My Best Books of 2020

2020 was a weird year for all of us, and I hope we’ve put the worst behind us, although I suspect that might not be the case. In any case, my reading in 2020 was very much dominated by the pandemic, the protests, and my general interests. Without spoiling too much, I hope that you find something that will be of help to you in this list.

  1. Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Bregman. Bregman rose to prominence with that rant at Davos urging billionaires to pay their taxes, and then his appearance on Fox shot him into the American limelight. In this book, he argues that utopia isn’t just that idea that leads young people to create tyrannical regimes in search of perfection, but can be a realistic goal, even accounting for human foibles. He has a new book out, Human Kind, and I have that on my reading list.
  2. The Mosquito, by Timothy C. Winegard. This book changed how I thought about turning points in history and how they came to be. Winegard documents how this unseen heavyweight, the mosquito, changed the course of history, from Alexander the Great, the Civil War, to World War 2. A must-read.
  3. Becoming Nigerian, by Elnathan John. A must-read for every Nigerian. With a biting sarcasm unmatched by any other Nigerian writer, Elnathan shows the utter hopelessness that this nation and its social dynamics have gotten into.
  4. Longthroat Memoirs, by Yemisi Aribisala. It’s a book about food until you read it, and you’re amazed by the breadth of the book and how food can pervade every social interaction, every power dynamic, every relationship.
  5. Brilliant Orange, by David Winner. This book is the best football book I have ever read, and up there when it comes to the best books I have ever read, full stop. Until this, I didn’t know that football could be elevated to an art form. This book is genius, and along with a few others, is the standout book that I read in 2020.
  6. The Deluge, by Adam Tooze. I heard of Tooze on Conversations with Tyler, and I immediately went to get one of his books, and trust me, he doesn’t disappoint. I used to think economic history was one of those boring genres of history, with graphs and slow. clunky prose, but this was an enjoyable suprise.
  7. A Curious History of Sex, by Kate Lister. Nigerians consider discussing sex to be taboo, and that upbringing was obvious as I apprehensively approached this book. A Curious History had me hooked from end to end, and grinning from ear to ear. It’s humorous, but it is a seriously researched look at sex, attitudes to sex, and dynamics within sex and the wider society.
  8. Skin, by Ted Dekker. I’ve had a phobia for revisiting old books, in case they turn out, with new lenses to not be as good as I thought they were, but Skin is even better than I thought it was.
  9. The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, by Martin Gurri. The thrust of his argument is that the internet has created a new form of public discourse and discourse and that the elites are either desiring to be stuck in the old ways of ignoring this new class of people entirely, and looking around, he seems to be entirely validated.
  10. There Was A Country, by Chinua Achebe. The Civil War was, and still is, a touchy subject in Nigeria, and this was a book I had to work up the courage to read. Nevertheless, you can’t read this and not be moved by the extent of human ingenuity and suffering depicted in this book. Hard truths about the country are bitter but needed especially at this time.
  11. Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. I had my own idea of why nations fail, but this book widened my scope of understanding and gave me new lenses; more systemic, more rooted in the study of history, and with more of a focus on property than I had before.

What are my reading goals for 2021?

I don’t think I’ll read as much as in 2020, or 2019, but I aim to prioritize depth over breadth, like how I did with football. I’m also delving into other projects (like this!) and learning new things, so even though I’ll read a lot, I’ll be a lot more detailed in the reading.

I hope you found something worthwhile in this list.

Deji.

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The Armchair Nigerian

20. Avid Reader. Nigerian. Interested in literature, psychology, economics, biology, finance, computer science, and football (soccer). Passive comics fan.