91 Lessons From 91 Books I Read in 2020

And how they transformed my whole perspective on life

91 Lessons From 91 Books I Read in 2020
Image: Anangsha Alammyan Instagram

And how they transformed my whole perspective on life

I suppose I’ll never tire of saying how awesome 2020 was to me — especially in terms of reading. I discovered some amazing new authors and read a few underrated books — some of which became my all-time favorites.

In this post, I’ve gone the extra mile and put together a list of the most important lessons I learned from each of the 91 books I read this year. Some of these are one-line summaries, some are the core idea of the book, and a couple of them are direct quotes because I cannot put it better than the author.

These lessons changed the way I perceive the world and I hope they will help you too. Happy reading!

(Note: Some links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)

Lessons on How to Live a Better Life

  1. No goal is “too big” if you are willing to work towards it and not settle until you hear a “Hell Yes” from your boss or target audience. (Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson)
“Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat.”
 — Steven Erikson, Gardens of the Moon

2. If you feel like your life is stuck in a rut with the same routine repeating day in and day out, you’re the only one with the power to change the status quo. Take charge of your life. Think of the possibilities before you think of the risks. (Thank God I’m Fired, Sandeep Pawar)

3. Sometimes, to achieve the truly unimaginable, you have to give up what you consider “important”. (The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson)

4. It’s important to “fix” yourself before you can “fix” the world. (Neti, Neti, Anjum Hassan)

5. “The law is not something holy, son. It’s just a reflection of the ideals of those lucky enough to be in charge.”
 — Brandon Sanderson, Shadows of Self

6. Hurting other people is never alright, even if you do it in the name of a God or religion. (The Bands of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson)

7. “The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.”
 — Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus

8. Not everything in life has to make sense. If it appeals to you, you can still derive lessons from it. (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams)

9. You can become antifragile when you learn to turn a catastrophe into an opportunity for personal growth. (Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

10. Religion and God can mean whatever you want it to mean. (So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Douglas Adams)

11. There’s pain in knowing that no matter what you choose, there will always be doubt that you could have chosen differently and that life could have been better. (Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams)

12. You can think of a hundred different scenarios, but life wouldn’t ever get better than your present. (Tutu & Jo, Anusha Sridharan)

13. We keep reminding ourselves of every time we fucked up and punish ourselves by feeling sad. In a way, our society is based on punishments. Humans are the only animals that suffer from the same mistake more than once. (The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz)

14. If your heart’s in it and you know the way to make things right again, you can move past any mistake. (The Hitman’s Guide to Staying Alive Despite Past Mistakes, Alice Winters)

Lessons on Self-Love

15. The world might try to convince you otherwise, but it’s important to trust your gut feeling. Your fear exists to protect you. Don’t overlook what it says just so you can make the ones you love happy. (Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney)

16. What you want may not be aligned with the world’s definition of “ideal”. That doesn’t make your quest any less worthy. Keep fighting for your dreams, no matter what. (The Timeless Turns, Kavya Janani.)

17. Life is not a straight line where we are trying to achieve one goal (and call ourselves “failures” if we cannot achieve that goal). Life is a series of interconnected dots — moments that make up the present. If we make the most of each moment given to us, we can have a happy and stress-free life. (The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga)

18. Work on yourself and your skills. Make yourself so awesome that even the most successful people can’t help but notice you. But before you do that, you have to believe that you are worth it. Let go of the self-doubt and stop worrying about things that aren’t in your control. Even if you get rejected, analyze what didn’t work in your favor and focus on how you can make sure such a thing never repeats again. (Choose Yourself, James Altucher)

19. When someone expects something of you, it says nothing about you and everything about them. You don’t owe them anything just because they have some expectations. (What Do You Care What Other People Think?, Richard Feynman)

20. Accept your imperfections and learn to live with them. Get back up on your feet in a world designed to keep pushing you down. (The House on the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune)

21. “We must remember to say what’s in our hearts aloud because we can never know if it’ll be the last time we’ll ever get the chance.”
 — S A Chakraborty, The City of Brass

22. The world might try to silence your voice. But as long as you’re convinced you’re right, don’t stop fighting. Don’t give up until you’ve achieved all that you’ve worked so hard for. (I Killed Zoe Spanos, Kit Frick)

23. People will try to make you feel bad about who you are or where you come from at every step along the way. But if you make your heart rock solid and only focus on what you know rather than what others say, you should be alright. (The Lightning-Struck Heart, TJ Klune)

Screenshot by the author

Lessons on Love

24. Every true love and friendship is a story of an unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough. (The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak)

25. It might take time for you to find your way to your soulmate. But the struggles on the journey cease to matter when you find happiness in their arms. (Normal People, Sally Rooney)

26. Your relationship might not last forever. But the ending doesn’t nullify all the happy moments you felt during the time you were together. Yes, it wasn’t forever. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t love. (They Both Die At The End, Adam Silvera)

27. Your compatibility level with your partner depends on how productive you are together and how happy they make you feel. It has got nothing to do with their financial status or social standing. (Can You Keep A Secret, Sophie Kinsella)

28. A person might lose their looks and their ability to function in some unforeseen accident. But their heart remains the same. Who they are remains the same. If you loved them before, you can love them still. (Me Before You, Jojo Moyes)

29. Most romantic relationships are driven by unconscious emotions and desires. And hence, the key to solving any problem between partners is to seek emotional solutions. (Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson)

30. The spark and instant attraction you feel for a person doesn’t mean it’s love. You don’t know a person until you’ve spent time with the ones they talk to the most often (their friends or family). (Here to Stay, Mark Edwards)

31. Sometimes, you don’t need to understand your worth on your own. It’s okay to rely on your partner to help you see how much you deserve. As long as you remember this and hold this tight to your heart, you should be okay. (Wolfsong, TJ Klune)

32. No matter how flawed or imperfect you are, the person who truly loves you will only see what’s in your heart, and not care about superficial traits. (Hidden in Darkness, Alice Winters)

33. In life, you will come across a person who loves you for who you are. When you’re with them, you’ll feel like you could go to hell and back and still be okay because they give you this ability to keep moving. (A Light in the Darkness, Alice Winters)

34. “If someone can care about me that deeply, despite all my faults, despite all my refutations, despite all my everythings, then that makes all the storms and all the oceans worth it.”
― TJ Klune, Bear, Otter, and the Kid

35. Every love story won’t have a happy ending. But you can always find some beauty in it, no matter how badly the broken pieces cut. (La Douleur Exquise, Kavya Janani U.)

Lessons on Mental Health

36. Depression can hide underneath the shiniest, most beautiful facade. You might be depressed even when your life is perfect. It doesn’t mean you are weak. It’s just a disease. Like any disease of the body, diseases of the mind can be cured by a doctor. (The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath)

37. No matter what everyone else tries to tell you, take care of your mental health first. You are important. (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman)

38. You can change countries. You can run away from your life. But if you don’t address the hurt in your soul, the void in your heart will never be filled. (Hear the Wind Sing, Haruki Murakami)

39. You can hide your true feelings behind a facade all you want. The people who love and truly appreciate you will always find a way to reach to your heart through the layers. You just have to step back and let them do it. (Ravensong, TJ Klune)

40. The human spirit is resilient and indomitable. No matter how much hardship you put it through, it will come back stronger than before as long as it has a tether — people to love — to hold it true. (Lovesong, TJ Klune)

41. Just because it could be worse doesn’t mean you don’t get to acknowledge how much it sucks. (You Should See Me In A Crown, Leah Johnson)

42. “Not wanting to be destroyed by despair doesn’t make you a coward. It makes you a survivor.” — S A Chakraborty, The Empire of Gold

43. Even if you work in a job that requires you to be strong at all times, it’s okay to let your facade down at times. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to break down, as long as you keep pulling yourself back up again. (Within the Mind, Alice Winters)

44. The earth is like that, you know. It needs to hear that someone is waiting for it. People are like that too, I think.”
― T.J. Klune, The Bones Beneath My Skin

45. Don’t hide away your scars. Wear them like trophies for they tell the story of all your body and mind have been through. (Deception in Darkness, Alice Winters)

46. “Life can suck. It can hurt. It has teeth and won’t hesitate to bite you. But if you pick yourself back up every time it knocks you down, it’ll start to hurt less, because you’ll be stronger.”
― T.J. Klune, The Art of Breathing

47. Life might suck. Things might be terrible. But once you decide to take charge of your life, no amount of hardship can pull you down. (Too Far Gone, Chandrayan Gupta)

Lessons on Identity

48. The world might try to put you in boxes to fit their definition of “normal”. But you are you — unique, chaotic, and a conflagration of extremes. You define your own normal. You don’t let the world dim your flame. (The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy)

49. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
 — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

50. Your sexuality is a flexible, fluid thing. The world might try to put labels on you, but remember, the decision is yours. You’re the only one who gets to put a label (if at all) on the way you fall in love. (Heartsong, TJ Klune)

51. You don’t have to agree with the people who raised you at all times. If their ideals go against yours and you choose to rebel, it doesn’t make you selfish. (Special Delivery, Heidi Cullinan)

52. Even if you look different from everyone else, it’s where your heart is that decides if you belong or not. (Feralsong, TJ Klune)

53. If you worry too much about all the things you could be, you’ll miss out on all the things you actually are. (How to Be a Movie Star, TJ Klune)

54. Don’t hold on too tight to your identity. After all, who you are is a function of your circumstances. The definition might change at times, and it’s okay. You can spread out, take as much space as you need. (Lost in the Mind, Alice Winters)

55. “Why do I need to be defined as anything? Why can’t I just be who I am without some asshole trying to make me into something I’m not?”
 — TJ Klune, How to Be a Normal Person

56. Your past doesn’t define who you are. No matter where you are from, it’s the decisions you take today that define the kind of person you are. (The Hitman’s Guide to Making Friends and Finding Love, Alice Winters)

Lessons on Feminism

57. “And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.”
 — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

58. Even if you work as hard as a man, people will look down on you if you’re a woman. But that’s okay. You can show them what you are made of so they never dare to underestimate another woman. (Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay)

59. “Boys can be anything girls can. And girls can be anything boys can. My mom says that sometimes; boys can even be girls.” — TJ Klune, The Extraordinaries

60. A woman is capable of housing infinite strength in her heart. If she can bear the pain of heartbreak and childbirth, she can stand strong through the crushing of an entire empire. (A House Is A Body, Shruti Swamy)

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Lessons on Success, Entrepreneurship, and Business

61. Your success is not dependant on other people’s failures. There is enough room at the top for as many people who work hard to reach there. Just because someone made it before you does not mean you are destined to fail. (You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero)

62. It’s okay to be ambitious. You can take credit for your accomplishments. That doesn’t make you conceited in any way. (Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg)

63. Ideas come to those who actively work to make big things happen. If you’re not actively creating something, you’re destroying your potential and not giving your creativity the respect it deserves. (Big Magic, Liz Gilbert)

64. If you want to make your dream come true, desire it strongly enough, believe it will come true, act on it and do everything in your power, and persist even in the face of initial failures. (Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill)

65. Your Ikigai can be summed up as the intersection of the following: something you enjoy doing, something you are good at, something the world needs, and something you can be paid for. Any person can find their Ikigai after some dedicated self-introspection. In fact, trying to find the tasks that let you achieve the state of flow and give you satisfaction could be a great way of finding your purpose. (Ikigai, Hector Garcia Puigcerver)

66. If you ever wondered what really separates successful people from mediocre ones, it’s these: big dreams, hard work, and a dogged determination never to give up. There are no short cuts to success. (The 10X Rule, Grant Cardone)

67. “You don’t stop fighting a war just because you’re losing battles. You change tactics.”
— S A Chakraborty, The Kingdom of Copper

68. Attention never lasts long. But if you help at least one person every day, you’re building your legacy. Deliver so much value, that everyone on your network starts respecting you. Even if that means you have to give away a lot of your services for free, that doesn’t matter. (Think Like A Billionaire, James Altucher)

69. Be careful of the corrupting nature of power and fame. Don’t let it dilute your core values even when you feel you’ve achieved your wildest dreams. (The Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel García Márquez)

Miscellaneous Lessons

70. You can turn a blind eye to everything wrong in the world. But what if it stares at you right in the face? Can you still play the denial game then? (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams)

71. “We can’t win against obsession. They care, we don’t. They win.”
― Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

72. Life is full of surprises. You can find beauty even in the dullest, darkest moments. (Picturesque Aromas of Thought Alleys, Anusha Sridharan)

73. If you view it with the right perspective, pain can be turned into poetry. (Ariel, Sylvia Plath)

74. Humans actually have two brains — the “thinking brain” which is the logical, rational part, and the “feeling brain” — the one that takes decisions “from the heart” and is actually in control. The feeling brain takes us in whichever direction it wants to go, and the thinking brain makes up excuses and rational justifications for the direction we chose to tread on. (Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, Mark Manson)

75. Healing and peace can begin only with acknowledgment of wrongs committed. (Mornings in Jenin, Susan Abulhawa)

76. Be more empathetic to the planet and all plants and animals that inhabit it. (The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert)

77. “Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.” — Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

78. Not being afraid doesn’t mean you are brave. But, being afraid and taking action in spite of it is what defines bravery. (Coraline, Neil Gaiman)

79. Just because someone is old, don’t underestimate them and discard their feelings as if they’re nothing. (Elizabeth Is Missing, Emma Healey)

80. Peace is only an illusion. When you pit groups of people against each other based on which god they pray to, all semblance of peace or balance is lost. (Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh)

81. Never trust a stranger who tells you they will do anything for you — especially when they have got nothing to gain from helping you. (The Kind Worth Killing, Peter Swanson)

82. A person’s body language can tell way more than their words ever could. Pay attention to the way their eyes flicker, their hands cover their face, and the way their feet are pointing when they talk to you — and you could unlock the deepest secrets of their heart. (Anatomy of a Scandal, Sarah Vaughan)

83. Not loving your parents at all times doesn’t make you a bad person. (What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, Michele Filgate)

84. When life seems to be stuck in a monotonous loop, take a break, and try things out of your comfort zone. Who knows, the next big break might be waiting for you. (Blasphemy, TJ Klune)

85. “Family is not defined by blood. It’s not always who you’re born to that you’re stuck with. It’s what you want it to be, what you make of it. It’s the people around you who see you at your worst and are not afraid to pick up the pieces when you fall apart. It’s the people who can call you on your bullshit. It’s tough to hear, but if you do hear it, it means that someone gives a damn about you and chances are you should probably listen. It’s the people who look at you each time they see you like they haven’t seen you in years. It’s the people who you fight for. It’s the people you’d lay down your life for. It’s the scariest thing in the world, but, if you let it, it’s also the greatest. If I could have you remember anything from our time together, it would be that it’s not about where you come from. It’s about who you are.”
― T.J. Klune, Who We Are

86. What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. (The Long and Winding Road, TJ Klune)

87. If you want something bad enough, pulling off a few (harmless) illegal tricks to get your way doesn’t matter. (How to Vex a Vampire, Alice Winters)

88. Happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations.”
 — Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens

89. Whenever you come across a theory in a book or proposed by an elder, ask yourself why that’s possible. Asking questions will help you understand the core concepts better and gain more in-depth knowledge of the subject at hand. (Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman)

90. Your weight doesn’t define your self-worth. What you hold in your heart does. (The Weight of It All, N.R. Walker)

91. “That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive — all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
—Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Wrapping Up

This year has been a blessing when it comes to discovering amazing authors and underrated books. It has given me so much, I wanted to give back to the world in whatever small way I could. This post is my attempt at doing that.

You’ve no idea how many times I almost gave up while writing this post. But I persisted because this is something I truly wanted to do. I hope you enjoyed reading these important lessons. I hope you found at least one book on the list that piqued your interest.

10 Best Books I Read in 2020
Year-end wrap-up and some amazing recommendations
10 Books to Read Before You’re 30
Fiction and non-fiction recommendations that will help you improve all spheres of your life

For more book reviews, follow me on Goodreads.

Join my email list to get a thought-provoking story for FREE each week