- “It’s My Company Too!: How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement for Remarkable Results,” by Kenneth R. Thompson and Raymond L. Benedetto , Crown Publishing Group, 2014. Is employee “entanglement” the way to build an exceptional organization? The authors argue that if those entangled have a clear vision of where an organization wants to go, and they understand how to get there – then there will be a drive that will lead them to out-perform their peers. Interesting read.
- “It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best,” by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Harvard Business Review, 2014. The idea of hiring the best and brightest is not a new one. Few will argue that hiring the best talent is a bad approach. Yet, often great talent gets overlooked in the hiring process. Why? The author argues that we have built in prejudices that blinds us during the interview process. He maps out a logical hiring approach focused on surrounding ourselves with people who have diverse backgrounds and complementary skills. Good read.
- “Capital in the 21st Century,” Thomas Piketty, Belknap Press, 2014. Piketty builds an interesting argument that wealth inequality–the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth–is stirring discontent and undermining democratic values in the developed world. He maps out a policy plan to correct the imbalance which is sure to draw the ire of those against government involvement in the distribution of wealth. Highly recommended.
- “Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel,” by Virginia Morell, Broadway Books, 2013. Do animals think and feel? They can’t talk to us, but are there other ways we can find out what’s going on in their heads? There are many smart scientists out to prove that in fact many animals have thoughts and feelings that rival those of humans. Interesting read.
- “The Power of Habit: Why we do What we do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg, Random House Trade, 2014. Duhigg, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, argues that people succeed when they identify patterns that shape their lives–and learn how to change them. This idea–that you can indeed change your habits–draws on recent research in experimental psychology, neurology, and applied psychology. Interesting read.
- “Turn This Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders,” by David Marquet, Portfolio Hardcover, 2013. As the Captain of a US nuclear-powered Submarine, Marquet learned that empowering his crew by pushing decision making down the organization led to better performance and happier sailors. Does this same concept work in the business world? You bet it does. A truly enlightening and fun read. Recommended.
- “Love and Obstacles,” by Aleksandar Hemon, Riverhead Books, 2009. Eight stories that follow an aspiring poet from Sarajevo to Chicago during the Croatian War of Independence. The best stories focus on the poet’s youth, the complications and obstacles of growing up in a Communist country, and the disintegration of that country and the consequent uprooting and move to America. Recommended.
- “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World,” by Michael Hyatt, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2012. Blogger extraordinaire Hyatt writes about the basics of using social media to promote brands. Recommended if the subject interests you.
- “The Rosie Project: A Novel,” by Graeme Simsion, Simon & Schuster, 2013. Geek DNA expert with no social skills decides it’s time to find a wife. His search leads to the destruction of the beloved patterns and order that frame his life. Does he have to lose himself to find the love of his life. It’s fairly easy to see the happy ending. A beach read.
- “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl, Harold Kushner, William Winslade, Beacon Press, 2006. Part memoir of a concentration camp survivor, part treatise on a form of psychotherapy called Logotherapy. Frankl has seen man at his worst, and understands why some fought to survive why others succumbed to the misery around them. Highly recommended!
- “52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust,” by William Alexander, Algonquin Books, 2010. What is it about bread that makes people so passionate? Alexander spent a year of his life obsessing over flour, water, yeast and salt. Would he find the perfect peasant bread, the one he tasted long ago? You’ll have to read this enjoyable book to find out. Recommended.
- “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith, HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. The author Malcolm Gladwell wrote that he read this book in one sitting, and then sat and cried. This book is a love story that covers the often bizarre relationship between Patti Smith and the avant-garde artist Robert Mapplethorpe. This book will make you cry, I guarantee it. A must read!
- “Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars,” by David Roberts, Simon & Schuster, 2011. An absorbing account of a quarter century of conflict: the Apache resistance to the “White Eye” settlers encroaching on their Arizona lands. We all know how this one ends up – and the mistakes that were made on both sides. Good read.
- “Columbus: The Four Voyages: 1492-1504,” by Laurence Bergreen, Penguin Books, 2011. Interesting and detailed portrait of the highly ambitious, often delusional, master navigator from Genoa, Italy – Christopher Columbus. How did he cover so much ground? He was skilled at his trade, relentless, politically savvy and incredibly lucky! Interesting read.
- “My Cross to Bear,” by Gregg Allman with Alan Light, William Morrow, 2013. Lots of sex, drug and rock-n-roll in this one. Legendary song-man Allman spins this yarn of his life in a prose that makes you feel he is in front of you, playing a Hammond B3, sucking on a cigarette and drinking a beer (which he no longer does). If you know what the letters ABB stand for, you will like this book.
- “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, The Liberation Trilogy,” by Rick Atkinson, Macmillan, 2013. This book covers the final two years of the Allies triumph in Europe over Hitler and his allies. Interesting read for those so inclined.
- “David and Goliath,” by Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Gladwell has a knack for challenging conventional thinking. In this work he argues that it was actually Goliath who was mismatched against the shepherd David in the famous biblical story. Do we often misjudge what is an “advantage” in life? This is a great book that will open your mind to different thinking; which I think is what Gladwell wants.
- “Native Speaker,” by Chang-Rae Lee, Riverhead Books, 1995. An excellent story that covers what is like to grow up as a first-generation Korean-American in New York. Highly Recommended.
- “Ancient African Kingdoms,” by Margaret Shinnie, A Mentor Book, 1965. European colonialism that started in the 16th century generally paints a dim portrait of Africa. This books looks to dispel this idea by showing over two thousand years of African history through eight of the great kingdoms that flourished on this diverse continent. Interesting read.
- “The Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy,” by Rick Atkinson, Macmillan, 2002. This well researched and detailed book covers the entry of American combat forces into the battle against Germany and her allies. That the first American forces killed were done so at the hands of the French, is a tragic reminder of the complexities of this war. Interesting read for those so inclined.
- “Lawrence of Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and The Making of the Modern Middle East,” by Scott Anderson, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013. Why has there been seemingly never-ending conflict in the Middle East over the past 100 years? The author argues that we can blame the colonial powers (namely Great Britain and France) for mucking it up during the fall of Ottoman Empire. Was there a chance for lasting Middle East peace that was missed at the end of WWI? Follow the West’s first super action hero – Lawrence of Arabia, as he leads an army that fights and dies only to be deceived by the Imperials. Nice read!
- “Dr Sleep: A Novel,” by Steven King, Scribner, 2013. It was impossible for me to ignore this King work marketed as a sequel to his 1977 work, the Shining. The first 20 pages bring you up to speed of what has happened to Dan Tollerance since the end of his “Redrum” adventures. Is this book creepy and scary, yes of course. Is it as good as The Shining? No, but that’s setting the bar at a height few have ever reached. A scary good read as we approach the Halloween season.
- “The Spanish Civil War,” by Stanley G. Payne, Cambridge University Press, 2012. The author tells the tragic story of 1930’s Spain in less than 300 pages. A good read for those interested in the topic.
- “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,” by Barbara Demick, Spiegel & Grau, 2009. Demick looks inside the mysteries of North Korean life through the eyes of a half-dozen of its ex-citizens. The book follows the group and their families from living inside this totalitarian state through their decisions and actions (often harrowing) to immigrate to South Korea and China. A truly fascinating book about common people – and what they did to endure. Highly recommended.
- “The Wine Maker,” by Noah Gordon, Barcelona eBook, 2012. Do you like to talk about winemaking? Maybe a little about the history of 1870’s Spain? Do you like a happy ending? Are you looking for an easy and enjoyable beach read? If so, then this book is for you. Pour a glass of Garnacha and enjoy!
- “Emotional Intelligence,” by Daniel Goleman, Bantam Books, 1995. Why do really smart people sometimes flounder? Goleman argues that Emotional Intelligence (EI) not IQ is the key indicator and driver of success. This well researched thesis on EI provides all the information you need on the subject. It’s a tough read – but worth the effort for those interested.
- “Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny and the American Dream,” by Deppak and Sanjiv Chopra, New Harvest, 2013. Interesting story of two Indian brothers that left behind a comfortable life in India to find their true (though very different) callings. Their story isn’t simply about achieving the “American Dream”, this is a story of family, love, perseverance, and determination, as well as Faith and a sense of “belonging,” as they face the many challenges of life in America. Enlightening read!
- “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Essays, Etc.,” by David Sedaris, Little, Brown & Company, 2013. Humorist Sedaris takes everyday events (like going to the Dentist) and turns them into a comical adventures. This series of short stories should be on every ones summer reading list. Highly recommended (and funny as a stuffed owl!).
- “Proust Was A Neuroscientist,” by Jonah Lehrer, Mariner Book Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007. Who’s blazed the trail in discovering how the brain works – scientists or artists? The author argues that writers, painters, poets, chefs and musicians has consistently led the way to new theories with inspiration, while scientists mop up with hard data. Is the author correct? You’ll have to read this enjoyable book and decide of for yourself.
- “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” Michael Pollan, Penguin Press, 2013. Pollan’s hypothesis is that we are fat because we mostly eat food prepared by others (namely the evil food industry). Plus, he thinks that we have plain forgotten how to cook good food. So he is going to teach us (and himself) some of the basic elements of cooking in this new book. The results for me – I have been obsessively baking leavened bread for several weeks trying to match the vision created in this book. Maybe making beer will be my next challenge. Highly recommended reading…but, it will make you hungry!
- “Onward, How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul,” by Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon, Rodale Books, 2011. Starbucks as a turnaround? Schultz tells the story of how between 2006 and 2008 Starbucks lost its way, its focus and a good chunk of shareholder equity. How does the story turnout…just go to your local Starbucks any weekday at 7am and see the answer. Interesting read.
- “Six Years,” by Harlan Coben, Penguin Publishing, 2013. It’s really hard to say no to or even put down a new Coben book. This one will not disappoint his legion of followers. Love, suspense, deception, murder…I’m all in on this one!
“Natural Capitalism,” by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, Back Bay Books, 1999. The authors argue that profits, environmentalism and good corporate citizenship all go together. In fact, they write that company that strive to do all three will excel vs. the competition. The book is filled with stories of companies that have seen the light are operating in this new global paradigm. This book is 14 years old and some of the predictions have not come true (say the 80 mpg car) but still this is an interesting and thought-provoking read.
- “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything,” by Joshua Foer, Penguin Publishing, 2011. Can anyone learn to be a memory expert (freak)? Writer Joshua Foer takes the challenge and over the course of one years learns the tricks to becoming a world class memory expert. Interest read.
- “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease,” by Robert Lustig, Penguin Publishing, 2012. Sugar is the evil empire, yet no one seems to understand this according to the author who is a longtime pediatrician and has dealt first hands with the obesity epidemic in the US and around the world. Lustig provides an interesting framework to readjust our key hormones that regulate hunger. Interesting read in the style of Michael Pollan.
- “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman, Macmillan, 2011. Daniel Kahneman is a nobel prize winner in Economic Science that takes us on a groundbreaking tours of our minds: how we think and make decisions. Kahneman describes 2 systems of thinking (one fast and intuitive, one slow and deliberate) that work together to shape our judgments and decisions. Very interesting read.
- “Managing Projects in Trouble: Achieving Turnaround and Success,” by Ralph Kliem, CRC Press, 2011. A short, quick read on why project go bad and some actions for turning them around. The 5 key recommended actions: Energize, Envision, Explore, Evaluate and Execute – are not new or sexy, but provide a framework that can help young projects managers that are facing their first real project challenges.
- “The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization.” by Jon Katzenbach & Douglas Smith, 1993, The McGraw-Hill Companies. It’s good to go back once in a while and read the classics. This book outlined the value of teams and collaborative efforts long before others found the gospel. The mistakes in managing teams noted by the authors are still visible in many of todays work environments – which just shows that new tricks are often hard to learn. Good read.
- “A Sideways Look at Time,” by Jay Griffiths, 2004, Jeremy Tarcher/Penguin. Our obsession with time is ruining our lives – so argues the author of this interesting book. Books starts with a historical looks at time (think sun-dials) and moves through history up until today where everything is timed to the millisecond. Interesting and thought-provoking read that will make you smile – and run to turn off your clocks.
- “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” by David Burns, 2009, Harper Health. Many suffer through the debilitating effects of depression. It impacts all levels of society and the costs to businesses is estimated to be in the billions per year. The author outlines an approach for dealing with depression that does not include drugs, heavy therapy or the typical embarrassment that follows this illness. Interesting read if you manage people or know anyone that suffers from this illness.
- “Improving Project Performance: Eight Habits of Successful Project Teams,” by Jerry Wellman, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. A dry, academic read that covers no real new ground with the content mainly focused on understanding the dynamics of managing highly functional teams. Interesting for new or young project managers that have the time.
- “The Element,” by Ken Robinson, Penguin Books, 2009. Author argues that there is a point where talent meets personal passion and what emerges is achievement at the highest levels. This book is filled with examples of those who found this point – often in highly unlikely environments. Interesting read but not real help given on how one finds their own element.
- “It Worked For Me,” by Colin Powell and Tony Koltz, Harper/Collins, 2012. Another interesting read about the life and learnings of this military leader. Offers further insight into his relationship with Cheney/Rumsfeld, and the Iraq war mistakes that were made under his watch. Remains that most inspiration speaker I have ever seen. Good read.
- “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu (Restored Translation), CreateSpace, 2010. Updated version of 1910 classic. First time I have read Sun Tzu since high school. Like Machiavelli’s The Prince, this book offers timeless advice and insight into human behavior.
- “In One Person: A Novel,” John Irving, Simon & Schuster, 2012. This novel has all the classic Irving hooks: wrestling, New England, a colorful family, and a coming of age protagonist. But, what this book truly has is the Irving mastery of dialogue and prose. I simply wanted it to go on forever. Highly recommended – but, understand that you are entering the sometimes bizarre and always vivid world of this great author.
- “Breakthrough, Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle,” Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010. 90 years ago the prognosis for Type I diabetes was painful death. The only treatment was starvation – which just prolonged the agony. This is the story of how insulin was discovered, produced and tested by a group of Canadian researchers. A fun and worthwhile read about this important medical discovery.
- “Cutting for Stone,” Abraham Verghese, Knopf, 2009. I’m not big on fiction but this book was recommended by a friend and it’s a wonderful summer read. The story line follows a group of Indian doctors and nurses working in a hospital in Africa. Highly recommended as a beach read.
- “The Cure for the Common Project,” Rick Valerga, Self Published, 2011. How to book for Project Managers focusing on 5 key “leadership” themes. This book is not about structure and processes – but, covers some of the “softer skills” (such as integrity) that leaders need to be successful. Interesting read.
- “Calfornia, a History,” Kevin Starr, Modern Library, 2007. Interesting look at the history of the most populated state in the US. From the formation of the area (due to the collision of the North American and Pacific plates) through the arrival of the Spanish, through to today – the history of this rich and diverse area is told as a fast-moving story. A good read for those who like history and want to understand how California developed into the 5th largest global economy.
- “Travels in Siberia,” Ian Frazier (The New Yorker), Picador, 2010. A sort of “On the Road” story through the massive area of Russia called Siberia. Fascinating look at the history of an area that few in the world understand or can comprehend.
- “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” Mary Roach, WW Norton & Co, 2003. Interesting and often shocking story of human cadavers and their contributions to the sciences. Good read if you do not mind the morbid topic.
- “Steve Jobs,” Walter Issacson, Simon & Schuster, 2011. Clearly this man was a genious on par with Newton, Einsteen, Franklin & Smith – but, was he also crazy? Reading this book made me realize the revolution we lived through in the past 30 years with the creation of the PC, internet and wireless technologies. One could argue Jobs is responsible for it all. Great read with lots of business lessons on what to do (and not to do).