As 2020 has passed as probably one of the weirdest years. It also presented opportunities to invest more time in hobbies and other interests. The time gained by working from home, and no longer having to commute, combined with the fact that a lot of places of interest were shut down can now be spent on self-improvement. This blog post will concentrate on my personal reading list of 2020 – ish and what my favorite lessons are from these books.

While some of my original plans failed, reading more is one of the goals that I managed to do consistently over the year. While I quit learning to play the guitar after about a month (my second-hand guitar broke, never bothered to replace it), and was working out daily more of a struggle than I anticipated, reading remained consistent. In this blog post, I will take you along in my readings, and share my favorite lessons from these books.

Reading list of 2020 – my favorites

The first and favorite book on my reading list is the culture map by Erin Meyer. In my blog post regarding distributed teams, I mention I’m currently working in teams that consist of several cultures. The culture map really opened up my mind to try to find the root cause for the behavior, instead of contributing it to malice. In my opinion, the key to success for collaboration between cultures is having an open mind, and trying to relate. This is exactly the opposite of the “us vs them” mentality I would see when our collaboration started.

Another book that is high on my favorite list, is the 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferriss. This book is more popular and even made it to the new york times bestseller list for quite a while. This book really helped me make a mindset switch. Does more money always mean you are richer? The book does a great way of explaining that freedom is also quite important. A man with half or less income can live much richer than someone working 60+ hours per week can. While this book has not convinced me yet to book a flight to Buenos Aires to become a digital nomad, it definitely triggered something in me to look deeper into building passive income streams.

Digital nomad
What being a digital nomad could look like.

As explained in the blog post “The 4 lessons I learned as a starting scrum master“, I had a real “aha” moment reading Coaching agile teams by Lyssa Adkins. I had no real material to compare my role as a Scrum master to, as I have only been a Scrum master at my current job. With this lack of perspective compared with examples I had of my co-workers, I turned into a “senior developer with scrum tendencies”. This book really helped me develop my role as a Scrum master, to the point where I am now a full-time scrum master of 2 teams.

If you are in some kind of position where you work with teams I wholeheartedly recommend the 5 dysfunctions of a team book by Patrick Lencioni. This book will take you along in a situation where a team needs to be created, and what dysfunctions a team can have. There are several practical pointers in here which make it a must-have on my reading list!

Books worth mentioning

As been quite popular the last few years, Subtle art of not giving a fuck by Mark Manson is a book I read with great joy. The concept of “say no more often so you can say yes to the things you care about”, is something I can apply to my own life more often.

Agile tips from the trenches is an ebook written by several agile experts who give their tips on several subjects. This book is being put together by Yves Hanoulle. There are too many good tips, to pick one to share in this list. So I would recommend checking out the ebook yourself!

A personal favorite is Ik weet je wachtwoord by Daniel Verlaan. He is my favorite tech journalist in the Netherlands, and he has made the news by diving into the criminal circuits rather often. This book takes you along in several areas where criminals operate in terms of technology. With my technical background, it was still a very interesting read on how the minds of some criminals work, and how technology can be used against you.

Miscellaneous books

In this category fall books, I read, that I want to mention but do not fall under any other category.

The book Hypotheekvrij by Gerhard Hormann falls under the same category as the 4-hour workweek. It has quite extensive ways to help you save money, to completely pay off your mortgage early, so you have more financial freedom to live the life you want. Although some of the saving tips might not be for everyone.

Another way to keep learning for me was to check out Investing for dummies. The stock market has always been this “rich person thing” to me, but I found out that is not the case. To make sure I know what I am doing I wanted to learn the basics of the stock market. This book really helped do that, especially the fact I bought it second-handed, and it contained several pencil-written tips from the previous owner(s). All in all a decent contribution to my personal reading list.

Another ebook I enjoyed is Start freelancing today by Kelly Vaughn. I always wondered if freelancing was something for me, and this book really helped me learn some of the aspects of freelancing, and I have a much clearer picture of freelancing. I don’t think I will quit my job any time soon, but it definitely made me realize it is much easier than I thought!

The last 2 books fall under a new hobby I plan to pick up since I moved to a new place with a garden. To master the flames, and grill a perfect steak on my Weber Kettle. The first book to help me with that is Het vuur de baas by Dennis “Noskos” Van Koutrik. This really explains the basics and all the different ways to BBQ. I would recommend this for anyone wanting to start with the BBQ and learn more about the basics. Another book in this category is the book ALL FIRED UP by Joy Bouwmeester. I followed Joy on Instagram for a while, and the pictures of her food are just perfect, it gets me drooling every time. The fact that all recipes are gluten-free is a nice bonus.

bbq in action
How I imagine spending the upcoming summer


To come to a conclusion (or give you a nice summary) on all of the lessons I have learned from the books in my personal reading list above:

  • There are many ways to tackle an issue. Try to see it from the other’s perspective before making judgments. Especially when it comes to collaboration with people from different cultures.
  • While I might not be ready to hop on an airplane to Buenos Aires to start the Digital Nomad life, several books did open my eyes to passive income and earning more freedom in that way.
  • Thanks to Coaching agile teams & tips from the trenches I really developed myself in the role of a Scrum master, improving not just myself, but also the teams I am currently in.

While this is still just a subset of some more books I read in 2020 on my personal reading list, I still learned a lot through them. What are the books you read in 2020? And what lessons did you learn from them? Please let me know in the comments, so I can pick them up as well!