My love of reading good books has only increased in this last year. Over the course of the year, I decided to track how many books I read (and how many audiobooks were listened to).
Turns out that, as of this writing, I’ve read and listened to a combined 96 books in 2010. (People always ask me how I can read so much; now I’m beginning to wonder, too…)
Of these, some good, some great and at least a couple that were made of poop sandwiches, I want to share with you some of the best of the bunch—the ten or so books I read this year that were helpful, meaningful and enjoyable. There were a few others that probably should have made the list, but I had to restrain myself.
With that in mind, I give you the list:
Business & Leadership
Free by Chris Anderson
Why I liked it: I’ve listened to this one two or three times since I downloaded it from Audible.com (free, naturally). All about the history and power of “free,” Anderson demonstrates how the concept of giving something away is a powerful tool to help make money. But more than that, “free” is changing our expectations (for example, the expectation on the web is that nearly everything is—or should be—free). While the author is a little too broad in some of his assertions, I found it to be a really insightful and very challenging look at marketing best practices, and just how much the concept of free is transforming how we think and how we do business. Well worth reading or listening to.
Linchpin by Seth Godin
Why I liked it: The big idea of the book is discovering what it means to be indispensable. And the one of the keys is to see yourself as an artist in what you do. Do everything with excellence (even the dreary stuff) and be someone who “ships” (i.e. you get things done).
Godin’s thinking in this book is very much in line with a number of other works from the last couple of years like Fake Work, Why Work Sucks, Grown Up Digital and Drive. It’s less about showing up to do work that may not be in line with the vision and goals of your company and more about doing work that matters. And speaking of Drive…
Drive by Daniel Pink
Why I liked it: In the industrial economy, carrots & sticks always seemed to work best to motivate people—if they do well, give them a reward (a raise, an extra day off) and if they don’t, well, perhaps it’s time for the pink slip. But what happens when that doesn’t work anymore? How do you motivate people in the information age?
Daniel Pink narrows it down to three factors: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. When people are given some level of control over what they do, the opportunity to become “masters” in it and the work is connected to a larger purpose (beyond making some person rich), Pink’s research has shown that employee satisfaction increases dramatically and the work they do gets better. We’ve been using these general ideas in our departmental reviews for about a year and it’s been extraordinarily helpful.
And as a bonus, the book also helped potty train our daughter.
Biography & Memoirs
Decision Points by George W. Bush
Why I liked It: I downloaded the unabridged audio from Audbile.com a few weeks back as a lark. Bush comes across as a far more thoughtful, capable and likable man than he was ever portrayed in the media. While no doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle of how Bush (and—I assume—his ghostwriter) describes events and what the media gave us, it’s a fascinating look at the life and presidency of America’s 43rd President.
Fun fact about the book: Bush includes a surprisingly thorough and accurate gospel presentation in the book. I was not expecting that.
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
Why I liked it: What I learned from Bonhoeffer, aside from gaining a wider understanding historically of the conditions in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and aside from discovering a deeper knowledge of the life of a twentieth century martyr, I gained a glimpse of what a life lived fully in-tune with one’s theological convictions can look like. Bonhoeffer’s focus on costly discipleship reminds us that the Christian life is one that is active, not merely reactive. And this is something we would do well to remember always.