Rachel Folz

People, product, and process pro.

My Year in Reading

My name is Rachel Folz and I am a reader. I like fiction, non-fiction, science fiction. I just like books. Sometimes I am listening to a book and reading two others at the same time.

In 2020, I devoted much of my new found free time to reading books of all sorts. Over the course of this year, I was able to tackle some thick tomes that had gotten very comfortable on my “To Read” list and I added in some new authors and perspectives.

Without further adieu, and with nearly no organization whatsoever, here’s my 10 favorite books of 2020.

Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday

In this slim call to arms, Holiday uses examples from the past to show us the heroes that put their goals ahead of their ego and were rewarded with something bigger than money – meaningful success. 

The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday

After “Ego.” I was on a Holiday thing. In “Obstacle,” Holiday weaves together stories about people who overcame immense odds by attacking their problems strategically. This book is the antithesis of the empty hustle culture that permeates the tech industry. 

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

I had always meant to read it… But when is a good time to sit down and work through 656 pages on Steve Jobs? Word on the street was that he wasn’t going to be a likeable protagonist. Well, it turns out 2020 was that time. It was worth it. A truthful take on a very flawed genius who put user experience above all else. 

“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

This book deserves every bit of its Penguin Classic status. It takes an intimate look at the relationships of mothers and daughters. Even though the characters’ experiences were different from mine, I felt a kinship and longing that only well written lit can give you.

“Working” by Studs Terkel

It’s been 45 years since Terkel’s non-fiction masterpiece on the real work lives of the US workforce was published, but some chapters could have been written last week. Terkel covered professions of all sorts: blue collar, white collar, the enforcers, and the criminals. Each section helped me learn a little more about the enduring difficulties and abiding rewards of work. 

The War of Art” by Steve Pressfield

IMHO, there’s no Holiday without Pressfield. In this seminal novel – a real must read for any creative – Pressfield tells us about how building a process, and living it each day, can be the trick to unlocking your higher creative self. 

“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

Okay, judge a book by it’s cover. Doyle practiced and preached radical transparency in this book about how she blew up her life to get to something better. This was the kind of book that had me desperately asking all of my peers, ‘have you read this yet?!’ 

“Don’t Make me Think” by Steven Krug

I know it’s de rigueur for designers, but I really appreciated Krug’s no nonsense look at interactive design. He shows you the ‘why’ behind the rules we’ve all been playing with for so long. It’s an easy read and I guarantee there’s something in there you did not know. 

“How Music Works” by David Byrne

I love David Byrne. Only he could write 352 pages on, well, how music works. He covers everything from recording and instruments, to how hip hop is made for your car. He carries the book with love, sprinkling in anecdotes from his career. You will be a more interesting dinner party guest for reading it. 

“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight

Ever seen that success iceberg picture that floats around LinkedIn from time to time? This book is that but for Nike. This is the only business book I’ve ever read that tells the real stories of the major failures it took to be an overnight success. Great for start up folks.

That’s a wrap for 2020. Don’t worry – I’ve already started a few new books for next year.