Three weeks ago we dived into a new decade. As every year I am creating a personal list of must-read books. I write down some books which I definitely want to read this year. Nevertheless, I decided to share with you my list of must-read books for 2020. If you are also looking for some books for the upcoming year, this blog post is for you. Below is a list of my must-read books for the new year. The booklist is not only aimed at designers but generally at all creative minds.

Must-read books recommended by Creative People

If you are interested in creativity, productivity, business, psychology, you will definitely find some books suited for you right here. In this list of must-read books, you will not only find my personal recommendations, but also the must-read books of personalities such as Tobias Van Schneider, Ryan Hoover, James Clear, and more. Since the books do not address a specific target group, they are also not classified in categories or genres.

Some books mentioned on this list have been on my wish and reading list for quite some time. They are there because the books were recommended by people like the ones I mentioned a few lines above. Therefore, these books have earned their place in my must-read books for 2020 list.

At the beginning also a short disclaimer. The books are all written in English. My mother tongue is German, and I also think that there are a few German-speaking readers of this blog. However, I read most of the design, tech, and business-related books in English. Therefore the books in my must-read list are also written in English.

If you have any suggestions about books that should be on this list, please let me know. I will not keep this post up to date. However, I am planning further blog posts on book lists, which will then be organized in different categories.

All must-read books on this list are also provided with an introduction, which comes from the author, co-author, publisher, etc. and was thus also adopted. But now let's start with the must-read books for 2020.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

No book hit like James Clear's Atomic Habits in 2019. The book has sold millions of copies and has only recently been recognized as Amazon's best-selling book. James Clear has been writing on his personal blog jamesclear.com since 2012. His articles have been shared and quoted countless times. In addition, he can still be heard as a speaker at numerous events. His book Atomic Habits finally made his breakthrough internationally. The book was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 12 consecutive weeks. It has also been translated into over 40 languages. I just bought the book myself recently and can't wait to finally read it. Atomic Habits by James Clear is a great opener of this list of must-read books for 2020.

People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. He calls them atomic habits. In this ground-breaking book, Clears reveals exactly how these minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes.

He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks (the forgotten art of Habit Stacking, the unexpected power of the Two Minute Rule, or the trick to entering the Goldilocks Zone), and delves into cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience to explain why they matter. Along the way, he tells inspiring stories of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientists who have used the science of tiny habits to stay productive, motivated, and happy. These small changes will have a revolutionary effect on your career, your relationships, and your life.

Atomic Habits by James Clear
Book Cover of Atomic Habits by James Clear. A must-read book.

This could be our future by Yancey Strickler

Some of you may not know the name Yancey Strickler. Nevertheless, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter is definitely known to you. Well, Yancey Strickler is co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter. After founding a successful company and being recognized by Fast Company as one of the most creative entrepreneurs, he devoted himself to writing.

Western society is trapped by three assumptions: 1) The point of life is to maximize your self-interest and wealth, 2) We're individuals trapped in an adversarial world, and 3) That this is natural and inevitable. These ideas separate us, keep us powerless, and limit our imagination for the future. It's time we replace them with something new. This Could Be Our Future is about how we got here, and how we change course. While the pursuit of wealth has produced innovation and prosperity, it also established an implicit belief that the right choice in every decision is whichever option makes the most money.

The answer isn't to get rid of money; it's to expand our concept of value. By assigning rational value to other values besides money--things like community, purpose, and sustainability--we can refocus our energies to build a society that's generous, fair, and ready for the future. By recalibrating our definition of value, a world of scarcity can become a world of abundance. Hopeful but firmly grounded, full of concrete solutions and bursting with creativity, This Could Be Our Future brilliantly dissects the world we live in and shows us a road map to the world we are capable of making.

This could be our future by Yancey Strickler
Book Cover of This could be our future by Yancey Strickler. A must-read book.

Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis

Chase Jarvis planned to attend medical school after graduation. But shortly before graduation, his grandfather died. He left behind all of his photography equipment. It was the cornerstone of an outstandingly successful career as a photographer, artist, and art director. He taught himself everything, learned different techniques and built up his business. He founded his own studio. Soon he worked with some of the biggest companies as his clients. Those included companies like Volvo, Nike, Apple, Microsoft, or General Motors. On top of that, he also worked with Google, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Columbia Sportswear, REI, Honda, and Subaru. Since 2010, Chase Jarvis has been co-founder and CEO of CreativeLive. CreativeLive is an online learning platform that offers free online courses in various areas. In 2019 he published his most successful book, Creative Calling.

Creativity is a force inside every person that, when unleashed, transforms our lives and delivers vitality to everything we do. Establishing a creative practice is therefore our most valuable and urgent task - as important to our well-being as exercise or nutrition. The good news? Renowned artist, author, and CreativeLive founder, Chase Jarvis, reminds us that creativity isn't a skill—it's a habit available to everyone: beginners and lifelong creators, entrepreneurs to executives, astronauts to zookeepers, and everyone in between. Through small, daily actions we can supercharge our innate creativity and rediscover our personal power in life. Whether your ambition is a creative career, completing a creative project, or simply cultivating a creative mindset, Creative Calling will unlock your potential via Jarvis’s memorable “IDEA” system.

Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis
Book Cover of Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis. A must-read book.

Indistractable by Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal was born in Israel, but now lives and works in New York. He is particularly known for his first book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, which became a Wall Street Journal bestseller. He also wrote publications for Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, and many more. His latest book Indistractable was published in September 2019 and is also well on the way to becoming a bestseller.

You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. Later, as you’re about to get back to work, a colleague taps you on the shoulder to chat. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold. What would be possible if you followed through on your best intentions? Or what could you accomplish if you could stay focused? What if you had the power to become “indistractable?” International bestselling author, former Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, wrote Silicon Valley’s handbook for making technology habit-forming.

Five years after publishing Hooked, Eyal reveals distraction’s Achilles’ heel in his groundbreaking new book. In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: Abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more. Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us.

Indistractable by Nir Eyal
Book Cover of Indistractable by Nir Eyal. A must-read book.

The Moment of Lift: How empowering women changes the world by Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates published her first book in 2019. The former project manager of Microsoft Bob, Micorosoft Encarta, and Expedia, is increasingly campaigning for women's rights. From her altruism to her social entrepreneurship to her desire to advance technology worldwide, Melinda's ideas have inspired many and made her an outstanding personality. In her book, Melinda weaves personal anecdotes from her philanthropic career with facts about the world's most pressing issues.

A debut from Melinda Gates, a timely and necessary call to action for women's empowerment. “How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings – and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.” For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down. In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book―to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life.

I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.” Melinda’s unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention―from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world―and ourselves. Writing with emotion, candor, and grace, she introduces us to remarkable women and shows the power of connecting with one another. When we lift others up, they lift us up, too.

The Moment of Lift: How empowering women changes the world by Melinda Gates
Book Cover of The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates. A must-read book.

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

Marty Neumeier is one of the best-known personalities in the design industry. In 1996 he founded the "pioneering but no longer existing design magazine Critique". Critique was a quarterly publication on the topic of design thinking. Critics included Robert Bringhurst, Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser, Steven Heller, Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher, David Stuart, and Massimo Vignelli. In 2002, Neumeier founded Neutron, a consulting firm specializing in internal branding in San Francisco. There he wrote three books about branding: The Brand Gap, Zag and The Designful Company.

Not since McLuhan’s THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE has a book compressed so many ideas into so few pages. Using the visual language of the boardroom, Neumeier presents the first unified theory of branding—a set of five disciplines to help companies bridge the gap between brand strategy and customer experience. Those with a grasp of branding will be inspired by the new perspectives they find here, and those who would like to understand it better will suddenly “get it.” This deceptively simple book offers everyone in the company access to “the most powerful business tool since the spreadsheet.”

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
Book Cover of The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier. A must-read book.

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover is a historian and writer. She became particularly known for her autobiography "Educated". Westover left her family at the age of 17 and continued her education. So she attended Brigham Young University. Westover graduated with honors and obtained a Master of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge with the support of a Gates scholarship. Westover was a guest scholar at Harvard University in 2010 before earning her PhD in history at Trinity College, Cambridge. In her dissertation, she dealt with radical utopias in the 19th century. With her first autobiographical work Educated about her childhood and later educational efforts, she reached #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list.

As this book got recommended to me by so many people, it was a no-brainer to include it in my list of must-read books for 2020.

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated by Tara Westover
Book Cover of Educated by Tara Westover. A must-read book.

Company of One by Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis is a designer and writer. His clients include Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, and professional athletes Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal. His publications have appeared in VICE, Wired, Fast Company, Quartz, and others. As co-founder of Fathom Analytics, he builds a privacy-focused website analytics tool. In his Weekly Newsletter called the Sunday Dispatches, he shares articles about working and living online with 35k subscribers.

One of the favorites of my must-read books for 2020.

A refreshing approach to entrepreneurship centered on staying small and avoiding growth - maximizing happiness, sustainability and profitability. Paul Jarvis left the corporate world when he realized that working in a high-pressure, high-profile world was not his idea of success. Instead, he now works for himself out of his home, and lives a much more rewarding and productive life. He no longer has to contend with an environment that constantly demands more productivity, more output and more growth. In Company of One, Jarvis explains how you can do the same, including: Planning to set up, Determining desired revenues, Keeping clients happy, And, of course, doing all this on your own.

Company of One by Paul Jarvis
Book Cover of Company of One by Paul Jarvis. A must-read book.

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

Julie Zhuo was born in Shanghai. However, her family moved to America when she was five years old. She studied computer science and has a degree from Stanford University. In 2006, she became the very first intern on Facebook. At the age of 25, she became a manager. Today Julie Zhuo is the Vice President of Product & Design. Her book The Making of a Manager, published in 2019, is the reading she wished for when she became a manager at 25.

No idea what you're doing? No problem. Good managers are made, not born. Top tech executive Julie Zhuo remembers the moment when she was asked to lead a team. She felt like she’d won the golden ticket, until reality came crashing in. She was just 25 and had barely any experience being managed, let alone managing others. Her co-workers became her employees overnight, and she faced a series of anxiety-inducing firsts, including agonising over whether to hire an interviewee; seeking the respect of reports who were cleverer than her; and having to fire someone she liked.

Like most first-time managers, she wasn’t given any formal training, and had no resources to turn to for help. It took her years to find her way, but now she’s offering you the short-cut to success. This is the book she wishes she had on day one. Here, she offers practical, accessible advice like: Don’t hide thorny problems from your own manager; you’re better off seeking help quickly and honestly. Before you fire someone for failure to collaborate, figure out if the problem is temperamental or just a lack of training or coaching. Don’t offer critical feedback in a ‘compliment sandwich’ – there’s a better way! Whether you're new to the job, a veteran leader, or looking to be promoted, this is the handbook you need to be the kind of manager you've always wanted.

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo
Book Cover of The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo. A must-read book.

The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

Sheena Iyengar is a Canadian-American psychologist and expert in decision theory. She teaches as a professor for business psychology at Columbia Business School. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business. Afterward, she did the research for her Ph.D. in social psychology at Stanford University. She has written several publications over the years. Her book The Art of Choosing, published in 2010, was awarded one of the Best Business Books by the Financial Times that same year.

Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go? Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Her award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences. Use this book as your companion and guide for the many challenges ahead.

The art of choosing by Sheena Iyengar
Book Cover of The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. A must-read book.

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

Edwin Catmull is an American computer scientist who has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics. He is a four-time Oscar winner. After working among George Lucas at Lucasfilm, he founded Pixar together with Steve Jobs. There he was the main developer of RenderMan rendering systems, which was used in the films Toy Story and Findet Nemo, among others.

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream first as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged an early partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later and against all odds, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. Since then, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner twenty-seven Academy Awards.

The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Now, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques, honed over years, that have made Pixar so widely admired―and so profitable. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation Studios―into the story meetings, the postmortems, and the ‘Braintrust’ sessions where art is born. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture―but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, ‘an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.’

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull
Book Cover of Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. A must-read book.

Why we sleep by Matthew Walker

Prof. Dr. Matthew Walker is the director of UC Berkely's sleep laboratory. His research focuses on the effects of sleep on human health. He has received numerous awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. He is also a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to his work at the UC Berkely Institute, he also founded the Center for Human Sleep Science. Furthermore, he also worked with Hello a consumer electronics company that made a sleep tracking device called Sense, and Google as a sleep scientist. In 2017 he published his first book, which he worked on for a total of four years. The book immediately became an international bestseller.

I want to read this book since it came out in 2017. Now it finally made it on my list of must-read books for 2020.

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in twenty-first-century society, with devastating consequences: every major disease in the developed world - Alzheimer's, cancer, obesity, diabetes - has very strong causal links to deficient sleep. In this book, the first of its kind written by a scientific expert, Professor Matthew Walker explores twenty years of cutting-edge research to solve the mystery of why sleep matters. Looking at creatures from across the animal kingdom as well as major human studies, Why We Sleep delves into everything from what really happens during REM sleep to how caffeine and alcohol affect sleep and why our sleep patterns change across a lifetime, transforming our appreciation of the extraordinary phenomenon that safeguards our existence.

Why we sleep by Matthew Walker
Book Cover of Why we sleep by Matthew Walker.

Creative Confidence by David Kelley & Tom Kelley

David and Tom Kelley founded the international design and innovation agency IDEO. In addition, David Kelley is the namesake and web maker of the innovation method design thinking. IDEO employs people from different fields. Those include industrial design, interaction design, and communication design. Furthermore also engineering, software programming, branding, business administration, anthropology, and psychology. They are owning studios at eleven locations. Those include Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, London, Munich, Singapore, Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo.

A powerful and inspiring book from the founders of IDEO, the award-winning design firm, on unleashing the creativity that lies within each and every one of us. Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the creative types'. But two of the foremost experts in innovation, design and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative.

In an entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, and with many of the world's top companies and design firms, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, allow us to think outside the box in terms of how we approach and solve problems. Creative Confidence' is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers.

Creative Confidence by David Kelley & Tom Kelley
Book Cover of Creative Confidence by David Kelley and Tom Kelley.

The Infinite Game: How Great Businesses Achieve Long-Lasting Success by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is an author and business consultant. He started studying law in London but dropped out to gain a foothold in the advertising industry. He graduated in Cultural Anthropology from Brandeis University. His TEDx Talk on the topic "How great leaders inspire action" is one of the most-watched TEDx videos of all time. After his successful international bestsellers Start with Why and Find your Why, Sinek published his latest work The Infinite Game in October 2019.

The New York Times-bestselling author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, and Together Is Better offers a bold new approach to business strategy by asking one question: are you playing the finite game or the infinite game? In The Infinite Game, Sinek applies game theory to explore how great businesses achieve long-lasting success. He finds that building long-term value and healthy, enduring growth - that playing the infinite game - is the only thing that matters to your business.

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
Book Cover of The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Daniel H. Pink is an American writer. He holds a degree from Northwestern University Linguistics. He then went on to study law at Yale University Law School. Among other things, Daniel Pink worked as an editor for the technology magazine Wired. From 1995 to 1997, he was the main speechwriter for US Vice President Al Gore. At the beginning of the 21st century, he started to work as an author.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink definitely deserved its place in this must-read books list.

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That's a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink
Book Cover of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

That is the end of my must-read books for 2020 list. If you have any recommendations just drop me a DM on Twitter or an Email. I am going to to those must-read books list regularly now and structure them in specific categories.