You may not always remember every detail of every book you read, but they leave their mark in your life.
That is all well and good, as sayings go, but being the stubborn writer that I am, I prefer to remember more of what I read and learn by being intentional about writing it down.
Hence the Annual Book List.
For the past few years, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read each year, just to keep track of my reading history. (You can find previous years’ lists at https://www.beabrilliantwriter.com/book-list-index/)
Sometimes people ask how I manage to read so much. No, I never learned speed reading and yes, I do lots of other things besides reading, but the truth is, I read books the way marathon runners run miles — from years of practice and sheer love of the practice.
Anyway, below is the complete list for 2020, with brief summaries and star ratings (my opinion on whether or not a book is worth your time).
Italicized titles are fiction, non-italicized are nonfiction.
Underlined book links are affiliate links. If you choose to use the link to purchase a copy of the book, you will be helping to support Be a Brilliant Writer at no extra cost to you 😀
⋆ Star ratings key:
- 1 star: Don’t bother
- 2 stars: Eh, read if you have the time/interest/energy
- 3 stars: Interesting; read if you like the topic
- 4 stars: Highly recommended
- 5 stars: Best of its kind — put this on your reading list right now!
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The good, bad, and ugly of the Apple founder’s life and history.
- Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Rethinking how you view business: what Jewish wisdom has to say on how to make a lot of money, ethically.
- Spark by John J Ratey ⋆ ⋆
How exercise can improve your health in everything: learning, addiction, aging, pregnancy, menopause, mental health, and more.
- Superfans by Pat Flynn ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A master of marketing teaches how to get clients to fall in love with you.
- The Walls are Talking by Abby Johnson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Former abortion workers talk about their time in the industry.
- Defying Hitler by Gordon Thomas ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A novel-like recounting of the true stories of people who tried to take down Hitler throughout his long, evil reign.
- The Big Short by Michael Lewis ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The fascinating true story of the people who predicted (and benefited from) the 2008 housing market collapse and Great Recession.
- Blue Ocean Strategy by W Chan Kim ⋆ ⋆
How to succeed in business via differentiation, rather than competition.
- The Journey to Top Blogger by David Brock ⋆
A basic blogging how-to-get-started guide for the uninitiated.
- What Makes Us Girls by Brittany Pettibone ⋆
A political Youtuber’s musings on life from a female perspective.
- The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki ⋆ ⋆
Two business teachers’ take on how to use the various social media platforms available today.
- F#ck Content Marketing by Randy Frisch ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How to develop a comprehensive, effective content marketing strategy for businesses.
- Momentum by Shama Hyder ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
5 marketing principles that will work in a new marketing world.
- No Safe Spaces by Dennis Prager ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A look at some disturbing psycho-social trends happening on American college campuses today.
- Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The history of the financial derivatives known as CDOs, and how they contributed to the 2008 Recession.
- Breaking the Code by Karen Fisher-Alaniz ⋆ ⋆
An adult daughter’s discovery of her father’s WWII secrets through his letters, and how those secrets led both to his undoing and healing.
- Ponzi by Donald Dunn ⋆ ⋆
The biography of the first (eponymous) Ponzi schemer in modern history.
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Why and how we misread strangers, for good or ill, with fascinating examples drawn from history (Hitler, sex offenders, criminals, etc.)
- Mini Habits by Stephen Guise ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How to create the life you want, one small bite-sized step at a time.
- Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A poor girl from Chinatown negotiates her way into an elite girls’ school right before the great San Francisco Earthquake.
- Long Story Short by Margot Leitman ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A stage storyteller reveals her secrets for writing and delivering irresistible stories.
- The Membership Economy by Robbie Kellman Baxter ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How membership businesses work and how you can create your own.
- God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi Hinn ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The nephew of prosperity preacher Benny Hinn discusses his early life and how it changed when he left the family business.
- The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A fun historical fiction take on the American land rush of 1889, from the point of view of a major’s daughter and a budding lawyer.
- The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received edited by Liz Claman ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A collection of financial wisdom from notable influencers like Suze Orman, Warren Buffet, etc.
- The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
An overview of the principles of investing, for beginners.
- Talk Triggers by Jay Baer ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How to get all your customers talking about you by standing out.
- Rework by Hansson & Fried ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A short and sweet manifesto of sorts on how to work more efficiently.
- Secret Sauce by Harry Mills ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The S.A.U.C.E formula for communication that stands out.
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion ⋆ ⋆
Fic: A man on the autistic spectrum looks for a wife and finds someone unexpected.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fic: An epistolary novel set after WWII between a spirited writer and a cast of quirky reading society members.
- Our Dogs, Ourselves by Alexandra Horowitz ⋆ ⋆
An exploration of human relationships with dogs from multiple angles.
- Rescue Road by Peter Zheutlin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The author travels cross-country with a man whose mission is to save kill shelter dogs, giving them a second chance with forever families.
- Rescued by Peter Zheutlin ⋆ ⋆
The stories of the dogs rescued from kill shelters and the humans who adopted them.
- Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A short and sweet business-fiction story about change and how people adapt to it.
- Out of the Maze by Spencer Johnson ⋆ ⋆
The sequel to Who Moved My Cheese.
- Ask by Ryan Levesque ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How to use surveys in marketing effectively.
- The Wealthy Freelancer by Slaunwhite, Savage, & Gandia ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Three experienced freelance writers share how to find clients, market yourself, and create a wealthy freelance life.
- The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion ⋆ ⋆
The 2nd book in the series, where a socially awkward man faces fatherhood for the first time.
- The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan ⋆ ⋆
The writer’s autobiography of his Jewish childhood, troubled youth, and conversion to Christianity at age 49.
- Penguin Writers’ Guides: How to Write Effective Emails by R L Trask ⋆
Outdated book on email writing etiquette.
- Elastic Habits by Stephen Guise ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
An upgrade to the old Mini Habits, designed to suit your lifestyle, no matter what.
- The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie ⋆ ⋆
A sharp old maid detective solves a mystery involving illicit lovers and a dead visitor in the vicarage.
- The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie ⋆ ⋆
Miss Marple tackles the mystery of a strange woman’s dead body showing up in a neighbor’s library.
- The Naked Communist by W Cleon Skousen ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The history of communism: it’s birth, it’s effects, and what it’s doing today.
- The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
An Asian American girl in 1890s Atlanta must save her secret home by writing an advice column.
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
One of the legends of advertising shares timeless principles for writing persuasively.
- Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business by Susan Gunelius ⋆ ⋆
An overview of how email marketing works, including automations, landing pages, and more.
- Primal Screams by Mary Eberstadt ⋆ ⋆
The author explores how the Sexual Revolution led to Identity Politics
- The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz ⋆
A new age description of four metaphysical agreements people make that the author suggests they break.
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C Bogle ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The inventor of the index fund shares principles of long-term investing for retirement security.
- Super Thinking by Weinberg & McCann ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A big book of hundreds of mental models from multiple fields.
- Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Various creative thinking exercises to turn on your imagination.
- American Icon by Bryce Hoffman ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How car company Ford was saved by Alan Mulally, who formerly saved Boeing.
- The Elements of Investing by Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The basic, timeless principles of investing for retirement — start early!
- Emotional Currency by Kate Levinson ⋆ ⋆
How women’s emotional relationship with money affects their daily lives. And how to sort out your own emotions regarding money.
- Campusland by Scott Johnston ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fiction: A satirical look at the downfall of a typical modern liberal arts university. Warning: Some dirty language!
- Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Eye-opening book about a human rights lawyer in Communist Russia, and how she saved the man who tried to kill her.
- The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Adlerian psychology presented as a dialogue between a mentor and student.
- The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A list of common mental fallacies and mistakes to avoid.
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
An intriguing memoir by a psychotherapist who goes to see her own therapist over personal problems, while working with patients…
- Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The scientific research behind why we sleep, how we sleep, and what effect sleep has on us.
- Kawaii Sweet World Cookbook by Rachel Fong ⋆ ⋆
Learn how to make cute-looking desserts.
- Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
FIC: The tale of a rich girl and a poor boy and a mysterious, handsome rich stranger who sweeps into town…
- Hope in the Mail by Wendelin Van Draanen ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A successful children’s writer tells the story of her humble beginnings.
- Range by David Epstein ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Why breadth, not mere depth, is the key to success.
- Negotiation Secrets of the World’s Most Persuasive Men and Women by Ben Settle ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A brief book on foundational persuasion techniques.
- The New Email Revolution by Robert Bly ⋆ ⋆
The basics of email for marketing (slightly outdated)
- Don’t Burn This Book by Dave Rubin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A political youtuber tells the story of his change of mind.
- UX for Beginners by Joel Marsh ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
User experience from the beginning, for those who need a crash course.
- Think Big by Donald Trump ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A mix of how-to and biography based on the life of Donald Trump.
- Selling 101 by Zig Ziglar ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Foundations of how to sell ethically and persuasively.
- Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson ⋆
Fiction: A man investigates a series of murders based on books.
- Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller ⋆ ⋆
Similar to bullet journaling, more geared toward artsy women.
- The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
More genius poems from the Good Doctor himself.
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Bite sized writing tips by a writing teacher.
- The Seven Lost Secrets of Success by Joe Vitale ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Based on the life of Bruce Barton, one of the most successful copywriters in the past.
- If I Were You by Lynn Austin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fic: Two British girls from different social classes survive WWII together, and then one steals the other’s identity to go to America…
- The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fic: A rhyming allegory about two sides in an escalating war over butter…
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The iconic graduation gift book on life.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The classic book that spawned multiple toys, movies, books, etc.
- Trumpography by Gene Ho ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The story of Trump, told by his former Democratic campaign photographer.
- Siberian Husky by Dog Fancy Magazine/Smart Owner’s Guide ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
All about this nordic dog breed.
- My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The biography of an advertising giant.
- All Things New by Lynn Austin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fiction: A girl and her family learn to pick up after Civil War has devastated their plantation, as she deals with deadly racism and stubborn family members.
- A Serial Killer’s Daughter by Kerri Rawson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The true story of a girl who had no idea her father was the BTK killer.
- The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How people actually develop world-class “talent.”
- The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A kind of cliff-notes reference book of The Talent Code, summarizing the most practical, actionable tips for building your talent.
- The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How great teams are formed and maintained.
- Late Bloomers by Rich Karlgaard ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
If you feel like a late bloomer, check out these encouraging stories of late bloomers.
- Dog Medicine by Julie Barton ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fiction (re-read) the story of a severely depressed woman, and the puppy she saved, who helped save her.
- Rescuing Penny Jane by Amy Sutherland ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The story of a rescue dog who changed her person’s life.
- A New Owner’s Guide to Siberian Huskies by Linda Forshaw ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
All about the care and raising of huskies.
- Loyal by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Multiple stories of dogs who saved people and helped their owners live better lives.
- No Easy Day by Mark Owen ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The biography of a Navy SEAL who was on the team that killed Bin Laden.
- Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The story of William Wilberforce, who helped end the British slave trade.
- Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The biography of the greatest Renaissance man.
- The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How to live and work with the long game in mind.
- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How and why people think and behave emotionally.
- Tell to Win by Peter Guber ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How to tell stories to win over other people.
- Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A children’s picture book about twins who are not exactly the same.
- The One Thing by Gary Keller ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The word priority is singular, not plural — and other reasons to focus.
- The Road to Dawn by Jared A Brock ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The true story of Josiah Henson, the man who inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W Phillips ⋆ ⋆
A collection of quotes by the author of Old Man and the Sea.
- The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
An actual equation explaining why you procrastinate and how to stop.
- Mastery by Robert Greene ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
True stories showing the principles of craft-mastering.
- Mastery by George Leonard ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
How the most skillful develop their talents.
- Blackout by Candace Owens ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
An outspoken black conservative tells her story and shares her worldview.
- The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Tips for writing a strong sales letter from a leader in the field.
- 42 Faith by Ed Henry ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The story of Jackie Robinson, told from the worldview of her faith.
- Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Three sisters immigrate to the US and have to work their way out of indentured marriage.
- Intellectuals by Paul Johnson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The sad and sick but true stories of several great historical thinkers/ writers.
- Cop in the Hood by Peter Moskos ⋆ ⋆
A journalist becomes a cop for a year to learn what their lives are like.
- The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker ⋆ ⋆
Picture book of elves who compete to make a new sleigh for Santa.
- Tactics, 10th Anniversary by Gregory Koukl ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The revised edition of Koukl’s strategies for debating worldviews with people who believe differently.
- Press Book by Ben⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Ben’s publishing model, presented in book form.
- The Lady is a Spy by Don Mitchell ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The true story of Virginia Hall, one-legged female WWII spy for the Allies.
- Breaking Cover by Michele Rigby Assad ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A husband-and-wife spy team use the skills they learned during the wars in the Middle East
- The Passion Test by Janet Attwood ⋆ ⋆
Author shares tips for discovering/following one’s passions, mixed with autobiography of looking for spiritual gurus in India.
- The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Political commentator shares his thoughts on the philosophical foundations of the West.
- A Change of Affection by Becket Cook ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A Christian describes his change of heart, in more ways than one.
- Call of a Coward by Marcia Moston ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A pastor’s wife spends a year serving in Guatemala.
- A War of Loves by David Bennett ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A self-described gay Christian and his wrenching, controversial life story.
- Churchill by Paul Johnson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The story of Winston Churchill, by a skilled biographer.
- 10 Books that Screwed Up the World by Benjamin Wiker ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Famous and revered books that actually hurt humanity.
- One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A short book on the powers of “kaizen” — changing your life one small step at a time.
- The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Fascinating true stories illustrating what Greene considers “laws of human nature”
- On This Foundation by Lynn Austin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Historical fiction about Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
- Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Historical fiction about Ezra, the governor of Jerusalem as it is being rebuilt.
- Shadow of the Mountain by Cliff Graham ⋆ ⋆
Biblical fiction story of Caleb from the Old Testament.
- Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The autobiography of a writer’s bout with severe depression.
- Born to Dance by Jordan Matter ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A photography book by a Youtube-famous dance photographer.
- The Sculptor by Scott McCloud ⋆ ⋆
A comic book novel about a down-on-his-luck sculptor who gives up his life to obtain magical sculpting powers.
- Maps of Meaning by Jordan Peterson ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Peterson’s first book, on the origins of meaning, using myths and history
- Pride and Prejudice ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The classic romance between a spirited girl and her brooding hate-at-first-sight suitor.
- Little Lord Fauntleroy ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
When a young American boy is called back to England to be his curmudgeonly grandpa’s heir, he changes everyone’s lives.
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