No matter what time of year, I love to read. There’s nothing better to me than having a few minutes or (gasp!) a few hours lying ahead of me to dive into a good book. If you add in some summer sunshine and a comfy outdoor seat, well, that’s bliss.
And it doesn’t happen often enough for me. I’m working on that (and that’s another post altogether).
But because I hold my reading time jealously close, I’m always seeking out the best books and ideas to fill my brain. And when I find the great ones, I can’t wait to share them with you.
Like now. Here are three books I read this past summer that will stick with me well beyond the fall.
The Best Books I Read This Summer
(Note: links are affliate links, which means that if you buy through these links, Amazon pays me a few cents. I offer them here for convenience, not profit. I don’t care if you buy them or borrow them–just make a plan to read them.)
What happens after you use your courage, your bravery, your faith–and you fail?
What happens when we get hurt, frustrated, discouraged–and then get stuck there, wallowing in our own sticky icky emotions?
Social scientist and researcher Brené Brown shares that there is a way out—but it’s through really getting uncomfortable with the emotion at hand.
(I believe in the art of discomfort–even though I’d rather avoid it.)
This is not the politically correct, put-on-a-happy-face self-improvement book you’ve come to expect (and hate). Because Brown admits what we all know—sometimes things just suck.
With funny, real life stories all along the way (even exposing her own relationship and professional warts) Brown maps out steps you need to take when coming back from failure or pain:
- The Reckoning: admitting the truth, and getting curious about what we’re feeling and doing because of those emotions;
- The Rumble: working through the sticky parts in the middle instead of taking the easy way out to ignore what’s happening; feeling uncomfortable and choosing different stories to get to what’s true; and
- The Revolution: the place where you’re telling–and living–your story, warts and all, and using our failures and mistakes as fodder for the future.
You may have met Brown through her TEDX talk on vulnerability and shame, which brought both of those words to the forefront of conversations about behavior change and personal development. But in a real, practical sense, this book is about how we can be more human in a world that expects us to be perfect.
Along the way: my experiment with audio
I did something new with this book that I hadn’t done before. With several airplane trips ahead of me, I ordered the audio version so I could listen instead of lug. (Yes, I have a Kindle, but sometimes a girl gets tired of screens, know what I’m sayin’?)
The audio is narrated by Brown herself, with her slight Texas twang and heartfelt emotion. Listening first was a great way to connect with the book. I’m now reading the physical copy while she reads aloud to me, and finding that the ideas are sticking more clearly in my head that way.
How do you get heard? How do you get attention for your work, ideas, career, passions? Creative mentor Todd Henry shares specific strategies and stories in Louder Than Words.
I personally wasn’t too turned on by the title, feeling it made it sound like another “go be yourself” book. I love what “authentic” means, but I’m sure getting tired of the word. It’s kind of like everyone using the word “authentic” isn’t so.
But I’d loved Henry’s previous books, The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at A Moment’s Notice, and Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday. Both offered simple, practical strategies to help you create and deliver great work, even amid the reality of deadlines, limited resources, and other true-to-life pressures.
I’m glad I got past the title and dove into this book, which offers a lot of reflective questions and exercises to gain clarity on who you are, what you really do, and what you want to bring to the world in your work.
For me, one of the useful ideas he shared is that the word “communication” is derived from the Latin word comunis, which means “common.” So those roots might say that good communication is where we’re trying to make an idea common by sharing it and helping it connect–not just by pushing it out. Henry suggests we ask ourselves “What am I trying to make common?” when we’re looking to make a difference with our teams, clients, or audiences. And he offers that having empathy for those individuals is a good place to start.
Also, Henry tells the story of legendary TV icon Sherwood Schwartz, creator of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Both shows featured overly long and explanatory theme songs that defined the characters and how they came together. (Yes, I can sing both songs–can you?)
Schwartz was asked why he felt the need to use all that info as an intro to each episode. He replied, “Confused people don’t laugh.”
What a great reminder that in order to communicate our point of view, our project’s success, our business needs, that we have to understand who we’re trying to connect with and tell our story from their point of view.
At the conclusion of the book, Henry includes a chapter specifically for those of us leading teams, with advice such as “be a laser, not a lighthouse.” I appreciate this real-life look into what it takes on a daily basis to create real, meaningful work that matters.
Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life
I moved to a new town a year ago, and every few weeks or so, I attend meetings of various community and networking groups.
And there’s one thing those meetings have in common.
Their presenters stink.
You’ve been there, right. And frighteningly enough, you might be part of the problem, delivering your bullet-heavy, content rich but emotion free presentations right in your own organization–because that’s how it’s always been done.
No more. You deserve to steal the show. And not in a creepy way where people will think you’re full of yourself or hate you.
If you’re doing any kind of presenting externally to clients or conferences, or even internally to colleagues and teams, it’s time to take a fresh look at your process and your beliefs about presentations.
I’ve worked with Michael Port in person–he’s best known in the entrepreneur world for the audience-building ideas in Book Yourself Solid.
And after I participated in one of his Heroic Public Speaking workshops in Manhattan, I had the chance to get a preview galley of this book, coming out in October.
In addition to being a best-selling author and successful businessman, Port is an NYU-trained actor and made his living on the big and small screens for years. (Yes, he played a friend of Carrie’s on “Sex and the City.” No, not that kind of friend).
As his professional speaking career grew, he shares that he recognized that the concepts of rehearsal and performance that an actor brings to her role are exactly the things that are missing from most of today’s business presentations, from a main stage event to a one-on-one job interview.
I so wish I had this kind of insight in my corporate years. I have some recollection of trying to insert a sense of humor into my work, but I know I often chickened out before taking it all the way. (If I ever presented to you in the past and bored you to tears, my humble apologies.)
In addition to the book, Port also just launched a hot podcast called Steal the Show (find it on iTunes or your favorite podcast resource) and always offers tons of free video and other content.
If you’ve ever worried about opening your mouth in front of others, stop wasting that energy. Grab Steal the Show now.
And don’t forget . .
Earlier this summer, I shared my interview with author Jennifer Kahnweiler on her new book, The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts & Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. Read or listen to that interview here.
I also interviewed leadership expert Mike Figliuolo on his book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results. Read or listen to that interview here.