15 Good Reads: Danny’s Book Recommendations

Here are 15 book recommendations for the year 2020, touching on topics from humour to social issues, or for just broadening your perspective.

When Aimée heard that I had read over forty-five books this year, she was completely astounded. She polled her Instagram readers to see if people wanted suggestions for what to read next (or gift ideas!).

The response was a resounding yes, so here we are. Consider this my first gift guide. Remember, Aimée has shared her favourite cookbooks of 2020 as well as 24 Food Gifts from Canadian Artisans.

Today, I’m listing 15 titles that cover everything from humour to social issues. I’m always looking for a new read or audiobook, so please share your book recommendations in the comments.

5 Most Immediately Important Books

The Hilarious World of Depression | John Moe

I know that Movember is all about mental health for men, and there are many mental health drives by various organizations, encouraging men (and women) to talk, but … what do you talk about?  Where do these conversations go?  John Moe describes exactly the kinds of conversations people need to have. It is definitely “dark” humor, but so appreciated, and a helpful (?) guide if you are having internal conversations with yourself, to know how far down the depression rabbit hole you have gone.

When they Call you a Terrorist | Patrisse Khan-Cullors

I recommend this book over Desmond Cole’s “The Skin We’re In”, even though Desmond’s is from a Canadian perspective. This book even more heartbreaking, and provides a deeper background to the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. It defines systemic racism so well, and motivates me to advocate for people of colour, as well as people who don’t have the same privilege as I have enjoyed.

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World | Melinda Gates

A bit of a back story on the Bill and Melinda Gates relationship and foundation, and eye-opening (to me) statistics and stories about the benefits of empowering women. Not just the huge benefits from developing countries, but important advantages in our local communities as well. (Aimee’s note: this is one of my top picks, too)

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams | Mathew Walker

This book provides lots of research and data on the benefits of sleep, and the effects of lack of sleep. It has helped me prioritize sleep over trying to get “just one more thing done”, helped me schedule sleep time and wake up time, which has been better for my overall daily schedule and mental health. People who are responsible for scheduling shift times for our essential workers, such as doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, etc… should be aware of the cognitive effects of lack of sleep prior to determining scheduling.

We Keep us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities | Zach Norris

I’ve only partially read this book, but from where I am at thus far, it looks at the “why” for systemic racism, i.e. digging into those systems, including capitalism and the justice system, and provides an alternative framework for building new systems that will keep entire communities safer and healthier. Looking forward to finishing this one.

5 Book Recommendations Just for Fun

These all happen to be read by the author if you listen to the audiobooks.

Food: A Love Story | Jim Gaffigan |Not necessarily good for kids (or adults) if we want to promote body positivity or body neutrality in culture and change that conversation, but funny nonetheless.

Paddle your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living | Nick Offerman |Oh. My. Gosh. If all the stories are true, it’s like Nick Offerman is Ron Swanson in real life, with very little acting required for his role. Lots of laughs for me, because I love that character. Best enjoyed as an audiobook.

Is this Anything? | Jerry Seinfeld | Jerry reads some of those famous bits of paper that he keeps for every joke. Some you’ve heard before, others not. Best enjoyed via audiobook.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook | Anthony Bourdain | What a wild ride, and mastery of not only cooking, but also mastery of words to convey the emotion of the moment he was in, as well as his headspace. 

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems | Randall Munroe | This one was a physical book instead of audio like the others. For your favourite family geek. Very similar vibe and humour to the xkcd website, so if you are a fan, you’ll love the book.

5 Book Recommendations for Broadening Perspective – or I just liked them

Talking to Strangers and What the Dog Saw | Malcolm Gladwell | Good books to help look at stories from the other person’s shoes, as well as to confront our own biases.

Thinking, Fast and Slow | Daniel Kahneman. A foundational book about how we think and our cognitive bias. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it can get a bit tedious at parts. Thick. 

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World | David Epstein | Uses research in the Kahneman book to help show the advantages of broad experience and thinking as opposed to super specialist training.

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance | Alex Hutchinson | I love running, and cycling, and sport in general. This book goes through the various “limiting factors” for human performance, such as nutrition, water, cardio, mental aspects, and pulls them apart one at a time, to look for opportunities for that extra performance improvement that will either help you beat your competitors – or keep you alive. 

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption | Laura Hillenbrand | A bit hard to read about what the prisoners had to endure in camps during the war, but a fantastic read from beginning to end. Maybe I cried. Have not seen the movie.

Bonus Book

What Doesn’t Kill Us | Scott Carney | Scott hates charlatans and sets out to prove Wim Hof is one. He details his experience in training with Wim, and chronicles his journeys and the exploits of others who have drunk that kool-aid. Since reading, I regularly take time to do breathing exercises and take cold showers or jump in our cold lake. Am I better for it? Who knows, but what doesn’t kill us…

About Danny

Danny Bourque is a mechanical engineer who is known at both home and work as either “the geek” or “the numbers guy”. He is very methodical and genuinely loves to analyze almost anything that piques his interest – including food.

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  1. Excellent suggestions! I read How To last year and it’s a scream. I love Randall Munroe. I also just added The Moment Of Lift to my library queue and am looking forward to it very much. Thanks!

    • Daniel Bourque says

      Hi Erin, Aimee had read Moment of Lift first, and strongly recommended it. There’s a reason it is in the top 3 of the “you should really read these books now” list. You’re sure to be inspired!

  2. Chantal Vaillancourt says

    Thanks Danny! Will add a few of these to my 2021 list!

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