Books I Read In 2020 and Recommendations For You

Ali Tamaseb
5 min readDec 21, 2020


This is now the fifth year I’m writing this post, hopefully, it has not become boring and you find a couple of books from this list that are new and you get to read over the holidays or next year. You can also find the lists for the last three years here: 2019, 2018, 2017.

Many of you know that I Mostly Listen to Books on Audible while I commute. So this year, given I was mostly working from home, I commuted a lot less, and as a result, I ended up reading about 5 fewer books than I did in the previous years. Still, it was a blessing to read from different authors and about different topics.

Without further ado, here’s the list.

1) Influence: Mastering Life’s Most Powerful Skills — The Great Courses

Another book from the great “The Great Courses” series. This one is on influence, how we can use language for better influence, and also how we get manipulated and influenced by advertisers and salespeople every single day.

2) I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships

“I Hear You” is a relatively short book (but also still long for it being a book) that highlights the importance of acknowledging and giving validation while listening to other people, or better yet, hearing them. Useful in all contexts, work, or personal relationships.

3) Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

This is a hilarious book! Made me laugh a hundred times. Written by Benjamin Dreyer, managing editor and copy chief at Penguin Random House (largest general-interest publisher in the world) on how to write a book/essay in English with clarity and style! I’d only recommend it for people thinking of writing books or long essays though, not for business communications!

4) Barbarians At the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

An old story, already turned into a movie, Barbarians at the Gate is the story of a private equity firm taking over a large tobacco company and the beginnings of one of the most dramatic forms of finance, leveraged-buyouts

5) A History of the United States in Five Crashes

Interesting of looking at history, by going through the economic/market crashes in the past century in the US. It was very dry and hard to listen to though.

6) Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power In America

This was great storytelling, very long book though (30 hours of audiobook!) of one of the most secretive industrial conglomerates in the U.S.

7) The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor

This is one of the more famous books on value investing. I didn’t find it that insightful, to be honest. Few good ideas, repeated over and over.

8) What It Takes: Stephen A. Schwarzman

Great storytelling, of the birth and growth of Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms. It was all about his successes (could’ve used some humility) but regardless the stories of his interactions, especially with politicians, very interesting.

9) Man’s Search for Meaning

Famous 1946 book about the author’s experience as a prisoner in concentration camps, describing his psychotherapeutic method of staying alive by looking for the purpose of life. Meaningful book, but a very sad story.

10) The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg

This is a journalist-written biography of the life of Bloomberg (a little too positively written). Very interesting to learn about the early days of finance and the creation of the Bloomberg terminal, but also his foray into the world of politics and his years as mayor.

11) The Upstarts

Another journalist-written (great storytelling) of the stories of companies in the sharing economy. Enjoyed reading about the shocking similarities and differences between Uber and Airbnb’s challenges and how the founders dealt with them.

12) Good Economics for Hard Times

This was on Bill Gates’ summer reading list. Compares the differences between the opinions of the average economists with random surveys done with people. Shocking how the viewpoints are different.

13) Chaos Monkeys

This is the story of a young man who moves from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, joins corporates, and starts a company. Interesting insider story of an entrepreneur’s journey.

14) A Promised Land

And finally the long-awaited book by President Obama. An honest memoir, from his early days, getting into politics, failures on campaign trails, and his fast rise to become a popular choice for president. He is breaking his memoir into two books, the second part to come later. I thought the book was far too long, had a lot of irrelevant details, and could have easily been one book for the whole thing. Of course, man’s gotta sell books!

My Favorite?

It’s hard to pick a favorite but my top 3 would be A Promised Land, What It Takes, and if I were to only choose one

The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg

I was reading this book right around the primary elections to learn more about Bloomberg. The most inspiring part for me was to learn about the early days of the Bloomberg Terminal and the startup journey for one of the most widely used equipment in the world of finance. The rest on politics was mostly a congratulatory story on how he transformed the City of New York, so I took it with a grain of salt!

Happy holidays!



Ali Tamaseb

Partner at DCVC ($4Bn VC firm) and author of “Super Founders”. #1 bestseller new release VC book on Amazon.