My latest picks: (mostly) recent books about decision making and goal achievement.
The promise of a long summer ahead makes me very happy, and so does the knowledge that no matter how much I read, there will always be books out there that I haven’t read yet, as well as books I want to re-read. So, while the truth is that I spend a lot of time reading all year round, not just during the summer, I love the idea of a special “summer reading” list – maybe just because I love seeing two of my favorite words so close together.
So here’s my latest list of book recommendations. Most of these came out within the last year, and all except the last are non-fiction. That last one is very much fiction indeed – a special treat. It’s on my treasured list of books that I’ve read many times, starting as a child, and I still look forward to re-reading it anytime. But whether fiction or not, all the books below tell great stories and deliver truths about decision making and goal achievement.
Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths (2016). Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions.
These authors do a great job explaining how computer algorithms can be applied to help us solve common decision problems. They make a complex and rich topic accessible for non-experts. For me this book was a humbling read, because I expected to already be familiar with many of the concepts it presents. Luckily, I read it anyway, and I learned a great deal. You can look into the book and start reading here.
Caroline Webb (2016). How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life.
In this very practical book, Webb presents a collection of recent findings from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience, and explains how to apply this science to our daily tasks and routines, from time management to improving relationships at work. The author’s experience as a management consultant for McKinsey gives her a unique perspective, and she provides many examples of how she applied each of these techniques with particular clients. Read a sample here.
Cal Newport (2016) Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Yes, it’s one more book telling us to focus… but this book, ironically, was powerful enough that it distracted me from itself, so to speak. Several times while reading, a found myself looking up, thinking hard, staring into space with the book still on my lap, and making some new commitments on how to change my work routine, right then and there.
That said, some of the claims Newport makes go beyond the evidence he presents. I think we need a lot more research on what “focus” and “deep work” really mean in different contexts. He does, however, present a lot of great evidence, and his suggestions are helpful in any case. Here’s a preview.
Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson (2014). Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction.
A very accurate title for an extremely short book, written for people with little or no prior knowledge of the Scrum/Agile framework for project management and teamwork. It delivers a clear and well-organized overview of the process and different roles involved. Check out the beginning here.
Paul Raeburn and Kevin Zollman (2016). The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting: How the Science of Strategic Thinking Can Help You Deal with the Toughest Negotiators You Know–Your Kids.
Since I’m not a parent myself, I can’t really tell if this is a useful book at all. I just know I’d want to read it if I did have kids. Before them. Look into it here.
Michael Ende (1973). Momo.
Momo is the fantastic story of a little orphan girl, who one day moves into the ruins of a deserted amphitheater, living all by herself. With her special gift for listening, Momo quickly finds friends in the community of poor families living nearby. But when a grey army of men in suits attempts to take over the city, with a cunning scheme to steal people’s time, Momo’s gift unexpectedly turns her into a target, and she and her friends get caught in a sinister plot.
The novel contains profound insights into our attitude toward time. Along with The Neverending Story (1979), Momo (1973) is probably Michael Ende’s most celebrated book. Originally written in German, it has found its widest readership in Europe, the Spanish-speaking world, and Japan. Read the beginning of the novel here.