Here is a brief recap of most of the books I “read” in 2015. I put “read” in quotes as I listen to most of these via Audible as I workout, commute, or travel. Perhaps you’ll add some of these to your reading list and make a suggestion or two that you think I should add to my list for 2016.
The science of what works.
Brown continues with her brilliant research, wisdom, and writing in Rising Strong building on The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. This book is about the process of getting knocked down and getting back up. Rising Strong is a process that includes reckoning, rumbling, and the revolution. As I listened to the audiobook, I kept wanting to capture each sentence and place it over its own image to share. Brown mixes in empirical grounded theory research with wisdom from world religions, other researchers, and 70’s rock ballads. She also shares more stories from her own failures to model vulnerability and share her learning. I would recommend this to everyone.
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
Holliday provides a wonderful summary and modern application of key Stoic thinkers like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus. This is more positive philosophy than it is positive psychology. These Roman thinkers perspectives also weave well with Buddhist approaches, philosopher’s like Victor Frankl, and science based approaches of positive psychology. I’d recommend this if you are interested in Stoicism and gaining perspective to help make the best out of any situation, circumstance, or even crisis.
Kashdan brings a positive psychologists perspective to explaining the value of curiosity and how to be more curious. I found this relatively simple idea to be pretty remarkable in reframing my emotional life and improving my listening and creativity. I’d recommend this if you are interested in positive psychology.
Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
Tan is one of the first Google employees who has gone on to create a training program for Google employees based on mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Tan is self-deprecatingly funny and explains these big ideas in very accessible ways. I’d recommend this if you are looking to get a primer on mindfulness and emotional intelligence, especially in the realm of work.
Elrod is a personal development speaker who wrote this book outlining key aspects to start each day. His suggestions include things like reading, journaling, exercise, and meditation or prayer. I found these to all be fine suggestions, many of which I incorporate in my daily Envisioning meditation. I just didn’t feel like there was much value added in Elrod’s packaging. I wouldn’t recommend this.
My on-going learning about how to work toward more justice and equity.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates
What makes Coates so great is that he is both a great thinker and a great writer. I kept finding myself stuck trying to decide if I marveled more at his insight or the way he communicated his thoughts. Coates understands broad sociological concepts like the social construction of race, intersectionality, and systemic power but he is able to write about them without the distance of the intellectual analysis but with visceral closeness of a father’s pride and fear for his only son. I recommend this to anyone who wants to connect beyond the intellectual to the emotional about race in this country.
The Art of Effective Facilitation edited by Lisa Landreman
My friend and former Macalester colleague Lisa Landreman edited this book on the skill and the art of facilitating social justice education. My two favorite chapters were Kathy Obear’s chapter on Navigating Triggers and Kristi Clemens and Brian Arao’s chapter on Brave Space. I assign both of those chapters in my Social Justice in Higher Education course at the University of St. Thomas. I would recommend the book and those two chapters especially to anyone who leads or would like social justice education of any kind.
New Perspectives on Racial Identity Development by Charmaine Wijeyesinghe & Bailey Jackson
This is an updated second edition with authors expanding on their earlier work from the first edition and bringing in greater complexity from their own thinking and the scholarship of others that has since emerged. I also use this in my course as the students apply one of these theories to do an analysis of the racial identity development from an autobiography. This is a solid resource for those interested in racial identity development.
Advancing Social Justice by Tracy Davis & Laura Harrison
I’ve learned so much about doing deep social justice work from Tracy Davis who has been so generous as a scholar. Tracy agreed to guide a directed reading course on men and masculinities for me during my doctoral program and then later served on my dissertation committee. This collaboration with Laura Harrison is wonderful in pushing for approaches to social justice that bring about greater individual and collective liberation. I’d recommend this to those who are looking to deepen their personal work around social justice to be more effective social justice educators.
None of these are guilty pleasures. Just pleasures.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
James is a faculty member at Macalester College who I know to be a smart, funny, and irreverent man about campus. This novel which went on to win the Man Booker prize is epic. The novel weaves together the fictional stories of many characters around the real life assassination attempt on Bob Marley (The Singer). The novel is engrossing, violent, fun, and a page-turner. It is basically Game of Thrones in 1970s Jamaica. I hear Marlon is writing the adaptation for HBO. I recommend this if the idea of Game of Thrones in 1970s Jamaica sounds amazing.
Astronaut stranded on Mars has to “science the shit out of this” to stay alive. Did you know all of the science checks out too? Lots of fun. I recommend this if you are an adventurous irreverent nerd. You probably saw the movie.
In the midst of a brutal ¼ life crisis, Strayed heads out to hike the Pacific Coast Trail on her to find herself. Did you know that Strayed is from Northern Minnesota and went to college at the University of St. Thomas? I recommend if you enjoy feminist self-discovery. You probably saw this movie too.
Helpful as I keep working on how to make it on my own as a speaker, consultant, and coach.
Co-Active Coaching by Henry Kinsey-House, Karen Kinsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, & Laura Whitworth
This is the textbook for the Co-Active coaching approach used in the Coaches Training Institute. I’m in the midst of their certification program and will be completing in 2016. If you are curious about coaching and this programs approach in particular this would be a great way to learn more.
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez
Most money books teach you how to make more money. This one makes the case for changing how you live your life so that you need less and less money and gain freedom. I would recommend this if you feel like your values and how you spend your money are out of alignment.
The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casanova
LinkedIn founder and his co-author share their insights on new approaches to business based on influences like technology, social media, and a more networked world. I read this as I was trying to learn how I would was going to start my own business working for myself. I’d recommend it if you are in a similar situation.
Wealthy Speaker 2.0 by Jane Atkinson
The title sounds a little sleazy, but the content of the book is really about how to be a better speaker, deliver better content and performance, communicate what you offer with potential clients, and navigate the business and marketing part of being a professional speaker successfully. Lots of good concrete and tangible suggestions. I’d recommend this if you do speaking professionally, even if it is just a side gig, or would like to in the future.
Coming Up Next
Tao te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell
Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Untrue Story of You by Bryan Hubbard
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Any suggestions to add to my list for 2016? If so, leave a suggestion in the comments.