2018: Booked Solid

The best damn reading list you’re going to find if you’re looking for something to fill your soul in 2018.

Every year, I start with grand ambitions to do and learn more than the year before, and every year the break between Christmas and New Year’s Day gets me thinking about all of the books I want to read in the year ahead.

To get a jump start on my list, I asked my most creative/inspiring/entrepreneurial/thoughtful/cause-driven/change-making friends, mentors, clients and folks I admire a question:

What’s the best book you’ve recently read, or what’s the go-to book you’re always telling friends, team members, colleagues or others “walking the talk” about, because it was so powerful in your work or in your life?

These are people I’m lucky to call friends—folks who have, somehow along the way, shaped who I have become, the work I do and how I lead my agency. But I’d venture to guess I’m not the only one—these are the kinds of leaders inspiring dozens to thousands daily. To know what they’re reading is like having an inside look at how they think and what they value. Think of this list as a group mentorship session with some of the most influential and innovative people making stuff happen in the world today.

With apologies for your soon-to-be hefty bookstore order, here’s what they had to say (with the reason for reading in their very own words):

John Hagel, Co-Chairman at Deloitte Center for the Edge, recommends:
Scale by Geoffrey West
This book is a fascinating comparison of the hidden laws that govern how organisms, cities and companies scale. In particular, what I liked about the book is that it shows how cities become more and more productive as they scale and helps to explain why our movement into cities is accelerating, even in a flat world. In contrast, he shows how companies face challenges as they scale and explores what they could learn from cities and organisms. It’s an inspiring book exploring the behavior of a wide range of complex adaptive systems.”

Laura Spanjian, Public Policy at Airbnb, recommends: 
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing and Nathaniel Philbrick
“It’s an epic story of survival, commitment, perseverance, flexibility…all in the midst of continued disaster and unimaginable challenges. In these tumultuous times, with constant change, Shackleton helps us understand how to be a true leader and use emotional intelligence to forge ahead against all odds. In the words of Shackleton, “Optimism is true moral courage.”

Ashleigh Axios, Design Exponent at Automattic and Former Creative Director for the Obama White House, recommends: 
Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
“It’s a biographical account of building Pixar, in which some hard-learned and -earned lessons on how to build a creative culture are shared plainly. It contains philosophies every leader can follow and come back to at various phases of their career.”

Rick Haskins, Executive Vice President at the CW Network, recommends:
Bhagavad Gita, translation and forward by Eknath Easwaran
“The Gita is a sacred Hindu text that speaks to the struggle within and making decisions based on a higher purpose, which we all have been called to perform but may not remember. Inner conflicts are the catalyst of our decision making. But making the right decisions is often not easily obtained. Staying true to yourself and believing in the greater good will keep you on the right path. Namaste!”

Stephen L. Klineberg, Founding Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, a think tank affiliated with Rice University recommends: 
The New Urban Crisis by Richard Florida
If you’re looking for one book that lays out pretty well the central challenges facing American cities today, [this is the book] I’d recommend.”

Hope Hall, Former Presidential Videographer for Barack Obama, recommends: 
The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
“Two separate , totally inspirational artist friends gave [this book] to me at almost the same time years ago, both citing it as their favorite book about art. Since then, I have treasured it, given it away, mused on it as I just open it to any old page and read it cover-to-cover so many times I have lost count. I am so grateful to Maira Kalman for being so generous with her magic and sharing it with all of us. Here’s to magic, wonder, humor, thoughtfulness, kindness and generosity in our lives and in 2018!”

Kam Franklin, Lead Singer for The Suffers, recommends: 
The Keys by DJ Khaled
I’ve read this book three times, and each time, I’ve taken something different from it. I tell people that it’s kind of like a hiphop version of “The Secret,” and honestly, it really is. It has helped my business relationships tremendously, and it’s helped me persevere in the moments where no one would have judged me for giving up.”

Kyle Lierman, Founder & CEO at Civic Advisors, recommends: 
The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe
“Democrats got beat bad in 2016. Rather than wallowing in (and reading about) that loss, I went back to Barack Obama’s Campaign Manager’s (and my boss many times over) campaign memoir. It shows us how to organize successfully through passion, discipline and by running a campaign the right way.”

Heidi Hackemer, Head of the Creative Studio at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, recommends: 
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.
This is my constant, dog-eared companion. It reconnects women with the wild, powerful, creative force that is in each of us, reminding us of our innate power and strength. I have given it away more times than I can count and go to it when I need to remember who I really am.”

Courtenay Siegfried, Vice President of Communications at Alice, recommends: 
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I listened to this on a recent road trip and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. In this current era, we must make a concerted effort to listen to and learn from other perspectives, and this novel about a police shooting brought a new lens to my understanding of the individual experiences and cultural background we all bring to our day-to-day lives. Recognizing and addressing intrinsic biases can only help make us better business leaders and servers of our communities.”

Kari Bautch Hernandez, President and Co-Founder at INK Communications Co., recommends: 
Managing Your Day to Day: A compilation by 99U
“This book helped me make space for being a better leader, being creative and not living in constant panic.”

Jason Stirman, Founder and CEO of Lucid, recommends: 
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
“Hearing how Nike, the brand that defined much of my childhood, came to be is both inspiring and challenging. Phil’s story echoes my belief that there are no shortcuts…that hustle and perseverance are required. Phil is authentic and relatable. A great read for anyone trying to make something out of nothing.”

Jason Harris, CEO of Mekanism, recommends: 
Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
“This book has advice from over 100 world class experts from Kelly Slater, Tony Hawk to Arianna Huffington and Esther Perel. It covers their secrets of success, failures, happiness, learnings and life mantras. It is the perfect dive in and out book with incredibly motivating insights. It proves that the best education comes from a wide range of experiences and varying perspectives.”

Eric Waldo, Executive Director of Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, recommends: 
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
“This was given to me as a gift this year and it’s not a book I thought I’d read. I assumed it was a book for people who had lost a spouse. A mass appeal self-help book. But I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. In a year of collective trauma (be it the new administration, hurricanes, fires, mass shootings or the parade of sexual misconduct allegations in the news), a book on how to keep going was the book I needed. It was part memoir of overcoming challenges, but also co-written by a behavioral psychologist who has studied happiness, trauma, growth mindset and how to persevere in the wake of tragedies large and small. I found myself talking about the book with my team and employing some of the books techniques on mindfulness, forgiveness and positive thinking.”

Kendall Hanna, Photographer and Founder of White Buffalo Project, recommends: 
Soul Mates by Thomas Moore
“One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. It’s not so much about love (as the name might suggest), but a deep analysis of the very foundation of what makes and moves a human soul.”

Ezra Merchabre, Deputy Digital Director at ACLU, recommends: 
Run for Something by Amanda Litman
“[This has] been the book I’ve recommended to every friend fed up with 2017. In addition to being an incredibly practical nuts-and-bolts guide to how to run for office, it’s also hilarious (and full of good stories with some of the Left’s most important voices). Full disclosure: It’s by my very good friend, but I recommend it all the same!”

Karen Walrond, Author/Speaker/Leadership Coach/Photographer, recommends: 
A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems by Justin Dillion
“This book encourages you to find your “riot” — the cause that fires you up — and find a way to use your gifts and talents to address it. I love it because it specifically ISN’T about charity — in fact, he argues there’s nothing wrong to doing this to make a good living. His point is that your meaningful work should be something that you love that is in the service of others.”

Erik Herskind, CEO of greenlight, recommends: 
Friction: Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption by Jeff Rosenblum with Jordan Berg
“I picked up this book a couple of months ago and have told no less than 20 people to make it their next read. It’s rare to find a book that is uplifting and inspiring, yet frustrating and discouraging (but in a good way). Any marketer — client or agency side — who believes that disruption is dead will love this book. And if you are a fan of brands like Yeti (brands who inspire genuine passion with their customers), you’ll find yourself recommitted to getting companies to think bigger in order to engage their customers in meaningful ways.”

Carla Valencia de Martinez, Editor-in-Chief of LOCAL Houston Magazine, recommends: 
Radical Remission by Dr. Kelly A. Turner
“This is a book about surviving cancer at all odds. Dr. Turner researches to the end of the world finding people who survived cancer diagnoses using unconventional methods from a radical change in diet to spiritual methods to overall happiness. It is super interesting because it gives us—as humans—the inspiration and power to change our health.”

Katie Laird, Director of Social Marketing and Public Relations for Blinds.com (a Home Depot Company), recommends:
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
“The people who do the most interesting work are, quite often, the people who are the most purposefully creative in their lives. I love this book because it urges us to take our creativity seriously (like, work-on-it-every-day-to-connect-to-the-universe kind of seriously) and to “fill the well” to give our minds something great to draw from when we work and play. It also pushes for quantity, not quality — which you don’t hear often and is a great way to push through creative blocks of all kinds. Notable quote: “Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.”’

Aabha Brown, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, recommends: 
Bury the Chains by Adam Hotchschild
“[This book] retells the complicated story of abolishing the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The inspiration…these abolitionists/human rights activists employed strategies that, when executed well, are just as effective today. This book reminds me that nothing is too big or too hard to change. Power to the people! It’s a long and tough read…but worth it.”

Denise Hamilton, Founder of WatchHerWork/Speaker/Author, recommends: 
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson
“It’s an oldie but a goodie. Adaptability to changing environments is critical for success. Experts fail because they are experts in a world that no longer exists. This short read drives home the need for flexibility and versatility.”

Josh Shepard, Owner of Smilebooth, recommends: 
Closer to the Ground by Dylan Tomine
“This book influenced our recent move from Houston to Marfa. We all felt cramped in Houston and wanted our kids to have the freedom to safely roam. They’ll go out bird hunting with me and help clean and prep the birds back at the house. With few distractions, their imaginations run wild and they’re content playing outside like we used to as kids.”

Cheryl Schulke, Owner of Stash Co, recommends: 
How to Fight by Thich Nhat Hanh
“[Thich Nhat Hanh’s] signature clarity and humor is offered in brief reflections on the ways we act out in anger, frustration, despair and delusion. The passages are meditations encouraging us to explore and transform ourselves so that we might better understand others.”

Laura Mayes, Co-Founder of Mom 2.0, Mom 2.0 Summit and the BE Conference, recommends:
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
I read [this book] a few times this last year. And every time I pick it up, I find new truths I need to hear. Entrepreneurship can be solitary (plus I work on the Internet, which can be an ugly place right now) and Braving the Wilderness is a call to reason and a mind path to centered assurance. The central message is this: true belonging starts with ourselves. And while we have a tendency to meet our need for belonging by seeking out people who think the same things we do and share our beliefs and value sets, this is a shifting sand which also creates vacuums and excludes new ideas. On a personal level, in the book, she mentions my father’s funeral, and his death was one of the most transformative things I’ve ever gone through. It called me to reevalaute how I spend my time, who I spend it with and how I’m moving through the world. The book reinforces this, and it just a freaking treasure.”

Tim DeSilva, Founder & CEO of CulturePilot, recommends: 
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
“It’s a fun and easy read, featuring stories from Mark that help remind us to think about the things that really matter in life, both personally and professionally.”

Kristin Kelly, Writer and Principal Designer at IDEO, recommends:
Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelly
“Since I started working full time at IDEO, I find myself recommending [this book] more and more. In too many companies people are segmented and defined by being a creative or non-creative, but that’s just not true. This book encourages everyone to tap into their own creative potential.”

Jeff Reichman, Principal at January Advisors, recommends:
Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen
“It tells the story of the U.S. Constitution and the tensions in the country at the time. Even though it takes place over 200 years ago, the story is loaded with insights and the book is gripping. Whenever I need a political fix without the news cycle, I pick up this book.”

What started as a search for some damn good reading material for 2018 has now turned into a new problem: What do I read first? With a wealth of fake news and just outright bullshit out there right now, it’s important to fill your brain with inspiring, thoughtful and delightful stuff. To me, this list is a roadmap for making sure you stay sharp, stay engaged and stay sane all year long. Right now, I’m in the middle of Radical Candor by Kim Scott, but I’ll be heading down this list when I’m done.

How will you book up your 2018? Tell me your recommendations for books that inspire you personally or professionally in the comments.