We may not even remember some of the books we read when we were young, but you can be sure we internalized their morals, for good or bad. Use the pairings below if you’re trying to break through barriers at the office, learning to leverage your strengths against your weaknesses, or just looking for a good read.
1. If your favorite childhood tearjerker was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, try Adam Grant’s Give and Take.
Grant argues that being miserly with your time, advice, and personal resources actually reduces your effectiveness. Based on his his research at Wharton, Grant might say that the Giving Tree boy’s constant take-take-take behavior will eventually alienate his colleagues and professional networks, making life so lonely he only has the Tree’s stump left for companionship.
2. Check out Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek if you thought Lazy Tommy Pumpkinhead had things figured out.
William Pène du Bois tells the cautionary tale of Tommy, a boy who lives in an “electric” house that wakes him, dresses him, and feeds him. The machinery inevitably goes haywire, but if the details of domestic life are getting you down, The 4-Hour Workweek has a ton of tips too free up the time you’d otherwise have to spend brushing your own teeth.
3. If Mr. Mumble felt like the story of your childhood, empower your adult self with Susan Cain’s Quiet.
Mr. Mumble woke up one day unable to articulate even basic needs—receiving a dozing beagel instead of a dozen bagels at the deli, for instance. Susan Cain, a self-professed introvert who is also a consultant and public speaker, uses her book Quiet as a guidebook and rallying cry for introverts everywhere to take courage from their skills and work on the social stuff that’s holding them back.
4. If you loved a good siege, like defending the Abbey in Brian Jacques’s Redwall, the grown-up battles of Barbarians at the Gate are perfect for you.
Let slip the mice of war!
5. If you identified with Sister Bear’s exclusion from the clubhouse, there’s a motivational manifesto for you:
The boys won’t let her in because she’s smarter and faster, but Sister Bear eventually has the last word.
6. The curious career path of Curious George doesn’t intimidate you.
George is made to wash dishes after stealing a plate of spaghetti. But he leverages that skill into window-washing and then mural painting in a building he’s washing. Adapting to change is never easy, but George—who was abducted from the jungle by the Man with The Yellow Hat— is, as ever, resilient.
7. You identified with the working mother at the center of The Country Bunny.
Du Bose Heyward is far better known for Porgy & Bess, but this book packs no less of a social punch. At the center is a bunny who strives to become Easter Bunny despite the pressures of raising a bunch of little girl bunnies. Sheryl Sandberg would be proud.
8. You’re looking for a grown-up update to Pig Will and Pig Won’t.
If you’ve ever struggled against your worst instincts, you can understand what Pig was dealing with. Luckily, Nobelist Daniel Kahneman’s lucid Thinking, Fast and Slow has tons of advice for prevailing over the more Pig-Won’t areas of the brain.
9. Everything you know about communication you learned from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
Learning the alphabet was the first lesson in effective communication, right? Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick is all about how to get your ideas to catch on, sort of like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom‘ssurprisingly catchy jingle.
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
Are you approaching your meeting as a Giver or a Taker? Givers create collaborative conditions for everyone to contribute their best ideas, even if it means giving up their allotted airtime. Takers, well....they just take. Grant thoroughly covers every angle of the benefits of giving, including some hopeful advice for the exhausted chumps who get taken advantage of all too often.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Like so many other Westerners, I took it for granted that introversion was a weakness -- extraverts were naturally gifted in leading, selling, networking, and so many other important skills in life. Susan Cain's enthralling book opened my eyes to the possibility that the "extravert ideal" was a myth. Her work led me to begin designing studies that debunked the extraverted leadership advantage and the extraverted sales advantage, and has given me a fresh way of looking at the world in which listening matters as much as talking.
Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough & John Helyar
Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spendcer Johnson, MD
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Dive by Chip & Dan Heath
The wise and witty Heath Brothers show how to make your message stick by using simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.
Everything is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us by Duncan J. Watts
In five minutes, arrange the five letter below into as many words as you can. You don’t have to use all five letters. Good luck. NELMO How many did you get? Like so many problem-solving experiments conducted over the years, the answer depends not on intelligence or skill but perspective, feedback, and circumstance.…
Chuck Noll became the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. The Steelers were a terrible football team at the time. In the ensuing decade, Noll transformed the Steelers into one of the most dominant franchises in the history of professional sports. He won four Super Bowls, more than…
Thank you for participating in this experiment. There are three pairs of statements listed below. For each pair, please select the statement that best describes how you feel. This task shouldn’t take more than one minute. Many of the unhappy things in people’s lives are partly due to bad luck.…