The Best Books of 2020

Robert Vlach
5 min readDec 28, 2020

Here they are — MY 12 BEST BOOKS OF 2020 💘

🥇 David A. Sinclair: LIFESPAN — A perfect blend of popular science and self-help literary genres, Lifespan has been the most life-changing book of 2020 for me. Thanks to it, I looked into a dozen new topics related to healthspan, started to supplement the NAD+ precursor NR (sold in its stabilized form as Tru Niagen), bought it for my parents and, seeing the undeniable results, I have even bought stocks of its producer Chromadex. Jan Melvil Publishing and Tomáš Baránek, I owe you one for discovering this book of the year for me and others!

🥈 J. K. Rowling: TROUBLED BLOOD — While I didn’t like much of the previous two books in this series (they were quite average, to be honest), this one is, surprisingly, a bloody masterpiece! The most vivid, entertaining book I’ve read this year by far. I enjoyed listening to every single minute of it. A huge achievement by Rowling, it blew my mind.

🥉 Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst: TRICK OR TREATMENT — A rather shocking book based on a fundamental scientific and statistical analysis of alternative medicine, its countless treatments and remedies. I was surprised that some of them actually do work and horrified by those that harm thousands (if not millions) of unsuspecting patients. I love Singh and the way he explains science since I read his Fermat’s Last Theorem. In this book, he suggests that we should stop applying double policy standards to conventional and alternative medicine. I fully agree.

☢️ Michael Shellenberger: APOCALYPSE NEVER — The most profound critique of renewables by a long-term advocate of nuclear energy as a way out of the climate mess we’ve put ourselves in. I urge you to not judge this book by the cover/title/summary. You’d rather take it all in first.

🧙‍♂️ Randy Pausch: THE LAST LECTURE — I underestimated this book as some self-help crap at first, but then it turned out to be a real gem — a summary of life lessons learned and of the last lecture given by a professor dying of pancreatic cancer. He seems to had been a sympathetic, humble guy with a big heart, a born geek in love with his family and life in science, in other words, someone I can relate to pretty much. His memories are bits of hard-earned wisdom.

⚔️ Erik Larson: THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE — I love Churchill as a Warrior archetype, a rather controversial figure, who turned out to be the only person capable of leading the Western world to take down the vilest villain of all time. Larson wrote this book as an intimate history of Churchill and people closest to him during the blitz, also known as the Battle of Britain. Great history book by any standards, Larson has surpassed himself even, as far as I can tell.

⚠️ Bjorn Lomborg: FALSE ALARM — Lomborg is another personal hero of mine, a public-policy contrarian willing to articulate unpopular concerns about the mainstream climate policy. He is often being tagged as a climate-change denier (he is not) as well as one of the world’s most influential thinkers. You read and decide. His new book was years in the making. It can be described as a harsh, evidence-based critique of climate alarmism on the one hand and a study of alternative climate policy on the other. Lomborg’s previous book Cool It was fine, but this one is far more ambitious in scope and bold ideas of what should be changed in our climate policies. And once again, don’t judge by the cover.

🧪 Mark Miodownik: LIQUID RULES — If you read Mark’s book Stuff Matters, you would surely agree that he’s one of the finest writers in the popular science genre and the best one when it comes to materials that our world is made of. This sequel is just as good as its predecessor, but instead of hard materials, it covers liquids and their amazing attributes. Good stuff!

🧠 Andy Greenberg: SANDWORM — If you are a freelance IT expert working in development, networking, security, administration or support, Sandworm is a highly recommended book to read. Wired’s Andy Greenberg goes beyond the usual hacking and data-privacy breaches and delivers a stunning description of modern cyber-warfare that represents a genuine threat to businesses worldwide as well as governments and civilians. It’s an engaging book about a future that is inevitable because it is partially already here, but rarely written about. If you read it, it will undoubtedly raise your awareness of broader IT security concerns — or at least make you way more suspicious of any email attachments :)

🧬 Robert Plomin: BLUEPRINT — Let me be blunt here: Blueprint is a superb book, but also a bit dull in style. In all other aspects, however, it is scientific, measured and enlightening on how much we are determined by our DNA (the famous nature vs. nurture dichotomy). It was especially useful for me as a parent seeking to create an ideal environment for our children and enjoying seeing them grow into capable adults.

🧠 Leonard Mlodinow: ELASTIC — Drunkard’s Walk by Mlodinow, along with the books he wrote with Stephen Hawking, are the highlights of modern popular science literature, so his turn into psychology is unexpected as well as welcome. Forget pop-psychology; this hard-science guy has something important to say. Surprisingly, he argues against logic as a sole driver of scientific discovery and technological progress. He explains the notion of “elastic thinking” and neophilia as a neglected element in human thinking that sets us (wide) apart from animals — useful reading for any doer, scientist or researcher.

🕯️ Carl Sagan: THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD — Sagan’s classic on the uniqueness of science and critical thinking is just as bright as it was 25 years ago. Just as Richard Feynman, Sagan himself was the light of reason to be missed for generations and this awe-inspiring book is a part of his ongoing legacy.



Robert Vlach

Business consultant, author of The Freelance Way and proud founder of Na volne noze — one of the largest national freelance communities in Europe