All my life I’ve been a proud book worm but I’m not big on writing reviews, or flaunting what I read on social media. Catch me in person and I can yap for hours about various things I’ve read. Occasionally I do enjoy some intellectual flaunting though!
And this is one of those times — but I thought instead of writing about every single one, I’d list here a few books that have opened my mind to new perspectives and drop a few nuggets. They’re written in a fresh style, non-academic, clear, simple, poignant, brutal which makes them efficient. And it’s not always that they say something that you didn’t know already, but the authors manage to concentrate and articulate the main points in such a compelling way that it just sticks with you. You close the book or the reading app and it leaves you pondering, makes you reflect.
Also, I’ve read 4 out of these 5 books with a pen and paper at hand, taking notes, putting up post-its and a hell of a lot of highlights and notes on Kindle. So by this time, as anyone can remember from college days about any thoroughly studied book, they all look like Christmas trees!
So, let’s get into it:
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
I feel like all these books have one important thing in common — they don’t talk about just work. They talk about your whole life, you can apply the principles at the office or at home. Which is what has drawn me to them probably.
This one talks about focus, clarity and the courage to practice what comes out of them. Cancel the noise, the exterior and social pressure, overcome procrastination and you get to what is truly important and how to achieve it.
The author is the CEO of a Leadership and Strategy agency in Silicon Valley who has run courses at Apple, Google and Facebook and through many years of working with some of the innovative minds out there he’s collected a few essential learning about success.
Caution: success here is not defined here as becoming rich or being adored or whatever people make of it these days. This is a very balanced expose of practices, and it preaches just that: balance. It’s in the principle that we choose and focus on less but more important things to make our life easier and have room for the things that matter: family, health, or own intellectual pursuit.
2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Marc Manson
Probably one of my most successful Instagram posts of 2018 of something remotely intellectual :)) But with good reason — it’s a light and funny statement on accepting one’s situation and limitations and embracing them in order to be happy.
Main idea here: it’s not about giving less of a f*** in life in general, but rather choosing what this energy should be spent on. So going the essentialist way, distill what merits concern and don’t stress yourself over everything. Learn what you can change what you can’t control and how to navigate between both.
Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited — “not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.
As a heavy user of profane language myself, I particularly relished this book — after all from a linguistic and psychological perspective you just can’t rephrase “cut the crap” in more compelling ways.
3. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke
Written by once the leading money winner among women in the World Series of Poker, this is an absolutely brilliant walk-through through cognitive biases, how to identify and fight them.
Annie Duke is now employing her knowledge in applied psychology in the business coaching realm, but the examples she gives in the book come from all areas: poker, sport, business, music, etc.
Possibly one of the most poignant points of this book which i will drop here as a nugget: don’t confuse the outcome of a decision with the quality of the decision itself. Learning to distinguish between the two can make a massive difference in terms of how you interpret the outcome and also what you take away from it. Having the right perspective will trigger taking away the correct learnings.
I’m not going to give away more, but there are plenty of goodies in the book.
4. The Insights Revolution: Questioning Everything by Andrew Grenville
“Insights” is the transition point between data and decision. The insight itself is not the ultimate goal, it’s what you do with it after.
This collection of interviews with 30 insights professionals discusses the pitfalls of today’s insights methodologies and practices and looks into the future.
Among these the process of gathering data from people, how it’s being done today and how this needs to become more respectful towards them in the future. I find this part particularly excited and happy that is being discussed. Why? Because as an advertiser I am in data heaven and I rejoice in collecting it whichever way i can. As regular users though we all have to acknowledge the current setup is a nightmare and GDPR hasn’t made it any better.
It’s also about how the profession is changing, navigating in a sea of behavioural data but where we can measure emotion so well through biometrics. As a famous meme tag line goes: what a great time to be alive!
5. Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn by Tojo Thatchenkery , Carol Metzker
This last one sounds fancy, doesn’t it? As the title suggests what this expands on is the ability to perceive the positive inherent generative potential within the present. It is the ability to reframe a give situation, appreciating the positive aspects and develop a sense of vision for how the future will unfold from the present situation.
Not surprisingly, it’s filled with examples of entrepreneurs and successful business people — but the gist of it isn’t that you necessarily need to get on an endeavor tomorrow to start a multi million dollar business. It’s learning to look at a situation from multiple angles and find the positives and the growth generators in that — whether that is for your business or for yourself as a person.
This is not a motivational book though — or not only. It contains a lot of scientific data and details going into biology , the mapping of our brain to physical and social interaction mechanisms and psychology. So for those who enjoy the nitty-gritty, this goes to the heart of the matter.
When it comes to the above books, I would also check out the bibliography — summed up, they contain a wide and delicious selection of scientific studies and books that can fill up your reading list for all time. You will find they complement each other very well and they will challenge the way you think, they will make you contemplate your own cognitive processes, the way you work, the way you live and occasionally you will feel like someone from the book is looking back at you and scolding you for your misconceptions. (funny, weird and amazing at the same time)
What books have you read that have stuck with you in recent years. It can also be fiction — fiction can sometimes be the only way to articulate something that is so unacceptable or scary in real life that we present it as a story but loses nothing of it’s power and wisdom.
Looking forward to growing my reading list for 2019!
PS: I do read fiction too, it’s just that these days it comes more in the form of manga, so I take suggestions there too :))