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My 5 Favorite Books from 2023

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Communication skills have an oversized impact on one’s success. Being able to express ideas, both through conversation and writing, is a cheat code for career success. It’s why almost every good leader has a reading habit.

Leaders lose their impact when their message goes stale. Reading fosters ideas and new points of view. It allows them to have fresh perspectives and the ability to connect unrelated things. Readers are almost always better writers. They think more clearly and make better decisions.

Reading is a keystone habit for leaders.

For the past several years, I’ve posted my favorite books of the year. If you’d like to see the past lists, you can visit 2022, 2021, 2019, and 2018. I must have forgotten to post them in 2020. A lot was going on that year!

Here are my top five books for 2023, in no particular order.


Awareness by Anthony DeMello (1990)

Awareness by Anthony DeMello (1990)

DeMello is a Jesuit priest who writes, "Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture." Words for our times.

He shares that most people go through life asleep. We get lost in the fog of life and in doing so, miss the gifts that life brings us each day, sometimes in simple ways. Our desire to please, and to be pleasing, to people around us causes to us be imprisoned by the thoughts of others. He says, “As long as you live to fulfill other people's expectations you better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, and whether your shoes are polished. You better live up to every expectation.”

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022)

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022)

As a son of Appalachia, I was hooked by this book from the opening pages. It’s a coming-of-age story about a youngster who is caught in a web that so many children from that region find themselves in. Born into a broken family, Damon loses his mother to a drug overdose and is tossed around in a broken foster care system. He finds an outlet in athletics and art, before falling into opioid addiction himself. Somehow, he survives and finds redemption, despite all the odds being stacked against him.

This book, for me, was highly personal and Kingsolver nailed the voice of Appalachia. Too often dismissed and marginalized, the book captures what it means – even feels like – to grow up in this misunderstood region.


The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks (2009)

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks (2009)

Recommended to me by Scot McRoberts, leader of the Virginia Council of CEOs, I’d heard of this book for years but never read it. I’m glad I did.

Hendricks writes about the concept of the Upper Limit, where he says that we have a tolerance for feeling good. We are clicking along, being intentional about work/food/fitness, etc., and then we crash. We do something that stops our positive trajectory. It’s as if we can’t stand our prosperity.

Another concept he shares is the idea of a Zone of Genius. How much time do we spend doing the things that draw upon our special gifts and strengths? Have we identified what those things are? He insists that our comfort zones keep us in other zones (Zones of Incompetence, Competence, Excellence) and the key to being our best is learning to recognize and reject these “lower” zones.

10X is Easier than 2X by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy (2023)

10X is Easier than 2X by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy (2023)

This book challenged my thinking about business and life. As I review my notes, I realize I need to go back into this book and revisit these concepts. I’m not sure I’ve put into practice some of the thoughts and ideas I had while reading it.

Essentially, the message of the book is that “incremental change is significantly harder than transformational change.” The authors say that 2X change is about doing more. More time, more activity, and more effort. 10X is about stripping away everything that isn’t a part of your core self and highest purpose.

My favorite line from the book was, “Every next level of our life requires a different you.”

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

Thanks to the urgings of my son, I’ve dipped my toe into a few classic books. With one exception (Jack Kerouac’s On the Road), I’ve enjoyed the journey. I dove into a handful this year and the one I liked—no—loved the most was The Grapes of Wrath.

Many of you read it in high school, I’m sure, but it was foreign to me. There are so many lessons for leaders in this book. Much of the story took me back to my roots – listening to my grandfather talk about his early days in the coal mines. The dignity of work and owning a little something. The responsibility of taking care of your family and the shame that follows when you can’t. The power of strong women, who across time, have held families together. And the reminder that “we” is an unstoppable force, when set against “I.”

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.