As this episode is published, we’re still dealing with the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Some of us may be taking this time to read more books, which can be a source of entertainment, education, and inspiration.
Productive reading–some of my recent favorites
It’s important to read books by authors who may have a different world view than you, different political points of view, or different life experiences. Reading “outside the box” can help us grow and open our minds to new ideas, which can help us in making a meaningfully productive life. Here are some books I recommend to get you started.
Books that make me think
You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney
From the back cover copy:
“Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them. But often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter—covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency—is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.
Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.”
This book also contains fascinating and timely (as discussed in TPW episode 294) chapters on confirmation bias, which by definition is how we subconsciously look for information that confirms what we already believe and dismiss contradictory information, and other concepts very applicable to discussions/debates about any issues, including the current world situation.
Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell
In this book, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the ways we interact with people and the assumptions we made about them. Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know.
I also recommend some other Gladwell titles, The Tipping Point and Blink.
The Daily Stoic, by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
This book contains 365 readings based on the writings of the ancient Stoics, with each day containing a quote from one of the ancient texts with a couple of paragraphs commenting on the quote. From the back cover copy:
“The private diaries of one of Rome’s greatest emperors, the personal letters of one of Rome’s best playwrights and wisest power brokers, the lectures of a former slave and exile, turned influential teacher.”
Books that motivate my productivity
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
You may remember that we discussed this book in episode 32, “Choose What’s Essential, Eliminate the Rest”. This is a great book about the value of identifying the few essential things in your life and eliminating the non-essentials to make more room for what really matters. From him I got the idea of “less but better” in every area of life.
Soulful Simplicity, by Courtney Carver
This was another book we focused on in a past episode of the podcast, episode 182, “Productive Reading: Soulful Simplicity”. Courtney was also a guest in episode 169. In this book, Courtney discusses how “living with less can lead to so much more”. This book motivates me to think more intentionally about the things I own and the commitments I make that complicate my life unnecessarily.
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear
This was a book we discussed in episode 230, “Productive Reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear”. This book, along with Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit (as discussed in episode 147), has been pivotal in my thinking about becoming more aware of the habits I default to and how they impact my life.
The Paper Solution, by Lisa Woodruff
This book, authored by previous guest Lisa Woodruff, is not yet published but I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy. I’ll definitely be recommending this book for those who struggle with paper clutter. The Paper Solution outlines a sensible, actionable approach to eliminating it. Keep an eye out for this book, which you can pre-order now on Amazon.
Books that inspire or encourage me, and help me make a more productive life
The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday
This book contains a fascinating look at the impact on our lives of how we perceive obstacles. Also read the fabulous chapter on perseverance. As Holiday says in the book,
“You will come across obstacles in life — fair and unfair. And you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.”
Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
This book discusses how we can achieve our potential and how “it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.” Dr. Dweck emphasizes the difference between having a Fixed Mindset versus a Growth Mindset.
Books to read just for fun!
Magnolia Table Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by Joanna Gaines
Two cookbooks filled with simple and delicious recipes. I’ve enjoyed trying new recipes from these books (and so far all have been hits with my household).
Your Creative Work Space, by Desha Peacock
An inspiring and colorful book with tons of examples, ideas, and tips to help you set up a workspace you’ll love working in.
My favorite fiction authors
Susan May Warren writes contemporary women’s fiction with suspense, romance, and an inspirational message. What I love about her books is that she creates characters that feel real to me, living with and overcoming real and difficult situations. She always leaves me with an inspirational takeaway. She’s written many wonderful books, but perhaps my favorite is You Don’t Know Me, a story about the secrets we all keep and the lies we all tell. I wrote a review of it several years ago when I first read it. You can find that on my personal blog. She was also my guest on episode 181.
Tamara Leigh writes wonderful historical fiction set in medieval times with fascinating characters dealing with external and internal crises in a believable way. Always a touch of romance, real but clean, and real historical events, which I love. Her books are so well written, whenever she comes out with a new novel I drop whatever else I’m reading and pick hers up. I’m currently reading her newest release, called Heartless. So far, it’s just as good as the others!
Francine Rivers – My number one favorite novel of all time is her Redeeming Love. This is a retelling, set in the California gold rush era, of the Biblical story of Hosea and his prostitute wife; it is really a story about persistent, persevering love and how it can change a person.
Nora Roberts – Ger work is very different from Susie May, Tamara, and Francine, but she’s another of my favorite authors, mostly because the stories are engrossing and she handles dialogue so well. Her books are full of suspense, romance, and in some cases magic, which some people of faith would not like. Her books are definitely secular, and usually have a couple of pretty sensual scenes.
Books on my TBR (To Be Read) Pile
Reinvent the Wheel: How Top Leaders Leverage Well-Being for Success, by Megan McNealy
I’m currently finishing Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, by Nir Eyal, with Julie Li
Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day, by Sam Bennett
I also plan to re-read Essentialism, Atomic Habits, Soulful Simplicity, and The ONE Thing by Gary Keller (discussed in episode 133) this year.
What do you think?
What’s the best book–fiction or nonfiction–you’ve read or listened to recently that helped you in your journey to making a life that matters?
- Episode 32, “Choose What’s Essential, Eliminate the Rest”
- Episode 182, “Productive Reading: Soulful Simplicity”
- Episode 169, “Voluntary Simplicity, with Courtney Carver”
- Episode 230, “Productive Reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Episode 147, “Productive Reading: The Power of Habit”
- Episode 133, “Productive Reading: The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller”
- Episode 122, “Getting Organized in the New Year, with Lisa Woodruff”
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