My Top Ten Books 2020 (and belated 2019 list….)

6 min readJan 17, 2021


Several years ago, I started writing and publishing my Top Ten books. Call it complacency or whatever, but I didn’t get to it in 2019 (but did in 2018 and prior found here). I derive my top 10 by how many highlights in my kindle. I am a huge fan of whispernet but have never really used Audible’s bookmark feature which I find difficult to do when I am running! While I enjoy Audible, if I find the book fascinating, I get both formats. Generally, I end up then using Audible more for fiction or light non-fiction.

In no particular order!

How not to Diet by Michael Greger.

Dr. Greger might be the most prolific physician writer in America and his daily videos and website is the best non-profit, public good in food and nutrition by far. It’s about evidence-plain and simple and this is not just a book but your go-to resource to combat all of the myths about dieting and nutrition that are out there. His cookbooks, How Not to Die, and recently released How to Survive a Pandemic are all good reading edible (couldn’t resist). In my view, this guy deserves some type of Nobel prize.

Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization by Scott Barry Kaufman.

Every year the theme for my favorites is consistent-mostly social sciences with the ability to transport to business operations and this is no exception. As a UPENN MAPP grad, I am an avid fan of Dr. Kaufman’s terrific the Psychology Podcast which would also make my top 10 favorite podcasts (along with this great gem No Stupid Questions featuring Angela Duckworth and the Freakanomics dude, Stephen Dubner.). Kaufman clarifies self-actualization from what has been classically taught and attributed by Maslow’s to what Maslow really said about the subject (spoiler alert-Maslow never had a hierarchy per se). Kaufman has taken Maslow and crafted a re-do with a more compelling pathway and a more practical self-actualized definition in our current time period. He is indeed a modern-day Maslow.

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova

My favorite science writer has turned into a modern-day George Plimpton. Several years ago after reading her terrific book, How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, I attended IdeaFest in Lousiville to see her live commentary around her favorite mastermind, Sherlock. Afterward, I had her sign my book and told her about a great article I had read regarding Sherlock Holmes and empathy and how it had served instructive to our healthcare company and in particular our therapists and patient care. She reminded me that it was indeed her that wrote the article and her subsequent book, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It….Every Time, reminded me why she didn’t fall for my little misdirection and subsequently hit my 2016 favorite list. Whether you are a poker player or not is irrelevant as you will remember key elements of focus, attention, and appropriate bluffing. The characters in the book are distinctive and I hope this book becomes a movie soon.

Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan

I grew up in a post-WWII baby boomer town that had a variety of first-generation ethnic families including our next-door neighbors whose language, traditions, and rituals were what defined “weird” for me for several years. Khazan’s book struck a chord for me and upon reflection, I wish it wouldn’t have taken me so long to get along with weirdos. This book will make you understand conformity and why some folks just can’t get past stereotypes and implicit bias’. More importantly, it will teach you to start seeking out such weirdos who have as Khazan points out, all kinds of upsides!

The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh

The baby boomer town that I grew up in was highlighted by parents in my opinion who really didn’t care for how happy their kids were but they were bent on making sure they were “good kids”. Chugh’s book provides a better paradigm and that is to be “goodish”. Chugh, who is an esteemed social psychologist at New York University Stern Business school who gives us all the evidence behind privilege, unconscious bias, and the causes of inequality. Being “goodish” means one is always growing and her practical suggestions on conversing about politics and seeing our blind spots are insightful and helpful-especially during this pandemic period where diversity, equity, and inclusion are top of mind. Her newsletter, Dear Good People, is also a gem that I highly recommend.

The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences by Helen Riess with Liz Neporent

Significant, comprehensive, and practical advice from Dr. Riess who is the leading expert and researcher on all things empathy. Empathy can be learned despite the many pundits who believe it is purely genetic. I was fortunate that Dr. Riess came on our Called to Care podcast and hit the highlights of the book and her on-going efforts to train both healthcare and non-healthcare entities alike. My favorite lesson? Empathy decreases as self-care decreases. Lack of empathy is a lack of self-care. Tremendously helpful book.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I knew I would read this book after seeing his Academy Award acceptance speech some years ago and since we are members of the same fraternity (DTD although very different years and universities!) as well as he golfs and hangs around Austin-two of my favorite things (wonder if he drinks Miller lite?). The introspection, stories, and upbringing are entertaining for sure but it is his insights and ability to communicate them that make this a very fast and pleasant read. This was one that I listen to on Audible (he is the best narrated ever) but then was glad to be able to flip through the pages of the hardback book at a later time as you can see the detail and diligence to the notes that he kept up with throughout his most influential years. He’s more than an actor and is actively making America a better place.

Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis

One of the first heavily researched books to come out during the pandemic, I devoured this in a few sittings. Dr. Christakis (MD and PhD) is a brilliant thinker and researcher who taught us in his previous works about how powerful and influential (including our weight!) our social networks impact our lives. It’s always a good thing to hear fact vs. news items on all things Corona and Christakis delivers including relevant historical examples and scenarios for how this will end. For those who want to understand the intersections of medicine, history, sociology, data and all things science, this is the book on the pandemic to read.

Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway

Ok, this is the only other book to read on the pandemic to read! Another Stern Business school prof, brand/digital marketing expert Scott Galloway provides significant thoughts on Corona impact on all things higher education, technology, politics, and consumer goods. Corona is best thought of as an accelerant and Galloway cull’s from his terrific weekly newsletter, podcasts (and here), and expertise to provide insights and predictions. His delivery is refreshing and unique ( his voice sounds exactly like Howard Stern). I have become a huge fan-even when his predictions are wrong and/or I disagree significantly but that’s his brilliance-he always makes you think.

Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms by Shellye Archambeau

This was my last read in 2020 and loved it because as the same age as the author, I could relive much of my youth and early business influences despite the fact that we couldn’t be more opposite in terms of sex or race! Shelly is an African American former technology CEO and provides tremendous lessons from her family and her life experiences. I still remember when you could never go wrong buying IBM and Shellye had the confidence, support, and tremendous goal setting desire to climb the appropriate ladders, utilize mentors, and take risks in her career. Out of all of my best reads in 2020, this will become the one that I gift out the most-to those that I mentor and to youth who are looking for an exemplar.

Called to Care: A Medical Provider's Guide for Humanizing Healthcare by Laurence N. Benz

Shameless self-promotion here. This didn’t make my list but it is by far the most time I have ever spent with a book-was fortunate to get published this year. Thankfully, I have so many authors like this year to learn from which will help me on the next one.

To reading more in 2021.

larry @physicaltherapy

P.S. Since I didn’t publish in 2020 for my top ten, 2019 list, here it is!

Waking up a Leader Scott

Farsighted Steven Johnson

Skin in the Game Talib

Loonshots Bahcall

ReBoot Colonna

Range. Epstein

Bias. Eberhardt

Indistractable Nit Ayal

Chasing My Cure. Fajgenbaum

Talking to Strangers. Gladwell