My Tech, Books, Games, Apps and Movie Picks of 2020
No affiliate links. No financial incentives. Just a simple product manager’s own beautiful biases for the best picks of 2020.
Tech and Home
Coffee Grinder — Porlex Coffee Grinder, Silver, Tall
Why grind your coffee? Because it feels like you already made something before the day has even started.
With the absence of a commute, nothing gets my head into the game faster than making a fresh brew of V60. Not to mention the mini-workout you get mastering the perfect grind is a nice bonus.
A surprisingly excellent sound system in a compact package. I live in a tiny London flat, and this little guy can transport me to other places. I’m tempted to buy a second just because I’ve heard how amazing these are in stereo.
Dyson Personal Pure Cool
Never really had to worry about cooling my flat down until I realised I couldn’t leave it. The Dyson Pure Cool basically saved me during many hot summer nights in lockdown. Sure an air conditioner may have been better, but this did a surprisingly great job considering its size and cost.
iPad Magic Keyboard
It’s surprising how much I love the iPad Pro as a laptop experience, and how little space it takes up. Right now this device rocks up with me on the couch, but post-COVID I look forward to peacocking this at some local cafe’s.
I thought at some point I would want a laptop, but between this and a desktop, all my needs are met.
If it could run python, it would probably become my primary device.
Getting a good nights sleep this year never felt more vital. This has fast become one of my biggest treats when going to bed.
The Simba pillow, and I’m sure similar foam pillows like it, cools your face nicely — so no need to flip it to the other side. You can fold it easily to prop your head for late-night reading.
SHUN Japanese Chefs Knife
When told I would never need to sharpen this knife again I was sold. I’ve never been so excited to start cubing onions.
Not only does the folded Japanese steel look beautiful, but it also had a profound impact on my cooking.
The knife itself is insanely sharp and makes prepping vegetables an absolute joy. It takes what was once a tedious and ticky prep task and makes it enjoyable.
The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts
The book is short and focuses on a range of mental models.
When you are stuck on a problem, it’s nice to run through a bunch of thinking concepts to get the grey cells working. I’ve always come away with something. All consultants, analysts and educators should read this.
Japaneasy: Classic and Modern Japanese Recipes to Cook at Home
For ONCE!!! A cookbook that says ‘easy’ and isn’t lying! Japanese cooking can be a bit intimidating. From konbu to Benito flakes, dashi to mirin JapanEasy demystifies Japanese ingredients.
One thing I really love is how some recipes blend both western and Japanese cooking techniques. For example, I relished learning to make a beef stew using hotspot techniques — it cooks in a fraction of the time and of course is delicious.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Walter Isaacson is genuinely a spellbinding writer, and this book is tremendously engaging. Focusing on the life and career of Leonardo Da Vinci, this was a book I always looked forward diving into and learning something new.
Walter sets the Da Vinci genius in the historical context without overburdening the reader with too much factual information. Loved it.
Castro Podcast Player
This app solved two problems I had with podcasts — keeping track and syncing to Apple Watch. Castro is like a personal assistant for podcasts helping me prioritize what I want to listen too and what’s new.
It’s also one of the few apps that actually seems to work when syncing to my Apple Watch. Great for long runs when you want to be phone free.
No doubt this year has been the year of note-taking. For me, Obsidian is the tool I’ve been waiting for. It’s free and allows me to capture ideas and highlights in markdown files, then build connections between thoughts.
Its had a profound impact on my productivity, and I’m never turning back. Be sure to check out my article on building a second brain.
I started the year to try to become healthier. After reading up on the benefits of intermittent fasting, I wanted a tool that could help me.
Zero is a simple but beautiful app that helps keep track of how many hours you have been fasting. This became especially valuable in lockdown and helped me stick with the lifestyle changes.
Many people aren’t aware that the Peloton app offers far more than Cycle classes. I don’t even have the bike, but personally have enjoyed the Yoga and Meditation classes the service offers. It’s an excellent substitute until I can return to my Yoga Studio.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If I had to summarise this game, it would be a sandbox of fun. That’s the way I believe the creators intended it — you go into this world, get lost in it and just make your own adventure.
The game is a masterclass in design and deserves all the hype it’s received. I look forward to bringing some of these elements into my own games next year.
Civilization VI — Multiplayer
Trust me playing Civilisation with friends beats the awkward zoom call any day! If you haven’t tried a civilization-building game before you can’t really go wrong with this one
I’ve spent many hours this year with friends over multiplayer building empires, trading, scheming and fighting to claim victory. Thinking on it I may have lost more net friends along the way, but that's all part of the experience.
Probably my favourite podcast of the year. If you are looking to dip your toe into the world of Philosophy this is a great introduction.
The host, Steven West, makes the concepts and history of Philosophy awfully accessible and entertaining. Worth a listen.
The Knowledge Project
If you’re curious and ambitious, this is the podcast for you. Shane does some great interviews with a range of successful people from a field of interdisciplinary backgrounds. He asks excellent questions that pull thought-provoking stories from his guests.
For me his most recent interview on the Semiconductor industry was just phenomenal — Semiconductors: The Ultimate Bargaining Chip
I heard Hamilton was good but oh man, I didn’t expect it to be life-changing good. Months after watching it, I find myself humming the songs as I walk the streets.
Its funny, feelgood hip-hop, rapping about 18th-century American politics — what is there not to love. “The world will never be the same again.”
Howl’s Moving Castle
Watching Howl’s Moving Castle is like watching a movie for the very first time. The plot is building to something epic, but its impossible to predict what exactly.
Howl’s moving castle was my first Studio Gimli movie (The Japanese equivalent of Disney). Its refreshing, high fantasy masterpiece of entertainment.
It may be slow to start, but oh man is it worth the payoff. Steins Gate pushes the boundaries of drama in science fiction with a novel twist on time travel novel.
It’s both hilarious as well as downright disturbing. Both emotionally engaging and comically entertaining. Definitely worth your time.
Funny, charming, emotional with just the right dose of insanity. Bob’s Burgers is one of the best cartoons I’ve ever watched. You will love the characters, the songs and the comical madness — perfect for long weekends indoors.
I’ve never felt so hungry and so well informed watching an anime. Food Wars follows the adventures of a young chef going up against some of the best cooks in the world.
An actual chef writes it, and the methodologies are all really well explained. The characters are likeable, and the main cast goes through a lot of good development. The first episode is a bit risque, but if you can get over it, it’s well worth it.
It's always sunny in Philadelphia
I’d forgotten what a hilarious, grotesque, delirious, pointless comedy looked like. Luckily I finally discovered ‘Its always sunny in Philadelphia’. Each episode is a pure gem, and you never know exactly where you will land.
Any scene can sneak up on you and make you double over with laughter. So happy I discovered this.