McKinsey Global Publishing Picks

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear

One of the best books I’ve read on habit formation and decision making, and what better time to rebuild your mental patterns than when quarantined? It’s a simple, practical framework for changing the way you think about progress and success, whether you’re an organization hoping to redefine an industry or an individual looking to reduce stress.

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win, by Maria Konnikova

Behavioral science meets David Mamet’s House of Games.

The Music Lover’s Literary Companion, compiled by Joan and Dannie Abse

A collection of essays about music and musicians; the pages sing.

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean

Beautifully written tale of the disastrous fire that broke out in the Los Angeles Public Library in April 1986, destroying a million books.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, by Shoshana Zuboff

A provocative look at the contrast between the degree of agency that consumers have versus what they think they have.

Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun

The author interviewed more than 200 US women and studied social trends to identify roadblocks for Gen X women. The answer to the title question, broadly, is career and finances plus gender stuff plus caregiving for aging parents plus parenting, plus …

To Throw Away Unopened, by Viv Albertine

Former punk-rock guitarist (The Slits) writes about “a lifetime of fighting the patriarchy” and challenges of balancing family life and art. Engaging, funny writer.

Early: An Intimate History of Premature Birth and What It Teaches Us About Being Human, by Sarah DiGregorio

As someone who had a premature baby, I had a vested interest in this book, but I was captivated by DiGregorio’s examination of how prematurity and medicine have changed.

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, by Sarah Frier

As a non-tech-savvy person, it was truly fascinating to learn how the founders created Instagram and how they navigated being bought by Facebook. Frier has a deft writing style and also stellar reporting chops.

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

It’s a compulsive read about identical light-skinned twins and how their lives split apart, with one entering white society and the other moving back to her hometown. It’s an amazing examination of identity, racism, and sexism but also a beautiful story about a family through the generations.

The Break, by Katherena Vermette

This debut novel by Governor General’s Literary Award–winning Métis poet Vermette follows the impact of an assault that takes places in Winnipeg’s North End and is unlike anything I have ever read.

You Should See Me in a Crown, by Leah Johnson

If you need a shot of joy in your life, I recommend this book about a queer Black girl in Indiana who runs for prom queen in order to nab scholarship money for college.

The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli

A short, fascinating book on time from a quantum physicist who knows how to write for the layperson. He translates complex theories into everyday language, often through the lenses of poetry, art, or philosophy.

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride, who was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, by Cathy Park Hong

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

Can we be happier: Evidence and Ethics, by Richard Layard

Describes a new culture emerging based on “reciprocal obligation” that contrasts with the ultracompetitive dominant one. This new culture focuses on and acts for the greater good—at work, at home, and in the community.

Designing for Emotion, by Aarron Walter

Breaks down what design is really about, and how to go beyond functional and useful to truly delightful by designing for an emotional connection with people—one that is powerful, unique, humane, and essential.

The Grandmothers, by Doris Lessing

Four short novels from the 2007 Nobel Prize winner, a writer in the tradition of Charles Dickens, Émile Zola, and Stendhal who influenced Alice Adams and Tessa Hadley.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer




Business Media



Civil Rights/Freedom of Expression

Diversity/Inclusion Activists



McKinsey Leaders

Other 2020 reading lists you might want to explore

Books by McKinsey Authors

McKinsey on Books

Explore this month’s best-selling business books, prepared exclusively for McKinsey Publishing by NPD, and a collection of books by McKinsey authors on the management issues that matter.

Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies, 7th edition

At the crossroads of corporate strategy and finance lies valuation. This book enables everyone, from the budding professional to the seasoned manager, to excel at measuring and maximizing shareholder and company value.

Fast Times: How digital winners set direction, learn, and adapt

Winning in the digital age requires both lightning speed and thoughtful deliberation. Companies able to master this paradox are emerging as today's winners. Those that can't will be sold for parts.

Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick

– The new book on how to beat the odds with a bold strategy


It takes a village to curate amazing lists from this rather busy group of leaders from all over the world. We would like to thank Nikhil Deogun, Mitra S. Kalita, Gabriella Stern, Rebecca Lowell Edwards, Steve Lipin, Sara Blask, Karen Wickre, Ailish Campbell, Anya Schiffrin, Tom Weber, Shernaz Daver, Jose Zamora, and Judi Mackey for their help.

Within McKinsey Global Publishing, Mike Borruso, Heather Byer, Philip Mathew, Louis Vizzi, Dan Redding, and Torea Frey were instrumental in making this year’s list come alive.

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