12 Books of 2020 (and inspiration for 2021!)

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Is reading more books one of your new year’s resolutions?

If so, you’re on the right track to make your content marketing efforts amazing! How so? There’s always inspiration in books, no matter what subject or topic they tackle. For me, inspiration comes in the form of style and stories. You can find a lot of inspiration on how authors write their text. Of course, books are wonderful sources of inspiring quotes you can use to inspire your audience. 

And of course, books can give you concrete ideas you can apply to your marketing strategy. 

But hey, at the end of the day, books are just fun! Every year, I try to participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I’m always surprised about the stories I stumble upon and how much I enjoy reading great titles. 

Factfulness

When thinking about facts and figures, most people would have a pretty bleak outlook of the world we live in these days. And yet, when looking at the data, it turns out we’re doing much better than we think. The late Hans Rosling defines Factfulness as “the stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.” Armed with these facts, our ability to focus on real threats becomes more powerful.
This book will undoubtedly expand your horizons with factual data that shows how every indicator, like the global poverty rate, has significantly improved. The best part is how it provided fantastic context to explain how our society makes decisions regarding information (from our social media shares to the news that gets the most coverage). It even helped me understand why specific marketing tactics are so entrenched in our culture these days (and he doesn’t even talk about marketing in the book!)

Solve for Happy

The author, Mo Gawdat, Chief Business Officer at Google, tries to crack the code and apply an engineer’s approach to happiness. The premise is simple: can we use logic and problem solving (instead of a more spiritual or philosophical approach) to find that algorithm that ensures our happiness? In that sense, the book is a pretty interesting consolidation of neuroscience and cognitive behavior research for self-help purposes. As the knowledge enthusiast that I am, every chapter of this book was delicious candy for my brain. I started reading the book in 2018, well on my way to finishing it, and then, I stopped reading.
Life got in the way, mostly, but I also lost interest. That’s one of the downsides of the book. Until about 70% of it, it’s great. But that last 30% is disappointing. It starts getting into the spiritual realm that I have no problems with, but the whole point was logic and problem solving, so I felt a bit like it broke its promise. Overall, it’s a good book with great nuggets of wisdom, so still a very positive read for me.

Essentialism

We live in a fast-paced world where it almost seems we continuously need to be busy and productive at all times. And, of course, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and, yes, overtired at the end of the day. The way of the “essentialist” is basically the pursuit of less. Getting more done in less time. Or better yet, getting the right things done. This is not a book I would’ve picked up because I enjoy reveling in my mental clutter way too much (new year resolution to address, perhaps?). The book was a birthday gift. All in all, it was a good birthday gift.
There are lots of actionable tips in the book you can apply immediately in your life. In all fairness, I did have many opportunities to do so, considering we were in the middle of a pandemic. The book can get a bit repetitive at some points (making it slightly longer than it should be for a book about essentialism), but it helps emphasize the point and let the advice truly sink in.

City of Girls

After dropping out of Vassar College, 19-year-old Vivian Morris is sent to her eccentric aunt in a run-down theater in 1940s New York City. What follows is a world of excitement, showgirls and parties, and scandal—narrated by the now 95-year-old Vivian and details all the events that forever changed the course of her life. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote one of my favorite non-fiction books of all time, but her fiction work hasn’t been of particular interest until this one.
Let’s start with the downsides. It’s very long. The novel goes into excruciating detail, and then the final chapters felt like Gilbert had to rush to a conclusion to not end up with A Game of Thrones kind of book. That said, it’s still a great story. It’s pretty refreshing to read a story from the perspective of a woman fully enjoying her sexuality and independence. And no matter how many reviews you read where it says there’s too much sex (I don’t think there is), it’s not very erotic even when the sexcapades are described in some detail.

How to be Successful without Hurting Men’s Feelings

Have you ever wondered how to achieve your professional dreams without hurting the fragile male ego? This book will teach you how to “scale the heights of your career and break that glass ceiling, but do it very quietly and gingerly, and be sure to make a man think he did it for you.” It is a must for every career woman out there. It has humor, wit, satire, and cuttable mustaches you can use to be more like a man. It truly has it all! 

I had to draw my mustaches because I read the Kindle version, but I’m seriously considering this in print because the comics alone are fantastic. I laughed so hard when I read it; I still open it once in a while when I need to cheer up. It’s too good. 

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

“An insider’s guide to creating talks that are unforgettable,” Chris Anderson, curator of TED, gives the definitive blueprint to deliver a great TED talk, or any talk, for that matter. This book is obviously an excellent guide for any public speaker, crafted from the experience and stories of the TED stage. For me, this book goes beyond being a mere guide to improving presentation skills. My fellow content creators will also find a lot of incredible insights in the book on how to tell the best stories and connect ideas in a way that engages the audience while retaining one’s authenticity.

Many books tackle multiple aspects of content creation, but this one manages to succinctly comprise a broad perspective that will trigger interest to delve deeper into those individual aspects. Great read!

Coraline

When exploring the flat where she just moved in with her family, Coraline discovers a hidden door to another flat that looks just like hers, but also not quite. What seems like a wonderful discovery quickly becomes a frightening reality, which will take all of Coraline’s wits to overcome. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, yet I never really prioritized reading this one. Perhaps because it is technically a children’s book. But there it was, sitting in my bookcase, winking at me. And it was not disappointing.

Coraline is a great dark story that will appeal to all ages. The book is a real page-turner, with the illustrations adding an extra creepy factor to the story. It doesn’t read at all like a children’s book, and at the same the language used is pretty accessible. Pretty awesome book that I coincidentally read around Halloween!

Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood

For everything you need to know about beauty and homemaking, the best advice will come from expert biological women Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova (and stars of Rupaul’s Drag Race and YouTube’s UNHhhh). Let me tell you, the shenanigans of these two drag queens are music to my ears, which is why I decided the only way to enjoy this book was to listen to it. I’ve never been too fond of audiobooks, but for these ladies, I made an exception. And I was not disappointed. 

I laughed like an idiot at little nuggets of wisdom like “reading books doesn’t even make someone intelligent. You’re reading a book right now and you’re dumb as hell.” Now look, I don’t think this will be a discovery for those who have never heard of Trixie and Katya, nor RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you are, then Brenda, shantay you stay. 

Building a Story Brand

In this book, author Donald Miller teaches the seven fundamental elements of every story and how to combine them to articulate your brand promise. This method promises to deliver a compelling message that helps you connect and engage with potential customers and grow your business. Here’s the deal: many books tackle this topic, and some of them might even go in-depth on aspects of how to write, or storytelling, and even character development. The beauty of this one is how it simplifies brand messaging in a simple and actionable way. 

Some readers may find the author a little boastful because he does talk about the workshops he sells in referencing the examples to illustrate the point. I think the way he promoted his products in the book is a masterful approach to content marketing. The books’ contents are totally worth it, and it might pique the interest of some in his workshops. By the way, the same person who gifted me Essentialism gifted this one to me. Thank you, Monique!

Sh*t Actually

The book is a compilation of movie reviews of popular blockbusters of the past few decades. Written by columnist Lindy West, the book is a pretty funny and entertaining read. There were several moments I found myself laughing out loud like an idiot. Then I would read those funny parts to my husband, only to meet completely blank stares. This brings me to the first important requirement of enjoying this book: know the movies the author reviews. Note how I said “know” and not just “watched.” Like, you need to be able to recognize Laura Dern’s and Jeff Goldblum’s dialogue in the movie Jurassic Park
The second requirement for enjoying this book is to know a whole bunch of other movies AND understand various American pop culture references. Using the same Jurassic park example: it helps when you understand why Jeff Goldblum’s character because such a meme-able internet reference. My husband’s blank stares were totally justified. Because I fit all of these criteria, naturally, I loved this book!

The Midnight Library

What if you could enter a library that would allow you to re-live moments of your past? And what if you could live those choices you didn’t take and see where they’d lead you? In The Midnight Library, Nora Seed has the chance to make things right after a life of misery and suffering. She re-lives what she considers some of her biggest regrets and wonders about which played the biggest role in the outcome that is her current life. This book provided a great perspective on how we see life, the choices we make, and those pesky little things we call regrets. I could not put down this book until I finished the story. And in the end, it brought me tears and gave me comfort and joy at the same time.
The book tackles the hard topics of depression and suicide (which could trigger some readers), but it’s overall an incredibly uplifting story—a fantastic way to finish my year in books. Oh, and this one was the winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction!

And now for the book that warrants no review whatsoever, but it still counted as one of my read books of 2020:

Kindle Oasis User’s Guide

It’s a user manual for the device I got for my birthday. That’s basically all I can say about it.

I always start reading any device manual, get too impatient and start trying the device, then go back to the manual from time to time in case I need assistance. My friend Google tends to be more effective, but whatever 🙂

Which of these books will be on your reading list for 2021? Join me on this year’s challenge, where I will attempt to double the number of books I read (this will be my second try) and hope to succeed!

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