If you’re a life-long learner like I am, chances are your “must-read” list gets longer with each year. It seems like there’s never enough time to get to everything, but in 2019 I’m proud to say I was able to do a solid amount of reading. Below, you’ll find a list of my favorite non-fiction books I read this year (summaries provided by Amazon.com). I would recommend them to anyone looking to expand their knowledge in 2020. What was your favorite book in 2019? Send me an email and I’ll compile the suggestions.
Business and Strategy
How to Fix a Factory by Rob Tracy
Okay, here comes the shameless plug for my book. But it has so much valuable information, I had to include it. Let’s get real—every factory eventually runs into choppy waters and turbulence. Systems and processes that used to work suddenly struggle, and customer complaints pile up out of nowhere. It’s not for a lack of effort or desire, but something goes wrong with the old formula for running the plant. What can you do to navigate through the trouble and help your manufacturing business get back on the right track?
In How to Fix a Factory, I show that there’s always a way to fix the problem, once you know what the problem is. I draw on 30-plus years of industry experience to guide you through a practical approach to create a fundamentally sound and healthy factory.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss
A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations, whether in the boardroom or at home. After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator.
Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’ head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: in saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles, counterintuitive tactics, and strategies that you, too, can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal lives.
Today and Tomorrow by Henry Ford
This book was written in 1926, but Henry Ford’s impact on industry, business, and society continues to drive us to reach for seemingly impossible goals today. He turned the automobile into an industry, transformed the world of farming with a tractor, and launched the airplane into a new era of mass production. Ford didn’t just revolutionize transportation; he completely transformed the way we work, the way we create, and the way we live. He achieved the impossible equation of improving product quality and reliability while cutting the cost in half, yet often doubling the wages and standard of living for his employees at the same time.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do, and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep, spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.
In Deep Work, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four rules for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Cove
The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing your most important strategic priorities. By following the four disciplines—focus on the wildly important; act on lead measures; keep a compelling scoreboard; and create a cadence of accountability—leaders can produce breakthrough results, even when executing the strategy requires a significant change in behavior from their teams.
It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell
It Worked for Me is filled with vivid experiences and lessons learned that have shaped the legendary career of four-star general and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. At its heart are Powell’s “Thirteen Rules,” such as “Get mad, then get over it” and “Share credit.” These introduce his principles for effective leadership: conviction, hard work, and, above all, respect for others.
Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Read by Bing West and James N. Mattis
A clear-eyed account of learning how to lead in a chaotic world, co-authored by General James N. Mattis—former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
From Daring Greatly: “Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Brené Brown PhD, LMSW, dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.”
Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott
From the time we learn to speak, we’re told that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. When you become a manager, it’s not only your job to say it, it’s your obligation.
Radical Candor is a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to ‘care personally’ at the same time that you ‘challenge directly.’ When you challenge without caring, its obnoxious aggression; when you care without challenging, its ruinous empathy. When you do neither its manipulative insincerity.
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides listeners with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services. Building a StoryBrand teaches readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to, the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so people understand it, and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See by Seth Godin
Seth Godin has taught and inspired millions of entrepreneurs, marketers, leaders, and fans from all walks of life via his blog, online courses, lectures, and best-selling books. He is the inventor of countless ideas and phrases that have made their way into mainstream business language. Any of his books are a beneficial read.
Culture and Technology
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the one-time multibillion dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes.
The Way I Heard It: True Tales for the Curious Mind with a Short Attention Span by Mike Rowe
Executive producer and television personality Mike Rowe presents a delightfully entertaining, seriously fascinating collection of his favorite episodes from America’s #1 short-form podcast, The Way I Heard It, along with a host of personal memories, ruminations, and insights.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world. In this timely and enlightening book, the best-selling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.
The Big Rich, Bryan Burrough
Author Bryan Burrough tells a spellbinding chronicle of Texas oil. Weaving together the multigenerational sagas of the industry’s four wealthiest families, Burrough brings to life the men known in their day as the “Big Four,” Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson. Each one a swaggering Texas oil tycoon who owned sprawling ranches and mingled with presidents and Hollywood stars alike. Seamlessly charting their collective rise and fall, The Big Rich is a hugely entertaining account that only a writer with Burrough’s abilities, and Texas upbringing, could have written.