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It’s Summertime and the Reading is Easy: Six Top Picks


Remember the days when you could kick back during the summer and catch up on all of those great books you were meaning to read? Well, if you’re like Business Learning Leader of General Electric Energy Management, Karen Eber and me, you may still have those literary aspirations, but probably have far less of that elusive free time between June and September.

Karen and I recently compiled a short list of some the favorite books we’ve recently read to share with Communiqué readers. Some of these titles fall into the “business” category, and most fall into the category of simply learning some intriguing new ideas. (If you have a favorite book to share, please let me know and I can add it to our list of recommended books for a future edition.)

Karen’s top picks:

“A Curious Mind: the Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer. Why I liked it: I love a book that unexpectedly gives me insights and ideas for work and this one fostered many. Filmmaker Grazer has always been an intensely curious person, and loves interviewing people who fascinate him to help fuel his creativity. He dedicates a portion of his time each week to curiosity conversations – where he interviews people that intrigue him to learn more about them and their approaches to life. Consultants need to know how to ask insightful questions that stimulate conversation, and Grazer does this exceptionally well.  He approaches every interview with a completely open mind, and uses each response to come up with a new insight, which triggers another provocative question. He has an amazing ability for curating all of the knowledge in his mind to make new and unexpected connections. Who would like it? Anyone who’s fascinated by the art of asking questions, has a curious mind, loves to curate knowledge and delights in finding insights by making personal connections.

“Talk like TED” by Carmine Gallo. Why I liked it: I love TED Talks! TED Talks have mastered the art of storytelling to provide memorable presentations in under 20 minutes. This book was recommended to me by a communications expert, and I have since recommended it others. It is a nice combination of the art of storytelling and presence, and emphasizes the importance of connecting with your audience through stories that hook people from the first moment – lessons learned, overcoming hardship, or conquering fear. The key to a memorable presentation is to spend time thinking about how to connect and relate it to your audience. Even something as mundane as filling out a form can make for a riveting, memorable story, if you work hard enough. Who would like it? Anyone who wants to connect to people through an engaging conversation, whether you’re making a formal presentation to several hundred people, a toast to 30 people or sharing a new idea with just a few. Gallo offers readers a rare peek behind the curtain, shares principles that make TED talks so successful, and leaves readers with practical tips to command a room through a compelling story.

Blue Mind: The Surprising Science that Shows How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do” by Wallace J. Nichols. Why I liked it: In addition to being a fun read, this book uses anecdotes and facts to explain why so many of us find the presence and feel of water so calming, whether it’s the ocean, a lake, an aquarium, or a bath. Picture yourself at the beach and the sound of the water crashing onshore and the feel of it swirling around your feet immediately puts you in a meditative state. If you are constantly drawn to water as I am, you’ll learn the science as to why water has such healing and restorative properties, which you may have known instinctually all along. It’s no wonder that about 40% of the world’s population lives directly on a shoreline of one kind or another. Who would like it? This is a great book for people who are intrigued by the study of neuroscience and the implications from a performance standpoint. It will help you become more mindful of how to intentionally incorporate water into your life to create resilience and strong performance for yourself and others.  It’s also a terrific read for anyone who cares about conserving our oceans and lakes.

Nancy’s top picks:

The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande. Why I liked it: This book starts out by exploring how best to find a way to identify the cause and to reduce the incidence of fatal surgical infections. In taking us through his journey, Gawande teaches us a logical, elegant approach for dealing with the increasing complexity of our work. He makes a helpful distinction between errors of ignorance and errors of ineptitude. Whether it’s a surgical team, a space mission crew or building contractors, all need (brief!) written guides in the form of checklists to successfully navigate the key steps in any complex procedure. His practical checklist template can be applied to any complex situation. Who would like it? Anyone interested in reducing complexity to the fewest possible number of steps, especially those who work as a team to make sure everything works flawlessly. It is also compelling for anyone who looks for innovation in everyday aspects of life.

Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict by Donna Hicks. Why I liked it: When people treat each other with dignity, they become more connected and create more meaningful relationships. I must admit, I had not spent much time focusing on preserving dignity as a  success factor in navigating through difficult conversations. An expert in the field of international conflict resolution, author Hicks shows us the 10 essential elements of a dignity model and gives us tips for applying them in everyday life. As a mother of 15-year-old twin girls, I have been much more thoughtful about how best to preserve their dignity during difficult times. Who would like it? Anyone who wants to make stronger connections through conversations, especially the tough ones, whether with colleagues, clients, friends, family, and community.

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.Why I liked it: I’m fascinated by cognitive dissonance, and how we all use it to justify our actions, beliefs, and decisions. This engaging and illuminating book shows how a steadfast determination to cling to a version of the “truth,” despite all evidence to the contrary, can and does change lives, particularly when applied to the justice system. They also offer ideas for overcoming our own blind spots, and to help others see theirs.  Who would like it? Anyone who can see others’ blind spots. Also great for coaches, leaders, parents, or anyone who wants to engage in productive conversations, especially in times of stress.

Other picks by Karen and Nancy for summer reading (or anytime):

Other summer reading picks:

National Public Radio – On Point: Best Summer Books for 2015

New York Times: Cool Books for Hot Summer Days

Wall Street Journal: 10 Novels to Read this Summer