People often ask me what I am reading. Mostly they assume I read sales books, but that isn’t often true, though I do read the books my friends produce. This is the list of books I read in December 2018.
Human Evolution: Our Brains and Behavior by Robin Dunbar.
Dunbar is an evolutionary psychologist and anthropologist. He is also famous for Dunbar’s number, which indicates that the social cost of relationships limits humans to a number close to 150 on average, even though some can manage up to 225. The book is based on time-budgeting, the amount of time it takes to manage complex relationships in a social structure to understand how humans evolved. The most interesting parts to me were around group singing and laughing as a way to nurture relationships at scale.
The Hope Circuit: A Psychologist’s Journey from Helplessness to Optimism by Martin E.P. Seligman.
This is Seligman’s autobiography, but it is also the story of how psychology has gone from behaviorism (ala Skinner) to cognitive (ala Seligman, et all). Before Seligman’s work on Learned Helplessness, all of psychology and psychiatry were focused on reducing the negative, like depression. Seligman turned that idea on its head and introduced Positive Psychology, which is greater than the absence of the negative. This is one of my all-time favorite biographies.
Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Winning Championships and Building Dynasties in the NFL by Michael Lombardi, Foreword by Bill Belichick.
I love football, even though I watch very little, only because I could waste away the whole weekend in front of the television. Lombardi worked in the front offices of the 49ers, the Raiders, and the Browns. He was also part of the coaching staff for the Patriots. You will know the coaches and players Lombardi writes about in Gridiron Genius, but I doubt you know the stories, which are not only well-told, but also have practical application to business.
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear.
This book is one of the best researched and best written books you will find on personal growth and development. It passes my test for great books in that it teaches you the concept while also making it practical and tactical. If you struggle with a bad habit, this will cure what ails you. James is local, so we got together and recorded a podcast you can find here.
Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts by Colonel David H. Hackworth and Eilhys England.
This is my second reading of Hackworth’s story of taking over the 4/39th Battalion in Vietnam. The story is about taking a group of soldiers from worst to first through good leadership. Hackworth, like any good leader, takes responsibility for the failures. It’s also the story of failed leadership in the U.S. Army who was, at the time, consumed with running up body count numbers and seeking advancement, even when it ended up with more American soldiers dying. The lessons for leaders here are many.
Bedtime Stories for Managers: Farewell to Lofty Leadership, Welcome Engaging Management by Henry Mintzberg
Mintzberg is a professor of management at McGill University in Montreal. He came to my attention many years ago through his work Managers, not MBAs, which I found through Tom Peters. The book is a compilation of 100 or so blog posts Mintzberg has written over the years. It is a great book for leaders and managers who want to lead with soul and do meaningful work with and through other people. Mintzberg and I share a set of values regarding people, like the silliness of shareholder value, listening, and caring. It was so good, I recorded a podcast with Professor Mintzberg (coming soon).