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2021 was a roller coaster of a year, one in which ennui from the pandemic set in deeper with many of us or our loved ones being directly impacted with health and income issues. This was a year which has been a reset year for many of us.
Some good books which got me through the year are listed below in no particular order with snippets of my thoughts. Yes, I know some of them have been around for years, but I never got around to reading them earlier.
1. The Talent Masters – Bill Conaty, Ram Charan: I re-read this book which was gifted to me a really long time ago. A classic by the masters in strategy, I am impressed with the ease with which they weave in relevant examples and have a handy checklist for managers.
2. Thrive – Ariana Huffington: Picked up solely because I am such a fan of the versatile, effervescent Ariana who had the chutzpah to drive conversations on wellness into the mainstream and develop a path breaking business based on it. I found it unputdownable and highly recommend it.
3. The Promises of Giants – John Amaechi Obe: This popped up in one of my feeds and I am so glad it did. John Amaechi is an NBA player turned psychologist and he has used his insights from sports and psychology to give the reader a foolproof roadmap to maximize your own potential while improving society and workplace culture. It’s my no 1 inspirational book and the feedback model is on mark.
4. Grit – Angela Duckworth: A TED talk by her and an amazing recommendation by a client led me to read this book, which again has been around for some time now. The insights on how grit is the determining factor behind success helped motivate me towards my long-term goals, at least one of which I did manage to achieve. Two more to go!!
5. Deep Work – Cal Newport: In line with the theme of perseverance or grit, is the delightful book on importance on deep work. If ever one needed more convincing that deep work with intense, distraction free focused time is the only way to get high quality results, then this book will definitely spur you to break some patterns. Else just listen to your parents chide you on being distracted with the smart phone or Netflix.
6. Mindset – Dr. Carol S. Dweck: This is a seminal book on identifying and nurturing growth mindset vs fixed mindset. Again, been around for some years, but I got to read it in 2020. She successfully straddles both personal development and corporate performance as she decodes growth mindset.
7. Catalyst – Chandramouli Venkatesan: If there is one book I will recommend for professionals in India, it has to be Catalyst hands down. I did read quite a lot of them by other authors this year and previously, but this one brings together all the various catalysts you need to stimulate your career seamlessly and is a simple, powerful read. The follow up “get better at getting better” can be avoided but not “Catalyst.” There is a third book “Transform” published posthumously, for which reviews are excellent. Unfortunately, the author left us too soon.
8. Ikigai – Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles: My problem with books which achieve iconic status is that I assume that they are over-rated. Hence when I got a little push for reading it by a senior colleague, I got the book and decided to leave my hesitations aside. The beauty of simplicity is that it is sticky. The central concept of finding a reason to jump out of bed by learning to be happy, making connections and living in the moment while pursuing one’s purpose has a universal appeal. No wonder the book has achieved cult status.
9. Range – David Epstein: I must admit I liked the blurb on the book cover which spoke about improving performance and being a must read for parents. Grappling with online studies and isolation had taken its toll on us as a family. It helped me at a personal level to let go and allow the kids to go off and wander in various arcs of their choice and set me free. It’s a constant tussle between specialists and generalists, and in a world obsessed with early excellence and the future depending on innovations at the intersections of various fields, Epstein’s book could not have come at a better time. Our national bard, Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath, and he came to my mind more than once while reading this book.
10. What my MBA did not teach me about Money – Sandeep Sahni & Sanjit Singh Paul: Personal development is incomplete without having that conversation about money. The authors offer unique frameworks, and the book is replete with examples of money concerns in various stages. Highly recommended for some deep introspection on how you are managing your finances.
I managed to average slightly less than a book a week this year despite being in the usual throes of mid-life challenges – something or someone would tend to fall apart. In a year with more than average ups and downs, I am thankful for the gift of time to read, assimilate and most importantly enjoy these books. They helped me balance my thoughts and support others. Let’s hear about the books you enjoyed in 2020 in the comments. Wishing you the best in your personal journey & leadership development.