In early December 2020, we started featuring a briefing on a new book about work or management every week. We’ve now covered 77 books, having read about 20,000 pages.
With the holiday season approaching, we’ve rounded up our recommendations for the best books we’ve covered over the past year, along with key takeaways from each. (The book titles link to our briefings if you want to go deeper before buying them.)
Best gifts for colleagues and friends:
- Tranquility by Tuesday by Laura Vanderkam—This book by an author with a popular TED talk has simple, sometimes obvious recommendations for how to use your time more intentionally. But its nine rules for committing to the things that will make you happier—such as giving yourself a bedtime and planning one small and one big adventure each week—are surprisingly infectious and useful.
- The First, the Few, the Only by Deepa Purushothaman—An important playbook for women of color, this book is also a broader call for a healthier, more equitable approach to power by a former Deloitte executive who was the first Indian-American woman partner in the firm’s history.
- Pay Up by Reshma Saujani—In this timely book, the founder of Girls Who Code and the Marshall Plan for Moms details specific policy and workplace recommendations—such as affordable childcare and employer support for fathers taking parental leave—to address the ongoing crisis for caregivers.
- Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte—We’re all surrounded by information that we struggle to process and remember. In the spirit of David Allen’s personal productivity classic Getting Things Done, this book details a helpful system for using digital tools to organize information for easy recollection and retrieval.
- The No Club by Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart—This book by a group of professors and academic leaders explains how to steer clear of the tasks—which too often fall on women and BIPOC workers—that won’t advance your career.
- Quit by Annie Duke—This is a good gift for a friend who needs a nudge to move on to their next endeavor. Duke, a former pro poker player turned consultant and author, makes a strong case for diversifying your interests, skills, and activities even before you’re ready to actually quit.
- Out of Office by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen—This is an elegantly written catalog of the problems with white-collar work today and how we got here, by two widely followed newsletter writers. It offers a powerful, motivating vision for how we can make our lives better when we resist the gravitational pull of unrelenting work, including through hobbies and community involvement.
Best books for sorting out hybrid and flexible work:
- How the Future Works by Brian Elliott, Sheela Subramanian, and Helen Kupp—This book by the co-founders of Slack’s Future Forum is specific and thoughtful in its research-backed answers to common questions about how to have an inclusive and high-performing flexible workplace.
- Redesigning Work by Lynda Gratton—This substantive handbook by a London Business School professor outlines a four-step design process for changing how we work in the context of hybrid arrangements, automation, and demographic shifts. It highlights thought-provoking practices such as splitting manager jobs into “leaders of work” and “leaders of people.”
Most-read book briefings on our site over the past 12 months:
- The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen
- The Power of Regret by Daniel H. Pink
- Winning on Purpose by Fred Reichheld
- Fifty-six percent of the books we covered over the past year were written by a female author (up from 47% during the previous year), and 22% had a BIPOC author (down from 29%.) We track these statistics to be sure we’re featuring books from writers of diverse backgrounds, and are continually looking to increase them.
- We’ve earned $363 in Amazon referral fees this year when readers purchased books after clicking on links in the book briefing email. We earned $52 in referral fees from Bookshop.org. We appreciate the support!
We’re interested in hearing what your favorite books are from the past year. Please reply to this email with any recommendations.
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.