71 of 2016’s Best Books to Make You Successful
Live Your Startup Dream Without Leaving Your Day Job
By Patrick J. McGinnis
April; Portfolio; $28
Everyone knows that building a startup means hard work and long hours, with payment in stock that may turn out to be worthless. Indeed, that’s part of the glamour. But it also keeps some people with good ideas from getting started. Patrick J. McGinnis, a Wall Street venture capitalist, says don’t worry: You can “live your startup dream without leaving your day job.”
Devote 10 percent of your time and capital to pursuing your dream, McGinnis says, and you can keep your job and the security that goes with it. McGinnis, who identifies himself as a 10-percenter, provides a detailed plan to identify a promising first project. He shows how to invest resources in a savvy way, and how to develop something you love doing into a business. Best of all, until you reach your dream of an independent business, McGinnis promises you will perform better at your day job with a step-by-step plan.
Amplify Your Life & Achieve Prosperity Today
By Lisa Nichols and Janet Switzer
January; Dey Street Books; $26
Abundance means living your ideal life, one that is personally, professionally and financially fulfilling. “This life of abundance is something you get to define for yourself,” writes motivational speaker Lisa Nichols. In this follow-up to No Matter What!, published in 2009, the New York Times best-selling author again draws on her life experiences—as a college dropout, a young mother on public assistance and working dead-end jobs—to demonstrate that all people can transform themselves and transition from a life of scarcity to a life of abundance.
Nichols reveals the nuts and bolts of her journey from “broke and broken” to a place of “prosperity and possibility,” and invites readers to follow her lesson plans for achieving abundance in their lives. She stresses the importance of determining what you want for your life: relationships, career and family, and of spirituality, forgiveness, healing from past hurts, trusting yourself, and learning from past mistakes. Nichols conveys her advice with conviction and enthusiasm and proves that her title of “personal transformation guru” is well-earned.
The Science of Achieving Extraordinary Executive Presence
By Suzanne Bates, David Casullo and William Macaux
March; McGraw-Hill Education; $30
Numbers seem to be important in the leadership game—10 qualities (or is it nine?) that make a great leader, 12 things you can do, or seven steps you can take. Suzanne Bates and William Macaux have a number, too: “15 qualities of executive presence.” But the important number is one, as in: “There’s no single formula for achieving extraordinary executive presence.”
Executive presence is the authors’ term for that indefinable leadership quality that enables talented people to become highly successful. The good news is that Bates, author of the best-selling Speak Like a CEO, and Macaux, a management psychologist, have developed what they call a science-based approach that enables each person to locate his or her individual executive-presence identity. What’s more, they’ve arranged this volume as a guidebook for each stage of a rising executive career. All the Leader You Can Be is not a breezy read—at times it’s as technical as a textbook. It’s a serious book, and serious readers may well benefit.
4. Art Thinking
How to Carve Out Creative Space in a World of Schedules, Budgets, and Bosses
By Amy Whitaker
July; HarperBusiness; $27
Thinking big is not a new concept; it’s been around since at least 1959, when David J. Schwartz wrote the classic motivational book The Magic of Thinking Big. What Amy Whitaker brings to the discussion is the refreshing notion that business thinkers can learn from artists and writers. At a time when science, technology, engineering and math (the vaunted STEM formula) threaten to crowd the humanities (art, literature, music and scholarship) out of American universities, Whitaker’s approach could not be more timely.
Whitaker holds the title of “entrepreneur in residence” at the New Museum Incubator in New York City. Whitaker takes the human from the humanities and injects it back into the business world. Creativity is messy and uncertain, she argues, and must have room for failure. She provides a program to cultivate art thinking, and how to leverage creative failure into progress, invention, and new products or services.
One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, & Self-Awareness
By Gary Vaynerchuk
March; HarperBusiness; $30
After graduating from college in 1998, Gary Vaynerchuk took over his father’s New Jersey liquor store. In five years, he took it from a $3 million business to a $60 million one. Vaynerchuk accomplished the feat largely by canny use of e-commerce and social media, including the first YouTube wine webcast, Wine Library TV. Started in 2006, the show ran until 2011, with up to 90,000 viewers for its daily webcasts.
Vaynerchuk parlayed that success into a social media consulting agency called Vaynermedia, a 10-book $1 million deal with Harper Studio, and the new YouTube show The #AskGaryVee Show, in which Vaynerchuk answers viewer questions about entrepreneurship, social media and branding.
“I’m a talker,” writes Vaynerchuk, explaining why he prefers video for getting out his message. The book reads like transcripts from the show, and that’s OK when the information being dispensed is this persuasive and accessible. Vaynerchuk answers questions large and small, from whether a business in a non-English-speaking country should use English in social media to how Instagram will evolve. Vaynerchuk’s enthusiasm is infectious.
By Grant Cardone
October; Portfolio; $27
In this searing motivational volume, Grant Cardone presents his own A+ personality as a model for others. Balanced life? Overrated. Stress? Eat it for breakfast. Career? Career, now that’s everything. “My entire life people have been telling me my obsession with success is a bad thing,” Cardone writes. In truth, he owes everything to his unflinching obsession—he’s an international motivational speaker, best-selling author and owner of four companies with yearly sales of $100 million.
This book is not for the faint of heart. Anyone already obsessed with succeeding won’t need it, but those not yet hungry enough will find it invaluable. “I want to give you the tools to be completely and unapologetically obsessed, too,” Cardone writes. In addition to pithy, empowering slogans, of which there are plenty, Cardone offers 100 tips to ignite your career or business. These include how to globalize your brand on the cheap, how to push employees and overcommitting to customers. Prepare to work.
How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me
By Phyllis Korkki
August; Harper; $27
No one wants to admit to self-doubt, let alone laziness or procrastination. Phyllis Korkki, an assignment editor and reporter for The New York Times, owns up to all three in the subtitle of her new book.
Combining reporting, science and the stories of other high achievers, Korkki identifies the tactics required to bring a “big thing” project to fruition, including goal setting, focus, effort, time management and handling the high risk of failure. She shows how to conquer procrastination, stay on target and find time to be creative even if you have a full-time job. And the proof her ideas work? Her “big thing” was this very book. The principles that helped her overcome her fears can work for you, too.
The 4-Week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier Brain
By Michelle Schoffro Cook, Ph.D.
November; Rodale; $16
Everything you were taught about the brain, it turns out, is wrong. The brain is not static but adapts and grows. That means we have considerable control over brain health and intellectual capacity. This is good news, indeed—brain disease is set to overtake cancer and heart disease as the No. 1 killer of Americans. Michelle Schoffro Cook, Ph.D., who holds advanced degrees in traditional natural medicine and natural health, says the brain can be fortified by simple lifestyle changes.
After suffering a disabling brain injury, Cook writes, she healed herself with alternative remedies. Conventional medicine had failed. Her natural program improved her damaged memory, cured her accident-induced migraines and returned movement to her paralyzed left arm. Cook’s four-week program is big on nutrition (no sweeteners or gluten; lots of seafood, tomatoes and curry). You can’t go wrong by giving it a try.
How One Principal in a Tough Community Is Inspiring the World
By Nadia Lopez with Rebecca Paley
August; Viking; $27
As a principal at a challenging Brooklyn public school, Nadia Lopez was thinking about quitting. Then photographer Brandon Stanton, founder of the popular blog, Humans of New York, happened to interview one of her students. Suddenly Lopez was a media star invited to visit President Obama at the White House. Now she shares the strategies that enable her to foster success in the unlikeliest of environments.
Break All the Rules—The BrewDog Way
By James Watt
February; Portfolio; $26
BrewDog hasn’t made much of a splash on this side of the pond—yet—but since 2007, the Scottish craft beer company has become one of the fastest-growing drinks brands in the world. In Business for Punks, co-founder James Watt tells how BrewDog did it with punk attitude and rule-breaking, and how you can follow the example. Watt boasts that he intends this book to be no less than “the business bible for a new generation.”
Watt says the old rules simply don’t work anymore, at least for startups like BrewDog. He is occasionally crude, as in his four mantras of punk business: Don’t waste your time on B.S. business plans; forget sales; ignore advice; and put everything on the line for what you believe in.
But he’s also shrewd. He shows how BrewDog reinvented crowdfunding, made use of guerrilla marketing that bordered on vandalism, and created sales strategies specific to the craft beer business. Young entrepreneurs—and anyone who wants to reach millennial customers—might benefit from this outrageous but engaging book.
11. Carry On
A Story of Resilience, Redemption, and an Unlikely Family
By Lisa Fenn
August; Harper Wave; $26
When Dartanyon Crockett took a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games, it was the latest chapter in a story that began at a Cleveland high school. That’s where ESPN producer Lisa Fenn met Crockett and his best friend, Leroy Sutton, a fellow athlete who lost his legs in a train accident as a boy. After producing a story on their friendship, Fenn found she couldn’t walk away. Fenn’s account of how they bonded into a unique kind of family has been picked up by Hollywood for a movie.
How Companies Succeed By Engaging Radically with Society
By John Browne with Robin Nuttall and Tommy Stadlen
March; PublicAffairs; $28
If capitalism has a bad name, the authors of this strongly argued manifesto suggest it is in large part the result of placing profits above basic human values. Including “social and environmental considerations into core business decision-making” is not merely the right thing to do, it is the way 21st century companies will achieve competitive advantage.
How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
By Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
September; Knopf; $25
Experts and consultants are always trying to show us how one business technique or another can be applied to our personal lives. Designers Dave Evans and Bill Burnett have one of the more compelling takes. Learn to think like a designer, they say, and then you can design the life that will give you good health, satisfaction and happiness. It will also give you the flexibility to change directions when the time comes.
Evans, who helped design the Apple mouse, and Burnett, director of the design program at Stanford University, have been teaching these principles in a popular class at Stanford for nine years. A few simple mindsets are central to the program: Be curious; try new things; reframe the problem; know it’s a process; ask for help. Building a well-designed life is not easy, the writers warn, and it’s often counterintuitive, but the rewards justify the effort.
What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal
By Geoffrey Colon
August; AMACOM; $25
In the 21st century, the best marketing comes from what Geoffrey Colon calls “creative hybrids,” marketers with training in design, video production, psychology and statistics. Creative direction is driven by customer experience and social media research, he says. Colon brings a fresh view to marketing in this provocative and useful book.
15. Draw to Win
A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind
By Dan Roam
September; Portfolio; $20
Dan Roam, author of four previous books, including The Back of the Napkin, has distilled his strategies into “a handbook for busy readers.” Filled with witty drawings and easily digestable text, Draw to Win communicates its points so well that it becomes its own best example of Roam’s big idea: Imagery is a powerful tool. Lighthearted yet serious, Roam demonstrates how to add visual communication to your business toolbox.
16. Earning It
Hard-Won Lessons From Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World
By Joann S. Lublin
October; HarperBusiness; $28
Only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and Joann S. Lublin, management news editor for The Wall Street Journal, includes many of them, as well as other female business leaders, in this book. Most were “firsts,” just as Lublin, in 1969, became the first female summer intern at WSJ’s Washington bureau. “They dismantled the old boys club, destroyed myths about the capabilities of female leaders and continue to serve as role models.” Lessons are to be learned, but Lublin, a first-rate writer, makes the stories of this “unique elite” a pleasure to read.
17. Ego is the Enemy
By Ryan Holiday
June: Portfolio; $25
Only 28, Ryan Holiday has gone from triumph to victory since the age of 19, as a media strategist advising rock bands and authors and as a best-selling author himself. But, Holiday warns, early success is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. “With success comes the temptation to tell oneself a story,” he writes, ignoring the lucky breaks and creating self-mythology. Holiday draws on varied sources—history, literature, philosophy—to suggest strategies to keep the ego in its proper place and proportion.
Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life
By Susan David, Ph.D.
September; Avery Books; $27
A psychologist at Harvard Medical School, Susan David looks at professional and personal issues together and finds the same solutions work for both. That’s because our inner state—thoughts, emotions and self-talk—drives everything from relationships to careers, health and happiness. Mastering our thoughts and feelings, she says, is the No. 1 key to resilience and prosperity.
This of course is ancient wisdom, variations of which are offered up by the Bhagavad Gita, Epictetus, Shakespeare and Aaron T. Beck, among others. Some people are born with emotional agility. But David, drawing on her research and the latest in brain science, offers a four-part system on how to gain emotional agility: Showing up; stepping out; walking your why; moving on. David’s catchphrases may sound trite, but the science, wisdom and common sense underlying each one are sound.
Critical Thinking in the Digital Age
By Daniel J. Levitin
September; Dutton; $28
Daniel J. Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music, explains how to make use of critical thinking to separate misinformation, pseudo-fact, distortions and outright lies. People fib for the darnedest reasons. “People sometimes lie when asked their opinions. A Harvard graduate may overstate her income in order to appear more successful,” Levitin writes. His program includes plausibility, averages, mis-framing and probabilities. The result is a book you may want to have close by at all times.
Dream Bigger, Live Happier, and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms
By Jessica DiLullo Herrin
May; Crown Business; $27
She has built not one but two multimillion-dollar businesses from the ground up. Jessica DiLullo Herrin hit it rich first in 1996 (while still a student at Stanford Graduate Business School) with WeddingChannel.com, one of the first full-service bridal websites. After following her husband to Texas and having two children, she started Stella & Dot Family Brands, a craft jewelry business approaching $1 billion in annual sales.
In Find Your Extraordinary, Herrin shares the wisdom gained from the stress and constant work of the first business, which did $100 million a year by the time she left, and the easier pace she’s found with the second. Entrepreneurial principles, she says, can create not only the kind of career you want but also the kind of life you want to live.
A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley
By Eric Weiner
January; Simon & Schuster; $27
Renaissance Italy was a hotbed of creativity and innovation. Viennese coffee shops of the 19th century hosted a generation of intellectuals, such as Sigmund Freud. Ancient Greece birthed philosophers aplenty. Why? “Certain places, at certain times, produced a bumper crop of brilliant minds and good ideas,” writes Eric Weiner, author of the best-selling Geography of Bliss. Weiner takes readers on a delightful armchair road trip to visit these genius “clusters” and learn about the relationship between culture, creativity, geography and history. Weiner’s snappy writing and unique observations round out the enjoyable adventure.
My Fight to Pay Back America
By Robert Benmosche with Peter Marks and Valerie Hendy
April; St. Martin’s Press; $28
In 2009 the late Robert Benmosche took over as CEO at AIG, the insurance giant. His timing was remarkably poor; at the time AIG was the object of America’s rage over the mortgage crisis that spiraled the economy into a steep recession, robbed millions of their home equity value, and threw millions more out of work. Yet Benmosche not only pulled AIG from the brink of default, he paid back the enormous sums the company owed the government in only three years. A self-made man, Benmosche tells how he did it.
How Smart Students, New Graduates and Young Professionals Can Launch Brand YOU
By Catherine Kaputa
April; Nicholas Brealey; $17
Branding consultant Catherine Kaputa offers more than the usual personal branding advice. She provides a wealth of useful specifics such as how to format a résumé for today’s job market, how to conduct yourself in a Skype interview and how to make a résumé stand out from competitors. The best news is for liberal arts majors. It’s not necessary to be a coding techie, Kaputa writes, because tech companies are awakening to the value of the human touch. “Creativity can’t be programmed,” she writes.
Classic Wisdom for Modern Managers
By Jocelyn Davis
May; Nicholas Brealey; $30
It’s nice to toss around impressive names—Shakespeare, Plato, Jung, Machiavelli or Lao Tzu—but could these dusty old paragons really be of use to a manager today? For anyone willing to put in the time and effort, the answer is a definite yes. Jocelyn Davis cleverly fuses the thoughts of classic writers and philosophers into the foundation of what is essentially a brainy how-to book.
Davis examines 24 leadership topics, each given its own chapter. She plumbs Shakespeare’s Henry V for insight on crisis management, Melville’s Billy Budd for accountability and Machiavelli’s The Prince on change. Davis provides a book of substance that is a joy to read. In doing so, she demonstrates the relevance of the humanities even in a fast-changing 21st-century world.
How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line
By Leigh Stringer
July; AMACOM; $28
Everyone would like to promote employee wellness, but does it really boost your bottom line? Leigh Stringer, a workplace expert at EYP Architecture and Engineering, marshals impressive evidence that it does. Studies, she says, show that staring at computer screens, eating unhealthy meals at a work desk, long hours, stress and other consequences of squeezing employees too hard is bad strategy. Not only does it result in time and productivity lost to sick days, but it also reduces workers’ efficiency when they are on the job.
Yet while vast numbers of workers “are already trying hard to be healthy at work,” most companies remain “fairly reactive when it comes to employee health.” Stringer uses herself as a guinea pig, trying new techniques, nutritional ideas and up-to-date behavioral science. It’s a fun trip, but it’s also an effective way to provide lots of research and information. Stringer concludes with a detailed chapter called “The Business Case for Health” that convincingly argues that proactive health strategies result in an impressive return on investment.
Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will
By Mark Rampolla
July; Portfolio; $28
The general meaning of the phrase high-hanging fruit is obvious. In this regard, Mark Rampolla’s high-hanging fruit was breaking into the U.S. market with a previously neglected product: coconut water. Eventually Rampolla sold his startup, ZICO, to Coca-Cola for more than $200 million. But his real high-hanging fruit is making money while doing good. Customers are smart, he warns, and legacy companies that try to trick them with a pose of social responsibility will not succeed.
A Guide to Operating and Maintaining a Human Body
By James Hamblin
December; Doubleday; $27
James Hamblin, a doctor-turned-journalist and creator of a series of videos at TheAtlantic.com, brings his offbeat wit to such timeless questions as: How much sleep do you really need? Do we really not yet know if cellphones cause cancer? Is it possible to boost the immune system? Will caffeine really make me live longer? Underneath the curiosity factor and his nerdy charm, Hamblin conveys useful information. That’s a win-win for everyone.
Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols
By Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez
February; Portfolio; $32
Humans communicate primarily through story. We tell our spouses stories about our day. An article in this magazine is called a story. Our understanding of the past comes to us in stories, too, from mythology and religion down to the tale Grandpa has told a thousand times about walking 7 miles to school through snow. In the hands of a visionary seer, or someone the authors call a “Torchbearer” like Steve Jobs, stories can also help us see and understand the future, Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez write.
That’s a valuable insight in an era of rapid change. “Each time I see the business starting to settle into a state of comfort, I begin to envision our next transformation,” writes Duarte, co-founder and CEO of Duarte, the largest design firm in Silicon Valley. Illuminate brims with catchphrases and terms—the Five-Stage Venture Scape, the Torchbearer’s Toolkit (deliver speeches, tell stories, hold ceremonies)—but, drawn from Duarte’s experience with the changes her own company has undergone, these never seem corny or cliché. Delivered in the form of one vivid story after another, they resonate in the mind.
29. Let Me Out
Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life
By Peter Himmelman
October; TarcherPerigee; $23
Peter Himmelman is minor rock royalty—a Grammy and Emmy nominee and the son-in-law of Bob Dylan. He’s also the founder of Big Muse, a firm that teaches creativity to outfits such as Gap, Adobe, the Wharton School and the Ross School of Business. His approach to creativity is refreshingly counterintuitive.
“I always hear people say if you want it, ‘just do it’—as if just doing it were the most natural thing in the universe.” Just doing it is challenging when your inner critic says don’t. But that voice must have a positive function, Himmelman reasons, “because everyone I’ve ever met has got the same voice inside.” Using science-based exercises and techniques developed in his music career, Himmelman promises to reduce the fear that stifles creativity, and shows how to bring intimidating projects to completion and take ideas from your head into the real world.
30. Mad Genius
A Manifesto for Entrepreneurs
By Randy Gage
January; Perigee Books; $24
The recurring theme of this manifesto is that no is never the answer, failure isn’t final unless you quit, and challenges offer the greatest opportunity for innovation and creation. Entrepreneur and angel investor Randy Gage holds forth on everything from branding to memes, virtual reality and more. Mad Genius is irreverent, bold, occasionally wacky, and ultimately satisfying and surprising.
The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business
By Rana Foroohar
May; Crown Business; $30
Time’s economics columnist Rana Foroohar starts naming names on the very first page of this Wall Street exposé, calling out Apple CEO Tim Cook for focusing on “financial engineering rather than the real kind.” Foroohar warns that the financial practices that caused the 2008 stock market meltdown are not only still in practice, they are more widespread and entrenched than ever. “The tail is wagging the dog,” Foroohar writes. This “financialization of America” worsens inequality and guarantees another painful bubble is sure to burst.
The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs
By Louis Patler
July; AMACOM; $22
Surfers have produced a number of innovative products and successful businesses, including the GoPro camera. Louis Patler, who is both a consultant and surfer, offers a 10-point plan on how to develop the characteristics successful surfers and entrepreneurs share, beginning with learning to swim. The others: get wet; decide to ride; always look outside; commit, charge, shred; paddle back out; never turn your back on the ocean; dare big; never surf alone; stay stoked. These metaphors prove to be surprisingly powerful teaching tools that stick in the mind.
The Breakthrough System to Get More Results, Faster, in Every Area of Your Life
By Brian Tracy
October; TarcherPerigee; $22
There probably hasn’t been a new time management idea since Aristotle, and certainly not since Napoleon Hill. As a result, the best time management book is the one you will use. That said, it is hard to imagine a better treatment than this one from Brian Tracy. He uses plain language, forcefully delivered, to lay out a concise program. Each chapter closely examines related principles and practices; for example, making a science of the humble to-do list. This no-nonsense approach will work for anyone who tries it.
Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers
By Jill Konrath
December; Portfolio; $27
Thanks to digital technology, selling has become more pressured than ever. Familiar time management tools are as antiquated as a push mower. Sales expert Jill Konrath has a few new ideas, which she shares with authority. Eliminate the “time bandits” stealing your moments—email is a big one. Design a system for your unique strengths, and insulate yourself from distraction with positive tools.
By Napoleon Hill
August; Sound Wisdom; $25
Boost your success with powerful lessons on self-discipline, the art of concentration, mental and spiritual immunity, creating habits and other powerful principles from speeches by the personal-development legend Napoleon Hill. This book includes some of Hill’s most popular speeches, including the one that inspired the best-selling book Think and Grow Rich, as well as other never-before-published material by the Napoleon Hill Foundation.
How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts
By Daniel Shapiro
April; Viking; $28
Daniel Shapiro, a Harvard expert on conflict resolution, promises a “step-by-step method to resolve life’s most challenging conflicts.” But he delivers much more. For example, in the second chapter, “The Dual Nature of Identity,” Shapiro delves into the paradox of human personality—it feels both fixed and also changeable. “This paradox cuts right to the heart of conflict resolution,” Shapiro writes, using a scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to illustrate his point.
Alice realizes identity is both fluid and fixed, a fact that allows conflicts to be resolved. Based on Shapiro’s 20 years of research around the world, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable shows how threats to our sense of identity, what he calls “the Tribes Effect,” can make compromise seem impossible—in family conflict, a workplace dispute or even an international crisis. Shapiro has written a book of psychological, social and political significance.
How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models
By Barry Libert, Megan Beck and Jerry Wind
June; Harvard Business Review Press; $32
First Amazon came for the bookstores. Then Google came for the newspapers. Now Uber has come for the taxi and rental car companies. And your business is next. As early as 2020, “every organization will either be digital predator or digital prey.” The authors of this book want to show how to transform even the most traditional business model into a digitized, networked operation.
Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
By Chris Voss with Tahl Raz
May; HarperBusiness; $29
The biggest error of conventional negotiating theory, says Chris Voss, formerly the FBI’s top international kidnap negotiator, is the assumption people are logical and behave in their own best interests. In fact, no one behaves rationally, leaving emotion to dominate pressure situations. That’s as true in business, Voss writes, as it is in the FBI. After all, life is one negotiation after another—from buying a car to starting a business to asking for a raise.
Voss provides lists and tips throughout the book, breaking effective negotiating into nine general principles: Be a mirror; don’t feel their pain; beware of yes, master no; trigger the two words that immediately transform any negotiation; bend reality; create the illusion of control; guarantee execution; bargain hard; and find black swans. Voss illustrates points with anecdotes from his FBI career, lending the book some suspense—rare for a business treatise.
39. Now Go Out There
(and Get Curious)
By Mary Karr
April; Harper; $15
Mary Karr helped invent the modern memoir with her popular 1995 account of a wretched childhood, The Liars’ Club. Now she contributes to another dawning genre: the commencement speech published as a book. Delivered at Syracuse University in 1995, this speech is gritty: “Being smart and rich are lucky, but being curious and compassionate will save your ass.” If she relies a bit on 12-step wisdom, well, it really is wise. At 80 pages, a fine gift book.
40. O Great One!
A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition
By David Novak with Christa Bourg
May; Portfolio; $25
During the 14 years David Novak served as CEO at Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), he used recognition to develop the company into one of the world’s biggest restaurant outfits. “If you give people the recognition they’ve earned, if you show genuine appreciation and acknowledge the unique things people have to offer, then you will drive real results.”
Novak is puzzled why recognition is used so little in the business world. To get the word out, he writes a parable about Jeff Johnson, the new CEO, trying to save his family toy company. There’s more story here than in earlier business parables such as Who Moved My Cheese? After reading it, bosses might be more apt to pat employees on the back and give an “attaboy” for work well done.
How to Ramp Up Your Sales Skills
By Anthony Iannarino
October; Portfolio; $27
To Anthony Iannarino the secrets to becoming a top sales professional are not complicated. They’re not new, they’re not trendy, and they’re not easy. “Remaking yourself doesn’t happen overnight,” writes Iannarino. “It takes time and effort.”
Divided into two sections, the book devotes one chapter each to principles for an effective mindset (in addition to self-discipline, these are optimism, caring, competitiveness, resourcefulness, initiative, persistence, communication, accountability and influence). Part two covers skill-set principles (closing, prospecting, storytelling, diagnosing, negotiating, business acumen, change and leadership). “You’ll see some improvements in your sales results immediately,” Iannarino writes, but mastering the program is “a career’s worth of work.”
The 3-Step Plan to Creating a Life of Lasting Joy, Abundant Energy, and Radical Bliss
By Kristi Ling
March; Rodale; $25
Kristi Ling wants to smash the idea that happiness is a lucky accident that befalls some people but not others. Instead, she says, “Happiness is a skill that can be learned, improved upon, and even mastered—just like playing the violin or riding a bike.” If you’re willing to follow her program, which is grounded in neuroscience, cognitive-behavioral psychology and ancient spiritual disciplines, you can learn to be happy, too.
Part I focuses on how to change defeatist attitudes. Part II devotes five chapters to restructuring mornings to support daily happiness. Part III unveils Ling’s 11 Habits of Happy People. All three sections provide actionable steps, worksheets and tools. As Ling writes, “I can’t promise it will be easy, but if you stick with it for as long as it takes to feel the shift in your core, you will reach a new level of consistent, sustainable happiness.”
Decode Your Emotional DNA—and Thrive
By Margaret Moore, Edward Phillips and John Hanc
September; William Marrow Paperbacks; $17
This may seem like a touchy-feely book. It’s actually a serious and readable presentation of the neuroscience, lifestyle, psychological and even evolutionary principles that enable humans to thrive in the face of adversity. Moore and Phillips, a management coach and an M.D., both affiliated with Harvard University, say a set of needs and drives have, over time, evolved into subpersonalities or “differentiated selves.” Expressed as emotions, and when properly understood, they can be beneficial. The authors show how to identify and manage the parts of this internal system.
Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
By Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
April; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $28
Anders Ericsson, a Florida State University research psychologist, has studied gifted people in chess, sports, music and medicine for more than 30 years. Malcolm Gladwell based his 2008 bestseller, Outliers, on Ericsson’s work. But Ericsson rejects Gladwell’s interpretation as an oversimplification: It’s not just how many hours you put in; it’s how you use them.
The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One
By Jenny Blake
September; Portfolio; $28
How ironic is it that a career-development manager working in Google’s much-envied Career Guru program hit a career plateau and needed to take a sabbatical? Jenny Blake used the sabbatical in 2011 to launch her first book, and it went so well she launched a consulting firm instead of returning to Google.
In Pivot, she shares what she has learned about making a successful career change. Constant change is the new reality, Blake writes. Based on her own experience, she developed a four-stage process: Double down on strengths, interests, and experiences; seek new opportunities and develop fresh skills without discouragement; run small experiments to determine your next step; and take smart risks to confidently launch in a new direction.
How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You
By Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary
March; W.W. Norton; $27
The authors of this book, two academics and an analyst, argue that digital platforms will disrupt legacy businesses for the foreseeable future. They acknowledge that this is not altogether good—thousands will face unemployment, as when Craigslist demolished newspaper classified advertising. But it will also generate billions in value and provide unforeseen opportunities for those who know how it works.
47. Play Bigger
How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets
By Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead and Kevin Maney
June; HarperBusiness; $29
Winning big today means playing big, according to the authors of this enthusiastic but serious book. And that means creating a new game with new rules and then dominating it. Play Bigger is the work of a three-man Silicon Valley advisory team that, according to co-writer Kevin Maney, “gets paid large sums of money to help companies do exactly what’s in this book. (So you’re getting it cheap!)”
The authors conducted interviews and analyzed data to peer into the inner workings of revolutionary companies such as Amazon, Uber and IKEA in pursuit of transformative ways of doing business. They emerge with what they call “category design,” a discipline they say enables a company to generate demand where none existed, influence the thinking and buying habits of customers, and create a brand-new market. Category design may derive primarily from examples in the tech industry, but the authors promise that it applies to any business.
How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
By Daymond John with Daniel Paisner
January; Crown Business; $26
Being broke forces you to dig deeply—to trust and invest in yourself.Being broke means you have to occasionally “kick yourself in the butt” to keep moving forward, writes Daymond John, founder of fashion empire FUBU and star of ABC’s Shark Tank.
Revisiting his entrepreneurial origins, John recounts his start selling hand-knit hats with $40 in startup money, being turned down by 27 banks when seeking funds to finance his first FUBU orders, and borrowing $100,000 against his mother’s house for equipment and supplies to fill those orders. His story and that of the other entrepreneurs he profiles prove that success requires perseverance, creativity, ingenuity and a hefty dose of hustle.
The Power of Broke is an entertaining mix of practical advice, success stories and behind-the-scenes Shark Tank tales. Still, readers may be left longing for more of John’s invaluable business intelligence.
(Whether You Feel Like It or Not)
By Steve Levinson and Chris Cooper
January; Perigee Books; $17
Psychologist Steve Levinson and executive coach Chris Cooper show readers how to combat the inner resistance that stops people from turning good intentions into actions. The authors explain how sidestepping tasks increases resistance to accomplishing them, and they prescribe an action plan to overcome the “avoidance monster.” For example: Reduce resistance by breaking the task into small activities, tackle tasks in short time bursts, and commit to doing the least stressful tasks to create momentum. If you struggle with avoidance and procrastination, this slim volume is one you shouldn’t avoid.
Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
By Amy Cuddy
December 2015; Little, Brown and Co.; $28
More than 28 million people have watched Harvard Business School associate professor Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, “How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” In her new book, Cuddy dives deeper into the topic, exploring how our state of mind, behaviors and body language reflect power and presence (or the lack thereof).
According to Cuddy, presence stems from “believing and trusting… your feelings, beliefs, values and abilities.” She points out that if you don’t trust in yourself or believe in what you’re saying, it’s difficult to project the confidence inherent to presence. Leaving the scientific jargon for the classroom, Cuddy masterfully illuminates the complex relationship between what we think and how we present ourselves. She counsels readers on how to reduce anxiety and pump up presence through “tiny tweaks” (paying attention to posture, eye contact, language and tone, for example). More than a valuable and fresh look at how we present ourselves to others, Presence is a well-written, absorbing read.
Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
By Shauna Niequist
August; Zondervan; $23
The gist of Shauna Niequist’s message could be written on the back of a matchbook: Love yourself. If you aren’t going to truly love yourself, then how will you live? That’s what the rest of the book is about. Writing in the calming tones of a smart and kind older sister, she avoids the sentimentality that could easily ruin such a message.
Instead Niequist draws on a wide range of literary and cultural sources to buttress her lessons, from poet Mary Oliver to rock group Florence + the Machine, Shakespeare, Rumi, the Indigo Girls and the Bible. None is more relevant than the quote she attributes to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I hope you live the life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption
By Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman
July; Greenleaf Book Group Press; $22
“It’s quite easy to find examples of individuals and organizations that launched radical change because they had to,” write the authors of Reinvention. “It’s a bit more challenging to find examples like Sheikh Rashid of Dubai.”
Rashid, who started planning for the end of Dubai’s oil economy in 1966, merits an entire chapter in Reinvention. He’s only one of the economic superstars highlighted, but his story well-illustrates the central point: Prepare to reinvent yourself before crisis arrives.
Authors Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman, co-founders of a global management and consulting firm, provide an overview of current thinking on disruption and change. Applied strategically, their principles will greatly benefit managers, entrepreneurs and even ordinary individuals.
The Unconventional Raising of a Champion
By Missy Franklin and D.A. and Dick Franklin
December; Dutton; $27
In this group autobiography, Missy Franklin and her parents explore the family dynamic behind her breakout at the 2012 London Olympics. Only 17, she won five medals, four of them gold, and set a world record in the 200-meter backstroke. “There’s no blueprint for raising an Olympic champion,” Franklin writes. “My parents certainly weren’t thinking this way—they just wanted to see me happy.”
It’s a testament to Franklin’s grit that she’s writing additional chapters for this book on her disappointing performance in Rio de Janeiro this summer. After finishing last in her heat in the 200-meter freestyle, she confessed on Twitter, “So heartbroken by my results from last night. Doing everything I can to keep my head up and keep fighting with all I have.” That’s the spirit that has pulled her through injuries and other setbacks. No doubt it will do so again.
Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
December; Basic Books; $28
A 21st-century contradiction sits at the heart of this book: Overworking yourself or your employees is the wrong way to reach your goals. “Productivity books offer life hacks, advice about how to get more done, or stories about what CEOs or famous writers do,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writes. “But they say almost nothing about the role of rest in the lives or careers of creative and productive people.”
Rest is an equal partner to work, argues Pang, visiting scholar at Stanford University and senior consultant at a Silicon Valley think tank. The most creative people of history—from Charles Darwin to Stephen King—knew how to do it. They harness daydreaming to free the unconscious mind to find new ideas. They plan rest into every day. They know that the right kind of rest prolongs creative life. This is a book of deep wisdom and human insight.
55. Scaling Lean
Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth
By Ash Maurya
June; Portfolio; $30
Just as almost no one waits for yesterday’s news to arrive on the doorstep, startups in the digital age cannot afford to rely on yesterday’s metrics. Ash Maurya, creator of the one-page business modeling tool “Lean Canvas” and author of the startup guide Running Lean, subjects every angle of business measurement to rigorous inquiry. The result is a box of fresh and efficient tools for entrepreneurs to measure the feasibility of their business models.
How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed
By Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood
October; Entrepreneur Press; $25
The prescription Richard Koch delivers in his latest treatise, one of the “73 Best Books Entrepreneurs Should Read in 2016,” according to ZenFive Newsletter, boils down to two tactics.
The first, “price simplifying,” means ease of manufacture, minimal product variety and the widest sales distribution possible. For example, at the beginning, McDonald’s shrank the traditional diner menu to nine items, eliminated waitstaff and coopted customers into clearing their own tables. Henry Ford and IKEA are among the price simplifiers, too.
Koch’s second principle, “proposition simplifying,” has three components: A product should be intuitive, useful and beautiful. The master was Steve Jobs, who famously simplified Apple products by removing controls, leaving out software features and discarding interface options. Other companies that have used this principle include Uber and Google. Simplify is a practical book that can help entrepreneurs improve their business.
Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
By Arianna Huffington
April; Harmony; $26
Writer and editor Arianna Huffington has made the most of the digital age, revolutionizing the online news business with The Huffington Post, which AOL bought for $315 million in February 2011. In recent years Huffington has turned her attention to the things that money can’t buy. First came On Becoming Fearless… In Love, Work, and Life in 2007, followed by Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, released in 2014.
Having shown the way to courage and spirituality, Huffington now takes us on a tour of what she calls “our current sleep crisis.” Excessively focused on the work-hard, play-hard approach to life, we undervalue sleep and all the things it provides the foundation for: mental clarity, physical health, even sex. Huffington gives a thorough tour of current sleep science, investigates the sleeping-pill industry, and offers tips on how to sleep better.
58. Small Data
The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
By Martin Lindstrom
February; St. Martin’s; $26
Martin Lindstrom is not only the author of perceptive (and cleverly titled) books such as Buyology and Brandwashed, he’s also a branding consultant for many of the biggest and most famous brands in the world. His new book, Small Data, is filled with evidence from Lindstrom’s branding work proving that Big Data—masses of online consumer information—is not enough. The up-close, personal research Lindstrom calls small data is needed, too.
Small Data opens with the turnaround of Lego, a company so successful today that it’s a shock to discover it was in danger of crashing in the early 2000s. Big Data analysis always reached a dismal conclusion: “Future generations would completely lose interest in Lego.” But Lindstrom, in one of his small data studies, noticed a boy’s scuffed sneaker, the result of the boy’s passion for skateboarding. This led Lindstrom to conclude that kids would not abandon traditional toys and inspired Lego to reject Big Data analysis, focusing on its core products instead. By 2014, Lego passed Mattel as the world’s top toy maker.
How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family
By Kimberly Palmer
June; AMACOM; $15
It seems an impossible task, building wealth with small children in the house. The temptation to borrow (or steal) from your older self can be overwhelming. Kimberly Palmer reminds us that it costs $250,000 to raise one child, and that’s not counting college. Women, says Palmer, citing Fidelity, make 85 percent of consumer purchases, influence 90 percent of goods and services, and, by 2020 will be controlling two-thirds of American wealth. Aimed not only at moms but also other women, Palmer offers no great secrets, just sound advice—keep track of spending, set goals, plan for the unexpected—and she does it with infectious energy and useful detail.
How Exceptional Leaders Nurture Talent to Achieve Market Domination
By Sydney Finkelstein
February; Portfolio; $28
Sydney Finkelstein possesses a big brain, gaudy credentials (consultant, speaker, professor of management at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business), and a clear, entertaining writing style. Perhaps the most striking thing about Superbosses is how optimistic—even sunny—Finkelstein’s tone is. An influential restaurateur and chef, Finkelstein spent 10 years investigating business leadership in search of patterns across a range of industries.
And he found them. A superboss is not what Finkelstein calls a “bossy boss,” the Donald Trump-style of outsized personalities who “crack the whip and push employees to their limits.” A superboss, regardless of other qualities, is someone who develops talent. Finkelstein identifies 18 primary superbosses and a few dozen “likely superbosses,” including comedy’s Lorne Michaels and Jon Stewart, musician Miles Davis, NFL coach Bill Walsh, and clothier Ralph Lauren. Each has spawned generations of talented leaders. What’s more, Superbosses is that rare business book that does more than inform. It’s positively hard to put down.
61. Think Simple
How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity
By Ken Segall
June; Portfolio; $28
Simplicity isn’t simple, says Ken Segall, but it is “arguably the most potent weapon in business.” An advertising creative director who worked closely with Apple for more than 12 years, Segall named the iMac and wrote the iconic “Think Different” campaign. His appreciation for simplicity comes directly from Steve Jobs. “His obsession with simplicity was not just visible with Apple’s products. You could see it in the way the company organized, innovated, advertised, sold at retail, and provided customer service.”
Segall sets out in search of other “heroes of simplicity,” such as Ben & Jerry’s, Whole Foods, The Container Store and even the Blue Man Group. Jerry Greenfield, for example, discusses how a focus on simplicity allowed Ben & Jerry’s to grow from a local ice cream company to a top worldwide brand without sacrificing the company’s original values.
A Strategy for Leading Innovation
By Vijay Govindarajan
April; Harvard Business Review Press; $32
The central problem facing successful businesses is how to run a mature company while balancing the need for continued innovation. Harvard University Business School fellow and Tuck School of Business professor Vijay Govindarajan offers a simple but not simplistic formula that he calls the three-box solution. Keep the current business humming, forget what got you there, and come up with a new model for the future. His book is both challenging and easy to understand, offering numerous examples—from IBM to GE to Hasbro—of companies that have made it work.
How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity
By Douglas Rushkoff
March; Portfolio; $28
When protesters tossed stones at a bus for Google employees in San Francisco in 2013, the digital economy had long since betrayed its promise, says media scholar and writer Douglas Rushkoff.
Instead of providing broad prosperity, the digital economy enriches a few while disrupting industries and robbing millions of their jobs. It doesn’t have to be this way; he says the problem isn’t digital technology, but the winner-take-all system on which it is built. Rushkoff offers a detailed plan to both wean companies from the addiction to short-term growth and lead them to worker-owned co-ops that replace platform monopolies (so long, Uber!).
A Little Book of Inspiration
By Simon Sinek
September; Portfolio; $22
Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last, has a simple message: People work better together than they do alone. In the form of an illustrated book filled with motivational quotes, Sinek tells the story of three kids who go on an adventure and learn the power of working together along the way. Sinek encourages readers to ask for help and calls on leaders to create workplaces that welcome trust and cooperation.
How to Reclaim Your Creativity in a Hyper-Connected Work Culture
By Chris Lewis
October; Kogan Page; $20
Chris Lewis, founder of a London-based marketing consultancy, is not the first to say the digital revolution is bad for the brain. In 2011 psychologist Daniel Kahneman examined the issue in Thinking, Fast and Slow, and before that, the French Enlightenment thinker Voltaire observed, “Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast.” Matters have only worsened in the intervening years (or centuries).
Creativity is Lewis’s focus. Tapping research from University of the Arts London and interviews with businesspeople, academics, psychologists and artists, Lewis says creativity cannot flourish in a relentless torrent of social media, streaming video and email. The mind needs sustained periods of uninterrupted digital quiet for creative ideas to form and develop. He’s a bit unfair to the younger generation—he says millennials lack creativity—but otherwise this is a worthwhile book.
Why Only Is Better Than Best
By Srinivas Rao
August; Portfolio; $25
Srinivas Rao delivers a simple but empowering truth: Any kind of work can be art, any kind of worker can be an artist. “[I] define art as any creation: a project, interaction, blog post, report, book, song, performance, company, and so on.” In other words, take back your creativity; it belongs to you.
“The future belongs to individuals and organizations who are unmistakable,” he writes. And he defines unmistakable as “art that doesn’t require a signature…. It’s immediately recognizable as something you made—nobody could have done it but you.” Rao is the creator and host of the podcast The Unmistakable Creative, for which he has interviewed more than 500 entrepreneurs. He distills their wisdom into this book.
By Bernie Swain
September; Savio Republic; $26
In 1980 Bernie Swain quit his job to create a lecture agency that would become the Washington Speakers Bureau. Over the years Swain has met powerful leaders, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dave Barry. In What Made Me Who I Am, Swain shares stories of defining moments that influenced these notables and many others.
How to Survive Our Faster Future
By Joi Ito and Jeff Howe
December; Grand Central; $28
Joi Ito, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and Jeff Howe, program coordinator for Media Innovation at Northeastern University, know change. “Even in Boston… decades of progress seem to melt away in the time it takes to walk from the humming laboratories of MIT to the cash-strapped elementary schools just a few blocks away.” Ito and Howe pepper their book with old-school slogans: “Question authority,” “Be prepared to walk away,” and “Get out of your comfort zone.” But they also crack open new paradigms for grasping a confounding future that arrives every day.
How I Learned to Fill the Fragments of My Life with Forgiveness, Hope, Strength, and Creativity
By Melissa Moore with Michele Mastrisciani
September; Rodale; $26
Now a best-selling author and speaker, Melissa Moore endured an early, intimate encounter with the heart of darkness. Her father, Keith Jesperson, was a serial killer who murdered at least eight women while Moore was a child. Working through the shame, guilt and despair that followed his arrest enabled her to create a five-part program to emotional freedom: Watch the storm; heal your heart, open your mind; leverage your power; and elevate your spirit.
70. Win at Losing
How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains
By Sam Weinman
December; TarcherPerigee; $26
Sports reporter Sam Weinman didn’t know how to guide his sons through losses at school and on the field. To learn more, he interviewed high-profile achievers who had survived public defeat, including athletes, entertainers, politicians and executives. Weinman learned that real success comes not in spite of but because of loss, humiliation and rejection.
Weinman counters NFL quarterback Cam Newton, who walked out of a press conference following a Super Bowl loss, later saying “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” On the contrary, Weinman says, being a good loser “implies perspective and resilience and the quiet confidence that the world will not crumble around you because of a fleeting setback.” He supports the point with the stories of golfer Greg Norman, politician Michael Dukakis, actress Susan Lucci and others.
71. Year of Yes
How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person
By Shonda Rhimes
November 2015 ; Simon & Schuster; $25
For most of her life, the creator of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder said no to just about every social invitation that came her way. The same woman who can write snappy, smart dialogue for days was so introverted that she completely avoided situations in which she’d have to speak extemporaneously, be interviewed or face an unknown situation.
She was content to stay home with her three kids until Thanksgiving of 2013, when her sister remarked that Rhimes always said no and that it was time to say yes. It was a daunting challenge, but she accepted it and cemented her commitment by writing a book about her experience. Her account of the year that followed her Thanksgiving transformation from fearful to fearless is full of surprises and juicy anecdotes. It’s also candid, clever, inspiring and funny.
This article originally appeared in the January to December 2016 issues of SUCCESS magazine.
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Work issues, life problems and emotional quandaries—we all got ’em. But for every problem, there’s a solution. Or at least a corresponding self-help book.
What’s on your book bucket list?