See the 2020 wrap-up post over on the main blog about this page, but in short it’s my top ten favorite books of the year, followed by the full list of every book that I read (I read 25!).

So: …

10. Miniature and Standard Dachshunds

This was one of the cutest little books I read in 2020, and had quite a few intriguing bits of insight into the breed, and best practices for working with them. I certainly enjoyed reading it, but I know it’s only for a dedicated niche.

9. La Belle France: a short history

This was a leisurely ramble through the centuries leading up to modern France; it did cover quite a broad sweep of the country’s history, but it traded in being able to go into too much depth anywhere. A great survey to see if your interest is piqued by anything within it.

8. The Age of Conversation

I love the ideas of salons or tea- or coffee- houses or other places where folks entertain themselves mostly through discourse and the exchange of ideas. This book focused on the salons in Paris leading up to the French Revolution, and especially the lives of the various women who hosted them.

7. The Pragmatic Programmer

This one is a known classic in programming circles from what I’ve gathered, and it certainly deserves such a status. Clear, concise, well-organized, excellent examples that get right to the point. And the two authors allow enough personality drip through to also make it a delight to read.

6. How Remarkable Women Lead

This was a recommended reading for a continuing studies seminar on Women’s Leadership that I took in late November, and I’m glad I did. The case studies and principles discussed in the book convey far more than could have been presented in a few short sessions.

5. Deadliest Enemy

This was kind of a no-brainer in terms of choosing books to read in 2020, given the pandemic going on. A lot of it was depressingly spot-on (it was originally written in 2017), and a lot of the other stuff is chilling enough that I had to keep putting it aside and coming back to it. But it was very informative.

4. The Organized Mind

The author takes what sounds like a rather dry topic and pours lots of life into it; I really did enjoy making my way through it after I’d gotten into the swing of things. Lots of tips and tricks and suggestions about how to make yourself more mentally organized, and so become more efficient, more “put-together,” and in general more effective at getting through life.

3. The Cairo Trilogy

I listened to a Great Courses lecture series a year or two back (back when I had a real commute) about great works of literature, and this one was included. As I had never heard anything about it before I was definitely intrigued, and now having read it I feel like I’ve gotten an incredible window into the world it portrays (Cairo between the world wars). I would consider this a must-read for someone trying to break free of the standard Western canon.

2. Anna Karenina

Another one of the “big three” that I had committed myself to reading in 2020, this one was already one I’d been telling myself I was going to read for years. And it did not disappoint. There are all those literary tropes and platitudes about why this is one of the best-known novels in the West, but it is just put together very well, and very thoroughly covers the characters between its covers.

And the best! [well, according to me :P]…

  1. Gödel, Escher, Bach

This is simply a masterpiece. It’s difficult to describe what this book actually is about, and too many people have tried before me to do so, so I won’t either. But there is never a dull moment between its covers, and it’s one that I fully see myself coming away with new insights every time I re-read it (and I usually don’t re-read things). Well-deserving of the cult-like stature it has in the comp-sci / mathematical circles that I’ve drifted in and out of.


All books read in 2020 (25 in total!)


  • The Best American Travel Writing 2019 — Alexandra Fuller, ed
  • Text Me When You Get Home — Kayleen Schaefer
  • How Linux Works: what every superuser should know — Brian Ward
  • The Paris Wife — Paula McLain
  • Carnegie’s Maid — Marie Benedict
  • Ada’s Algorithm — James Essinger
  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019 — Sy Montgomery, ed
  • Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
  • Black Edge — Shellac Kolhatkar
  • Happiness is a Choice You Make — John Leland
  • Singapore: unlikely power — John Curtis Perry
  • The Power of Meaning — Emily Esfahani Smith
  • The Cairo Trilogy — Naguib Mahfouz
  • La Belle France: a short history — Alistair Horne
  • The Age of Conversation — Benedetta Craveri
  • Our Time is Now — Stacey Abrams
  • Serious Python — Julien Danjou
  • How Remarkable Women Lead — Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston
  • Miniature and Standard Dachshunds — Alex Seymour
  • The Pragmatic Programmer — David Thomas and Andrew Hunt
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach — Douglas R. Hofstadter
  • The Organized Mind — Daniel J. Leviton
  • The Order of the Day — Eric Vuillard
  • Deadliest Enemy — Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker
  • The Hansa — E. Gee Nash