Book Jeff

12 Books for Christmas: 2020

Two years ago, I started what I hoped would be an annual tradition, sharing with readers what I believed were the 12 best books for reading and gift-giving in the current year: 12 Books for Christmas. I wasn’t writing last December, primarily due to health concerns, but I am happy to bring 12 Books for Christmas back for 2020. Needless to say, it has been an interesting year. Most of the books below were released in 2020. Some, however, are books I read, or reread this year, and are being recommended accordingly. As such, I think you will find this to be an interesting list. Here we go:

The Best Disney Books

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

The 6,355 reviews on Amazon resulting in a consistent five-star rating are not a lie. I loved this book! In fact, I loved it so much I immediately developed a new Wisdom of Walt workshop around the key points in Bob’s brilliant book. Highly recommended!



How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom?: Lessons from a Disney Leadership Journey

From parking lot attendant to vice president of multiple Walt Disney World theme parks, Dan Cockerell has stories to share and leadership principles you can lean on. I interviewed Dan, and his father Lee, for a Give Kids the World event a couple of years ago, and it was an honor to be on the stage with both. His book is an extension of his generous personality and another great gift!


Three Years in Wonderland: The Disney Brothers, C. V. Wood, and the Making of the Great American Theme Park

I often get asked about this book. My response is always the same, “It’s my favorite Disneyland book, ever!” What else do you need to know? Other than the fact that Todd Pierce is a great guy and an even better writer!



Tell Your Story the Walt Disney World Way: Using Disney Imagineering to Make Your Message Heard

I met Lou right after releasing The Wisdom of Walt, and his first Imagineering Pyramid came out the following year. He hasn’t stopped writing since. This is easily Lou’s most imaginative book to date and a masterclass in world-class storytelling set in the heart of Walt Disney World.



Top Disney: One Hundred Top Ten Lists, From The Man To The Mouse and Beyond

I always like to include “bathroom reader” type books, and Lucas’ book is just that. Like any reference-type book, be careful. Reading one article…leads to another…and another…and another. You need to get this book just so you can be on Chris’ email list. Priceless!



From Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer to Disney Legend: The Adventures of Tom Nabbe (Disney Legends) (Volume 2)

When my History of California class went virtual last March, Tom did me a huge favor by doing a virtual interview with me on what life in Southern California was like back in the 1950s. My students loved meeting Disneyland’s original Tom Sawyer, and you will, too, by way of his great autobiographical book!



The Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition: Yuletide Tales of Walt Disney, Disney Theme Parks, Cartoons & More

This list would not be complete without at least one Jim Korkis book. He is easily the most prolific Disney author out there. No one has chronicled more Disney history than Korkis, so it is sometimes hard to know where to start. Given the season, why not start this Christmas?



What the Magic Means: Ten Stories of How the Magic of Disney Impacts Our Lives

This is a special book that covers how the magic of Disney has impacted ordinary people’s lives. Over the past couple of years, Terry and I have become friends and I can honestly say Terry doesn’t just write about the magic…he brings the magic. Thanks, Terry!



The Best Personal Development Books

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

I quoted this book in The Wisdom of Walt without having read the book. (I stole the quote off a poster in my daughter’s apartment.) Bethany has been pushing me to actually read the book for years, and during a deeply “dark night of the soul” in September, I finally started it and couldn’t put it down. Now I take a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things everywhere I go. Easily the most poignant book I have ever read.


The Alter Ego Effect: The Power of Secret Identities to Transform Your Life

In Chapter 3 of The Wisdom of Walt, I play off the idea of your alter ego by writing about the importance of “Listening to your ‘Walter’ Ego” and Walt Disney’s relationship to Mickey Mouse (and my relationship to my alter ego, Albert). This book does an amazing deep dive into that entire topic and explores it fully. A fascinating read!



High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way

If you haven’t heard of Brendon Burchard, then allow me to introduce you. He is this generation’s Tony Robbins, and he is doing amazing work in the field of motivation, resiliency, and high performance. His book is positive, uplifting, and filled with insights and data to back up his claims.



Because It’s Been a Year

J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Lastly, I asked the narrator of my audiobooks, Al Kessel, for a recommendation and he immediately said The Hobbit. Oddly enough, this was the second Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien reference I heard this week. Tolkien wrote his heroic series during the Great Shadow of World War II. With that as a backdrop, it is understandable that the hobbit, Frodo, just wants life to return to normal. Sound familiar?

Thus, this early exchange in the first book: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

We all wish 2020 had been normal. That COVID had never happened. But that was not for us to decide.

I wish my students had returned from Spring Break, that Disneyland had never closed, that I never needed a second brain surgery, or that I had not had to face any of the other devastatingly personal challenges I have since June 4. I just want my life to return to normal. But again, that was not for me to decide. What you and I do with the time we have left in 2020, and beyond—that is the choice we have been given. Hopefully, this list of books will help you, and those you love, choose well.

Happy Holidays, everyone.


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