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10 Books I Read in 2019

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Last year, I wrote an article listing my 5 favorite books from 2018. Reviewing our marketing metrics, it was one of the most engaging pieces of content in the past year. It seems like everyone likes book lists!

This year, I’m overachieving – I’m going to list my favorite 10 reads from 2019. To be fair, some of my selections I read, others I listened to the audiobook. I think we are at a place in time where that still counts as reading, right?

This year, I read a lot of books. In my business, it’s required. For whatever reason, I read an unusually high number of bad books! Maybe that would be a fun list too? But let’s keep it positive.

Here they are:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

atomic habits

Not only does this book make my list for this year, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s the rare book that seems to have stuck with me. I think about the concepts a lot. In a nutshell, Clear shares his journey around starting good habits and breaking bad ones. One piece particularly resonated with me. Often, when trying to start a new habit, we come out guns-a-blazin’ and do great – for a short while. But our willpower wanes; we stop. It confirms that we are the kind of person who can’t set and keep goals. Clear says, “Make it easy.” Instead of 100 push-ups’, do 10. Develop the habit. You can build volume and make it harder once you have the habit engrained. I love this approach.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow

You’ve seen the play, now read the book! But make sure you are as committed as a Declaration of Independence signer as it’s a biggie! I think the Audible version is thirty-some hours long, but I found it to be an incredible story of a minor Founding Father – until Broadway. Hamilton was loved, hated, and by all accounts, brilliant. Unlike “history” books, this story is one that is told in a masterful way. Hamilton is an inspiring character. Born in poverty and of questionable lineage, he mixed and mingled with the blue bloods to become one of the most important citizens of his time. It’s such a gripping tale.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

the book thief

I’d never heard of this book, but apparently, middle schoolers have been reading it for years. With my ego unaware that this was “juvenile literature,” I embarked on this one and I’m so glad I did. It had a profound impact on me – in fact, as I write this, I want to go back and read it again. It’s the story an adopted girl and her new family, living in Nazi Germany during World War II. It’s emotional and gripping; tragedy and triumph.

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

stillness is the key

You may have read “The Obstacle is the Way” or “Ego is the Enemy” in the past couple of years. Both are from this author. It’s a bit of a trilogy on Stoic living. “Stillness is the Key” is my favorite of the bunch. If you are a Sandler client, you’ll recognize this as a deeper dive into the “You Triangle” – Spirit, Mind, Body. We spend so much of our time “doing.” We have “To Do” lists; we have goals and plans. We tend to default to an outward focus. This book is about being, not doing; who are we becoming. It’s a look inward. If we get the inside right, the outside tends to follow suit.

Staying OK by Amy Harris

staying ok

This is another book that will ring familiar with Sandler clients. It’s a practical, easy-to-read book on Transactional Analysis (TA). The book was written in the 80’s, and it may be out-of-print. I read a digital copy. If you aren’t familiar with TA, it’s traditionally used in psychotherapy, but has been increasingly used in communication and self-development. It’s about self-awareness, understanding why we think and act the way we do, and a reminder that though we can’t control others, how we engage with others has an impact on how they engage with us. TA is a bit “psychobabbly” at first; but when you dig a little deeper, it’s a very practical and useful communications model that has a big role in personal development, leadership, sales…and just living a better life.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

the boys in the boat

If you are a sucker for the archetypal story that follows the “dream, struggle, victory” arc, then you would likely enjoy this book. The story is of a group of rag-tag, depression-era sons of farmers, loggers, and fishermen who shock the world by winning a Gold medal in rowing in the 1936 Olympics. There is a lot of Good vs. Evil, given that the Olympics that year were held in Munich. It’s a book that I didn’t want to end.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

the war of art

I found this to be a very motivating read. It’s not a “science of motivation” type book; it’s not a story. More of a series of musings and anecdotes. Easy to read but it packs a powerful punch. Essentially, it’s about resistance; why we don’t do what we say we are going to do; self-doubt, procrastination, fear, criticism of others…on and on. It’s all really just one thing - resistance. Conquer resistance and we unlock a path to a better life.

The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh & Travis Sawchick

the MVP machine

“Moneyball” was a book about baseball that not only made a big impact on the baseball industry, but you will often see the lessons transferred to business as well. The idea was that we can use data to uncover hidden opportunities, thus gaining an advantage over the competition. This book is of the same vein. Instead of data mining, it’s the story of how baseball organizations are applying the data to not just selecting players but developing them. If teams can be more efficient and effective at developing players, they can maximize their investment in them, gain a competitive advantage, and increase the value of their franchise. It’s a book about baseball for sure, but there are some lessons that business owners will take away about how they think about developing their team.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, et al.

the 15 commitments of conscious leadership

I’m not typically a fan of the latest 10 ways, or 7 ways, or 8 tips-type reads. but I heard Jim Dethmer on a podcast and decided to give this one a try. I’m glad a did. The overarching concept is around self-awareness. Do I know where I am right now? Am I above the line (open, learning, accepting) or below the line (closed, skeptical, and a need to be right)? If we are conscious of where we are, we can take steps to adjust or modify in the moment. In spite of the title, it’s a very practical book and you will find yourself applying the concepts immediately.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis the undoing project

A couple of Hebrew University psychologists began a friendship that changed the world as we know it. The impact these two brilliant men have made on various industries is profound, yet most have never heard of them. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky are the fathers of Behavioral Economics. Their work has transformed the sports world (yep, Moneyball again), the finance industry, and advertising to name a few. They studied how we think about thinking and how we have less “choice” in our decisions that we may think. It’s a fascinating read about two fascinating men.

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Robin Green

Robin Green

Robin Green is the President and Owner of Ascend Performance, Inc., a certified and award-winning Sandler Training Center in Richmond, VA. He specializes in helping companies of all sizes to develop the Attitudes, Behaviors, and Techniques that will help them reach new levels. Robin is a keynote speaker and podcast host. You can reach him at robin.green@sandler.com. We help companies and motivated individuals with sales, management and customer service training.