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8 Books to Read This Summer

With mobile technology, 24/7 news coverage, Twitter, Facebook, Buzzfeed, iPhones, and other constant updates, sometimes we just need to stop and reflect. Take a breath.

Really, take a breath. Sometimes you gain the most by slowing down and reading a good book. Holding something tangible in your hands to read shouldn’t be obsolete, but a routine.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, spoke with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program about how books offer a great bargain. Where else can you get great tips, techniques, and inspiration for such a small slice of your time and money?

“We consistently hear that the number one barrier to leadership development is time,” said Fox. “It can be difficult to carve out the time needed to attend a training seminar, a workshop, a fellows program. A book is a short-term way to ‘sharpen the saw’, become a better leader, and focus in on the topics or areas that you need most to improve.”

With that in mind, Fox shares eight books worthy of your beachside reading.

1: Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubnar

Freakonomics provides sometimes counterintuitive examples of the way things are working or not working in our society today. And the authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner put together a book to teach people basically how to think like ‘a freak.’ And I think especially for government leaders, a lot of times you get stuck in a rut where you or your team are looking to implement the same solutions to the same problems and you see the same results. This may be a little source of inspiration, a sort of pick-me-up to, to seek out new methods for researching solutions and understanding how to persuade others to adopt your ideas.”

2: Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

“For federal leaders and federal employees who are challenged with doing more with less…It’s difficult to increase productivity as the number of employees and the number of staff decreases; you can get stuck into sort of a thought habit that says we can’t make this work. Dweck’s book can really help folks think about how to reframe that and think about how to tackle these new and difficult circumstances even better and more effectively maybe than has been the case in the past.”

3: The Hard Things About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answer, by Ben Horowitz

He’s a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who has had both the thrill of victory and the agony a defeat in the world of IT. Horowitz writes in somewhat of a confessional fashion to let somebody else make the mistakes and learn from the experience, and learn from theirs as well.”

4: The Obstacle, The Obstacle is the Way: the Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs, by Ryan Holiday

This short but sweet beach read is full of case studies and real-life examples of leaders succeeding under adversity. “This one takes a slightly more historical approach which looks at some of the great leaders in our past and tries to mine their experience for lessons learned about how they turned problems into opportunities,” said Fox.

5: Creativity Inc.; Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull

Written by one of the leaders at Pixar, a company that achieved unprecedented critical acclaim and box office success. “It’s a look behind the curtain to see what the wizards are actually doing back there,” said Fox. “And what’s fascinating is it’s as much what’s on the screen as what’s behind the scenes that leads to their success. I mean they’re incredible; they’re wonderful storytellers, but they’re only able to produce those results because they’ve created a highly collaborative and creative workplace. And I know a lot of federal leaders are trying to figure out how to create that same sort of environment, and I don’t think there’s any better place to look than a place like Pixar.”

6/7: Stress Test, Tim Geithner, Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton

“Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I think there’s a lot to learn from the individual accounts that folks can share about their experiences. You can typically go through those fairly quickly. Stress Test goes back to reflections in the financial crisis from the former treasury secretary Tim Geithner. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her book, has a whole section on open government and why she opened up the State Department.”

8: The Closer, by Mario Rivera

“When we look for underdog stories, often times we look to works of fiction.This is a real life story of Mariano Rivera who was literally plucked from the fishing boats of Panama to become, not just a New York Yankees great, but one of the greatest players in all of professional baseball.

He’s got some really nice firsthand accounts of how he got through that process. And I think it’s good for any leader, especially in difficult times to have a short term memory, otherwise, you’re not going to face all the difficulties you need to day in and day out.”

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