Books are an important part of my life. Most books I read are business, history, or biography. I also read mysteries and thrillers and westerns. Professionally, I help people find and create great business books. I help my clients write their books, improve their writing so they can write a great book, and structure their book in the best possible way. I evaluate manuscripts for publishers and individual authors. And I write book reviews.
Five of the books on this list are books that I read for the first time in 2019 and which I reviewed on this site. One of the books is an old favorite that I reread from cover to cover.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
This book was a great way to start the year. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a great book about how a workplace can be profitable, productive, and human-friendly. You’ll get lots of good ideas here, whether you are a small business owner or manager, or you work in a large organization.
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones lives up to its title. Even if you’ve read lots of other books on making, breaking and getting the most from your habits, you should read this one.
A big benefit is that this is a very well-written book with lots of charts, summaries, and supplemental material.
Lead Yourself First
This book will help you deal with the greatest challenge to leadership today. It’s fiendishly difficult to find time to be alone and reflect. If your days are like mine, they’re filled with ringing phones, incoming email and text messages and people who drop by asking, “Do you have a minute?” That will not go away, so you must find ways to be alone and reflect. This book will help. It has many examples of people who are making it work.
The Square and The Tower
The Square and the Tower is the thickest book on this year’s list, but it will repay the time and effort you put in to read it. It’s about the interaction between networks and hierarchies, from ancient times until almost today. The author, Niall Ferguson, is a master of combining threads of history and technology to help you see the world differently. This book will stretch your mind. It will never go back to the shape it was before.
Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead
This is a book about one person’s leadership journey. That one person is James Mattis. He’s a former Secretary of Defense and a four-star Marine Corps General. He carries the nicknames “The Warrior Monk” and “Mad Dog.” He says memorable things.
In Call Sign Chaos Mattis tells the story of his leadership development journey. The story runs from before he joined the Marines to the moment he accepted President Trump’s request to become a Secretary of Defense. This is not a treatise on leadership. It is the story of one very interesting person’s leadership journey.
An Old Friend
No matter how smart you are, you won’t get everything from a great book if you only read it once. As your situation changes, you’ll find that great books have different lessons to teach you. That’s why I make it a habit to revisit great books I’ve already read.
Most of the time, I review the notes I’ve taken on books I’ve read. Using Kindle and flashcards makes that very easy. But, at least once a year, I try to reread a book that’s been a favorite from cover to cover.
This year, I reread Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive. It’s probably my favorite business book of all time. I routinely dip into The Effective Executive. But I hadn’t reread it from cover to cover for more than a decade. I did that this summer.
If you’ve never read The Effective Executive, read it. If you have read it, consider reading it again.
Now It’s Your Turn
What great books did you read this year? What books would you recommend to the rest of us?