Top 10.5 Books for 2017

LarryBenz
5 min readJan 3, 2018

Last year, I posted my top books for 2016, thought I would do so again!

The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker

Interesting combination of research, finding the best sports teams of all time, and coalescing their common leadership ingredients and patterns. The book starts a little esoteric and then really gets solid when the key common elements of the team captain emerge. This book will make you re-think your team and in particular, your team captain!

Power of Meaning Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

Emily was a classmate of mine at the University of Pennsylvania MAPP program a few years back. She was already a brilliant and noted writer and her first book delivers on so many levels. Very much based in science and research but goes beyond the empirical underpinning as she takes you on an inspiring trip across times and insights of people she interviewed to lay down four essential pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. She also delivers an excellent TED talk on her findings. Can’t wait till her next book.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni

This is the second time through for me simply because it is a no nonsense approach to what I believe is the most important overall construct to a company-it’s organizational health. The only way to get well-oiled is to focus on the positive enablers including the psychology of tams, attribution bias, difficult conversations, and alignment of values, mission, purpose. I will read it a third time.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

Noted Power Pose TED presenter Amy Cuddy (2nd most viewed TED talk in history) provides all of the scientific and research basis for “self-assured enthusiasm” plus several other constructs including the basis for judging others when you first meet them. I am a huge social science fan and her cutting edge work is one that I enjoy introducing to our company.

Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath

In last year’s favorite books, I list The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis which highlights the relationship between Nobel Prize winners Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow). Kahneman and Tversky are credited with the “peak end effect” and “duration neglect” the notion in how we remember experiences and events being based on the average of their peaks and how it ends. Power of Moments uses this psychological construct (based on significant research) and a few others and how we can implement them in our companies, in schools, and leaving everyone for the better. An excellent and practical book.

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

I read this to get up to speed in the capabilities of big data and this book delivered on it and more. Amongst the most thought provoking books I have read in recent years about possibility and the positive aspects of big data. Absolutely, laugh out loud examples on how we live and think using real data.

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose

This book will make you think about the word “average” and will make sure you rethink its use. Nobody is average and Todd Rose goes to great lengths to prove it convincingly. His introduction of the jaggedness, context, and pathway principles shed practical insights that can be applied quickly. We used this information in our company to eradicate biases around the “average” patient as well as destroying the myth of the “average” student. I believe blended or hybrid approach to learning and fuller testing of competency based education support Rose’s points and we are all the better for it.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

Every bit the writer as she is the podcaster, Krista takes you on a journey of masterful living culled through the many conversations she has had on her show. These pages are full of redemption, resiliency, and spirituality while also catching you up on Krista’s Oklahoma upbringing, Yale divinity school, and broadcasting in Germany. As an aside, her recent interview on her podcast of Atul Gawande should be mandatory for all healthcare providers.

The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love-Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits by Judson Brewer

The title is indeed accurate as Dr. Brewer whose TED Talk is very popular resides on his background as a psychiatrist and neuroscientist to provide insights into addictions of all types. The only thing better than his explanations of the mechanisms are his techniques for interruption. I recommended or gifted this book often in 2017.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Adam Grant made my list last year as well! This is a book for everyone as we all have been faced with tragedy and death of loved ones. Sheryl Sandberg’s story is well known and her friendship with leading social scientist Adam Grant leaves a legacy of learnings for us all. While the book is filled with emotions, it is also an optimistic book and enables hope when we most need it. Hope Adam writes or co-authors a book every year.

The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cohen

My favorite economist in addition to being an incredible writer is also a top blogger and podcaster. It has struck me as odd that we are seeing fewer and fewer young workers be mobile and choosing to stay home instead even when there are less opportunities. We are also seeing more homophily then ever (birds of a feather flock together) due in part to the abilities to parse ourselves into like minded groups for everything from hobbies to potential mates. Cohen argues convincingly that these on-going trends are in part facilitated by a culture that avoids change and discomfort while also warning us that this will lead us to what he calls Great Stagnation and resultant crisis in fiscal and budgetary matters. I agree with his thesis and our attempt to deal with this organizationally we call “normalizing discomfort”.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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