Before I jump into my favorite books from 2023, I just want to remind you that unless you’re on a spending lockdown like my family in January (my wife declares every year that we have to go on a spending freeze in January…this probably has something to do with having five children that
we Santa over-indulges every year), you can still grab a copy of my new book, The Culture Turnaround, which I think would be a great book to read to kick your year off. (Plus, you can request a signed copy, and I’ll mail it directly to you.) 👍
A random text from a friend
I was in the middle of writing this post when Joe Koufman texted me this quote:
While I agree with the sentiment overall, it’s the last bit that really explains what I’m all about.
My Purpose (as you might know if you read my stuff because I can’t stop talking about it 😂) is to have an outsized, positive impact on the world. That is how I hope to lessen the suffering of others. And to be better equipped to do that, I need to know more about the world than I knew yesterday.
Knowing more about the world, especially the vast majority of the world that I have no experience with, is not only how I learn about problems and potentially how I might be able to use my gifts to make a difference, but more importantly, it’s how I try to build empathy within myself to better understand the suffering of others. You’ll notice three books listed below that I read specifically for this purpose, but all of the 13 books changed me in some (hopefully positive) way.
53 books in 2022, and these are my favorites
My general goal is to read 52 books a year — a book a week.
I read physical books and books on my Kindle (or the Kindle app on my phone). I also listen to books while driving. I’m always reading four or five books at a time. Case in point, right now, I’m reading four hardcover books: James Patterson (yes, it’s a book by James Patterson, called James Patterson), Superman, The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh (with my 10-year old), and Powerful; two books on the Kindle: Alexander Hamilton and Rhythm of War; and I’m listening to I’m Glad My Mom Died.
I have kept track of every book I’ve read since 2015 in Notion, with ratings on a 5-star scale. Yes, I nerd out when it comes to reading.
Below are the 13 books (of the 53 I read in 2022) that really stood out to me.
Books written by my friends
A Way Out of No Way by Raphael Warnock. I’ve known Raphael since we went through Leadership Atlanta together in 2013 (and in 2021, I was able to shadow Raphael in D.C., and it was one of my favorite days of my life). This book chronicles his life to date and just shows what an incredible human he is.
6 Ps of Essential Innovation by Michael McCathren. I’ve known Michael McCathren for something like 15 years, and beyond being an exceptionally thoughtful human being, he’s also been in the innovation space for as long as anyone I know. This book lays out his philosophy and strategy around corporate innovation.
Living on a Smile by Jo Ann Herold. If you know Jo Ann, then like me, you know her first book had to be called, Living on a Smile. Jo Ann (who I’ve known for close to 20 years!) is a generous, kind, and supportive friend, and also one of the most accomplished marketers I know. Her book is a wonderful trip through her life and really shows how she became the amazing person she is today.
(Full disclosure, my book publishing company, Ripples Media, published Michael and Jo Ann’s books.)
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I re-read this book in 2022 in order to take the Dragon Army leadership team through it again (I suggest doing this with your team every 4-5 years), and it only solidified why it’s my most recommended business book to my leadership friends. I’ve read it at least five times by now.
(Even though I’ve written four of them, I don’t read a lot of “business” books. I’ll take a biography of a leader over a traditional business book any day.)
The Master Plan by Chris Wilson. I listened to this book (the author reads it), and it reminded me of when I listened to Just Mercy by Bryan Steveson. (Mr. Stevenson also reads his book, and it’s a top-five audiobook for me all time…maybe my #1.) I can’t say enough great things about this book, so I’ll just leave it at this: if you pick one book on my list to read (or listen to) in 2023, make it this one.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Each year I read a book or two about the Native American experience, and this one rightfully has the reputation of being a classic.
Sold by Patricia McCormick. I’m honestly not sure how I made it through this book. It’s the brutal telling of a young girl sold into sexual slavery in India. While a fictional story, the author spent a long time talking with young girls who have gone through this experience and somehow, by the grace of God, made it out. My friend Jonathan gave it to me years ago, and I finally had the courage to pick it up. I’m going to be looking for ways to make an impact…somehow.
Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. I always have books on race that I’m reading and this was easily one of my favorites of all time. I wouldn’t recommend it as the first book you read on the topic, but it should definitely be one in your collection if this is an area you’re passionate about understanding.
Just for me
Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear. I listened to this book while running and really enjoyed it. It’s probably second for me in the ‘running books’ category, only after Born to Run. My life hack is to listen to books about runners when going on a run. You’ll be more motivated than ever as you chug along, trying to knock out three miles, reading about someone making it through a 100-mile race :)
Year Book by Seth Rogan. Hilarious book, as you might expect. I’m not the world’s biggest Seth Rogan fan, but he can be a riot, and he reads this book himself which really makes the stories—and he has INSANE stories—really come to life.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. So many people recommended this book to me over the years, and I just kept saying to myself, but I don’t care about rowing (or, sorry, crew)…like, at all. My only experience with the sport was seeing those twins in the Facebook movie back in the day. And even as I read the book and it pulled me into the story deeper and deeper, I kept asking myself, why the heck is this so interesting? But it was, and all I can say is, it’s a wonderful and captivating story that you really should consider reading.
With my kids
You might be surprised to hear that I didn’t read much growing up. I read here and there (Christopher Pike seems to be an author’s name I remember), but by and large, I wasn’t an avid reader back then. Recently, as I’ve noticed my kids reading “classics” for school, I’ve decided to read the books alongside them. I can’t recommend this enough for any of you parents of teenagers out there. It’s a great way to bond with your kids (and learn a little along the way.)
Animal Farm by George Orwell. I’m not sure if I actually read this in its entirety when I was younger, but I really enjoyed it this time around. And if I’m being honest, it probably only made this list because I read my daughter’s copy of the book with her notations (“He better not do what I think he’s going to do!” and “I’ll never look at a pig the same way again!”) throughout that was just the about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. My son played the lead in this incredible book/play at his school. It’s a really touching look at a young man with autism and the effects it has on him and everyone around him.
Please share any of your favorite books with me, as I’m always on the lookout for the next great book!
I hope you’re happy.