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Book Review: Our Best Books of 2018
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Book Review: Our Best Books of 2018 - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Our Best Books of 2018

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Our Best Books of 2018

We resolved at the end of 2017 to read and review more books in 2018, and remained resolute through the year. As usual, we focused primarily on books by esteemed writers in the fields of business and leadership, plus a few that caught our eye in the just-published lists. Because we read more titles, we felt freer to roam a bit, evaluating books on minimalism, startup culture, networking, human behavior, and diversity. While there have certainly been better years for reading off this shelf, it was a solid year with a few surprises. We offer this best-of list with the perspective of time for those who may have missed a title or six, beginning with our single best book of the year. While no list can be comprehensive, we’re confident recommending these titles, which will almost surely be of interest and value.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

For its accessibility and application across nearly any field, Daniel Pink’s book is engaging from beginning to end. Backed by research and data but told almost from a storyteller’s point of view, When swims against a lot of conventional wisdom in offering the best time in a career to start a new job, the best time of day to do creative work, and the best time in life to make certain big decisions. Despite the writer’s high profile, this book didn’t generate nearly the buzz we expected. If it blew beneath your radar, consider correcting the oversight and pick this one up. One of Amazon’s 20 best books of 2018 in business and leadership.

The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate by Fran Hauser

That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (And What Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together by Joanne Lipman

The most encouraging trend this year on the bookstores’ business shelves was the visibility and increasing numbers of titles addressing #MeToo related topics, three of which we reviewed in this space. The best of them is Fran Hauser’s The Myth of the Nice Girl and Joanne Lipman’s That’s What She Said. While we’re ranking these both as tied for the second-best books of the year, no other book we read is more important: if you think books encouraging women to be the leaders they are, and not the leaders they’re pressured to be in male-dominated business culture, is needed today, you must read these. If you don’t think they’re needed, you REALLY must read them. We recommended That’s What She Said for men even more than we did for women when we reviewed it in April. Our position hasn’t changed except to add The Myth of the Nice Girl to the same sentence the following month.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World--And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and Ola Rosling

We’re confident enough in our books reviews not to need validation from cultural leaders, but we admit a certain feeling of affirmation when Factfulness was named by Barack Obama as one of the best books he read in 2018. Many people must agree: it was also named one of Amazon’s 20 best books of 2018 in business and leadership and the 10th best nonfiction book (a much broader category) by the GoodReads community of readers. The authors remind us with hard data that the world is much, much better today than we think it is, and that things are getting better. In areas such as world health, democracy, literacy, and environmental protection. If you, like us, could use a dose of fact-based optimism, you’ll start to feel better within thirty pages.

Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Nothing we read from the nonfiction section was more practically helpful in our professional and personal lives than Reinforcements by Heidi Grant Halvorson. People hate asking others for help, and Halvorson explains why. Then she tells us why we’re all wrong to feel the way we do: people love it when others--friends, colleagues, and even strangers--ask them for help. Reaching out to others for help makes them feel good and improves our relationships with them. Backed by fascinating (and utterly counterintuitive) research, we found this an important book to read once and then revisit for booster shots when we found ourselves pulling away from asking others for assistance.

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord

Patty McCord wrote the Netflix Culture Deck someone probably emailed you when it went viral. We didn’t agree with everything in McCord’s book on establishing a culture where managers and directors are given the power to make their own decisions--we thought there was room for a bit more grace, for one thing--but as longtime advocates for upending top-down org charts, we liked a great deal of what Netflix has put into motion. You could do a lot worse than to take notes on workplace culture from a company like Netflix, and we took a ton of them.

Other books we admired in the business category and elsewhere: Wisdom at Work by Chip Conley, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden.


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Book Review: Our Best Books of 2018 - Executive Leadership Articles

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