TV series is worth watching as well.
23. 10 Success Factors for Literacy Intervention: Getting Results with MTSS in Elementary Schools by Susan Hall.
This book is what I needed to fill my knowledge gaps regarding literacy intervention.
24. The PBIS Tier One Handbook: A Practical Approach to Implementing the Champion Model by Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and Linda Hauser.
Helpful but not groundbreaking. For me, the most important takeaway was understanding the components of Tier One so a school can successfully scale to Tier Two and Three.
25. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger.
I technically read this book in 2019, but I finished it so closely to 2020 that I didn’t add it to my end-of-the-year list then, so I’ll add it now. I really liked this book. It’s important to take the opportunity to look into the lives of successful people; especially when they’re the ones sharing their thoughts and advice in an autobiography. Iger was able to accomplish some amazing things, and ushering in Disney+ when he did pretty much saved the company from what could have been a catastrophic 2020.
That’s it! Thanks so much for visiting the site. Here’s to great reading in 2021!