Readers of my newsletter know that I am an avid non-fiction reader and I share some of the tidbits I learn from these books in the “3 Quick Takes” edition of my newsletter sent out at the beginning of each month.
In my mind, the $5, $10, or even $20 spent on a book every month or two is well worth the words of wisdom you can gain from them. You can also find a lot of good books on second-hand sites for just a few dollars.
It’s not an exhaustive list, but the books below are some of my favorites and I add new ones every few weeks. Skim the list below of my favorite books to find some that could be applicable to your situation.
Added April 22, 2019
Deep Work, Cal Newport – Do you find yourself easily distracted and failing to focus on your work? The answer, according to Newport, is to have set period of ‘Deep Work’ where you are fully engaged and focused on your work for optimal productivity. This book goes into the research that supports the value & benefits of deep work and then gives some practical advice on how to implement these skills into your own life.
Added February 19, 2019
When, Daniel Pink – I found this one through my company’s book club and really loved it. In this book, Pink goes through the natural cycles of ebb & flow that we go through daily. During each peak and valley, there are optimal types of work to be done in this period. Pink goes through some of the science behind this and then gives practical advice on how you should break down your workload. This is a very readable book that I think you’ll really enjoy. He also wrote another book that I enjoyed, To Sell Is Human, which you might like as well if you enjoy his style.
David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell – This book will really make you think about how you view challenges and obstacles that we face in life. Very often, it is these difficulties that help us succeed as we find other ways to cope with the challenge. Gladwell also challenges the notion of some of the circumstances in which we view someone as an underdog, when, in fact, looking at it from another angle, they are actually not an underdog at all. I know his book Outliers seems to get more mentions, but I like this one the best out of the 5 books of his I have read.
When to Rob a Bank, Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J Dubner – I’m a fan of the whole Freaknomics series of books as well as their podcast. This was a book that I stumbled upon recently and it’s a compilation of their greatest blog posts. Yes, you can read their blog archives and get the same articles, but this just pulled the best of the best. In true Freakonomics fashion, Levitt and Dubner look at 100+ seemingly random issues in life and delve into the “hidden side” of the issues, as they call it. The way this book is broken down makes it ideal to keep around for when you just have a few minutes to read or perhaps while you sit on a train/subway during your commute to work.
Added December 26, 2018
Unlocking Greatness, Charles Harary – We all have desires to change, but often never get moving in that direction because it just seems out of reach. This book deals with the changes of our schema, or outlook, and how this can change the way act towards our goals. Harary deals with the concept of neuro-plasticisty which explains how our mind can actual be changed by our actions. I found this to be a very engaging book with practical advice.
Added November 27, 2018
Essentialism, Greg McKeown – If I had to summarize this book in a single sentence, I’d say “Stop saying yes to everything and start saying yes to the things that matter”. We have to make conscious decisions to push aside those tasks that are just time wasters and focus on the things that matter. I think one of the reasons we often feel so overwhelmed is because we accept too many burdens when we could have just said no to them in the first place.
Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi – I absolutely love this book and have found it to be a gold mine of networking advice. This book has become so ingrained in me, that one of my friends who I lent it to recently told me that they read it in my voice. If you want to kick your networking into high gear, this is the book with which to start.
Added November 11, 2018
The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande- How important is a simple checklist? Dr Gawande applied his checklist principles to the operating room and saved many lives and reduced complications significantly. A simple checklist, especially for common tasks/projects, will help make sure you do not forget any of the smaller items. I have used checklists to improve data collection on energy audits by adding a small checklist at the top corner of each sheet to act as a reminder to the field guys.
Crucial Conversations, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler and the related book Crucial Confrontations by the same group – If you want to have a productive conversation, then you need to know how to make others feel comfortable, safe, and that they are being heard. Disagreement is not a problem, HOW you disagree is the problem.
Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink – This book focuses on the social cues that determine what we eat and how we are often powerless against these forces. I found it fascinating how these same cues affect our focus in general and can be applied towards my engineering work. In the end, this book is about SO MUCH MORE than food even though the book comes forth from food-based experiments.
First Impressions, Ann Demarais and Valerie White – How do other people see you? More importantly, how do others see you at that initial meeting? Multiple studies have shown that the first impression we make sets a foundation that is hard to change and is equally applicable to both good and bad impressions. Whether it is in meetings, interviews, or just general interactions with other engineers, getting off on the right foot is crucial.
Want more book recommendations? In my monthly ‘3 Quick Takes’ edition of my (FREE) Private Newsletter, I share an actionable item from one of the books I have read in the past month. Join now using the sign-up form in the sidebar and I’ll send you a recent edition of the newsletter right away.