As the year nears completion I wanted to share some of the books I enjoyed reading this year. I would say this year has been one of the best in terms of terrific books. Please check out my favorite books of 2019 below. Most of them are business books which is my preferred genre and I have also reviewed some of them so if you are interested you can check it out by clicking the related links. At the end of the article you can also find my favorite books from 2015 till 2018 as well.
Trailblazer by Marc Benioff and Monica Langley – This was totally inspirational to me. Marc gives his back story which was interesting. He was always interested in technology from childhood. The main theme is that culture not only eats strategy for breakfast but everything else. Doing good and giving back is good for business. It does have an idealistic tone, but I think this book is a must read for all entrepreneurs and business leaders. He also talks about taking a stand on issues which Marc has done on numerous occasions. He also talks about setting a vision, knowing your values, having a method, overcoming your obstacles and finally measures for progress.
Good Habits Bad Habits by Wendy Wood – I thought do we really need another book on habits. There has been enough written on this subject. However, I found this to be quiet well researched. The main theme is the context is important. This means the way your environment is organized determines the habits you decide to stick to. So, if you don’t want to eat brownies don’t go to places where they are served. Second is repetition for a minimum of 66 days. Any habit for it to be automatic must be practiced several times. Finally reward yourself.
The Optimist’s telescope by Bina Venkataraman – This is all about thinking ahead in a reckless age. None of us can predict the future with certainty. Here are some ways for us to go through this process. First look beyond near-term targets, second stoke the imagination, third create immediate rewards for future goals, fourth direct attention away from immediate urges, and finally demand and design better institutions.
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek – I found the book “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek to be illuminating and interesting. Business is an infinite game. There are finite games in life like sports where there is a clear winner. However, for most of us normal folks’ life is an infinite game where there is no clear winner. At the end of our lives nobody will say he was a winner at life. The main premise of this book is most of business is an infinite game. Play the long game and out last the competition. You can find my review here. Life and Business is an Infinite Game
What it takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman – He is the Blackstone chairman, and this was quite interesting. He gave 25 ideas to win in life and business. Some of the ideas include instead of worrying act, failure is the best teacher in an organization, help others achieve their dreams, success comes down to rare moments of opportunity, and one more good one he said don’t lose money objectively assess the risk of every opportunity.
Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis – The main point of this book is all of us are born creative. The key is to exercise our creative muscles. The key is to find the why of your creative pursuit. Once you find that you can then decide which platform you want to use to bring out all your creativity for the world to see. Once you find your audience then you can launch into the public domain. Maintaining a journal to jot down all your ideas, plans and thoughts is also a wonderful way to enhance creativity.
Think Like Amazon by John Rossman – Think Like Amazon by John Rossman is a wonderful book for anyone interested in 21st Century digital leadership. If we adopt some of these principles our business will become better and more successful. Here are the ones that resonated with me. There are 50 ideas and some of them include maintaining a day one mindset, customer obsession, thinking long term and being a mercenary.
The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger – Bob Iger is one CEO I have always admired, and his success is there for everyone to see. This was a wonderful chronicle of his success story. There are a few principles he lives by namely optimism, courage, integrity, the relentless pursuit of perfection and focus. The other thing that struck me was how hard working he is. He is up at 4:30 am daily and exercises daily. So arduous work is the key to his success. There are also examples of how he dealt with negotiations and people. Overall a breezy interesting read.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – I know this is a suggestion which not everyone would appreciate. The book is already number one on the NY Times Best Seller list. I have read his other 4 books as well. I wouldn’t say this is his best. However, it is surely worth a read. The main premise is why do we believe a stranger as soon as we see them. The second point is why do we believe some signals from them when others who haven’t met the stranger know them better. As is the case there are so many examples here and some of it disturbing indeed. You cannot argue with the story telling of Malcolm Gladwell. In terms of prose or quality of writing there are few better writers. So, do take a peek and be prepared for a surprise. It is worth a peek for sure.
Indistractable by Nir Eyal and Julie Li– This is a quick read with some splendid examples of how to eliminate distraction or should I say to increase traction. There are the usual suspects in terms of not having any notifications, controlling your social media usage and of course email usage. We should be more concerned with traction than distraction. To enable traction, create more time for yourself, and make sure your calendar reflects your priorities. For me turning off notifications has always worked in keeping focused.
Seeing around Corners by Rita McGrath – This is an excellent book that emphasizes the need for all of us to be vigilant of change. We all know what happened to Blockbuster as it was Netflixed. Strategic inflection points were coined by Andy Grove in his seminal book “Only the Paranoid Survive.” Strategic inflection points are the things that happen when it disrupts a whole industry. For example, the iPhone made the earlier iPod irrelevant. Obviously, all of us want to navigate these inflection points successfully. This is where this book can help. She has identified eight practices that can help us navigate and identify these inflection points earlier before we get Netflixed. Here is my article on this. Eight Practices to ensure you are Not Netflixed
Face to Face by Brian Grazer – This is all about clearing the clutter in our lives eventually leading to meeting people in person and establishing deep fulfilling relationships. His other book A Curious Mind was equally good. This is a fast read with a lot of good examples. He says eye contact is the key to all face to face interactions. It is also the key to getting a job.
Range by David Epstein – This book will get you thinking about your career in a unique way for sure. The book starts with the examples of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. It is interesting that when he was a kid Roger Federer wanted to meet Boris Becker and reach 6 grand slams. However, Tiger Woods wanted to be the best of all time. The key learning here is that thriving in the 21st century workforce requires us to be a generalist than just specialists. You may not be the best at something but if you have multiple things you are good at you will win bigger. It has a lot of examples across the spectrum.
How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World by Neil Irwin – This is another book I enjoyed reading. Again, the books main theme is we should be learning across the spectrum and not just be specialized in one area. One of the terms used is Pareto optimality. This means someone might be better than you in leadership but since you are also equally good in sales you will do well across the multiple disciplines. This is all about having the big picture in mind and look well beyond your role to succeed. Another principle mentioned is to become a glue person which means brining multiple teams across disciplines together.
Moonshot by Richard Wiseman– I initially thought this book was going to talk about the Apollo 11 landing and how it was done. I was pleasantly surprised that it was much more than that and has specific analogies for us to adopt. I found this book to be inspirational. Some of the ideas are create a grand goal, set a dramatic deadline, be the first to do something, what would you do if you had only half the resources, do the opposite of everyone else, celebrate small wins, and develop growth mindset. This book is full of actionable advice and can help us set bigger goals.
1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently by Marc Chernoff and Angel Chernoff – They had earlier written a book I liked called Getting to Happy. This book seems like a collection of blog posts but to have it in one place is good. It is full of inspiration and actionable advice. One of the main themes that runs throughout the book is to really let go of your past completely and understand that everything that had to happen happened. The other suggestion is to understand some people come into our lives only for a short life to teach us something and they may not reappear. Setting goals is also discussed here. There are a lot of chapters across different topics like adversity, relationships, self-love, passion and growth. I have also written an article based on their earlier book.9 ways to be super- motivated.
Identity Leadership by Stedman Graham – This is all about understanding yourself which is the key to good leadership. To become better leaders, we should understand ourselves thoroughly. Knowing what make us tick is critical to long term success. A lot of examples across the board are provided to show case the principles. Creating your vision is the first step to self-leadership and inspiring others as well. Another principle I liked was about building your dream team. There is no shortage of leadership books but this one seemed practical to me.
The Warrior Code by Tee Marie Hanible and Denene Millner – This book will get you inspired for sure. Considering what the author went through in her childhood and then to reach the heights of her profession shows resilience at its best. While the principles are straight forward it does leave you more inspired than you would be without that information.
Pulling Profits Out of a Hat by Brad Sugars and Monte Wyatt – This is one of the best business books of the year for sure. The premise is to focus on strategy, business development, people, execution and mission. For example a simple strategy for Southwest was wheels up that is they will make money only if the planes are in the air. Another example is GE under Jack Welch when they said we will only serve markets in which we can be Number one or Number two. Having a strong mission also helps. It has rich examples as well.
Find your Way by Carly Fiorina– I am not political so this book is not about politics. However it is very inspirational on the fact that the only thing that is limitless is human potential. The premise of this book is no matter where we are in life we have not yet become all we can be. I found this book to be inspirational. One of the chapters was to become courageous. First name your fear, run towards your fear and finally don’t give away your power. There is also a chapter on why integrity is important. There is also the story on why she got fired from HP.
The Remix by Lindsey Pollack – This is an interesting book as it talks about how we have to lead with the multi generational workplace. For the first time ever there has been three generations of people in the workforce. Each generation has a particular set of needs. For example a millennial is not driven only by money but more by challenge and purpose. It is all about having the right talent spread across your teams. Another book which addresses this is “The Best Team Wins.”
The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway – This is an interesting book as it speaks about happiness. It is a breezy read. His point is from around ages 22 to 50 it is the toughest phase of life and we are not that happy. Only after 50 do we really appreciate how fortunate we are to have a life. One of the other suggestions is you should sweat more than watch others sweat. He says if you watch ESPN all day or football all day then your happiness will be less. Also spouses should be partners for them to be happy. He also says alcohol has had a detrimental effect on all aspects of life so if you have that problem he asks us to address that immediately. Overall to summarize get into action, sweat more, work hard for 10-20 years, save more, cherish experiences, make your spouse the best partner and finally reduce alcohol intake
Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathon Rosenberg, Alan Eagle – This is a tribute to the legendary Silicon Valley Coach Bill Campbell. He was the CEO of Intuit before he became the legend in the field of entrepreneurial coaching. This book starts with the story and finally finishes with interesting but counter intuitive coaching tips for all managers. The premise is all managers should see themselves as coaches. Bill Campbell believed in transparency and honesty. The top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of their people. It is a breezy read with lot of good insights. I have also reviewed their earlier book How Google Works check it out. How Google Works
Great Leaders Have No Rules by Kevin Kruse – This book is the anti-thesis of regular leadership books. It is interesting and useful for sure. One of the tips is to never be a people pleaser. Don’t try to be liked by everyone because it is not possible. If you have family that loves you and few close friends who like you then that’s enough. Other rules include closing the open-door policy, putting the smartphone down and sharing compensation details with everyone.
Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall -This is a wonderful book on management. One of the better books on the subject. The authors have made the book interesting rather than a dull diatribe of platitudes. Some of the lies are people care for which company they work for, the best plan wins, the best people are well-rounded, people need feedback and work-life balance matters most. They have also given nine truths about work. Some of them are people care which team they are on, the best intelligence wins, the best companies cascade meaning, and people need attention.
These are the top 25 books I liked reading in 2019. You might like some of them and check it out to get the full context. Thanks for reading this post.
Here are the top books I liked reading from 2015-2018.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.