Top Books from 2018

The Fifth Discipline

Without a doubt, the most impactful book I read all year. The Fifth Discipline built off some of my past learning around systems thinking, and applied it to organizations. It lays out the five disciplines of learning organizations: Personal Mastery, Building Shared Vision, Mental Models, Team Learning, and Systems Thinking (being the fifth discipline that underpins the others).

This book has fundamentally changed how I look at work / organizations, including shedding light on why people behave in the way they do, understanding chronic problems and why they’re so resistant to change, and my role as part of the whole.

I revisited this book repeatedly over the year, and will continue to in the future. I got so much out of this, I got the accompanying fieldbook and have started two more books by the same author.

A Splendid Exchange

A very well written history book that goes beyond the Euro-centric history I’m familiar with. A Splendid Exchange looks at the history of exchanges and commerce, from pre-Christian times up until the colonization of the Americas. A super accessible read with tons of information packed into it. It also seemed to have less of an agenda (compared with books like Civilization by Niall Ferguson).

A great book to expand your understanding of the world and the history of commerce.

Hot, Flat & Crowded

Despite being a little windy and verbose, I found this book enjoyable as well as shedding new light on sustainability and energy issues. Essentially as the world becomes flat (interconnected), hot (climate change) and crowded (population growth), we need to establish a new economic and energy system.

I need to revisit this one because there were a few key points about how energy systems currently work, particularly in the U.S. that I would like to understand more. And the wordy-ness of this one made it hard to remember the key points sometimes.

Overall, a solid read that lays out a new way of structuring huge parts of our lives in a better way.

I would suggest pairing this with or replacing it with The Ecology of Commerce and The Necessary Revolution. The Ecology of Commerce was a bit drier, and had a narrower scope, focusing more on a circular economy. The Necessary Revolution focuses more on creating change, but also seems to do a good exploration of current issues in sustainability (caveat: I’ve only skimmed this one).

I want to read more on this topic in 2019, but with more of a Canadian focus. The Patch is high on my list!

Radical Acceptance

I feel like I read Radical Acceptance ages ago! I read it following a silent Metta retreat last year and found that it did a phenomenal job unpacking some of what I’d been exposed to there.

I absolutely need to revisit this book, and will likely incorporate it into my daily meditation rituals. It’s also the kind of book that I don’t think you necessarily need to read front to back.

I’ve also been making my way through A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield which follows a similar format, but dives deeper into the Buddhist roots. Between the two, I found Radical Acceptance the more accessible, but A Path With Heart uncovers more of traditional Buddhist thought and spirituality.

If this is a newer topic, I recommend starting with 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I found it unbearable at parts as it’s more of a memoire, but it actually does a great job bringing you along a journey of discovery and unpacking some important truths about meditation and Buddhism. I didn’t think I would need to, but this is also on my “to review” list.

Multipliers

Multipliers has been recommended to me often, and I wish I had listened to that advice much, much earlier. It lays out the behaviours of a leader who “multiplies” the abilities of the people around them. Think multiplication vs addition. A traditional view might be “I need more people to do this” – addition. A multiplier things “how can I tap into the intelligence and gifts of the people I have to do this” – multiplying.

I put together a summary of this book, but I think I need to take it a step further and begin to unpack the specific behaviours of this multiplier mindset. It aligns with some of the Buddhist philosophy I’ve been exploring, and in general approaching the world with the mindset of “in what way is this person intelligent / gifted” is so much more exciting than the alternative.

It’s made it’s way onto my books recommendations list for new leads.

Notable Mentions

Fire Season / Alone Against the North

I stumbled across Fire Season when I went away to an off-the-grid cabin last spring. The cabin happened to have it, and I read a few chapters. I really enjoy this kind of adventure book, and it exposed me to some people I’m not familiar with, like Aldo Leopold who massively influenced how forests are managed now. The only downside to these books is they make me want to pack my stuff and head into the woods forever.


Indian Horse

I’ve been making a point of reading more indigenous writers, and Richard Wagamese is a new favourite after reading Indian Hose. It’s the story of a young indigenous man who grew up in a residential school and fell in love with hockey. Excellent story telling. I’m looking forward to reading more by Wagamese.


Everyday Sexism

As I mentioned on Goodreads, this should be added to every man’s “Understanding the world better” reading list. I think a lot of men, myself included, have a general sense of sexism and how pervasive it is. Everyday Sexism puts a fine point on this, and shows how unbelievably pervasive and socially acceptable sexism still is, and how insidious it is, making its way into all kinds of social structures.

I would recommend every man read this book to develop a deeper understanding of sexism and it’s dynamics. It’s not a thing of the past, and this book will level up your ability to identify it and hopefully begin to eradicate it.

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