Twenny-thirteen was a lot of reading by my standards, with the psychology of motivation emerging as a big theme. (Not coincidentally, it was also my first year working at a health and fitness company). Tack on a mess of pop science, economics, and celebrity autobiographies and I was firmly rooted in the nonfiction section all year. So, of the metaphorical pile of audiobooks I devoured, here are the five that immediately spring to mind when I ask myself the question “what did I really enjoy?”
Carol Dweck, Mindset
A huge number of research papers and other books I read in the first half of the year referenced Dweck’s work, and for good reason. Mindset is a brilliant investigation into the psychology of failure. Why does failure spur some people into action and leave others spurning effort altogether?
Tom Rath, Vital Friends
I awoke one morning with a hangover and this book’s title on my to-do list. Its origin is a mystery. It’s an extremely short book, exploring the practical roles friends play in each other’s lives and the ways we motivate and support each other. Despite its brevity, it had quite a hand in reshaping my mental model of interpersonal relationships.
Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages
Chapman presents a model of value-communication that’s honestly surprising in its elegance, and preaches empathy as a basic tool for social survival. It’s a little hokey in places, and his view from the trenches of marriage counseling (rather than academia) focuses a lot on the what and how of communication, leaving the why unsatisfied, but it intrigued me nonetheless.
Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth
Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, but he’s best known as a combative (even militant) atheist. This book isn’t about religion. Instead it’s about the facts of evolution by natural selection, and about how shockingly few people understand it despite even religious leaders accepting it as a fact. From dog-breeding to geology and archaeology to embryology, it’s fascinating through and through.
Jim Collins, Good to Great
When I read The Innovator’s Dilemma as a student I was gobsmacked by how the histories of centuries-old technology industries (like steel) mirrored our modern ones (like digital photography). Here, Collins and his team take a similar tack in examining business operations and leadership strategies, with similarly impressive results. They pore over the trials of the very old (from Walgreens to Scott Paper) in search of wisdom for the very new. And we could definitely do with more of that.