Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, but it’s also the way I stay sharpened as a business owner. Even non-business books offer valuable information about leading my business. Here is a top ten list of the best books I read this year:
Jay-Z’s book is part memoir and part exposition of the Rap/Hip-Hop culture. If you live in the majority culture, this book gives you a view of world you rarely see and don’t understand. Jay-Z is an articulate and effective guide.
When I picked up this book, I really didn’t want to like it. The style is very casual and un-business-like. But Carrie Wilkerson turned me around. This is a terrific book for anyone thinking about going out on their own. Her chapter on business models alone is worth the price of the whole book.
Scrum (or Agile programming) is a project management framework that is primarily used in software programming, but has more recently been used in a variety of fields including marketing, construction and others. Elements of Scrum is a very accessible, and understandable introduction to the basics of this methodology. I find myself applying these ideas over and over (see also #10, The Lean Start-up).
This is another book I was prepared to dismiss. Most books about the creative process are impossibly fluffy and contrived. This is just the opposite. Using a lot of research and specific examples, the author pulls apart the creative process and helps us to see inside in a way that can help us to do it better ourselves and better manage others who do it.
I’m a Mac nerd and I love doing more with the technology tools that I have. David Sparks shows that same passion in this field guide where he demonstrates some amazing tools and tricks for living (and working) without killing trees. Beautifully made and immensely useful.
In the New York Times column “What’s on your nightstand now?” Colin Powell mentioned this as a book he reads over and over. This is a handbook for how officers should lead and act written after WWII (and revised since). There are sections you can easily skip (protocol for arriving at a base) but others that you should never miss (e.g. Keeping your House in Order and Mainsprings of Leadership). This is leadership gold.
Colin Powell mentioned this as a book every President needs to read. Digging deeply into the decisions that lead us into the Vietnam war, the author asks the question, “How could so many smart, capable people do something so dumb?” It’s a haunting question.
This book is about how a submarine crew went from being the worst ship in the Navy to the best and just as impressive, how it stayed great even after the captain left. Want to really understand how to lead an empowered team? This book will help.
Entrepreneurs are creating something new in an environment of extreme uncertainty. This book teaches a management framework to deal with that uncertainty that maximizes learning (reducing uncertainty) while conserving resources. It includes great ideas for almost any business leader.
What are some of your favorite books of 2012?