In the first six months of 2018, I was extremely fortunate to have picked some reads that left indelible marks on my life. As frequent readers of this blog know, I am a believer of continuous improvement and that reading can not only have incredible impact, but be life changing. In this post, I will share my top reads and recommendations. I hope you take as much joy and meaning from these books as I did!
Most of my reading has been non-fiction, as I work to explore new ideas and get better at executing what I’m good at, and also where I need improvement. And sometimes you need a break from high quality research and data driven arguments, so a good fiction book or story can add some enjoyment to all of that learning and growth! Fun is important, too!
Overall, in the first six months of 2018, I have read 29 books. This puts me on pace to be ahead of my goal of 50 books to be read by the end of the year. I am a believer in rating books as it helps me to recall which are the most meaningful and where I might want to refer back to the digital highlights to refresh what I learned.
The chart below breaks out how I rated the books to date:
Generally, my star break outs get defined as:
- Can’t get past the beginning. Skipping ahead provides no value. I’ve found flaws or disagree with the book from an ethics standpoint. ALWAYS a “did not finish” (DNF). This has happened perhaps twice in the past three years or so.
- I can get a few chapters in, but it is difficult to read. I question what the author is trying to convey and the methods used. This is rare and almost always a DNF.
- This was a decent book. I wouldn’t quite recommend, but there was value in either information or entertainment to keep plowing through as best I could.
- A “4 star” book is one that keeps me focused on the message, sometimes difficult to put down, and I would always recommend for the right reader. If I enjoy but it doesn’t blow me away, this is where I rate the book.
- A book with this rating is impossible to put down, keeping me mesmerized every page. For the days and weeks following, I am telling everyone I see about the book as a must read. It becomes a small obsession!
So what are those best books, you are wondering? I’ll describe some of my favorite four and five star books below.
Here is a list of my 4-star books that I would recommend:
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote. It is easy to see why this is a classic! It was impossible to put down, and even what you might expect to be mundane was dramatic.
- Authorpreneur, Jesse Tevelow. As one who is aspiring to be a published author (more later in post!), this book was brimming with practical advice for self-publishers.
- How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen. Contrasting the “all in or else” expectation in business, this book presented a refreshing lifestyle approach.
- Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson. I was riveted by the data, anecdotes, and actionable suggestions in this book to build relationships with all kinds of people.
- Success Under Stress, Sharon Melnick. Instead of succumbing to unhealthy stress, the author provides opportunities for how we can use stress in our favor for success.
- The Art of Everyday Assertiveness, Patrick King. Assertiveness is a personal goal and a form of self-respect. Everything offered spun a positive view on the topic.
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith. This was a reminder that we need to grow, adjust, and remold ourselves as we grow and take on new roles.
- You Are a Writer, Jeff Goins. The author presents a great case that what we see ourselves as if how we are and project to others. So why not be what we want to be?
Here are my 5-star books and why they were worth reading (in no order):
- The Art of Power, Thich Nhat Hanh. What a book to start the year with! It was a great re-framing of what power actually is and means and how we can take better control of our lives, ourselves, and our relationships.
- Necessary Dreams, Anna Fels. Even before I finished this book, I was talking about it to almost everyone I came in contact with. The author stated the issues faced with incredible depth and in a fresh way – I felt like I wasn’t alone, and loved the focus on being active in all areas of life like marriage, social environments, and civic engagement.
- Own It, Sallie Krawcheck. Though skeptical coming into reading this book, I quickly bought in to all it offered. I loved the practical advice that didn’t encourage me to change who I was, but to be more of me with actionable skill development.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz. The title is a perfect reminder that nothing great worth doing is without effort. The stories were magnetizing and the forward commentary was captivating, a look into the real life of technology startups without the glamour we expected.
- The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood. It was a wake up call for me to take more action in advocating for what is right – and since then I have been more civically active in standing up for what I believe. Because if I don’t and you don’t, this dystopian fiction could become reality.
- I’m Not For Everyone. Neither Are You., David Leddick. This book reminded me of the importance of individualism and, though this phrase is everywhere, authenticity. We are who we are for a reason. I was uplifted for days after reading this book..
- The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. While the stats might be out of date, but the concepts are magnetizing. How simple personal finance blogs and authors make things seem, but often without the social science or scientific background as to why certain exercises are indicators of wealth. The conspicuous consumption can be an illusion of wealth.
- Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert. This book found me more than I found it. The concepts of courage and curiosity when it comes to creativity caught my attention and kept me engaged the whole way through. The concept of being ready for the creativity that finds us was interesting to me because I often have ideas that linger without action, and a year or two later I see MY idea in execution by others.
- Grit, Angela Duckworth. I loved the sense of what could be if we put into practice what had been successfully researched. The approach to having a philosophy and a driving goal as part of what we were doing on a daily and long-term basis was inspiring to me. The book was not just research and anecdotes, but instructional and actionable on how we, too, can develop grit and help others (namely, our children) develop it also.
Rating all of these books and understanding the impacts they each had on me makes me excited for my own book coming out this fall! The reason I’m excited is not only to achieve a lifelong goal of becoming a published author, but to help fill a needed gap in the sorority experience that connects it with creating career success.
My enthusiasm for this purpose and passion project has been supported by positive feedback from women who have read early editions of the book. I sent copies to 22 sorority women across the USA in eight different National Panhellenic Conference organizations. Everyone believed it hit a sweet spot of what is missing in our mutual sorority experiences, helps explain how to differentiate our valuable experience, and creates an opportunity for positive conversation not just in recruitment, but as alums and women who want to achieve success in our careers. More info to come!
What are the books you are reading? What have been your favorites? Is your rating system similar, or how do you rate differently? I am curious to hear your recommendations as well!
Check out some of my other book recommendations!