Best books I read in 2020


Jason Collins


January 6, 2021

The best books I read in 2020 - generally released in other years - were:

Below is the list of books that I read in 2020 (starred if a re-read). The number of books fell yet again relative to the previous year, with 37 books (21 non-fiction, 16 fiction). I’ve left a lot of fiction read to the kids off this list - the Harry Potter series (multiple times), the full Wizard of Oz series, the Deltora Quest series, Enid Blyton, and so on - but the decline in substantive reading was driven by other factors.

First, I took on a heavy teaching load in the second half of the year - teaching post-graduate economics and behavioural economics units - on top of the day job. Most of the teaching involved designing the units from scratch. I was swamped. From July to November inclusive, I completed two non-fiction books.

Second, and what I expect will prevent a rebound in the number of books I complete, is that my approach to reading has changed in the last couple of years. My previous rationale for reading a book was typically to hear someone’s thoughts and arguments on a topic that might be interesting. Now, I’m more likely picking up a non-fiction book to learn something specific. I’ll read as much as I need to, which is often only a small portion, in which case the book doesn’t make this list. Academic articles or web material are often better sources.

I expect that’s a better use of my time. If you asked me to summarise a book I read 10-years ago, I can typically recall the main concepts and an example or two. But that’s about it, even if I took a lot of notes or wrote a review. It’s the concepts and associated illustrations that stick, and the most efficient way to understand and remember them is typically not reading a book.



Previous lists: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019