Favorite Books of 2009

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Thanks to several long vacations, quite a few work flights where I’ve managed to avoid on board wi-fi, and my awesome new book club (which is so serious we must read the books to attend and get kicked out if we miss too many), I’ve had the pleasure of reading some really great books this year! So I thought I would share a few reviews, especially of my favorites that others might enjoy…

BUSINESS

Best Business Book goes to The Management Myth, hands down. I almost yanked this out of Jim’s hands when he was reading it because he would not stop cracking up and the few quotes he shared with me were so funny and poignant. The author is a philosophy PhD who spent years consulting at some of the very top firms, some of the same firms where I’ve worked. He goes back and forth between destroying management “science” and its “gurus” and telling stories about his experience at the consulting firms where he worked. As a consultant, I felt like I knew all the characters and every story. I loved it – all the provocative views and his overall point that we must introduce more humanity and less science in the way we think about business. Every MBA and consultant should read this … every executive who hires MBAs or consultants should as well.

Runner-up Best Business Book goes to Innovators Dilemma. This book hit me at the optimal time. Several of our clients and friends were dealing with what innovation means and how they need to structure their technology organizations to do more of it. It is a must-read for any company or IT organizational trying to crack innovation, any software company figuring out its strategy, really any company selling a product that could be disrupted.

I also very much enjoyed Predictably Irrational, another pop book on behavioral economics. I’ve previously read several of the others in this genre, including Blink, Stumbling on Happiness, and Freakonomics, all which I liked (loved Freakonomics best of all), but I thought Predictably Irrational one was really well written and extremely entertaining. I’d definitely recommend it if you like this kind of stuff, and if you want to stop and question every shopping and life decision you make for the next couple months!

I loved the 4 Hour Work Week. Much of it was irrelevant to my specific job but the few philosophies and approaches I took from it have really changed my perspective on work. I definitely recommend it if you want a shakeup in your work and/or career. My whole family has been reading it over the holidays and we are having some good banter on his recommendations.

I also read a couple of books that might interest Landmark Graduates in particular. The Three Laws of Performance basically takes the Landmark Forum and applies it to organizations. It was a quick read and it changed my perspective a bit on the process for shaping strategy, although I’m not sure someone who hadn’t gone through the Forum would appreciate it quite as much. The Energy Bus is a great little parable-style book about positive energy in the workplace. I’ve read a lot of things like this so it didn’t impact me quite as much as it might some others, but I’d recommend it if you are in the mood for some new perspective on work or life.

The only true IT strategy book I read was Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, which was sadly one of the better books I’ve read on the topic but still not mind-blowing. Other than that, I’ve read some other books on coaching and organizational performance that aren’t even worth mentioning.

NON-FICTION:

Best Non-Fiction book goes to The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. This was the one non-fiction book my book club chose to read; it is about the Supreme Court from Reagan onwards through many of the big discussions around abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, gay rights and church-state separation. I loved the book and loved the discussion. I learned a lot about the court, recent US history, and politics … and was very entertained with the stories about the justices along the way.

Runner-up Non-Fiction goes to In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. While I was already eating pretty healthy and have long prided myself in knowing a fair amount of nutrition, this book totally changed my perspective, especially on how our government has mislead us along the way about what it takes to be healthy. Since reading this, I shop differently, cook more, eat out less and feel much better.

I also liked this little book on PACE training – while it isn’t particularly well written, it changed my philosophy and approach to aerobic workouts. It makes the case that long aerobic workouts train our bodies to retain fat, and that interval training gets them to burn it. I’m now running a fraction of the time I used to and I’m the strongest and fastest I’ve been in my life…

FICTION

Best Fiction Book goes to The Count of Monte Cristo. If you haven’t read it, just read it. It is literature with just enough trash to keep you entertained. I can’t believe I didn’t read this book years ago. Don’t take it on vacation unless you want to miss all the other activities!

Best Book Club Discussion Book: If you are part of a ladies book club, you all must read and discuss Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress. I won’t spoil it, but it raises some really interesting ethical and life dilemmas that got the ladies in my book club all really thinking.

I also liked and would recommend The Bad Girl. Elegance of the Hedgehog, and The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. I’m torn on Slaughterhouse Five – it did get me to think but I did not love it. The good news is that it was a quick read!

2010

I’ve got Sense and Sensibility, Anna Karenina and Godel, Escher, Bach in progress … all good so far, but I’ll keep you posted or do another review at the end of next year!

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