The 10 Best Books I Read in 2020
What a year 2020 is! Every one of us in this world has to adapt to the changes that coronavirus brings. With the travel restrictions and people asked to stay home, our external enjoyment and pleasure have been limited. But this is also a great opportunity for inner connection.
For me, this year has been about renewal, reconnection, and reinvention.
In terms of social relationships, I wanted a break to reset my relationships with others. So I practiced solitude to connect deeper with my spiritual essence. As an empath, I tend to match other people’s emotions unconsciously.
Sometimes, if I’m not mindful, I might take on other people’s problems as my own. Being away from people helps me to renew who-I-really-am and have a clearer understanding of my true desires. It also gives me the space to reconnect with my heart and let go of some old stories that don’t serve me anymore. So when the Singapore government announced a partial lockdown, the timing was actually perfect for me.
You can call this my second “dark night of the soul” where more layers of my ego are peeled off. But it wasn’t as serious or intense as the first one because I intentionally chose to take this path and grow.
A Call to Go a Different Direction
In terms of my writing, there is a shift too. I always enjoy understanding people and their personalities. I have been writing about my MBTI type, INFJ, since 2017. But this year, I feel more compelled to write about spirituality. It all started at the end of last year. I was in nature and I asked how I could complete this book that I was writing. The answer I received was to be a spiritual writer.
I trust my intuition.
My soul asked me to reinvent myself and I did.
My writing has always contained some spiritual elements even though the focus has been more on personality types and psychological issues. Previously, I felt uncomfortable using the word “spiritual” because it can be confusing for some people, especially those who don’t have any personal spiritual experiences. I thought it might alienate some of my readers as they might think that what I write is too woo-woo.
But, upon reflection, using the word “spiritual” will help me to attract more people who are seeking spiritual insights into my writing. By bringing the spiritual aspects of my writing to the forefront and not hide behind the genre of self-help or psychological books, it also causes less confusion to the readers right from the start.
Music Came Back to My Life Again
Music has always been a part of my life since I was little. However, there was a period of time in my twenties when I was actively writing songs. It’s only when I shifted my attention to my career and writing that I stopped composing songs.
Before the partial lockdown, I was listening to Broadway musicals and borrowed a few of their music scores from the library. In August, I found myself learning to sing again, and this time with more commitment. Then, in September, I also participated in a songwriting competition with an old song I had written nine years ago and I made it to the semi-finals. Now, I’m actually starting to write songs again and I’m excited to learn about music arrangements next year.
There is no conflict.
You can have multiple identities.
Initially, I was a bit hesitant to go back to the past and be a songwriter again. The mind says, What’s a “spiritual writer” writing sappy love songs for? But I realized that I don’t have to limit myself or be attached to one single identity. The ego will want that. However, I’m a deliberate creator. I create my own reality. I have the freedom to create spiritual books, love songs or any genre of music, and even films if I want to. The joy and fun are in the creating process.
I don’t know how music is going to play a part in my life but I appreciate this renewed energy around music and I’m eager to where it brings me.
This Year the Donation Goes to…
This year, I read 60 books. Every year, I have a “pay it forward” tradition. I play the role of a “Santa” and donate an amount based on the number of books I’ve read. (You can read my yearly posts here.) Usually, I will donate to a charity or an organization that is related to education. But this year, I couldn’t find a charity that I resonate with.
Instead, I decided to do something different — I bought a gift for someone and helped her fulfill her dream.
Follow What I Read:
There are many ways you can give.
You can contribute more than you think.
In August this year, I bought Cheryl Porter’s singing course and joined her Singer Tribe. It’s a lovely and supportive community. I enjoy listening to the various clips of other students singing. It brings me so much joy to hear the different voices, tones, and songs they choose to sing. Sometimes, we think we can only give money, advice, or service. But there’s much more we can give. We can give with our smiles, our voice, and the energy we exude too.
Mama Cheryl has recently launched a new course in December and I saw a few of the other students can’t afford the new course. So I had a brilliant idea, I shall give someone a $100 gift card to purchase the course. It’s both music and education-related which I love. I also get to choose someone who has shown passion in her singing and support her dream.
My Top 10 Favorite Books: 2020 List
I have a rule of thumb though. I only feature one book from the same author for my list. So even if I like two to three books by the same author this year, I only select the one that I like the most.
1. Getting into the Vortex by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks
“Your Vortex is a Vibrational haven where the frequencies are very high and without resistance. You can tell when you enter your Vortex by the way you feel.”
I started reading their books and watching Abraham Hicks videos last year. And if you are wondering who Abraham is? It’s “a group consciousness from the non-physical dimension” that Esther Hicks channeled.
This book is actually an accompanying users’ guidebook for the meditation cd. I have read all of the Abraham Hicks books I could find in my library last year and I wanted more. So I started purchasing their products and joined their monthly subscription from their website. Abraham Hicks has been such a daily staple for me for the past year that I have to rank them first even though this is a guidebook.
Whether you believe in mediumship or not, if you are interested in feeling better, read their books. Even though they teach the Law of Attraction (LoA), in essence, it’s about raising your vibrational energy and removing resistance.
(Below is a link to their books on Amazon. For the meditation cd in digital format, you can check out their website.)
2. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
“All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?”
After I read Tuesdays with Morrie last year, I started reading other books by Mitch Albom and I realize he has written more fiction than non-fiction. This is the first book I read this year and it foreshadowed my reconnection with music later in the year.
This novel is narrated from the perspective of Music. It’s about the life of a talented, fictional musician, Frankie Presto, who is a Spanish war orphan raised by a blind music teacher. At nine years old, he was sent to America at the bottom of a boat with an old guitar.
The story begins with Frankie’s funeral and his mysterious death. Interviews of famous musicians at the funeral intertwine the main story. Mitch Albom connected real musicians and got some of them to share about the fictional character in their own words.
If you love music, you would enjoy this book. A musician himself, the author uses a lot of musical terms and analogies to describe the character’s journey. Even though the story is fictional, it is historically accurate to the time period.
3. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”
If you ever feel like you don’t fit in or you often feel different from other people, this bestseller novel about the acceptance of facial differences will move you.
August Pullman was born with a rare medical facial deformity and he was home-schooled. When he entered the fifth grade in a mainstream school for the first time, he stood out from the rest and was initially ostracized by nearly all the students.
Made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, this heartwarming story touches several themes such as family, friendships, courage, identity, and kindness. I haven’t watched the movie yet but it’s easy to empathize with the characters in the story. I love to read novels and watch movies that make me feel deeply about the characters.
I also like how the author tells the story from the perspective of different characters. You get to know how the characters really think about each other, which is something we don’t get to experience in our daily lives.
4. Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith
“Chakra patterns are programmed deep in the core of the mind-body interface and have a strong relationship with our physical functioning.”
I always knew about the chakra system but I didn’t study it in-depth until I took the Mindvalley Quest’s Chakra Healing by Anodea Judith. I love to learn things in a holistic manner and that’s why I find it fascinating when she breaks down the chakra system in terms of body, mind, and spirit in her course.
This book brings a fresh, new approach to the Eastern chakra system by mapping the Western framework of Jungian psychology, somatic therapy, childhood developmental theory, and metaphysics to each chakra. You will understand the various traumas and abuses that happen to us at each chakra level, and how to heal them.
Even though it’s geared towards psychologists and therapists, I enjoy this book a lot because I have always been interested in both Western psychology and Eastern philosophy. If you are like me, then this is the book for you. If not, here are some other chakra books you might enjoy.
5. Atomic Habits by James Clear
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
This is one of the most popular, bestselling, and best books on habits. It’s so popular that everywhere I go people are recommending this book. I couldn’t get a copy from the library because they were either borrowed or reserved.
Then, one day, I realized that my younger brother, who seldom reads, was reading this book too! He borrowed the digital version from the library. So I decided to borrow the eBook too. But even though there are over 300 hundred digital copies, I still had to be on the waiting list! It’s crazy how many people are reading this book.
Popularity aside, what I love about this book is how simple it is. I love reading books that are easy to read and have a good structure. I love when an author uses simple analogies to bring their message across clearly and help the concepts stick in our brains.
My biggest takeaway from this book is the behavior change model where the author divides talks about outcome, process, and identity. Changing our identity is the most effective for changing habits but most of us focus on the outcomes and processes which often lead to upset and frustration.
If you are looking to build new habits or change your habits for the new year, this is the book I recommend.
6. Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich and Steven Levenson
“I wish that anything I said mattered, to anyone. I mean, let’s face it: would anybody even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?”
Dear Evan Hansen is a young adult novel about loneliness and social isolation. It is inspired by the Broadway musical of the same name, written by Steven Levenson with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. And I love all the songs in this musical!
Apart from the nice music, the story is interesting too. In the novel, Evan Hansen is an awkward and lonely teenager with social anxiety. His therapist suggests he writes motivational letters to himself. Connor Murphy, a school outcast, took one of Evan’s letter before he commits suicide and things spiral out of control.
In the musical, we don’t get to see Connor’s point of view. But in this novel, we get to learn about Connor’s backstory. So even if you have watched the musical, there’s something new to look out for.
If you ever feel invisible or struggle to connect with others, you will resonate with the story.
7. The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills
“You don’t need to justify your love, you don’t need to explain your love, you just need to practice your love. Practice creates the master.”
Back in 2016, Don Miguel Ruiz’s other book, The Four Agreement, made it to my top 10 list. Four years later, I finally read this book after I wrote my book, Reconnect to Love. We share a lot of the same insights about love and spirituality.
If you often find yourself looking for others to feel happy, this book will provide you with much calm and tranquility. It will change your perspective towards love.
Love is not about possessing and controlling someone. It comes from within us. In this book, the authors challenge our fear-based beliefs that undermine our ability to love. Reading this book will help you resolve the suffering or drama you face in your relationships.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s books are based on ancient Toltec wisdom. So in this book, you will find Toltec tales that help him bring his message across.
8. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else.”
This short spiritual novel is about the son of a wealthy Brahmin family, Siddhartha, who despite all the love he’s receiving feels discontent. One day, he decides to leave his home on a journey to find spiritual enlightenment. He is joined by his best friend, Govinda, and both of them renounce their earthly possessions.
This book addresses the conflicting dualities that spiritual seekers often face. To live a life of spirituality or human desires? Seek more knowledge or listen to your own intuitive knowing? Reading this simple story about one man’s search for meaning in life and his road to self-discovery will help you reflect on your spiritual journey.
If you are also on a spiritual journey and you struggle to reconcile between the human and spiritual aspect of you, you will resonate with this book.
9. Still Here by Ram Dass
“Wisdom is one of the few things in human life that does not diminish with age.”
This year, I read two books from Ram Dass. Even though Be Here Now is the more popular book, I actually prefer this book because it’s more personal and authentic. The former has a lot of spiritual teachings from various religions. But I feel that in this book, the author has peeled off another layer of his ego. He is even closer to his spiritual essence as compared to the earlier book he had written.
This is the first book Ram Dass published after he had a stroke. One evening in February 1997, he was at home contemplating how to end this book and he suddenly had a stroke. The stroke has given him a new perspective of aging and clarity on the ending of this book.
If you have the fear of aging and dying or you are afraid of the illnesses that might come from aging, this book will help you embrace the change.
Reading this book helps you to deal with loneliness, depression, and powerlessness that might come from aging. It encourages you to accept what you cannot change and make the best of your circumstances.
10. At Home in the World by Thich Nhat Hanh
“The past is no longer a prison for me. The future is not a prison either. I am able to live in the here and now.”
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite authors and now he’s the only author that has been on my list every year since 2016. Actually, I was contemplating whether to put him on the list again or introduce someone new. But after reading over thirty of his books so far, I feel very centered and at peace.
Even though this has been a crazy year for many people due to the coronavirus situation, I wasn’t affected as much. I attributed this to him and other authors such as Eckhart Tolle that have taught me to be mindful and helped me connect with the deep presence that is within me. So I decided to add him to the list again this year.
This autobiographical book is about Thich Nhat Hanh’s life as a Buddhist monk and his spiritual journey. In this book, you will find many inspiring stories from his childhood and the traditions of rural Vietnam. Arranged in chronological order, each section will take you to a time in his life where Thich Nhat Hanh shares the important lessons he has learned.
Below are a few others good book I read in 2020 which didn’t make it to the list, but worth mentioning:
The Books I Published in 2020
This year, I published one book. It’s the first book in my spiritual love series. Currently, I’m writing my seventh book which also belongs to the same series.
1. Reconnect to Love by Yong Kang Chan
I started writing this book in August 2018. It took me a while to complete this book. Initially, it was supposed to be part of my self-compassion series. But I was stuck with this book for a very long time.
One day, I was having some self-reflection in the park and I have an insight that this book needs a more spiritual perspective. So I rewrote this book and started the spiritual love series.
Writing this book helps me to process feelings of insecurity, resentment, neediness, and loneliness, and let go of the stories that kept producing these feelings. But this book is not about getting rid of loneliness or building better relationships with others.
Loneliness is not due to a lack of external connection. It’s a result of internal disconnection. When we feel lonely, we have lost our alignment with the love and abundance within. Instead, we are focusing on what’s missing and lacking in our relationships. Ultimately with this book, I start to peel off the layers of my ego and start to understand who I really am without my relationships.
If you crave for deep connection but you feel lonely even in your relationships, then this book is for you.
Hey there, I’m Yong Kang, best known as Nerdy Creator. I’m an author of seven books. I write about spirituality, self-compassion, and mindfulness. I love reading books, especially non-fiction. The list above is a combination of what I have read and my research. Each year, I create a Top 10 list of my favorite books.