After 10 years of consistent reading here is the list of my top 101 books to read which covers topics across leadership, management, success, health, personal development, happiness, psychology, motivation and finance.
1. Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin – The world of work is changing. This book talks about the key 21st century skills that machines can’t replace. Empathy, connections, and social sensitivity are the most important skills we need and will not be replaced by machines. What we need more than knowledge workers are relationship workers. It was a great read and gives hope that machines ultimately can’t replace everything humans do. There is a detailed account of how the military used after action reviews to improve outcomes. There are chapters on storytelling and innovation as well.
2. Work Rules by Laszlo bock – This book contains a wealth of wisdom on how to hire people, keep people inspired and what an organizations mission should be. Coming from a practical practitioner of the art it is more authentic. Some of the ideas which are common sense are give your work meaning, hire people better than you, pay unfairly, and manage rising expectation. Google has a very tight hiring strategy and it is explained in detail here.
3. The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman –This is a wonderful book on how to keep employees motivated through office design, and other great stories among which are casinos and hostage negotiators. It contains research based examples on how to keep workers engaged.
4. The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard – This was an awesome inspirational book. Every word in the book resonated on a personal front with me. It was thoroughly motivational. The author provides 9 declarations to reclaim our lives. The main premise is most of us are experience a haunting absence from the present moment and we need to get back to feeling joyful and excited again about our lives.
5. Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath – Tom Rath is one of the best non-fiction writers of our time. This book gives nice strategies to improve our overall well-being by eating right, moving daily and taking adequate sleep on a daily basis. All of the strategies are pretty easy to implement but tough to follow all the time.
6. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull – This is an excellent book on management and creativity. Hearing directly from a leading practitioner of innovation and storytelling is inspiring. There are chapters on how Pixar was formed, brain trust meetings and also a personal note from the author on Steve Jobs. There are a lot of key ideas on creativity.
7. Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli – I must admit I was skeptical since I had already read the one by Walter Isaacson. However I was pleasantly surprised by the content of this book and the inspiration it provided. This book showed how Steve Jobs became a great manager on his second coming to Apple.
8. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – This is probably the best book on how to change self-defeating habits. Through well researched examples on individuals, organizations and communities it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The main premise is all habits have a cue, routine and reward. The key is to identify the routines and change it if it is not working, experiment with rewards, and isolate the cue.
9. Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath – This book talks about how we can overcome our thinking limitations and make better decisions in our lives. They have a formula for this which is WRAP (Widen your options, Reality test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, Prepare to be wrong). Their other books Switch and Made to Stick was also excellent
10. Talk like Ted by Carmine Gallo – This is an excellent book on communication. The presentation secrets of all the TED presenters are summarized and it is an excellent read.
11. Act like a Leader think like a leader by Herminia Ibarra – The main theme of this book is you can act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting. The author provides simple steps on how we can become better leaders by emphasizing redefine your job, redefine your network and redefine yourself.
12. Die Empty by Todd Henry – The best thing about this book is it moves us to start thinking about the possibilities of our lives again. Fill in the blanks Before I die I want to… Once you fill that with what you want your life will soar. Every day ask yourself if you have emptied all your creativity so that there is nothing left. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”
13. The Real life MBA by Jack and Suzy Welch – Having already read Winning I found there were some aspects repeated. However it was still a book worth revisiting for the various concepts of management and leadership defined.
14. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – This was an interesting read with rich examples. The main theme is to build a circle of safety around your employees. Treat them like your children as Simon says everyone is someone’s son or daughter. Create a positive uplifting environment where people want to come to work and give their best.
15. BOLD by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler– The main theme is about exponential technology. Also the six D’s are discussed in detail namely digitalization, deception, disruption, demonetization, dematerialization, and democratization. There are also billionaire thinking strategies from Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos. This book gives a compelling exciting future vision.
16. Money Master The Game by Tony Robbins – This is the only financial book on the list. I have read quite a few financial books but this seems to consolidate everything you need to learn about money. There were some really good strategies to improve our financial lives. Yes it is a 600 page book so it took me around 2-3 weeks to complete reading it.
17. The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan – This book is about one theme which is concentrating all your activities on one thing and do it well. It also gives various tactics on how to prioritize your life to get better results while at the same staying relaxed reducing stress. Multitasking is not a good idea. It was a refreshing read.
18. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin –This was one of the better books on happiness. The format is simple and easy to follow. It has simple things like go to sleep earlier, exercise better, don’t expect praise or appreciation, ask for help and many other gems. She has taken every month of the year and tackled each item which leads to increased happiness.
19. The Road to Character by David Brooks – This book is an emphatic call to get back to the character ethic. Brooks says there are two types of lives we have one is the resume where we want more things and status. The second is the eulogy life which is what would you want people to say at your funeral and match your actions to that end. When asked about this all of us would say eulogy life is more important but unfortunately we always are looking at the career life. This books aim is to reverse that trend. There are a lot of historical biographies which are given as examples of character virtues. It was an interesting and informative read.
20. The Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth– This is a different type of self-help book. It contains information on how to do design thinking. Some of the questions the author encourages us to ask are Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? He also says you give everything meaning so you can change the meaning you give to things. Nothing is what you think it is. This book is based on a course Roth has taught at Stanford University for several decades.
21. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell– Malcolm Gladwell is a masterful storyteller and has a knack of putting things in a totally different perspective. His Tipping point was a classic on how little things can make a huge difference, Blink explained the power of thinking without thinking and Outliers changed the way we view success. He has done it again with David and Goliath. With inspiring stories he talks about the advantages of disadvantages, the theory of desirable difficulty and the limits of power.
22. Zero to One by Peter Thiel– ZERO to ONE is a provocative business book with a completely unique take on our world. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb author of The Black Swan says “When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. This is a classic.” I like the way the book starts with “Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates is not building an operating system. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t build a social network. If you are copying these guys you aren’t learning from them.”
23. Performing Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P.Pawliw-Fry– We all face pressure moments in both our personal and professional lives. It is the ability to deal with pressure that ultimately determines the success of the individual. There are some nice strategies shared like befriend the moment, downsize the importance of an event, focus on your mission and many other strategies.
24. THINK LIKE A FREAK, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner– This book is a thoroughly enjoyable read and has interesting examples through which we can change our thinking. For example when shooting a penalty there are better odds of scoring a goal if the player kicks directly to the center but only a few percentage do it because if it fails then it will look shameful as it was hit straight at the goal keeper. Also the one statement everyone should say is “I don’t know.” There are chapters on thinking like a child and why quitting is good. The authors also argue that the way we phrase questions is very important. For example a winner of eating hot dogs phrased the question in the following way which helped him win. The question was “How do I make hot dogs easier to eat.”
25. Thrive by Arianna Huffington – The whole premise of this book is to ensure digital devices don’t take over our lives. I think it is an important message for our times. Someone had to say it because sleep is one of the most important things you need to ensure more success and greater happiness. She also says we take care of our smartphones better than we take care of ourselves. We need to recharge and be away from digital devices on a daily basis. An important book for our times.
26. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – This is a book that covers all the important aspects of life. What Stephen teaches is very practical, insightful and more importantly can be followed by anyone from any walk of life. Though I read this book 10 years back when I again came across it recently it offered a lot more material and is always fresh. My favorite habit is Begin with the end in mind. All the habits are based on timeless principles and the book has stood the test of time.
27. Linchpin by Seth Godin – It is an incredibly powerful book and it communicates that all of us have genius potential. It really got me thinking out of the box. He also emphasizes that great artists need to ship and not keep trying for perfection. This is surely an uplifting book. His question is “Are you indispensable” and his plea is that everyone is an artist and has exceptional potential. The new world demands artists producing great work. He also says to thrive in the new world order you have to produce work that makes you indispensable. I also like his other book The Icarus Deception which also talks about creating art and overcoming resistance.
28. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink – The main premise is we are all in sales. Every day from the time we get up we are constantly selling ourselves to our spouse, children, colleagues and friends. The old ABC’s of selling were Always be closing but the new ABC’s of selling are Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. With well researched examples it was a joyful read.
29. How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins – Jim Collins has written a nice book on how to avoid 5 stages of decline for an organization. Stage 1 is Hubris and an example is Motorola which didn’t move towards digital when the time came. Stage 2 is undisciplined pursuit of more for example Rubber maid had a new product every day of the year but just having more doesn’t always work. There are three other stages and many more examples provided as well.
30. One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson – This is a great read and one of the simplest methods for effective management. It has a set of simple ideas which can be adopted by everyone in the management field across industries. One of the best ideas “catch people doing things right” and “feedback is the breakfast of champions”
31. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – This is one of the best books on Networking. What Keith offers is practical insights on how to build a large and effective network. This book is a classic primer for building effective networks and getting more out of life.
32. Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin –I loved this book and the amazing insights by the author based on thorough research. It motivated me to believe that great performance is the result of deliberate practice and the divine spark theory of exceptional performance is not always true. Every great performer has done at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before reaching the genius level. I adored this book for the possibilities it provided and expanded my thinking horizon.
33. Good to Great by Jim Collins – This is an excellent business book. Good is the enemy of the Great. I liked the hedgehog concept very much which can be applied to individuals and organizations. The three questions are 1. What can you be the best at, 2. What are you deeply passionate about and 3.What provides a good economic denominator.
34. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield – This is an excellent book on every aspect of success. One good thing is this book contains all the principles ever discovered and put in one format for reference. It has many principles and the first one is very relevant. It says take 100% responsibility for your life and you are where you are based on the decisions you have made earlier. You can’t control the events in your life but you can determine the response and therein resides your power. He also gives practical tips which can be implemented.
35. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink – This is an absolutely original book and the author has done a great job in helping us think out of the box. He argues that the new world order requires more creativity and right brainers will rule the future. His main argument is we should be able to do something that cannot be done cheaper overseas, computers cannot do it faster and that appeals aesthetically. He explains the process through Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. I really enjoyed this book with great stories and made a great impact on me. He also provides resources which are extremely useful. One of the examples he gives is to maintain a gratitude log so write on every birthday the number of things you are grateful for and the number of things you are grateful for should total the number of your years. Also maintain a daily gratitude log to be thankful daily for things that are good in your life. Select one day a week to renew, turn off your email, cell phone and just re-energize yourself. Picture yourself at 90 years old, look from that vantage point on what accomplishments you have, how you have lived life and what you have contributed to make the world a better place.
36. Drive by Daniel Pink – This is an amazing book and again Daniel Pink delivers great information with amazing examples. He says intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic rewards. He talks about carrot and sticks motivation and argues successfully for theory I of motivation. There are 3 key discussion points on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. At the end of the book he also provides a tool kit for persons and organizations. Mastery involves deliberate practice and focus on working relentlessly on your improvement areas. Also set more learning goals than performance goals. Learning goals could be learning French while performance goal could be to get 90% in an exam. One of the other suggestions for parents is to give your kids one day where they are free to do anything, providing the tools they require but asking them to produce something concrete at the end of 24 hours. In the Type I for individuals he gives an idea about describing your life in one sentence. For example for Abraham Lincoln it is “He preserved the union and freed the slaves”. Give yourself a performance review frequently. Ask yourself where you better off today than you were yesterday and what you have done to move forward.
37. Built to Last by Jerry I. Porras and James C. Collins –This book is nearly 20 years old and I know there have been some arguments that some of the visionary companies that have been mentioned in the book are no longer visionary. However I still think the book merits a read and has some good examples that can be applied. I particularly like the concept of setting BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Kennedy’s mission to the moon was a BHAG. It has to be simple, precise and easily understandable. Your BHAG might be to run a marathon, for organizations it could be to be number 1 or number 2 in a market. The fact is BHAG’s puts energy into individuals and organizations alike. The main theme of the book is to preserve the core and stimulate progress. Every visionary company had a purpose beyond just profits and that is the key.
38. Great by Choice by Morten T. Hansen and James C. Collins –This is again a thoroughly well researched book on what makes great companies. There are three qualities which distinguishes what the authors call 10Xers. They are fanatic discipline, empirical creativity and productive paranoia. I also like the 20 mile march concept which basically says that irrespective of conditions keep moving 20 miles and successful companies had specific goals that were just out of reach but not targeting explosive growth in short spans. The authors share the story of the South Pole expedition by two explorers and how one team survived because of intensive preparation and another failed because of the lack of it. The authors also have a chapter on luck and what role it plays. There is also a chapter on SMAC recipe (Specific, Methodical and Consistent) that all successful companies followed. One of the examples is Southwest Airlines.
39. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – This is a wonderful book on Steve Jobs. It gives a thorough analysis on the life of one of the business icons of all time. He talks about the reality distortion field which is Steve Jobs ability to buy other people on to his views. It also talks about his relationship with Bill Gates and has interesting anecdotes. There are also some points on the downside of working with Steve Jobs. Overall it is a wonderful inspiring story that will surely stand the test of time. Steve Jobs penchant for creating wonderful products and his obsession with controlling the user experience end to end is well chronicled. This is also a book on what it takes to build innovative companies and has some ideas for all leaders alike.
40. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell –This is one of the best books on success ever. Gladwell provides compelling stories and revolutionizes the whole way we view success. The 10000 hour rule became famous through this book. He argues that there are no self-made success stories and if we dig deep we will understand that every great person had some opportunities along their journey. I also highly recommend his other books including The Tipping Point and Blink.
41. Mastery by Robert Greene –This book goes through all the stages of Mastery. It involves short biographies as well of Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Da Vinci and many other modern masters as well. The author has thoroughly researched and produced a master piece. If there is one book you wanted to read from the entire list then this is the one. His other books I like are 33 Strategies of War and 50th Law.
42. Give and Take by Adam Grant – This is a truly exceptionally revolutionary take on success. Again based on thorough research the author argues that giving still works in the cut throat business world. With powerful examples he proves his theory.
43. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie –No list will be complete without this influential book. The main premise is to treat people well and show genuine interest in others. Be interested rather than interesting. It is a classic and has stood the test of time.
44. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg –I have read this book quite a few times and it is useful for both men and women. She has advice for career, family, work life balance and has interesting personal stories which drive home the message. It is worth a read and pushes our thinking boundaries.
45. Start with Why by Simon Sinek –This is a powerful call to have a strong purpose for whatever you do. People don’t buy what you they buy why you do it. The best example said is Martin Luther King who gave the “I have a dream” speech and not “I have a plan” speech. This has very interesting examples and it was an inspiring read.
46. Getting Things Done by David Allen –This is probably the best time management book ever written. It is a dry read but worth the effort. First involves the collection of stuff which is anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world. Next is the processing of the stuff, and decide whether to do it, delegate it or throw it. The next is to decide what the next action is for each of the items. The methods do lead to stress free productivity.
47. Mandela’s Way by Richard Stengel – Richard was the editor of Time Magazine. He did nearly 70 hours of interviews with Mandela and worked with him closely for three years to produce this nicely crafted book. Some of the principles outlined are having courage, being measured, leading from the front and so on. It has very specific things Mandela did for each of the principles identified.
48. Winning by Jack Welch –This is an excellent book on management and leadership. This is plain straight talk from the best manager of the 20th Century. There is something to learn for everyone at any level of an organization.
49. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson –Richard’s books of the Don’t sweat the small stuff series have had a profound impact on me. Though he is no longer with us his teachings resonated with me for its simplicity. The idea is to stay relaxed while still achieving big things and not allowing small things to snowball.
50. What got you here won’t get your there by Marshall Goldsmith –Marshall Goldsmith is one of the top leadership thinkers. Here he talks about 20 work place habits to avoid. Most of them we already know but there are a few gems in there. I also read his recent book Triggers which is also a good addition.
51. This is Marketing by Seth Godin – The master is back with a book. He does make writing look easy. The main point is you need to produce work that matters for people you care about. Marketing is about asking questions and initiating change. We are all marketers of course whether we are pitching for a promotion or anything else. You must know the smallest viable market and cater to that need. Overall a breezy read. Marketing is all about earning the trust of the customer and having a strong product to sell. If the trust is established strongly the sale becomes easier.
52. Atomic Habits by James Clear – The premise of the book is your habits determine your success. If you have read The Power of Habit you know about the cue, routine and reward. A similar thing is said here where he talks about cue, craving, response, reward. The basic advice is if you want to become a writer write one page daily and if you want to be an athlete exercise 10 minutes daily. Instead of focusing on outcome you focus on changing your identity. By writing one page a day you establish the identity of a writer. If you want to exercise first thing in morning sleep with your exercise clothes. Make the habits obvious, satisfying, easy and rewarding. There are also ways to ditch unhealthy habits. Good solid read.
53. Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh – Blitzscaling is a wonderful concept for startups that want to scale. It is basically prioritizing speed over efficiency. I really liked the book Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh. The basic thesis which Alvin Toffler predicted in Future Shock is that change is the only constant. If you can be nimble and steady in the face of chaos you have a better chance of survival. It is all about scaling fast, moving fast and breaking things. There are 3 suggestions to thrive one is to be a first responder, second is to be a model of stability in a sea of change and finally be a consistent learner. The three techniques of Blitzscaling which are the heart of the process are business model innovation, strategy innovation and management innovation. There are 9 counter intuitive rules of Blitzscaling which I liked. Here is my article on it.9 Counter Intuitive Rules of Blitzscaling.
54. Connecting the dots by John Chambers – This is one of the best books on leadership from a leader who has turned around an organization. Disrupt or be disrupted and be ready to dream big to win big. There are also good suggestions on building a talented team and great culture. Check out my review here. 9 Lessons from John Chambers
55. AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee – I have read quite a few books on AI and this one is good. This also speaks about how far China has gone to be a leader in the race of AI. There are four types of AI Internet AI, Business AI, Perception AI and Autonomous AI. There is also a section on what jobs will be impacted by AI.
56. Dare to lead by Brene Brown – I have read all of Brene Brown books and they are excellent. The main theme of this book is to be vulnerable and if you have read Daring Greatly or Rising Strong there is some repetition here. One of the other takeaways is to define clearly two values you want your life to stand for and then monitor how closely you stay true to those values. Let go of perfectionism and shame. Create a culture of openness and candor.
57. Leadership in Turbulent times by Doris Kearns Goodwin: This is one of the best books on leadership you will ever read. 4 leaders Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson are dissected right from their childhood through their adversity to their leadership philosophy. This is truly a tour de force. I loved the last section which has great leadership tips for all of us. Some of these types of books can be dry to read but this is so engaging I couldn’t put it down. The big takeaway is they persisted well beyond any personal setbacks. In fact one of the examples provided is Lincoln’s friends had to hide sharp objects from his room because he could hurt himself. Theodore Roosevelt lost his wife and mother on the same day. It is an inspiring account of what true leadership is in times of crisis. Abraham Lincoln stood for transformation leadership. Some of the things he did well were gather first hand information, acknowledge when failed policies demand a change, and exhaust all possibility of compromise before imposing executive power. Theodore Roosevelt stood for crisis management. Some of the things he did were to calculate risks of getting involved, use history to provide perspective, and be ready to grapple with reversals. Franklin Roosevelt stood for turnaround leadership. Some of the things he did were draw a demarcation between what has gone before and what is about to begin and strike balance between realism and optimism. Lyndon Johnson stood for visionary leadership. Some of the things he did were make a dramatic start, lead with your strength and master power of narrative.
58. Imagine it forward by Beth Comstock and Tahl Raz: This is all about unleashing the imagination of the people who work in your organization. Of course, it is a part biography and even if you ignore those parts there is enough here of value. The main thesis is the change is never going to be slower than it is today. The only way to play in the future is to embrace change as Tom Peters likes to say. You must truly re-imagine yourself to have a successful future. One of the ideas is that if something occurs a third time it is a trend. She also talks about emergent leadership which is all about ditching hierarchy, giving people permission to fail, controlling the information flows and managing the space where you don’t know what will happen next. This is a good book on dealing with change. Imagine it forward Review.
59. 21 lessons for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harari: If you have read Homo Deus there is some repetition here. He also doesn’t really offer any clear pathway forward and it could be argued that no one else has as well. There is a lot of talk about AI and how none of our jobs are safe from automation. He also dwells into religion, terrorism and so many topics across the board. Last chapter he talks about meditation. The main takeaway is to keep reinventing yourself all the time. The key question is even if universal basic income is provided and we don’t need to work for money what will humans do to find meaning. I tried to answer this question with this article. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-humans-should-do-find-meaning-when-robots-take-shyam/
60. Getting Back to Happy by Marc Chernoff and Angel Chernoff – This was a very practical book on happiness. I think at a deep level all of us know what makes us happy and it is just a reminder. Of course, the usual stuff needed to be happy are first to be disciplined. The other suggestion is to have a morning routine like exercising, meditation and reading. The other key is to be grateful for everything you have. Look at your calendar and remove all the things that are there now. Once you do that decide what you want to put back. Learn to say no and don’t overextend yourself. I have also come up with my A to Z of Happiness. Check it out here 26 Tips to be at your Happiest. 9 Ways to get Super Motivated
61. Leading with Emotional Courage by Peter Bregman – This is an excellent book on how we can play with different emotions. The thesis is to be authentic and accept differing viewpoints. One of the suggestions is to watch something you wouldn’t agree with and then see what emotions are being displayed there. You develop emotional courage by developing self-awareness. Bregman says to be a great leader you need to be confident in yourself, you need to be able to connect to others, you need to be connected to a purpose and someone who can act with emotional courage.
62. New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms– This is an excellent book on the new power structure. They key is most of the new power structures will be decentralized and more transparent. There are numerous examples here of movements that have changed the world and leaders who are doing the same. They have classified leaders into crowds, co-opters, cheerleaders and castles. It is an informative read.
63. When by Daniel Pink – The premise of the book is simple. It is that when you decide to do something is as important as how you do it. For example, if you are an early morning person you should schedule the most difficult tasks for morning. This is vujade for me as we have known this for a long time and science just confirms it. You should take breaks during the day. Take nature walks even if it is for 5 min. Take a nap when you can for 20 min and take the coffee just before you take the nap. If you are in a midlife slump set new goals, be self-compassionate and appreciate how good you have it. For your career check if you are enjoying what you are doing, do you have autonomy, is it aligned with your life goals and will you stay in this job for the next 5 years. Another example was have earning calls with investors earlier in the day than afternoon to get better results. Schools for teenagers should open later in the day to adjust their biological clock. Overall an enjoyable breezy read just like his other books.
64. Powerful by Patty McCord– I am sure you have heard of the unique Netflix culture especially the slide share presentation which details it out. The main theme here is radical honesty. Be brutally honest with your employees, give them full autonomy, get rid of performance appraisal, give unlimited vacation and many more ideas to create a culture of freedom. The overall theme of the book is about giving employees freedom and responsibility while ensuring they are also challenged. There is also a suggestion to do away with the performance appraisal if it is not working. This is a quick read especially if you already read the slideshare on Netflix culture.
65. Thinking in bets by Annie Duke – This was an informative read. If you have read Thinking Fast and Slow this might sound familiar. Basically, the thesis is the quality of your life comes down to the quality of your decisions and luck. Don’t assume that a bad outcome means it is a wrong decision. Involve others in decision making, create a decision matrix (for example never accept if someone says I am 100 percent certain), and finally say I am not sure. The basic point is uncertainty is the name of the game and you can never really know if your good decision will always lead to good outcomes. There are lots of examples like Pete Carroll the Seattle Seahawks coach making a decision for which the outcome didn’t turn out as expected. However, the author successfully argues that the decision was correct even if the outcome didn’t go in his favor. This is a crucial lesson for all of us sometimes we do everything right and still we don’t get what we anticipated. It doesn’t mean we are wrong it just means there is uncertainty in any decision we make. Life is more like a game of poker with uncertainties than chess which is more favorable to good resourcefulness.
66. Lincoln and Churchill by Lewis E. Lehrman – I think we can learn more from real leaders than leadership theorists. This is a well-written book. The main thing I learned was both had an indomitable will. They also worked crazy hard. Churchill was great at writing but that was not due to innate talent it was due to relentless hard work. Lincoln was a great listener, was humble and at the same time had a desire to succeed for the nation. He fought for a larger cause. John Hay who worked with Lincoln said “It is absurd to call him a modest man. No great man was ever modest. It is his intellectual arrogance and unconscious assumption of superiority that men like Chase and Summer never could forgive.” Historian Robert Rhodes James wrote that “The well born Churchill had immense application and capacity for work. He was not a natural speaker with an inability to pronounce the letter S but which he turned to advantage. Nor was he a natural writer- if such a thing exists. It was all hard work. Nothing came easily to him. Those glorious speeches and those marvelous books were the result of much toil. It was a triumph of character.”
67. Great at Work by Morton Hansen – Well-written book overall awesome motivation for me to implement some of the suggestions. This is truly a ground-breaking study on what it takes to be a top performer. First lesson is to do less but obsess more. Roald Amundsen won the race against Robert Falcon Scott due to his obsession with using dog sleds and he also got the best dog handler on his team. He got Green handler dogs instead of Siberian Huskies. Scott had more budget but he tried dogs, ponies and many other things. The key is to focus and not spread too wide. Eliminate all fluff and completely do away with distractions. For example, the author while writing for the book completely switched off internet connection while writing. You can turn off notifications for social media. In my case I don’t have any of the apps for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So every time you have to log in through browser which means you might check fewer times. The key is to focus on creating value and obsessing only on the top activities. Find ways to add more value, use 15 min to learn a new skill, get quick nimble feedback and de-automate some of your routines. One example which stuck with me was that of Magnus Carlsen who always wanted to keep learning even when he is already one of the best chess players of all time. This is what top performers do they blast through any stall points and never get complacent. Great at Work
68. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle – I liked his other book “The Talent Code” as well. The key is to build safety in your organizations by making it easy for people to speak up. The next key is vulnerability and as leaders you need to be open about your mistakes. Lot of examples here. Finally build purpose into the organization. It is a good breezy read with lots of examples from Pixar, Sports and Navy seals. Pixar was famous for using Brain Trust meetings where everyone is given a voice. Also the directors were given full ownership instead of just the executives. Check out Creativity by Ed Catmull which is a great book. 3 Keys to Build a Winning Culture
69. Principles by Ray Dalio – Ray Dalio is called the “Steve Jobs of investing.” I skipped part 1 of the book as it was about his journey. The second part is where the meat of the book is. It is about the principles of life. I found it to be useful. Basically, life doesn’t care what you like. It is up to you to do the things needed to get what you want. Set goals, diagnose the problem, put plans and act. You cannot do everything but you can choose the ones you want most. You can savor life or you can make an impact or you can do both. Another key is to be radically open-minded and transparent. Check out his TED talk. Ray Dalio TED talk
70. High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard – This was refreshingly good for me. If we follow these steps, we will be more successful. First habit it to seek clarity which is being totally clear on who you are and what you want. I think this is key to success which is to be absolutely clear on what you want in life. Second is to generate energy which is ensuring your physical and mental energy is high. Third is raise necessity basically deciding for whom you are doing all this. Fourth is about productivity focusing only on generating outputs that matter. All successful people are clear on what their prolific quality output should be. Fifth is influencing others and sixth is displaying courage. It is an incredibly practical book. I think we get caught up in what the routines of superstars are but I think it is more important to figure out what we want and what will work for our individual situations.
71. Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella – This was a delightful read. The thing that I liked was his authenticity. He also talks about the lessons he learned from cricket which were to be passionate, being a true team player and leading by example. He also talks about having a growth mindset for example which helped in the acquisition for Minecraft. He is certainly his own man and leads his own way which is the great takeaway for me. He also asked a pertinent question which we can all use. He asked, “What will be the world like if Microsoft didn’t exist.” This helps in clarifying the mission and can help us in our individual lives.
72. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson- Yes, I skipped a couple of chapters as I am not that interested in knowing which paint was used for a drawing. Overall it is still an inspiring read. Someone born out of wedlock who didn’t have many advantages was able to rock the world with his art. There are also comparisons between Da Vinci and Michelangelo where the author clearly sides with Da Vinci as the superior artist with a greater aesthetic taste. The takeaway for us is to be curious, appreciate knowledge and have a child like sense of wonder.
73. The Four by Scott Galloway – This book may not resonate with everyone but I liked it. It is the way Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are playing a greater role in our lives. He also provides some tips on building an illustrious career with some like having high emotional maturity and focusing on your talent not passion. If you are passionate but don’t have talent for that activity you shouldn’t focus on that.
74. What’s the future and why it is up to us by Tim O’Reilly – This was a brilliant book revealing what the future would look like. Of course, the usual suspects like Artificial Intelligence and Universal basic income is discussed. I loved the way the author weaves the story of the future in a very engage-able way. There are four takeaways I will never forget. They are work on something that matters more than money, create more value than you capture, take the long view and aspire to be better tomorrow than today.
75. 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley – I had never heard of this book till it was mentioned in the book Tribe of Mentors and it was an awesome read. In fact, it is one of the most practical books I have read on leadership. Take responsibility for every situation in your life, let go of the need to be right, speak candidly, eliminate gossip, be in total integrity, focus on your personal genius, let go of the need for control, have an abundance mentality and be the resolution. This was a great read indeed. I especially like the way integrity is explained here. It is the flow of energy, congruence and alignment which is living on purpose.
76. Legacy by James Kerr – Again this is not a book released this year but the value of this book is enormous. One of the best resources on leadership. Read my review here. Legacy Book Review
77. Breaking bad habits by Freek Vermeulen – This is a delightful read and gives an alternative view on why best practices are not good. Some of the ideas are let go of benchmarking instead do reverse benchmarking. Basically, look at what everyone is doing, find out why they are doing it and do something different.
78. Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn – This is a strong call for effective leadership in tough situations with real life examples from history that can leave you inspired. Three lessons I gleaned are great leaders too time to respond, they have a strong mission and they are resilient.
79. Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner and Ed Diene– I sometimes think do we really need to read about happiness to be happy. That is an interesting thought but still I did like this book. There are examples of Denmark, Singapore and Costa Rica where people are happier. Individual happiness can be improved by clearly knowing your values, having goals, exercising, being grateful and having a strong social network. It is an enjoyable book and has some useful suggestions that are applicable.
80. The Leader’s Bookshelf by James Stevridis and R. Manning Ancell – This is my favorite recommendation for anyone serious about learning leadership. The book reviews 50 books and lot of it is based on historical leaders. Two articles I wrote based on this are 9 principles of military strategy and 9 Leadership lessons from George Marshall.
81. Deep Work by Cal Newport – This was a good read. The main thesis is to not get distracted and have distraction free zones to produce your best work. So switch off social media, take time for solitude and that’s when the best work shows up. The author defines deep work as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” There are also references to Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis’ and their absence from Twitter as evidence that social media usage is unnecessary for writers though this may not be applicable to everyone.
82. Contagious Culture by Anese Cavanaugh – It is a wonderful take on how to lead and thrive both in business and life. What I really liked are the questions that are asked of you. Ultimately determining your true values will help you personally and then by determining the organization values you make the organization better. Here is the link to the review Contagious Culture.
83. Presence by Amy Cuddy –This is an expansion of her TED talk. The main thesis is by adopting certain postures you can improve your confidence. It has some good examples as well. Fake it before you make it. She says “The research I’ve been doing for years now joins a large body of inquiry into a quality I call presence. Presence stems from believing in and trusting yourself—your real, honest feelings, values, and abilities. That’s important, because if you don’t trust yourself, how can others trust you? Whether we are talking in front of two people or five thousand, interviewing for a job, negotiating for a raise, or pitching a business idea to potential investors, speaking up for ourselves or speaking up for someone else, we all face daunting moments that must be met with poise if we want to feel good about ourselves and make progress in our lives. Presence gives us the power to rise to these moments.”
84. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly – This is a good book on the latest trends in technology. It is well written and easy to understand. There is in-depth analysis on artificial intelligence and Virtual Reality. This quote is really interesting “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
85. Originals by Adam Grant – This is by far one of the best books I have read on innovation. It was a riveting read with a lot of actionable insights. Adam Grant has done an excellent job in communicating succinctly that creativity is something which is within the grasp of all of us. Yes there are some deja vu moments but as Adam Grant suggests we should look for vu jade moments as well. Originality is an act of creative destruction. You can check out my lessons learned here Originals – 11 Lessons Learned.
86. Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool – Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool is an absolute gem on how we can all become exceptional performers. If you have read Outliers or Talent is Overrated you know the 10000 hour rule. Well this is based on the research Anders Ericsson did in 1993. His basic argument is 10000 hours was only an average and it was based on his study of great violinists. The point he makes is this was the amount of hours the best violinists in his study put by the time they reached age 20. However he cautions that this was only an average which means there were people below and above that number. He says that Gladwell mentioned that all of them in his study put in 10000 hours which is not correct. He also says this doesn’t mean they were experts based on his observations. In fact he said they still had scope for improvement. Here is my review What it takes to be the best
87. Grit by Angela Duckworth – This is a wonderful book which gives in-depth insight into what it really takes to succeed. It is not talent but grit that is more important. She starts the book by saying that during her childhood she was told by her dad that she was not a genius. After winning the award she thought what her dad said about her was true but you can achieve a lot through sheer grit. Some examples are drawn from West Point and the spelling bee contests. The main thread of all this research is the winners are the ones who stay till the end and they don’t have higher SAT scores or IQ but they have enormous resilience and perseverance. An example provided is Chia-Jung Tsay whose musical accomplishments are plenty and she said “I loved music so much that I used to practice four to six hours per day.” Please check out my review here.Grit Review
88. Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg– It is an engaging read and goes into the habits of productive people and organizations. Nothing revolutionary but it is very well written with a lot of great stories. Please check out my review here. Smarter Faster Better review.
89. Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith – Of course this book was not written in 2016 but it was a great read. It goes into depth on what made Eisenhower great and it was a very engaging read. He loved playing golf and was a master delegator who took ultimate responsibility for all his decisions. The author says “Like a true professional Eisenhower made things look easy. He was a master of the essentials. He appeared to performing less work than he did because he knew instinctively which matters required his attention and which could be delegated to his subordinates.”
90. The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross– The Industries of the future is an important book as it talks about where our future generations can spend their time to make a living. The author Alec Ross is one of the leading experts on innovation. He served 4 years under Hillary Clinton so he has firsthand knowledge on what is happening around the world. In the introduction he says that the last wave of innovation and globalization produced winners and losers. The losers were people who lived in high cost labor markets like the US and Europe whose skills were not able to keep up with the pace of change. Here is my review here of The Industries of the Future.
91. Loonshots by Safi Bahcall – This is already sighted as one of the best books of the year. It is so well researched with rich examples that will keep us well informed and entertained. A loonshot is a neglected project widely dismissed. For example, Nokia had a similar idea to the iPhone in 2004 but they killed the idea. The other famous one is Edwin Land of Polariod who was well within his reach to commercialize digital technology but didn’t go through with it. The few rules mentioned are to separate the phases, to have dynamic equilibrium and embracing a system mindset. The latter was what I liked because it was based on how Kasparov analyzed bad moves he made in his games. He didn’t just analyze the bad move but he went through all the decisions he made which led to the bad move. That can be applicable for our lives as well.. You must balance your team with engineers and artists. This is worth a peek for sure.
92. The Passion Paradox by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness – Well-written book overall thesis is not to just follow our passion with obsession. Make sure it is a harmonious passion that is healthy and does not destroy you. I liked the chapter on mastering the mindset which involves the drive to be from within, focusing on process, being in process of getting better not being the best, embracing failure, being patient and being here now. I reviewed their earlier book Peak Performance and you can check it out here. 14 Lessons on Peak Performance.
93. Turning the flywheel by Jim Collins– This is a quick read with some splendid examples of how to identify your flywheel and make it work for your organization. This is a monograph. Here is my review of his other books. Greatness is a Choice, How the Mighty Fall, Good to Great, Built to Last
94. No Hard Feelings by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy – This is an excellent book that emphasizes the need for all of us to show some emotion or embrace it at work. For example, the first chapter encourages to be less passionate about your job and embrace self-care. There is no point in neglecting our health for passion. There is also a chapter on psychological safety and a good one on leadership. There are a lot of cartoons as well.
95. Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin – This is all about clearing the clutter in our lives eventually leading to inner calm. I do agree with the approach for example if we clear our home and remove the non-essentials we do feel better for sure. Breezy read for sure.
96. Wise Guy by Guy Kawasaki – This is truly a book full of wisdom hacks throughout. His lessons learned from Steve Jobs was good as well. Lot of solid advice across all areas of life. Some of the lessons are to embrace joy vs happiness, adding value to people, appreciate how good you have it and also understand that all good people sometimes do bad things.
97. Leadershift by John Maxwell – These are 11 changes every leader must embrace. I have read most of John Maxwell’s books. I would say it is surprising to me how he keeps coming up with new insights on a topic he is world renowned for. I would say this is his best book since the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. He is in his elements and has hit this one out of the park. He says you can’t get too far in your second half in life without a strong mission. The other chapter I liked was the one on calling. Overall a wonderful primer and resource on leadership. In the introduction he gives a few points which sets the tone for the entire book. They are first continue to unlearn learn and relearn, value yesterday but live in today, rely on speed but thrive on timing, see the big picture as the picture keeps getting bigger, live in today but think about tomorrow, move forward courageously through uncertainty, and finally today’s abilities won’t solve tomorrows challenges.
98. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – This is all about reducing the digital clutter. Though he is not in any social media account and while I don’t agree with all the ideas presented there is some merit in considering some of the ideas. For example, not having too many social media apps in your phone is a good start. Taking a digital detox occasionally is also a clever idea. The basic thesis is to enjoy life without digital interruptions. If we remove the apps the times we do check social media will reduce. The point is to engage in meaningful activities that would add value to our lives.
99. The Mamba Mentality by Kobe Bryant– This book is good in the sense it shows the price Kobe paid to be one of the best. He worked out like crazy and if there is anything called luck then it doesn’t apply to him for sure. He had crazy workouts and still managed to do something for his family. My main takeaway from this was there is not shortcut to any place worth going as Beverly Sills had said. Practice is the price of superstardom.
100. The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton M Chistenen and Efosa Ojomo – This is an informative book on how innovation is the reason for prosperity. There are numerous examples and prescriptions. Their main thesis is every nation has potential for growth through what they call non-consumption. They give examples of Singapore, South Korea and innovative organizations.
101. Leaders by Stanley McChrystal and Jeff Eggers – The best news is Gen. McChrystal has been a leader, a four-star general in the U.S. Army so he has real world experience in the trenches. He defines leadership as “Leadership is a complex system of relationships between leaders and followers, in a particular context, that provides meaning to its members.” This book has great biographies of where the authors put leaders together under the following categories: Founders (Walt Disney and Coco Chanel), Geniuses (Albert Einstein and Leonard Bernstein), Zealots (Maximilien Robespierre and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi), Heroes (Zheng He and Harriet Tubman), Power Brokers (Boss Tweed and Margaret Thatcher), and Reformers (Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr.). Then at the end there are a few suggestions on how they can be applied. There are three myths that I found interesting the formulaic myth, the attribution myth and the results myth. Overall a different take on leadership and not a formulaic one for sure.
There you have it the top 101 books I have read. Hope you liked some of these. Thanks for reading this post.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.