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Suggestions For Summer Reading: Six Books To Change Your Thinking

One of my favorite summer traditions is the beach reading list. I like them even if (like most of you, no doubt) I hardly spend a second at the beach. However, that lack of time, in and of itself, feels like the most compelling reason to put together a reading list. As a group, these are six indispensable volumes for Georgia professionals:

  1. Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. In this management classic, Collins explains how “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great…. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good–and that is their main problem.”
  2. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen. This book is most famous for introducing the phrase and concept of “disruption.” (Is there a more appropriate title for the age in which we live?) But Christensen’s and more unsung, amazing insight is that companies and their leaders can become victims of their own success: Doing something well blinds them to innovation that might allow them to do it better, or differently.
  3. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will To Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook executive Sandberg ignited something of a firestorm with this book. Some argued it was a new feminist manifesto, while others said it was a retrograde “set back” for the cause. But regardless the controversy, it’s worth reading because it offers us glimpses in the ways we hold ourselves back, or even hold back others.
  4. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz. I can’t think of a better diagnosis of our modern age. We seem to have infinite-and yet infinitely multiplying-choices, from blue jeans to cell phone plans, and yet we seem to feel empty. That’s no accident, Schwartz argues: The glut of choices can create unrealistically high expectations for better outcomes; when those expectations aren’t met, it can be psychologically crippling.
  5. Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris. If Schwartz has the diagnosis, Harris may have the prescription. Part memoir, part scholarly review, part pep talk, Waking Up is Harris’ argument for meditation, stripped of its religious trappings, to help re-center ourselves and rescue ourselves from being “lost in thought.”
  6. America In The King Years by Taylor Branch. For a Georgia leader, it’s always worthwhile to reflect upon the legacy of transformational leadership in our state. This three-volume biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge) is magisterial in scope and scale, and Branch is such a good writer that, even when you think you know the history of the Civil Rights Movement, he can leave you in doubt about its outcomes.

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