The Books of 2019

Mesler book window

Friends, what books did you read this year?

Which ones did you love?  Which could you not get through?  Why?  What will you read next?

Tonight I share my 2019 list (in the order that I read or heard them; favorites denoted with an asterisk).  Please share your own recommendations in the comments!

*Curious by Ian Leslie.  I will definitely listen to this one again.  I like the distinction between diversive, epistemic, and empathic curiosity.

The Outward Mindset by The Arbinger Institute.  This is the third in a series; the first one, Leadership and Self-Deception, was the most impactful for me.  That one introduces the framework of being as the foundation of relationships, rather than doing.

The Empathy Effect by Helen Riess, MD.  A kind, evidence-based book of practical and compassionate strategies to increase our empathy, so as to make the world better.  I met Dr. Riess at the Harvard Writers conference in 2015, and I have heard her speak at conferences on clinician well-being.  Anyone could benefit from this book.

*Legacy by James Kerr.  Sweep the sheds.  No dickheads.  Basically, check your ego, make a contribution, and play for the team.  In the context of the winningest rugby team in the world, this leadership book is both humorous and humbling.

On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt.  Brené Brown quoted one line from this book, and it’s short, so I decided to listen.  I can’t remember anything from it, and I remember disagreeing with much, but that may be because I didn’t really understand what I was hearing.

*Changing on the Job by Jennifer Garvey Berger.  Highly recommend this one for anyone on the journey of self-discovery and –actualization.  Hard to swallow the idea that a more advanced form of mind (from self-sovereign to self-authored, to self-transforming ) is not better than a less advanced one—so I have more work to do!

Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander.  Follow up to The Art of Possibility, my favorite book ever, which she co-authored with Ben Zander.  A more spiritual, deeper exploration of meaning making and personal development.  I will likely listen again in 2020.

Atomic Habits by James Clear.  Another gem.  Written confidently, and filled with both abstract concepts and concrete, practical tips on habit formation and change.  You can also sign up for his weekly email with pearls and resources.

The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Muller.  LOVED this one.  In medicine, education, law enforcement and other fields, we all need to measure our performance.  But it’s too easy to oversimplify and overgeneralize the things we choose to measure, and lose sight of the big picture.  Everybody in a leadership role should read this book.

Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett.  Bennett is an editor on gender and culture at the New York Times.  This book is humorous and hard core.  She calls out sexist macro- and micro-aggressions without mercy and seeks to empower women to stick and stand up together.  I thought it was fun; my male friend could not get through it.  Sometime I’ll ask him more about why.

The Warrior Within by John Little.  I highly recommend this book, if you’re at all interested in the life and philosophy of Bruce Lee.  He was such an enigma, so mysterious, and yet so magnetic.  Growing up I thought he was just weird, seeing him in movies with almost no dialogue and only strange, high pitched grunts.  John Little was his close friend, and describes Lee’s unified life philosophy.  In 2020 I may look for Lee’s own words to read and contemplate.

Men, Women and Worthiness by Brené Brown.  I recommended this one to my friend who could not tolerate Fight Club.  It’s much more empathic to humanity in general, while still pointing out gender biases, their origins (so far as we understand them), and ways forward to minimize their negative impact on relationships and society, so we may all, men and women alike, fulfill our highest potential.

*Insight by Tasha Eurich.  One of my favorites for 2019.  Self-awareness has two components:  awareness of our own patterns, and also awareness of how we are perceived by, and therefore impact, others.  This book is full of stories, interviews, and also practices and exercises for improving our skills in both realms.  Another must-read for leaders.

The Second Mountain by David Brooks.  I have liked David Brooks ever since I read The Social Animal many years ago.  In this one he gets personal, and I loved it.  It’s one of my favorite things to read something and feel a kinship with the author.

*My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD.  I picked this one up again, I thought for a friend, but it was really for myself.  How cosmic.  So grateful to have read it this year; looking back, I think I needed it more than I realized, and I will probably reach for Kitchen Table Wisdom again in 2020.

Braving the Wildnerness by Brené Brown.  Like Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I read/listen to this one when I need a little encouragement and empowerment before starting something unique, different, or scary-exciting.  Like all of Brown’s books there are personal stories, but this one is the most raw to date, in my opinion.  Again, that kinship warms me.

The Thin Book of Trust by Tom Feltman.  Also referenced by Brown in Braving, this one was worth the short listen.  There is also an excellent PDF summary, so you don’t actually have to read/listen to the whole thing.

Complex Adaptive Leadership by Nick Obolensky.  Not gotten all the way through this one, as it has all kinds of references to math, physics, and a multitude of other works in many genres (the footnotes can be a quarter of the page).  But I continue to read it, and will likely try one of its team exercises in 2020.

Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown.  I believe the lower case author’s name is intentional.  Poems, stories, philosophy—it’s all in here.  It’s a bit all over the place, but no question, this woman has a purpose on Earth and she is working it.  I think it’s about inclusion, respect, and striving for the highest calling of shared humanity.  I pick it up off and on, still enjoying it.

*To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue.  LOVED this one.  Poems and reflections on aspects of life that we too easily take for granted.  Bought copies and sent to friends.  Flagged my favorites and look forward to rereading lifelong in times of tumult as well as peace.

Consolations by David Whyte.  “The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words,” says the subtitle.  At least one word for every letter of the alphabet.  Dipping in and out since late summer.  Gotta take my time with this one, contemplate.

The Will to Change by bell hooks.  Another lower case author name.  I recommend this one—another feminist piece, this time discussing the patriarchy.  On the surface, coming at it defensively, it could feel attacking, adversarial.  But from another perspective, it’s written with deep love and empathy for men and the constraints of patriarchal masculinity.  So, she proposes feminist masculinity as the antidote, with which I fully concur and actively advocate.  Highly recommend this one.

*Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cathilda Jetha.  Another of my favorites for this year.  A hilariously written, evidence-based takedown of all the sociological theories and writings purporting that humans are physiologically or otherwise built to be monogamous.  It does not attack monogamy itself, just our collective, delusional insistence that that is our one natural state.  A contrarian piece, no doubt—deliciously so.  You’ gotta read it.

*The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp.  Another one I will reference often hereafter.  They draw on work by people I already admire, like Byron Katie and Oto Scharmer.  Practical and easy to read, but make no mistake—these commitments are not easy and require much work.  A handbook for the lifelong-learning leader.

Anam Cara by John O’Donohue.  Aaaarrrrgh I only have one chapter left, why do I procrastinate?  Maybe because it’s on aging??  I started this one at the same time as the next book, found fun and cosmic parallels between them, and wrote about them.  Another one to keep and pull out to get cozy with sometimes.

*Self-Renewal by John W. Gardner.  Recommended to me by a patient.  I love this book, but it’s another one that requires time and some cognitive effort.  So it’s slow-going, and the learning is well worth the energy expended.  I’m about 2/3 through.

The Essentials of Theory U by Oto Scharmer.  Recommended to me by one of my fellow cosmic journeyers, the same friend who recommended Changing on the Job.  It’s about individual attitude and how it intersects with group dynamic—sort of.  It’s a self-exploration as well as a leadership book.  Hard to explain, and likely not everybody’s cup of tea.  Been listening on and off since April, always getting something out of it.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan.  My first novel in years, and the first book chosen by my first ever book club (I don’t count the Junior Great Books group in third grade because I never actually read the books).  I liked it, but will not read it again.

*Range by David Epstein.  This one will hang on my consciousness for a long while.  I will remember it in patient encounters, watching TV, reading other books.  Highly recommend.

*The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.  I have followed Simon Sinek for many years now, and his thesis of Why has basically become the framework on which I construct much of my professional and paraprofessional activities.  Suffice it to say, within the first hour, this audiobook altered again, in a way consistent with my existing values and Why, how I see and will do leadership.  You don’t have to read his previous books, Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, to read this one.  But if you do, you might become a disciple, too.

*Educated by Tara Westover.  I read this one for book club—we will discuss next week, I cannot wait.  The writing is masterful, and that much more impressive because the author never attended school, was not home-schooled, and educated herself to take the ACT and enroll in college, going on to get her PhD at Cambridge and complete a fellowship at Harvard.  Her family story is tragic, unf*ingbelievable, wrenching and, ultimately, quintessentially human(e).  I recommended it to all of my friends, many of whom have already read and loved it.

*Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.  My anti-Fight Club friend told me about this one last week, when I told him about Educated.  It’s over 12 hours long to hear, and I finished it today.  The co-founder of Nike tells the company’s 18 year start-up story in this riveting memoir, in which I find so many connections to Epstein and Sinek.  Highly recommend this one.

In the next few weeks I will read Mrs. Bridge by Evan S Connell and James Salter for book club, and continue Ozan’s book, Think Like a Rocket Scientist.  Oh and I just picked up tidy the f*ck up by messie condo, loving it already.  Maybe I’ll listen to Collaborating with the Enemy by Adam Kahane.  Also got two books, one by and one on John Muir, to stoke my love of hiking and nature.

So looking forward to another year of reading and learning, friends!  And happy to do it together!

Onward!!

What I’m Learning

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NaBloPoMo 2018

 

ACK!  It starts!

As usual, I have a whole list of ideas for the daily posts this month, and I will likely use none of them.  Who knows, right?  The goal is to practice daily writing and publishing, and do my best to make it non-drivel.

2018 has turned out to be a thick, challenging, and tumultuous year, among other things—would you agree?  What have you learned?  What lessons continue to revisit you?  Is it not all just so fascinating?  What would you write about if you had to publish something every day for 30 days straight…  And try not to bore people to tears every time?

For now, I will start with the books I’m hearing (because I don’t read books as much as I listen to them these days).  So many gifted writers out there, so many ideas—and they all connect in my experience, stimulating insight, understanding, humility, and inspiration.  I’ll list the books here that I’ve ‘read’ this year, and then bring in articles, presentations, etc. the rest of the month—things that have meant something to me personally or professionally—often largely overlapping circles of a Venn diagram.

I predict that the overarching themes will center around self-awareness, integrity, leadership, and relationship (surprise).  We shall see!  As I described to my friend tonight, this will be a practice in discipline, vulnerability, and brevity.  So here goes!  I list the books of 2018 below, in roughly the order that I consumed them.   Starting tomorrow, I will start pulling central tenets and key learnings, exploring how they apply to personal experiences in the every day.  Or maybe I’ll ditch this idea and do something totally different, tomorrow, next week, or whatever.  That’s the beauty of writing every day, I can just go wherever it takes me.

And so the journey begins again (continues!)—thanks for coming along!

ONWARD.

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo and Jill Twiss

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Big Potential by Shawn Achor

Switch by Dan Heath and Chip Heath

Originals by Adam Grant

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

The Will Power Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

Mindset by Carol Dweck

The Big Sort by Bill Bishop

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

How Stella Saved the Farm by Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute

A Year of Living Kindly (still reading) by Donna Cameron

Hopey, Changey Hero Making

IVY Litt 11-8-17

NaBloPoMo 2017: Field Notes from a Life in Medicine, Day 8

Funny how I just wrote last night about connecting new dots to old dots.  It just happened again tonight!  A couple of weeks ago I responded to an online ad for an IVY Ideas Night with David Litt, author of Thanks Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, entitled, “How to Inspire, Persuade, and Entertain.”  Litt was a senior speechwriter for President Obama, so I thought I could learn new tips for presentations, and feel a little closer to the president whom I miss so much.

I’ve done public speaking since eighth grade, when our speech teacher first taught us abdominal breathing and I discovered the thrill of holding the attention of a room full of people with only my words.  I work at an academic medical center and I hold zero publications, but my CV documents over 10 years of professional presentations to various audiences.  I thought I was pretty good at this speaking thing.

Three years ago I came across this TED talk by Nancy Duarte, whose ‘secret structure’ of great presentations I have used since I subsequently read her book, Resonate.  Essentially, she recommends that we invite audiences on adventure stories, create active tension between what is and what could be, and most importantly, make the audience the hero.  I have done this better and worse since then, but I always recognize the framework when I see it.  Those familiar with this blog know that I am also a fan of Simon Sinek, whose central message is that we perform at our best when we are crystal clear about our Why.  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy Why you do it,” he says.  Barack Obama employs both authors’ principles with eloquence and finesse, which I noticed reading We Are The Change We Seek, a collection of his speeches as president.  The best speeches delivered in this construction create audiences who are inspired, motivated, and empowered to hail a meaningful call to action.

Obama is could be core values

That’s basically what David Litt conveyed tonight.  When asked what advice he was given that served him best, he said, “Imagine someone in your audience will tell their friend tomorrow about your talk.  What is the one thing you want them to say about it?”  What is the Why of your talk?  Even though he no longer writes speeches for the most powerful person in the world, he expressed a desire to continue inspiring, empowering, and promoting personal agency in all whom his work touches. Make each and every audience member their own hero.

It turns out, however, that this approach applies to much more than public speaking.  On my 50 hour, 500 mile, aspen-pursuing weekend in Colorado last month, I described to my dear friend my favorite moments at work.  At the end of a patient’s day-long physical, after I have spent 90 minutes listening to their stories of weight gain and loss, work transitions and complex family dynamics, and reviewing their biometrics and blood test results, I meet with them for an additional 30 minutes to debrief.  This is when I present an integrated action plan compiled by the nutritionist, exercise physiologist, and myself.  It is a bulleted summary of our conversations throughout the day, centered on the patient’s core values and self-determined short and long term health goals, and crafted with their full participation.  I get to reflect back to my patients all that I see them doing well, and shine light on areas for potential improvement.  It’s an opportunity to explore the possible—to Aim High, Aim Higher, as the United States Air Force exhorts.  I often present the plan with phrases like, “Strong work!” “You’ got this,” and “Can’t wait to see what the coming year brings!”  My friend turned to me as we wound through autumn gold in the Rocky Mountains, a bit tearfully, and said, “You make them the hero of their own story.”  Yeah, I do, I thought, and I got a little teary, too.

Words are powerful.  They are our primary tool for relating to each other, for making another person feel seen, heard, understood, accepted, and loved.  You don’t have to be a public speaker or a presidential speechwriter to make a positive difference with your words.  At work, in your family, with your friends, with people on the street and in the elevator—what is the one thing you want someone to remember from their encounter with you?

Books! Thankful for books!

November Gratitude Shorts, Day 18

Yesterday I meant to post about books!  There are so many, how can we ever read them all?  Thank goodness for all these authors, who take the time and expend the energy to create and publish for the benefit of us all!

I keep a list of my favorites:

  1. The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
  2. Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn
  3. Healing From the Heart, Mehmet Oz, MD
  4. Now, Discover Your Strengths, Buckingham and Clifton
  5. The Power of Mindful Learning, Ellen Langer
  6. A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink
  7. The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman
  8. On Gratitude, Aaron Jensen
  9. Complications, Atul Gawande, MD
  10. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell
  11. Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath
  12. Positive Psychology in a Nutshell, Ilona Boniwell
  13. Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
  14. The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey
  15. The Heart Speaks, Mimi Guarneri, MD, FACC
  16. Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander, MD
  17. Peaceful Piggy Meditation, Kerry Lee Maclean
  18. The Timekeeper, Mitch Albom
  19. The Social Animal and The Road to Character, David Brooks
  20. Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engaging With Everyday Life, Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly
  21. The Mind’s Own Physician, ed. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Richard J. Davidson
  22. Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, Brené Brown
  23. Resonate, Nancy Duarte
  24. Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek
  25. Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

During visits with patients, many of these titles routinely come up either in my mind or in conversation.  I found myself sharing them so often that I finally decided to keep them on a Word file to share electronically, and I add to it regularly.   Often, people have already read one or more, which is when I know I am connected with a like soul.  I love when that happens!

There are so many books I have yet to read, indeed that I am dying to read–I have bought most of them already!  My bookshelves are almost out of space, and the books are spilling out onto most other horizontal surfaces in the house.  Here are some titles I plan to read in the next year (the next few months, ideally!); please feel free to suggest others:

  1. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  2. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  3. Drive, Daniel Pink
  4. The Book of Forgiving, Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
  5. How the Body Knows Its Mind, Sian Beilock

I have yet to read most of the ones on this shelf, though I have dipped into many of them a few times.  I like to dig deep, mark them up, and take them down over and over again when I make connections between them.

bookshelf

The book post was meant to be lighthearted…  Books bring joy, wisdom, knowledge, connection, learning, laughter, pictures–it’s all good!

Today feels heavier, and my focus on reading and writing takes a serious turn…  More on that for Day 19…