NSPIR BOOK

RECOMMENDATIONS

General Culture

I Am The Monkey****

by Jürg Wittwer

This is one of my favourites, and is especially good for expatriates living and working in another culture.  Many good insights though for anyone interacting across cultures.

Riding the Waves of Culture****

by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner

One of the core textbooks from my Global Project Coordination class at Stanford, this is a classic culture text with good theory and examples.

The Culture Map*****

by Erin Meyer 

This is my most valuable and readable book on general culture.  I particularly like the relativity between cultures and the example stories.

The Culture Code***

by Clotaire Rapaille 

Decidedly focused on and positive to American culture with some comparisons to major European or Japanese culture.  Significant focus on marketing to different cultures as opposed to working with them.  Also judges and passes the author’s value more than I would like to have in a book on culture.

How to Overcome Cultural Differences in Business**

by Chris Smit 

Overly simplistic and quite a bit of marketing for the author’s services, but not many new insights on top of Hofstede’s work.

Books About China

The Chinese Mind****

by Boyé Lafayette de Mente 

A bit dry but quite good overall introduction to Chinese culture.

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II****

by Iris Chang 

Some Western, or at least American, education was quite weak on the impacts of WWII on China.  I found this book very helpful to understand historical context and even the modern view of Japan in China.

Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built***

by Duncan Clark

Enjoyable biography of one of China’s famous entrepreneurs.  I personally enjoyed the Hangzhou connection as well as Ma’s story and insights to China.

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze*****

by Peter Hessler

Although perhaps a bit dated now, I enjoyed this American Peace Corp’s tale of living in a remote Sichuan province and experiencing China through his eyes.

Country Driving:  A Chinese Road Trip*****

by Peter Hessler

Another book of China through an American journalist’s eyes, quite enjoyable and at times relatable to my own experiences working in China.

Crazy Rich Asians*****

by Kevin Kwan 

While this is fictional and based on ethnic Han Chinese in Singapore, I still found some insights to understanding Asian culture and behavior, particularly the not-so-subtle racism and classism that exists.

Decoding China****

by Matthew B. Christensen 

Similar to A Chinese Mind in it is a comprehensive guide to interacting with China, but this is a more simple to read version with practical tips and instruction.

Doing Business in China: The Sun Tzu Way****

by Laurence J. Brahm 

Particularly relevant for negotiating or understanding what can seem strange or tough business behavior.

Chinese Rules:  Five Timeless Lessons for Succeeding in China****

by Tim Clissold 

Now China from a British perspective, with guidelines and insights for business.

Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China*****

by Leslie T. Chang 

This is a book I really enjoyed and recommend a lot to people to understand more ordinary life in China.  Coming from Western countries, it is often hard to understand the economic hunger and single-minded work ethic from our Chinese colleagues.  While this book speaks about factory workers, I have seen many parallels to the stories told by my professional engineering colleagues.

101 Stories for Foreigners to Understand Chinese People***

by Yi S. Ellis with Bryan D. Ellis

Fun and insightful stories to understand China, with the view from a multicultural couple.

Inheritance

by Lan Samantha Chang 

Fictional history of WWII China and after.

Books About India

Doing Business in India: A Swede’s Experience****

by Johan Andersson

Insightful book, particularly for companies entering the Indian market. Culture draws primarily on Erin Meyer’s Culture Map, but also includes the author’s own perspective and experiences. Useful sales and business strategy information as well.

 
 
 

Books About Japan

Japanese Business Etiquette:  A Practical Guide to Success with the Japanese

by Diana Rowland

A bit dated but this was the core book I used back in the 90’s when working with Japan to understand the cultural differences.  It was an easy read and quite practical.

Books About Russia

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible:  Adventures in Modern Russia****

by Peter Pomerantsev

One of several books that I read recently to prepare for cultural training in Russia, between China and Russia.  Quite insightful and engaging to read.

How Russia Really Works***

by Alena V. Ledeneva

Another book I read to prepare for the China-Russia training, perhaps a bit more dry to read but still insightful.

Russia’s Economy of Favours***

by Alena V. Ledeneva 

Another book I read to prepare for the China-Russia training, which gives insight in particular to how things are motivated and achieved, or perhaps the art of persuasion the Russian way.  Still dry and scholarly, but insightful.

Books About Sweden & Scandanavia

The Almost Nearly Perfect People:  Beyond the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia***

by Michael Booth 

Amore scathing review of the darker sides of Scandinavia.

The Year of Living Danishly:  Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country****

by Helen Russell

An Englishwoman moves to small town Denmark.

The Swedes:  A Happy Culture of Scandinavia****

by Julien S. Bourrelle 

A pretty accurate cartoon view from a French Canadian.

Working with Swedes*****

by multiple authors 

Building on The Swedes in a similar cartoon style, but co-authored by a multi-cultural group from Greece, China, Scotland, and Sweden, it is another fairly accurate depiction of Sweden.

How to Be Swedish:  A Quick Guide to Swedishness in 55 Step****

by Matthias Kamann 

This is one of my favourites of Sweden, perhaps because I lived in Germany too and enjoy seeing the German view of Sweden.

Culture Shock Sweden:  A Guide to Customs and Etiquette

by Charlotte Rosen Svensson 

Factual, if a bit dry, representation of Sweden.  My 1996 edition is a bit dated so I ordered a used copy from 2007 to check it, will rate after I read the new edition.

Modern Day Vikings:  A Practical Guide to Interacting with the Swedes**** 

by Christina Johansson Robinowitz and Lisa Werner Carr 

Especially well adapted for Americans working with Sweden, as the authors have American connections.

Xenophobe’s Guide to the Swedes***

by Peter Berlin

From a library of many Xenophobe’s Guides, it is a standard guide written by an author born and raised in Sweden and lived adult life abroad.

Insight Guide Sweden

by Discovery Channel

Perhaps more of a tourist guide book, but includes some interesting culture, history, and famous Swede biographies.

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life***

by Anu Partanen

Contrasts Finland to the United States, from the view of a Finnish author who moved to the US.  Provides some interesting arguments about the paradox of which is the greater nanny state.

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather****

by Linda Åkeson McGurk

Probably most relevant for parents, but provides insights to the differences in upbringings between the United States and Sweden. An interesting note, the author is basically a reverse of my life, as she grew up in Sweden and is raising her family in Indiana, while I grew up in Indiana and have mostly raised my daughter in Sweden.

Live Lagom:  Balanced Living the Swedish Way***

by Anna Brones

Some insights into Sweden and a key cultural word, lagom (satisfactorily enough), from an author who was raised in the West Coast United States by Swedish expatriate parents.  In some ways, as much a reflection on American culture, or at least Sweden through American eyes.

The Swedish Way of Living Just Right: The Book of Lagom***

by Göran Everdahl

A mixture of Swedish history and culture as told by a Swedish author and columnist.

Swedes:  What We Are Like and Why We Are as We Are****

by Gillis Herlitz

A Swede describes the country and culture from the inside with good insight from the Swedish perspective.

Swede Among the Rednecks**

by Ulf Kirchdorfer

I was disappointed by this book with an interesting title. Many short stories from an adult who moved from Sweden to US as a child, relating back to Swedish culture.

Lagom (Not Too Little, Not Too Much): The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life****

by Niki Brantmark

I found this book, written by a British author, to be a quite good summary of some of the major value differences between the UK (and US). Overall, a quite good read to understand the Swedish approach to life, particularly in regards to “lagom".

Books on Gender/Women

The Moment of Lift*****

by Melinda Gates

A powerful book on how lifting women lifts society as a whole. It makes many good and referenced arguments about the value of equality and women’s rights, across socioeconomic status.

Fierce Self-Compassion*****

by Kristin Neff

This book is a follow up to Self-Compassion by the founder of the training and movements. It is specifically focusing on women and the need to bring out our fierce side in harmony with our healing side. Tremendously powerful and insightful book for women. I encountered Self-Compassion through the Compassion Cultivation Training and found it one of the most helpful parts of that journey. When timings can align, I hope to complete Neff’s Mindful Self Compassion program.

You Just Don’t Understand:  Women and Men in Conversation****

by Deborah Tannen

A classic in the difference in gender communication, a bit dated as I used this at Stanford, but still relevant as unfortunately not too many things have changed.

That’s Not What I Meant:  How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships*****

by Deborah Tannen

This book was a paradigm shift for me in an earlier relationship and I find particularly helpful in close/intimate conversation improvement).  I have recommended this one to a few people who have found it helpful.

Talking from 9 to 5:  Women and Men in Workplace, Language, Sex and Power*****

by Deborah Tannen

Another classic from my Stanford days and required reading for Global Project Coordination, while a bit dated, still quite relevant today.

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and How to Fix It)*****

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

This book is extremely well researched and referenced, and makes a compelling argument for a softer, more collaborative style of leadership that often used by females.

Becoming*****

by Michelle Obama

This will also appear under Race, as it is an inspiring and insightful story both under race and gender topics, with a first hand account from Michelle Obama, President Obama’s wife, in finding her own place while facing significant adversity.  I particularly admire her class in rising above considerable opposition and even hatred and find this truly inspirational.

Road to Power:  How GM’s Mary Barra Shattered the Glass Ceiling****

by Laura Colby

This book was significant for me as I benefitted from the same policies and efforts at GM that paved the path for Mary.  While senior executive life ended up not being my own goal, I think a lot of this book for pointing out the need for filling a pipeline of qualified women and other minorities.  Without such specific actions and policies, it doesn’t happen organically.

Know My Name*****

by Chanel Miller

The infamous Stanford rape touched me on many levels, of course being a women who studied at Stanford, but also the saving by Swedish students.  This is an important book to understand white male privilege and power, why many were more disturbed by interruption to a swimmer’s career, than that he raped a woman, and also why so few rapes are actually reported.  This was a painful and disturbing read, but necessary.

Brotopia:  Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley*****

by Emily Chang

Another book that touches me quite personally as I see this as my own path not taken, when I chose to stay with Delphi and move to Sweden after my Stanford degree, rather than stay in Silicon Valley.  It exposes the darker side of computer science and many young companies, particularly in the degradation and dehumanisation of women.

A Woman of No Importance*****

by Sonia Purnell

A fantastic story of a lesser known WWII hero who shows what strength and capability lies within women.

Daring Greatly*****

by Brené Brown

I’ll also put this book under General Inspiration, as it is not specifically for women, but I put it here as well because I think it is specifically needed for women to help us overcome our need for perfection, or duktig flicka (Swedish).  This book helped me at a time when I was insecure but needed a push to be able and step up and lead with what I am capable of.

Nice Girls (Still) Don’t Get the Corner Office***

by Lois P Frankel

While I don’t completely agree with this book, as I prefer to be and lead from an authentic self rather than acting a certain way, it has relevant points in regards to bias in business towards what is typically male behaviour.

Warrior Goddess Training:  Become the Woman You Are Meant to Be****

by Heatherash Amara

At times this book became a bit weird for me, but overall I think there was a good message in learning to accept and love ourselves, while philosophically in line with psychological research, presented in a different way.

That’s What She Said:  What Men (and Women) Need to Know About Working**** Together

by Joanne Lipman

Realistic recent discussion about challenges genders face in the office.\

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)***

by Brené Brown

Addressing the issue of setting perfection, or duktig flicka (in Swedish), as an unreasonable goal and how to recover from it.

Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead***

by Sheryl Sandberg

In some ways this book frustrates me because it comes at the issue somewhat putting blame on women, rather than the structural issues, but there is some value still to the book.

Men Explain Things to Me***

by Rebecca Solnit

While a bit of a rant at times rather than detached analysis, there is unfortunately a basis for the ranting.

Dear Madam President***

by Jennifer Palmieri

From Hillary Clinton’s communication director, an appeal to the women who will run the world with perspective from the lost campaign against Donald Trump.

Kamala’s Way***

by Dan Morain

A biography of America’s first woman and African-American Vice President. The book was factual but lacked soul.

I Am Malala****

by Malala Yousafzai

The important story of a Pakistani girl’s quest for education under the Taliban. It is a very important story, but at times the book itself was a bit disorganised and hard to read. It is almost like the story was told verbally and written down directly without editing.

Pearls of Wisdom***

by Barbara Bush

The book contained some good advice, but I didn’t like the structure of the way it was written with the various bits and pieces compiled from all over. I would have appreciated the insights more grouped into cohesive messages.

Books on
Personality Tools

Gifts Differing****

by Isabel Briggs Myers with Peter B. Myers

A very insightful book to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) by the founder’s daughter.  I enjoy both the preference information as well as the statistical information relating to career choice as well as personal life impacts of personality.  It is most helpful if you know your MBTI preferences.

What’s Your Type**

by Merve Emre

This book received a lot of press some few years back with its criticism of MBTI.  I was disappointed in this book, because I really wonder the depth of the author’s involvement of it and if she went through the same certification process I did.  Many of the concerns raised in the book about things lacking were part of my certification and particularly, going into more depth with the Type 2 reports.

The Enneagram Made Easy

by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

We explored the Enneagram quite a bit as part of my classes and research at Stanford.  Although it was interesting, I had a hard time seeing myself in it, and also a hard time working with it. However, this book is a decent and easily read starting point if you are exploring the Enneagram.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram

by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

A much more detailed and scholarly account than the above on the Enneagram)].

Go Put Your Strengths to Work****

by Marcus Buckingham

A great book about looking at your strengths and how to use them. The book includes many resources for identifying and working with your strengths, including a code for the assessment.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Books on American Culture, Sociology,
Economics & Class

American Dirt*****

by Jeanine Cummins

This book is American in the sense of North America, as it is the fictional story of a Mexican woman trying to get to and cross the US-Mexico border to save herself and children from certain murder by a gang.  I like this book because it shows the real problems people face and why they are trying to reach the US.  It is a great book for building empathy and compassion for the US-Mexico border situation.

Heartland:  A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth***

by Sarah Smarsh

This book gives a good perspective on the middle of the country and the working poor.  A good book to see that the US is not just gleaming cities with wealthy investment bankers, entertainment stars, and Silicon Valley start-up billionaires.  This gives the perspective of one of many growing up in poverty while working hard.  I thought the book was longer than it needed to be and a bit repetitive, but it has good insights to build empathy and compassion for the people of the Heartland.

Rising Out of Hatred*****

by Eli Saslow

This is a very powerful and moving story of a young man growing up and being very active in white supremacist movements, to how he saw the harm in them and left.  A very good book to read to understand the power and pressure of this movement and what it took to get at least one person to leave.

Hillbilly Elegy****

by J.D. Vance

This book provides good insight through the author’s upbringing into middle United States of America (Middle America).  This one hit quite close to home and my dad and I have had a lot of discussions around it, as this one is very much a “there but for the grace of God/fate/nature/luck go I”.  My family had similar origins in Eastern Kentucky to the author’s, but due to actions and influence from a few key people, my life is quite different (one could say privileged).  For Coastal Elites wanting to understand Middle America, or for non-US people wanting to understand what has happened politically and economically over the last years for many Americans, this is a good read.

White Working Class****

by Joan C. Williams

This is another great book to understand the economic and political evolution in the United States from the perspective of the White Working Class.  I would recommend this book for both Coastal Elites and non-US people wanting to understand life for many Americans.  When I was a child, the middle class felt a lot more inclusive, with both blue-collar and white-collar incomes closer together.  That has changed significantly in the US through my lifetime, and the lack of prosperity and hope for many has brought about a lot of our problems.

The Forgotten Americans*****

by John E. Schwarz

I read this book, along with the next one,  in a class called Social Inequalities during my undergraduate studies at Northwestern, and this book was a big part of my change from believing in the American Dream, to realising the fallacies behind it and structural issues against it.  It was difficult but necessary insight to realise how hard work on its own isn’t enough to raise the next generation out of poverty.  I was shocked to learn that some schools didn’t have basic facilities functioning, let alone labs or theatre, while wealthy suburb schools had amazing facilities on par or better than universities. Although this book is a bit dated now, it can help to explain the rise of the current situation, which has only increased the economic divide.

Ain’t No Makin’ It*****

by Jay MacLoed

This was the other required reading that made me realise the fallacy of the American Dream, and particularly for children growing up in low-income areas.  I’ll also put this one under Race in the United States, as it is relevant there as well, as it very much illustrates the influence of race on upward mobility.

Fascism: A Warning****

by Madeleine Albright

Perhaps wrongly placed in the US, as there is quite a bit of the history of Fascism, but as the book is intended as a warning to Americans, I put it here.  Quite powerful and scary to see how close the US is dancing on the edge of fascism.

Educated****

by Tara Westover

An interesting perspective and insight into one of the outlying radical mindsets in the United States through the view of a child growing up in a religious group outside of government and society.

Books on
Race In The U.S.

Tears We Cannot Stop:  A Sermon to White America*****

by Michael Eric Dyson

A very personal call to help for fighting racism in the United States that admittedly is difficult to read.  An emotional and powerful call that cannot be ignored, with specific actions identified.

How to be an Antiracist*****

by Ibram X. Kendi

An excellent well-researched and referenced book combining history, policy, and thoughts on race with the author’s own journey through racism to anti-racism.  A call to be better.

The Black Friend:  On Being a Better White Person*****

by Frederick Joseph

One of the best and toughest books I have read.  I hurt for the author, I cried, and despite having good intentions, I definitely learned of moment I could have done and been more.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Black experience in the US and be a better White person.

The Hate U Give*****

by Angie Thomas

Although written as a young adult book, I highly recommend this book to give insight into the life of an African-American teen.  While it is tough to read, it is great insight.

My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education*****

by Jennine Capó Crucet

Gives great insight to the experience of a first generation Cuban immigrant on navigating American society. Uncomfortable, but a necessary read to improve.

The Vanishing Half*****
by Brit Bennett

Fictional story of very pale African-American twins who went different pathways, one to live undetected in great wealth in Southern California, the other returning from Washington DC after an abusive relationship to live in rural Louisiana.  It was a powerful novel about identity and the role of race.

South to America****

by Imani Perry

Organised by cities or regions, this book introduces both history and the author and her family’s experience as African-Americans throughout the South. I struggled a little with the order, as the organization by city/region rather than chronological made it a bit harder to follow, which is the reason it isn’t a 5. The insights and the combination with historical perspective to today are excellent.

Memorial Drive:  A Daughter’s Memoir****

by Natasha Trethewey

An exploration of race and loss in the US Deep South.

An American Marriage****

by Tayari Jones

A fictional but undeniably real story of the tragic outcomes of American racism and the crime of skin colour as a professional young couple’s American Dream is ripped apart by the husband being falsely accused and convicted of a crime.

The Help*****

by Kathryn Stockett

A fictional and much less romantic version of the American South and slavery, giving insight to the pain and atrocities lived by the slaves at the will of their owners.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek*****

by Kim Michele Richardson

This was a great book to show the power of bias, particularly when it comes to race. It is also quite interesting from a historical context of the public works value during the American Great Depression. The main character has blue skin, due to genetic factors, and the story is of her life as a traveling librarian in rural Kentucky. I found this book particularly insightful in feeling empathy for individuals encountering bias.

Finding Fish****

by Antwone Quenton Fisher

An autobiography of the author’s experience in growing up poor and Black, in the foster care system in the Cleveland Ohio area. After a short stint being homeless, he joined the Navy which put him on a path to be a successful Hollywood screenwriter. Interesting and insightful journey.

Kamala’s Way***

by Dan Morain

A biography of America’s first woman and African-American Vice President. The book was factual but lacked soul.

Discovering Prosperity

by Jerry Lane

An interesting compilation of short stories by an author I met at a gas station near the Palmetto Trail segment from Peak to Prosperity. Insight to the African American culture in South Carolina.

Native Speaker****

by Chang-Rae Lee

The journey of a Korean-American in the United States that I quite enjoyed. Insightful to the experience of being part of the “model minority”.

Eat a Peach****

by David Chang

Incredibly insightful on race and “model minority”, mental health, and success in life as a chef. At times it was a bit too self-deprecating, but I found the 33 tips for chefs generally insightful and applicable to life.

Books on Team,
Teamwork & Groups

Creating Effective Teams 6th Edition (in progress)

by Susan Wheelan, Maria Åkerlund, and Christian Jacobsson

The 6th edition builds on Susan Wheelan’s earlier edition with the significant addition of research by Åkerlund and Jacobsson on Agile and Multicultural teams.  This is a wonderful handbook for teams desiring to perform at the highest possible levels, and is a good edition to the Group Development Questionnaire (GDQ) and Miki Island.

Creating Effective Teams 5th Edition*****

by Susan Wheelan

This is a good book and I have it as the original edition I read and used in training, but recommend the 6th edition with the additional discussion on Agile and multicultural teams.

Group Processes:  A Developmental Perspective*****

by Susan Wheelan

This was the textbook for GDQ certification and a wealth treasure of knowledge on groups and teams.  It is not an easy read, but there is so much wonderful information, and reference to studies, that it is well worth the time invested to read it.

Team Roles at Work***

by R. Meredith Belbin

Good knowledge and information behind Belbin Team Roles and general group/team theory.  It is a bit dry to read, but contains good and helpful information.

Debugging Teams:  Better Productivity Through Collaboration

by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman

Great insight into teamwork and teams, emphasising the importance of soft skills.  This book is particularly relevant for software teams, as the book is from Google leaders.  I have given this book to several people with whom I have worked together to build software teams.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team****

by Patrick Lencioni

While this book is particularly well-suited to leadership teams, there are insights to be had for all types of teams.  I enjoy Lencioni’s book and style, and found this particular book quite helpful to work within my own leadership teams.  This is another book I give out, mainly to the leadership teams I work with.

The Advantage****

by Patrick Lencioni

This is a great book about the potential of working with humans in an organization.  I like how entertaining and readable this book is, while imparting good knowledge.

Death By Meeting*****

by Patrick Lencioni

A great book to read if your meetings are getting you down.  It is particularly suited to leadership teams, but could be applicable in some form to most working meetings.  Again, engaging and entertaining reading while imparting sound knowledge and experience.

The Ideal Team Player*****

by Patrick Lencioni

A great book to read as a guide if you want to build a stronger team environment in your company. I especially like the definition of the characteristics for a great team player, but also the discussion about both working to develop people as well as letting go of the ones who are unwilling or unable to be developed. There are some good interview tips in here if you want to focus more on strong team player hiring.

Teams in the Spotlight****

by Mette Sandahl, Mattias Wihlborg, Christian Jacobsson, and Maria Åkerlund

A good accompaniment to Creating Effective Teams and based on the research into teams by Susan Wheelan and continued by Jacobsson/Åkerlund. I particularly like the goal matrix that is recommended as a structure for defining and clarifying the team’s work.

Books on General
Leadership/Management

First Break All the Rules*****

by Gallup, Marcus Buckingham, Don Clifton

This was a book that changed my views on recruiting and role descriptions, allowing me to see people as more puzzle bits than set, square roles. It completely changed my leadership philosophy in my young 30’s and is definitely worth a read.

The Knowing-Doing Gap****

by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton

This book was part of my coursework at Stanford and instrumental to addressing the frequent problems of companies desiring a certain value or behaviour but driving (or rewarding) the opposite. This would be a good book for any company working with their culture, values, mission, purpose who does not see the desired outcome and wants to improve.

Built to Last****

by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras

This was my first introduction to Jim Collins and his work, as a course book from Stanford. This book is primarily intended for entrepreneurs or people founding companies, as it looks at (through strong data analysis) what companies built into them to last. History has changed things though, as some of the profiled companies are no longer the commanding presence they were, but the lessons are still worthwhile.

Good to Great*****

by Jim Collins

This is my favorite of the Jim Collins’ series, primarily because it is the most applicable for leaders and managers who are not able to build a company from scratch. There are so many good points in this book, from the definition of a Level 5 leadership, the mirror vs window, and having the right people on the bus, that I recommend this most if you only read one of his.

How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In****

by Jim Collins

Addressing the above point that history changed some companies that were Built to Last, that once venerable companies don’t always stay that way, this book is much more instructional for those of us who don’t have the opportunity to be part of a start-up and building a company. With the solid data analysis, Jim Collins identifies what causes some companies to fall and others to re-invent and succeed again.

Great by Choice****

by Jim Collins

Another data driven analysis of specific choices companies make to bring them to greatness.

The No Asshole Rule*****

by Robert I. Sutton

With a bit of thumbing the nose at Harvard with the title and research area, my former Stanford professor became the expert in Assholes with this book. It is both insightful and an entertaining read for those who want to avoid being an asshole, forming an environment full of assholes, or working with them. Sound research despite the less scholarly name.

The Asshole Survival Guide****

by Robert I. Sutton

Continuing in his work with assholes, Sutton now helps you to deal with assholes, as well as helps you to decide if you should pull the plug and change or not. I recommend this book when people are stuck with a colleague or boss they really don’t like, but otherwise enjoy their work.

Good Boss, Bad Boss****

by Robert I Sutton

If you don’t want to end up as the person that people are reading about how to survive from above, this can be a good book to help define and act. As the caption says, “How to be the best and learn from the worst”.

Note that there are also a lot of good books for leaders and managers under my other categories.

Books on Purpose,
Happiness, Meaning of Life, Compassion & Kindness

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People*****

by Stephen R Covey

This is my single top book recommendation that covers it all for life, leadership, and purpose.  Many other books have more detail, are easier to read, or go deeper in an area, but this is my favourite summary.  I teach a guided interpretation to this book, which has helped many people in their lives.  I continue to return to it when I am struggling, and I find new material each time.

How Will You Measure Your Life*****

by Clayton M. Christensen

This is one of my top books that I give as a gift, after 7 Habits, as it is a great book to have us stop and think about our life and how to make it meaningful.

The Fred Factor*****

by Mark Sanborn

This is a pop culture version of The 7 Habits, with a great story around finding your purpose and doing your best work, with the example of Fred the mailman.  If you can’t make it through 7 Habits, this is a great read to get a lot of the principles in a less philosophical and theoretical way.  And if you liked 7 Habits, this is still a fun read and I keep Fred in the back of my head as a reminder to make the most of whatever I do.

Think Again*****

by Adam Grant

A great book about how our brains work and how we can open our minds.  This is a very enjoyable read, as well as containing significant important information.  I particularly like the discussion on Imposter Syndrome and the goal of Confident Humility.

The Last Lecture*****

by Randy Pausch

A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon’s last lecture, as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Great to give thought to what matters in our life.

The Art of Possibility*****

by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

This is one of my favorites, as the author’s stories and general zaniness lends to both an entertaining and inspirational read to help us open our minds to see more possibilities.

Pathways to Possibility****

by Rosamund Stone Zander

Building off of The Art of Possibility, this book goes deeper into how to expand our minds and become more open to seeing more possibilities.

The Choice*****

by Dr Edith Eva Eger

A powerful testimony to the power of the human mind, as lived by the author first hand through the concentration camps of World War II.  A very inspiring and thought-provoking read.

Man’s Search for Meaning*****

by Viktor Frankl

A fantastic insight to the power of the human mind to influence one’s life, from concentration camps to the founding of the psychological school of logotherapy (that mental illness stems from a lack of purpose), this book defines the value of having purpose in life and continually working towards it.

The Happiness Track****

by Emma Seppälä

This book introduced me to the work in compassion, which has opened up new insights and goals for me.  This book draws on research across many areas in positive psychology, compassion, and happiness to provide strategies for achieving greater and lasting happiness in life.

The War for Kindness****

by Jamil Zaki

This book argues that empathy, and thereafter kindness and compassion, can be developed and outlines how to go about working with it.  Great insight and practical strategies.

A Fearless Heart****

by Thupten Jinpa

This book is the basis for the Compassion Cultivation Training, an 8-week program through the Compassion Institute that I underwent Fall 2020.  It was a paradigm shifting experience for me, providing greater insight (and compassion) to my self, as well as increasing my capability and interest to seek compassion for others.  I highly recommend CCT, but if you can’t do it, this book gives most of the exercises and insights that are done.  The basis for the practice of compassion is from Buddhism, but the book and practice is more contemplative and meditative than specifically religious.

Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success*****

by Carol Dweck

This was another paradigm shifting book for me with the discussion of Growth vs Talent mindset.  I realised that a lot of my own insecurities were based on a talent mindset, so I have been working with this a lot, both with myself and my daughter.

Ikigai:  The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life***

by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

Defined as the intersection of What You Love, What You Can Be Paid For, What the World Needs, and What You Are Good At, this could be seen as another way of identifying one’s strength, purpose, mission, etc.

What Should I Do with My Life***

by Po Bronson

Tales of people who have asked this question and solved it in different ways.  I read this book years ago at one point when I was questioning what I should do with my life.  I don’t recall any life-changing insights, but many different perspectives to consider.

Our Iceberg is Melting:  Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions**

by John Kotter

A“fun” story about penguins and how the react when their ice is melting.  Illustrates the power of attitude and mindset but I found the book a bit ludicrous.

Who Moved My Cheese? *** 

by Spencer Johnson

Another “fun” story about change, this time based on personified mice and how they adapt to cheese moving in the maze, but better than the penguins.

The Good Neighbour:  The Life and Work of Fred Rogers***

by Maxwell King

Mr Rogers was fundamental to the US childhoods of the 1970’s, and in a sense, pioneered kindness, sensitivity in men, and even racial equality.  This is a biography of his life.

Atomic Habits

by James Clear

A  good complement to the 7 Habits, this book has many practical steps to make to improve habits and effectiveness. I had already come up with many of these through the years of working with 7 Habits, but the particularly new one for me in this was the language. For example, saying “I am a mountain biker” instead of “well, I kind of like mountain biking but I’m new, not very good, and I don’t really do the tough trails or go fast”. The first is so much more powerful in commitment and identification, building on Habit 1: Be Proactive.

Your Sacred Self****

by Wayne Dyer

An insightful book into purpose, meaning , and finding ourselves. I read and worked with this in my early 20’s during my parents’ divorce.

Because of Mr Terupt

by Rob Buyea

A powerful story showing the power of an individual in others’ lives, through the story of a teacher. I think this book is marketed as Young Adult, but I found it both moving and motivating.

The Surrender Experiment*****

by Michael A. Singer

A story of a rather radical individual who led an experiment to live simply in the woods but built an empire. I thought the author was a bit too self-congratulatory at times to truly enjoy it.

Unbroken****

by Laura Hillenbrand

A motivating and moving story of a WWII prisoner of war and his journey and struggle to live.

You Are Special: Words of Wisdom from America’s Most Beloved Neighbor****

by Fred Rogers

This book was a gift from a dear friend during my parent’s divorce. It has healing words and helpful insights that I needed at the time.

Authentic Happiness****

by Martin Seligman

This is a masterpiece work by the father of Positive Psychology and well worth the time to read and apply to life.

The Road Less Traveled

by M. Scott Peck

This was a book that was helpful to me during the time of my parent’s divorce and also navigating my first serious relationship.

Happiness Is an Inside Job*****

by John Powell

This book was a gift from my ex-fiance’s mother, who was a strong and caring woman. She recognised that I wasn’t really ready for marriage and gave me this and several other books to read. This book helped me to realise I had a lot to work on within me before I could really be able to fully participate in a relationship. This book is written in the Catholic faith and discusses God, but is not overwhelming and it absolutely does not override an overall very good and helpful book. The exercises were particularly helpful for me.

Let Your Life Speak*****

by Parker Palmer

This is a rather spiritual and philosophical book about listening and discovering one’s calling or vocation. I found it quite motivational.

Living a Life That Matters***

by Harold S. Kushner

A thoughtful and spiritual insight, this time from the Jewish perspective, into defining and living life. Interesting discussion defining our life as a puzzle piece, fitting together with others.

Fully Human, Fully Alive

by John Powell

Another book in the Catholic faith, drawing quite a bit on logotherapy from Viktor Frankl and finding our own purpose from the frames others have defined for us.

Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out in the Real World***

by Maria Shriver

A motivational and inspirational gift from a dear fellow Stanford classmate, with quite a few good points although quite simple. This could be a good book for high school or college graduates, particularly as it focuses on some early career tips, like “no job is beneath you."

The Time Keeper****

by Mitch Albom

I struggled a bit where to put this book, but decided to put it here as it connects to the value and purpose of life. A bit of a fanciful story about Father Time, it does raise the question of what matters.

Have a Little Faith*****

by Mitch Albom

A true story of a journey through different faiths and times to explore the meaning of life and deep questions of faith.

Together Is Better***

by Simon Sinek

Good quotes and good points, but overly simplistic. This is a bit my issue with Sinek as he is a pop culture leadership guru that says mostly good things without much to substantiate his points. This might be a good gift for a new leader as it is very quickly read.

 
 
 

Parenting & Growing Up

Growing Up with Two Languages****

by Una Cunningham-Andersson and Staffan Andersson 

This book was the guide for how my husband and I raised our daughter bi-lingual.  I found it very helpful in both selecting the method we would use (One Parent, One Language), as well as understanding the challenges that come with children that are language but not culturally fluent.  Particularly as we moved from Sweden to the US, this was a very relevant issue, but I could handle it proactively both with my daughter, her school, and her teachers.  I would strongly recommend this book to anyone raising children across multiple languages.

The Price of Privilege****

by Madeline Levine

While this book is primarily geared towards US families, I found some of this was also applicable of our situation in southwestern Gothenburg.  I think the major difference is that most Swedish women work, so the point of a mother’s more obsessive involvement and/or low self-esteem is less relevant, but the pressure of being a “duktig flicka” does have impacts.  Some good things to think about at any rate about the impacts of privilege on children.

They Wish They Were Us***

by Jessica Goodman

A fictional account of a time in the life of privileged young women in the US, especially the drive for perfection.  Could be insightful into the life of young women and (US) societal pressures.

The Diaper Diaries

by Cynthia Copeland

If you need a chuckle while coping with the first year, this might help you.

The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy****

by Vicki Iovine

I am not sure I would be here today if it weren’t for this book, as well as her follow-up book.  I found that Swedish culture in particular created a very romantic fantasy about pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding, and motherhood in general.  I was definitely convinced there was something wrong with me, because I struggled, I had doubts, I was worried, I just wasn’t a glowing earth mother.  This book helped me not feel so alone, as well as a good friend who was also very real about the whole experience.  If you are struggling with your pregnancy (even if you really really wanted it), you are not alone.  Read this book and you’ll see the author’s challenges, and know that I had mine too.

The Girlfriends’ Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood***

by Vicki Iovine

I’m not sure I need to say much more here, except this one does for the first year what the previous one did for the pre-birth period.  I won’t say I entirely agree with the author on all things, but I at least like the lack of romanticism.

The New Mom’s Survival Guide

by Jennifer Wider

A more medical how-to guide of what is happening physically and mentally, and what to do about it.

Sleep is for the Weak

by Rita Arens

Another tell-it-like-it-is book with a compilation of blogs from various mothers.  If you need a dose of reality, or to feel you aren’t the biggest loser mother out there, this might be a read for you.

Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities

by Alexandra Robbins

I bought this book as I was a sorority member in college. My own experience was quite different than what the book depicts, but I know from stories that this exposes an unfortunate reality of sorority life for many women, and why they are now facing extinction.

Please Stop Laughing at Me*****

by Jodee Blanco

This was a book that both helped me feel I wasn’t alone in the bullying I went through but also developed empathy and compassion for someone who had it much worse. This is a book parents and teens alike should read.

Starfish*****

by Lisa Fipps

I love this book. Partly because I know the author, but mostly because this is a book that everyone should read to realise the impact of commenting about eating and body size. While the book is written for the junior high age, I enjoyed it and cried as an adult, both out of compassion for Ellie, but also for myself and the pain that body shaming still causes. The most important thing is that Ellie learns that she is more than her body and how to accept herself. The book is written in prose, which I thought I wouldn’t like, but it worked well.

 

Emotions, Emotional Intelligence, Mental Health & Dying

Atlas of the Heart*****

by Brené Brown

This book should be a reference book on every leader and manager’s desk to guide work with their own, and their people’s, emotions. While the research is primarily based in the United States and somewhat dependent on American culture, particularly in how emotions are shown, I do believe it would be applicable across most cultures.

No Hard Feelings****

by Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy

While at times a bit millenial, overall this book has practical information and advice on working with our emotions at work. The cartoons and online resources are definitely worth the purchase.

Love Is Letting Go of Fear****

by Gerald G. Jampolsky

This book was given to our research team by a Stanford professor to open our minds. I re-read it now and enjoyed the insights again. There are some good exercises in it and it is another perspective on books like The 7 Habits, The Art of Possibility, etc.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance*****

by Angela Duckworth

From Penn’s Positive Psychology research, this book discusses the value of and how to strengthen our grit. An excellent work with actionable and motivational stories.

Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

by Paul Stoltz

We did some research and consulting around this during the time that I was at Stanford, but I haven’t worked with it or heard much of it since. I prefer the work coming out of Penn’s Positive Psychology work.

The Highly Sensitive Person***

by Elaine N. Aron

I was recommended to read this book by a colleague who saw me likely as a highly sensitive person. I think that I identified with the book at times so much that it disturbed me, but despite all my interest in assessments and tools, struggled with the definition of “highly sensitive”. There were several helpful recommendations and analyses in the book. May be particularly helpful for a parent or partner of someone who is highly sensitive to understand and empathize.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer*****

by Fredrik Backman

An old man’s struggle to keep a grasp on his memories while he is fading away. I love quite a few of Backman’s books and this is one of the better ones!

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying****

by Nina Riggs

A book that deals with a tragic, early death of a mother with breast cancer. It also has thought and inspiration around how to make the most of one’s life and contribution with limited time.

Tuesdays with Morrie 

by Mitch Albom

This is a classic book about a beloved professor dying of cancer.  Very inspirational and thought-provoking.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven*****

by Mitch Albom

This was an interesting book, whether one believes in heaven or not, to have a chance to see the impact of our lives, so that we can think about that impact and live more deliberately.

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven****

by Mitch Albom

This builds on The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the original.

The First Phone Call from Heaven****

by Mitch Albom

This was more of entertainment than as thought provoking as Albom’s earlier books.

For One More Day****

by Mitch Albom

This book has the character meeting his mother again for one day (after she has long since passed). It leads to the interesting thought of what we would say to a loved one if we had one more day, which perhaps could lead it to say it to them while everyone is still alive.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family*****

by Robert Kolker

An interesting documentary on a large family that suffered from mental illness, the impacts and challenges.

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward***

by Mark Lukach

An insight to the impact on a spouse and family when a key member struggles with mental health. Could be good for empathy to understand a colleague or employee who has a family member with mental health struggles.

 

Business Operations & Strategy

The Brand You

by Tom Peters

A bit slogan-y and American, but how to build your brand at work.

Enterprise One to One: Tools for Competing in the Interactive Age 

by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers

One of my course books from Marketing at Stanford. Good book on how to customise marketing.

Permission Marketing*** 

by Seth Godin

Another course books from Marketing at Stanford. Has been quite helpful to me again as I move my business and I’ve found myself using some of the material.

Crossing the Chasm****

by Geoffrey Moore

Yet another Stanford Marketing course book. I quite enjoyed this one and recommended it to others, as well as his next book.

Inside the Tornado*** 

by Geoffrey Moore

The last of the Stanford Marketing series, this was a book I enjoyed and recommended to others. If you only read one though, focus on Crossing the Chasm.

Competing on the Edge***

by Kathleen Eisenhardt and Shona Brown

This was my course book for Strategy at Stanford, taught by Professor Eisenhardt.

The Dip***

by Seth Godin

A very short read, less than an hour, giving insight on when to bail out or stay.

Gemba Kaizen*** 

by Masaki Imai

The guidebook to implementation of kaizen, or continuous improvements. I read this and the next book before going into my year in Operations Management.

Lean Thinking****

by James Womack and Daniel Jones

The book that brought Toyota to the world of manufacturing and drove the Lean movement. This was another book that I read prior to the year in Operations. There are good principles in this as long as one doesn’t become fanatical.

Net Ready***

by Amir Hartman & John Sifonis

A course book from my Stanford Enterprise IT class talking mainly about Cisco’s story and strategy.

Building Enterprise Information Architectures***

by Melissa Cook

The other course book from the Stanford Enterprise IT class (a how to guide with both a historical perspective and detailed directions on what to do.

Hire, Fire, and the Walking Dead**

by Greg Moran

This book had some valid points and reasonable suggestions but just was too used-car-salesman-y – read slimy – for me to resonate with it.*)

 

Ex-Patriatian &
Re-patriation

I Am The Monkey****

by Jürg Wittwer

This is one of my favourites, and is especially good for expatriates living and working in another culture.  Many good insights though for anyone interacting across cultures and a lot about the importance of mindset in the expatriation experience.

Survival Kit for Overseas Learning****

by L. Robert Kohls

This book is written for Americans moving abroad, so the helpfulness may be limited for non-Americans. Sections such as the Q&A’s to prepare and culture shock are more general.

So You’re Coming Home****

by J. Steward Black and Hal B. Gregersen

This is again written primarily for the American audience, but may be more applicable and less culture specific. I had a lot more challenge on my first repatriation and this book helped me both to mentally prepare as well as to understand and cope with what I was going through.

 

Communication, Public Speaking & Negotiation

I Am The Monkey****

by Jürg Wittwer

This is one of my favourites, and is especially good for expatriates living and working in another culture.  Many good insights though for anyone interacting across cultures and a lot about the importance of mindset in the expatriation experience.

Survival Kit for Overseas Learning****

by L. Robert Kohls

This book is written for Americans moving abroad, so the helpfulness may be limited for non-Americans. Sections such as the Q&A’s to prepare and culture shock are more general.

So You’re Coming Home****

by J. Steward Black and Hal B. Gregersen

This is again written primarily for the American audience, but may be more applicable and less culture specific. I had a lot more challenge on my first repatriation and this book helped me both to mentally prepare as well as to understand and cope with what I was going through.