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Book Review: Five Best Books of 2015
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Book Review: Five Best Books of 2015 - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Five Best Books of 2015

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Five Best Books of 2015

The sad truth about reading is that in any calendar year, there are too many good books for anyone to get to, and before you know it, it’s 2016 and a new slate of releases is upon us, waiting to be consumed by those of us who wish to stay current. The happier side of this picture is that a little bit of due diligence makes it easier to invest our precious time in something worthwhile. For those moments when we’re primed for the next big title to be released, we can squeeze in whatever we missed in the previous year, and that’s one of the nice things about best-of lists. If you’ve paid attention to what people have been reading, most of these titles will be familiar, so we offer this list as a way to help you with your what’s-next list.

In order from best, here are our five best books in business, leadership, and technology of 2015. All titles were either formally reviewed in this space, or quoted in one of our articles.

Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
Laszlo Bock
Twelve Books

Google’s Vice President of People Operations gives us an insider’s look at one of America’s cutting-edge companies, a leader not only because of its product but because of its culture and practice. The big takeaways are striving for transparency in all areas, and identifying and nurturing good people.

Quotable: “But unlike other environments I’ve seen, we recognize that our aspirations will always exceed our grasp. It’s why achieving 70 percent of our OKRs each quarter is pretty good. And it’s why Larry believes in moon shots, which cause you to achieve more in failure than you would in succeeding at a more modest goal.”

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
Amy Cuddy
Little, Brown, and Company

This book by one of TED’s most-seen presenters on YouTube has only been on shelves for two weeks, so chances are, you’ve seen it but haven’t gotten to it. Walking a bold line between self-help and scholarly review, Amy Cuddy’s treatise on physical posture and positioning as a means to positive outlook and reception seems too simple to be believed. Yet personal anecdotes and scientific research seem to back up the claim that standing a certain way makes people feel a certain way, and that each of us has more control over our attitudes and moods than we might think.

Quotable: “So let’s consider these ideas, see how they fit with science, and apply them not to our big-picture lives but to the moment five minutes from now when we walk into that job or college interview, when we step up to make that penalty kick, when we raise that thorny issue with a coworker or friend, when we present a new idea that we’re excited but nervous about. That’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we benefit most from learning to be present.”

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money
Ron Leiber
HarperCollins Publishers

Nearly every parent is concerned that his or her child-rearing decisions will result in spoiled kids. Ron Leiber offers practical advice on raising children who are the opposite of spoiled, reassuring parents who mean well that it’s not too late, no matter how along in their development their kids are, to teach them to be responsible and generous with money. More than a parenting book, The Opposite of Spoiled breaks attitudes and practices into meaningful conversations that can help even those of us without children reconsidering our personal income and what we do with it.

Quotable: “Spoiled children tend to have four primary things in common, though they don’t all have to be present at once: They have few chores or other responsibilities, there aren’t many rules that govern their behavior or schedules, parents and others lavish them with time and assistance, and they have a lot of material possessions. A 1998 academic journal article using survey data from adults who had been overindulged as children went so far as to refer to parental overindulgence of this sort as child neglect, given that it can hinder normal development.”

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Crown Publishing

Philip Tetlock has been studying predictive science for decades, so when the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies, in an effort to take a hard look at its own practices, set up a five-year forecasting tournament among non-governmental research groups, his team was among a small handful invited to participate. In the first year, Tetlock’s group outperformed the control group by 60 percent, also doing better than competitors across every measure. In the second year, it was so far ahead of everyone else (and 78 percent better than the control group), that the agency dropped the other teams from the competition. Tetlock’s Superforecasters weren’t necessarily experts in any of the fields for which they made predictions; rather, they practiced habits of thinking that applied relevant material, asked critical questions, and constantly adjusted to new information. And while the reader may not necessarily have use for accurately predicting Greenland’s ice-melt at the end of the year, the approach that leads to a reasonable forecast can be of enormous benefit no matter what his or her field.

Quotable: “Superforecasting demands thinking that is open-minded, careful, curious, and—above all—self-critical. It also demands focus. The kind of thinking that produces superior judgment does not come effortlessly. Only the determined can deliver it reasonably consistently, which is why our analyses have consistently found commitment to self-improvement to be the strongest predictor of performance.”

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life
Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman
Simon & Schuster

In A Curious Mind, Brian Grazer offers insight into how he went from delivering messages to studio executives to heading his own movie production company. The film producer who gave us A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, and Arrested Development says he owes it to his ever-curious mind, and a long history of setting up interviews with interesting people about the work they do and how they do it.

Quotable: “For me, curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility. Curiosity has, quite literally, been the key to my success, and also the key to my happiness.”

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead Books

There’s a lot to pshaw about in Elizabeth Gilbert’s exploration of creativity, but read with an open mind, it presents a lot to reflect on. Readers who view creativity as something ineffable and beyond our control will be bolstered by Gilbert’s approach, but readers whose approach is more about perseverance and discipline will find practical inspiration as well. What Gilbert somehow accomplishes is a two-way street of attitudes: in finding a handhold on more practical aspects of creative work, for example, one also finds a way at least to reconsider some of the magical qualities of good ideas, while those who embrace the cosmic aspects of the writer’s thesis will understand also that excellent work doesn’t create itself, and that most of the process isn’t fun or fantastic.

Quotable: “Because creative living is a path for the brave. We all know this. And we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun. This is common knowledge; sometimes we just don’t know what to do about it.”

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We also admired Do Over by Jon Acuff, Chess Not Checkers by Mark Miller, and Do the KIND Thing by Daniel Lubetzky.

 

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Book Review: Five Best Books of 2015 - Executive Leadership Articles

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