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My top ten books in 2020

Lars Markull
Lars Markull
4 min read

Initially I was planning to write a longer 2020 personal recap, but after an exhausting year (for all of us), I am keeping it short. The year had many ups and downs for me personally, and specifically the first lockdown in Germany was particularly tough for me. Luckily the summer gave some time to reflect and recharge, and thus, I am able to cope a lot better with the second/current lockdown. A good home office setup and a daily morning run routine has definitely the biggest positive impact for me.

In 2020 I have learned to focus on a lot more on my inputs and do not worry too much about output/outcome. If you are doing the right things, then the right things will happen to you. Don’t get demotivated by minor setbacks.

As I have been doing it in the last few years, I want to share my books that I have read this year as well. Usually I have shared all of them, but this time I decided to keep it to my favorite ten books. I always aim to read roughly 50 books per year, but this year fell clearly short of it and landed at around 35-40 books. I guess 2020 has to serve as the excuse for that as well 🙂

Here is my list of 2020 in no particular order:   


Sandworm is about the intensing cyberwar in the last years. This book should be a must-read for everybody working in tech. However, I have to give you a warning that you might want to switch off all your electronic devices afterwards.


Electronic Value Exchange

If you are working in Fintech/Banking, specifically with debit/credit cards then you have to read this book. The book is about the foundation of Visa and the history of payment cards. Overall, this is by far the best book I have ever read about the industry – even at the steep price point. I have also just finished reading “One From Many” which is the story from Visa founder Dee Hock, which is a more personal story and doesn’t have a lot of details.


Banking on it

The book from Anne Boden about her story starting Starling Bank was a great read too. Is the fight and parting with Tom Blomfield and the Mondo/Monzo team 100% true? Who knows, and honestly I do not care much. It’s a great book and provides her personal story about the founding of Starling.


Red Notice

Bill Browder got involved in East Europe very early in his consulting / investment career just when the curtain of communism was falling. When the USSR collapsed he moved to Russia and became the biggest foreing investor in Russia. And you can probably imagine what kind of problems he was / is facing. But read yourself!


Made in America

I have only been a few times in my life to a Walmart – back in the days when I studied in the US for a semester. And I hated it every time I had to go 🙂 But there is plenty to learn from its success story and the book is written very well. At the end of the book, Sam Walton describes the potential that somebody else might come along at one point and build an even bigger empire than Walmart. Which brings me to….


Everything store

… Mr Bezos obviously. Made in America is written by Walmart founder Sam Walton himself, whereas, the Everything store is written by a company-outsider. Right at the beginning Author Brad Stone quotes Jeff Bezos who said that it might be a little too early for the book because the Amazon story is just getting started (book is from 2014). The book portrays the history and early years of Amazon very well, and it provides a few insights into the way of how Amazon works (positive and negative).


The man who solved the market

This book was recommended to me after I published my reading list last year and I enjoyed it a lot. I have not much experience or interest in “algo trading”, but it’s a great book for anybody interested in stocks, trading and investing.


That will never work

If you are into startup stories, then you have to read the book about Netflix. I have actually read “No Rules Rules” as well which is the book describing the Netflix mentality and way of working. That will never work on the other hand is describing the story of how the team came up with the idea and how it evolved over time. I enjoyed it even more than the Amazon & Walmart book mentioned before. 



This book is a “brief” history of debt in the last five thousand years. In the last years, I got more and more interested in the origin of money and financial instruments, so this was a must read for me. But you need a keen interest in the topic to stay awake 🙂


Prize – Epic Quest for Oil

Equally long and extensive as the previous book but with the same level of insights. The discovery of oil, formation of major oil companies and the fight around this has a massive impact on our lives. This book describes it in great detail.


Bank 4.0

As somebody reading a lot of Fintech content, I wasn’t sure if I should read Bank 4.0 but since I skipped Bank 3.0, I decided to do so. Especially since I am focusing so much on Embedded Banking, the tagline of the book “Banking Everywhere, never at a bank” made me buy the book. There were no major incredible new insights, but still a really good read about the topic.


Investing: The Last Liberal Art

I am not planning to become a full time investor, but the book is a really good summary of how interlinked many things can be. The author tackles different areas from biology to psychology to philosophy and emphasises how important a multidisciplinary approach is. I picked up a few more books to read from the book’s notes which I am looking forward to reading in 2021.


What books did you enjoy most reading this year? What do you plan on reading in 2021? There are probably still at least a few more months where a good book can help us keep sane, so please do share 🙂

Wishing you a happy new year and hope that you stay healthy and happy!



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