This year I’ve continued “reading” books mostly via listening to them on audio. This is a great way to continue my learning while commuting, working out, or traveling. I continued reading and learning about positive psychology but have also added more zen this year as well. I’d love your thoughts and recommendations.
I’ve long been drawn to Zen philosophy and Buddhist approaches. My learning about Zen expanded significantly this year thanks in part to nudging from friends and a plan to do a session at ACPA on Zen and Student Affairs Leadership. This learning has resulted in the biggest changes in my life over the past year.
Falling into Grace by Adyashanti
This was referred to me by my friend Vern Klobassa and may be one of the most transformative books I’ve ever read. Like Vern, I’ll likely listen to it at least once a year. It is full of Zen perspective, philosophy, and wisdom. I highly recommend listening rather than reading, as the author spoke the sessions and then they were written down.
I’m cheating because this is a documentary about the late Joseph Campbell, a scholar of mythology. I reluctantly agreed to watch this with a group of friends who regularly meet to discuss the meaning of life. It was phenomenal. There were a number of times we had to stop the DVD to think a bit more about what was just shared. A beautifully shot film about finding your own path in the world. I asked for this as a Christmas gift as I plan to watch this at least once a year.
Throwing the Elephant by Stanley Bing
This was a gift from my friend Kathleen Gardner. This isn’t serious Zen, but it is a fun take on managing up that playfully and humorously uses Zen philosophy and parables.
Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley
This book argues that our current leadership understanding is based on Newtonian physics and that we should shift to incorporate our understanding of leadership based on the new science of quantum physics. A deep and complex paradigm shift. Intellectual heavy lifting.
The Best of Positive Psychology
I continued learning as much as I could about positive psychology this year. It is intellectually fascinating and changes how to consider relationships, leadership, organizational change, student success, education, and well-being. The books below are top notch and inform how I think about things on a daily basis. Highly recommended.
Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
I love Shawn Achor’s TED Talk. Its funny and provides a great summary of positive psychology. His book is just the same. Great overview of positive psychology with accessible stories of the research and personal stories and analogies to help them stick. Achor argues that we believe that once we are successful we will be happy, but actually the research shows that happy people are successful. He outlines how happiness improves our lives and how to capitalize on its benefits.
Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson
Barbara Fredrickson is a prolific researcher in her PEP (Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology) lab. The first half of this book summarizes tremendous research on positive emotions and how they broaden and build our capacity. It also seems that once we reach a 3-1 ratio of heart felt positive emotions to negative emotions the benefits skyrocket. The second half of the book includes research based tips on how to foster a great ratio of heart felt positive emotions to negative emotions.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I actually read this book because I wasn’t patient enough to wait for it to come our on Audible. This book continues Brene Brown’s research and thinking from her earlier Gifts of Imperfection. This book dives deeper into authenticity and begins to include her thinking on how shame, guilt, vulnerability, and wholeheartedness are connected to gender, race, class, and other identities, privilege, and oppression. I’m so excited that she will be the closing speaker at ACPA in March.
Before Happiness by Shawn Achor
His newest book. In this book he argues that before happiness comes a positive reality – or mindset. This combines new ideas and new research told in Achor’s very accessible style. A very good book, but be sure to read Happiness Advantage first as he references that regularly. Great examples of the power of choosing your perspective from a variety of accurate options.
Flourish by Martin Seligman
Seligman is often referred to as the grandfather of positive psychology. This is his newest book summarizing the latest state of positive psychology research and application. It’s probably not a great intro to positive psychology but for those familiar with the concepts and research, this is a great summary of the current state of affairs of positive psychology. It’s also great to hear him take on the critics of positive psychology.
Making Hope Happen by Shane Lopez
Shane Lopez is a researcher of hope. In this book he defines hope and illustrates how critical it is for our psychological and physical well-being. His definition of hope as the belief that tomorrow will be better than today AND I have the ability to make that happen is terrific. I found the basic concept to be amazing and the personal stories from Shane and his business and personal clients really help ground the concept.
The Rest of Positive Psychology
This category includes more positive psychology. These books were informative but not as transformative as those above.
Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The second book I read from Chip and Dan Heath. This one illustrates the concepts on how to best make change happen. Great research and great story telling. The simple concepts are great for anyone trying to bring about change from organizational change to new personal habits.
The Myths of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Sonja Lyubomirsky was one of the earliest students of Martin Seligman’s positive psychology master’s degree. In this book she explores the notion of hedonic adaptation and how we can understand that concept and manage it to increase happiness in all major aspects of our life – health, family, work, spirituality, etc. Very practical tips and suggestion and some really good reality checks.
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
Haidt takes a look at ancient religious and spiritual maxims and sees who they hold up to the latest research. This was interesting to see some ancient maxims confirmed, others modified, and some debunked.
The following don’t fit easily into categories and so got a category all their own.
Whistling Vivaldi by Claude Steele
After blogging about the books I had read last year, Jody Jessup-Anger suggested Whistling Vivaldi. I have known about and utilized the concept of stereotype before but this book really outlines the concept in great detail. Claude Steele walks you through his thinking and how it evolved through his research and personal experiences. The book is very accessible and stereotype threat is a powerful concept to those who care about privilege and oppression, especially in education. A colleague, Suresh Mudragada, and I did a professional development on this for our staff team.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
This is another book recommended by a friend. Grant Anderson had read this and it kept coming up in various conversations. In many ways, this book is positive psychology before it’s time. Victor Frankl shares his experiences in a concentration camp during World War II and analyzes his experiences and others through his lens as a psychologist. Its not glamorous but it is instructive to see how we adapt to the worst of human circumstances and the lessons he learned for his life before and after. There is some powerful spirituality, philosophy, and psychology here.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer I needed a break from the psychological research and turned to this adventure book. It was sad, depressing, and dark. At no point did I have any desire to climb Mt Everest. Seems miserable. Great book, but I can’t say I really “enjoyed” it.
What is next?
Love 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson – I’m currently reading this follow-up to Positivity. So far, it is wonderful.
Eat Sleep Move by Tom Rath – Recommended by several others.
What would you suggest? Read any of these and have a different take? Curious about learning any more of these? Add a comment.