I read a LOT of books. I am also known to frequently give people book recommendations (whether they want them or not). In my opinion, books are the most cost-effective way to get a significant improvement in anything, really.
Sadly, reading tends to fall way down on people’s priority lists these days (certainly well behind checking one’s Facebook or Insta feed). So whether you want them or not, here are seven books that have fundamentally changed me for the better over the last few years. And if you take the time to read them, I would happily bet you the price of the book that they will change your life for the better too.
7. Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I am a hardcore fangirl of the Heath brothers and I just loved this book on decision-making. They are not only brainiacs but happen to be exceptional story-tellers. This book covers many studies into the science of decision-making and is full of practical tips. The one I use most often is remembering to avoid making “whether or not” decisions. These are decisions where you are really only deciding on whether or not to engage in a specific course of action. In other words, there are no alternatives to which you are comparing that course of action. Research has shown us that “whether or not” decisions fail over half the time. So always include at least one other real alternative to make better decisions.
6. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
If you’ve had a coffee or meeting with me in the last month, you will have heard me rave about Deep Work. The premise of this book is that digital distractions (email, social media, the internet) cause us to spend the majority of our time doing “Shallow Work” – work that is not mentally challenging, is potentially just shuffling communication from one inbox to another, and is easy to train a junior person to do. The book talks about how people can reset their habits and rituals to do more Deep Work (the meaningful, impactful, important stuff) and fit the shallow work in around this. Since reading Deep Work, I now block out a full day a week for Deep Work and also try to spend the majority of my mornings doing Deep Work, away from other distractions.
5. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
Many years ago, when I was a budding young psychologist, my university professors taught me about numerous schools of thought for different therapies. The one that resonated with me the most, and arguably has the most scientific rigour behind it, is Acceptance Commitment Therapy. It’s kind of like mindfulness on steroids. The Happiness Trap taught me that it’s actually normal not to be happy all the time and is an unrealistic thing to strive for. It also changed the way I think about my thoughts. If you sometimes (or regularly) suffer from stress, anxiety, or negative self-talk, this book is a must-read.
4. The One Minute Workout by Martin Gibala
Don’t be put off by the faddish sounding title – this is a heavily research-based book about the latest science around improving cardiovascular fitness in the shortest time possible. The author is a world-famous professor and has led many groundbreaking studies that bring into question everything we thought we knew about how to get fit. Turns out, all you need is one minute a week. It’s certainly changed the way I structure my workouts.
3. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
I read this book recently and it’s turned me into a huge Ryan Holiday fan. This guy is a ridiculous overachiever. He is only 30 and he’s already written six New York Times bestsellers and was also made the VP of Marketing for American Apparel when he was 21. Yes, 21. Perennial Seller is all about how to create and market work that lasts. For me, the timing was perfect as I’m currently working on my third book (and by working, I mean pondering about what I am going to commit the next six to twelve months of my life to researching and writing).
2. The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I’ve literally just finished this book, so there might be a bit of recency effect going on, but it’s seriously awesome (did I mention my crush on the Heath brothers?). This book is all about creating defining moments (as opposed to leaving them to chance) – the things you will look back on years from now that had a profound effect on your life. I read this book through a number of lenses: that of a leader, a marketer, a product designer, and a parent. It’s left me buzzing with ideas that I can’t wait to start implementing.
1. How will you measure your life? by Clayton Christensen
Coming it at #1 spot on my list is this gem from innovation guru Clayton Christensen. It’s quite rare to get a glimpse into the personal life of a world-renowned professor, but this book does just that. “How will you measure your life?” is a fascinating idea for a book – Christensen applies his very famous theories into disruptive innovation onto using them to live a better life. And if you haven’t read The Innovator’s Dilemma or any of Christensen’s other bestselling books, it’s a pretty neat way to get exposure to all of his main theories.
Let me know if you end up reading any of the above and what you think.
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