My Top Books to Expand Your Mind and Other Interests (and why)

Inspiration and MeditationI recently wrote about being inspired by Sammi Reyes, which has motivated me to follow in her footsteps.  She pulled together a great list of five podcasts (including a shameless plug for her own “Fashion Your Passion“) but also included five great books as well.  Having a daughter that is focused on helping the distressed and the anxious in battling the common day issues and stresses has truly motivated me to express myself differently and appreciate how she is pushing her mantra to “Fashion Your Passion”.

Top 5 Podcasts and 5 Recommended Books by Sammi Reyes

With the current demands on work and life I’ve found it comforting to balance both professional and inspirational reading to help me with filling in the void of relaxation needed to keep a good balance between the two.  Having spent so many years plowing through tech articles, developer documentation, and low level specifications has put me into a fact finder mindset.  Recently, I’ve been pushing myself to round out all of the metrics and specifications roaming around in my head with specific reading that can motivate and get me thinking about different ways to tackle everyday questions.

So I decided to dust off some of the books that I found would be a great baseline for folks to read to get a good grounding for various topics.  Here’s my short list of books that I found compelling and useful in no particular order:

  1. The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction by Rebecca Z. Shafir
    What I appreciated about this book was the easy to remember view to look at others as they are the main target and see them as they are expressing themselves as if you were watching a movie.  This view struck a nerve as I love to watch and inspect movies for outcoming and love procedurals, but I can only enjoy them in their entirety, with no conversation, and absolutely no interruptions.  This are the three key things that I know I know I suffer from when trying to be a generous listener and now I have a mindset to focus on when I truly want to be a good listener.
  2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    To say this book is deep would be an understatement.  Herald as one of the foremost books on understanding the mind and human psyche, it’s a deep read, a very long deep read.  This book isn’t going to be enjoyable if you’re looking for a quick fix or snappy ways to get a fresh mindset into how we react or think.  This book is heavy with examples of decades worth of research conducted into the way we think, act, and react to situations and has an incredible list of debates, research, and interesting facts that can help you understand how you or other think and why.
  3. Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer
    If you need an introspective way to take in things like existence, your balance in life, or how you can focus your attention on the things that matter; then this is the authoritative book on understanding the holistic view of being mindful.
  4. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Christopher Voss
    This book will give you very specific tactics as discovered by a seasoned professional with his decades of international hostage negotiation techniques developed for the FBI, CIA and international groups.  Don’t discount this book for its government or hostage foundation, the core techniques work brilliantly at home, at work, and when negotiating just about anything.  When you put these tactics together with The Zen of Listening, you’ll be amazed at how you can change what couldn’t normally be hostile situations into truly functional conversations.
  5. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant
    Much like Malcolm Gladwell’s views, this book dives into how to identify and understand what it takes to be distinctive and what you can or should do to foster originality in your family, coworkers, or employees.
  6. Image result for malcolm gladwellThe Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceBlink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Outliers, and David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
    Everything Gladwell!  These are easy to read and while may appear somewhat dated, still relevant in understanding the human psyche, action/reaction, and some many other pivotal concepts that may escape your memory.  Much of what Malcolm throws down seems like common sense but the way he positions and walks you through them makes for simple and great reading.
  7. Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom
    This book dives into one man’s career that developed some of the most incredible marketing, product, and business mind shifts for major corporations by looking at the on-the-ground details of how the smallest amount of personal or cultural data can drive enormous results in either making or saving companies millions.
  8. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Kenneth Cukier
    I’m sure I’ll get shit for keeping this one on my list but it was a nice read into causation and correlation in analyzing relationships in data.  This isn’t a data engineers cookbook, nor will it give you the keys to understanding today’s AI, ML, or Big Data advancements but it’s a nice read to get a grounding into the frame of mind needed to then build into deeper learning of data’s use in today’s mass market of user and behavioral experiences.


I have a stack of other books at home but here are a couple in my queue, more to follow:

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  2. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark

I’m looking for suggestions and ideas to expand both my technical but also my introspective views.  Looking forward to your specific recommendations so please do share.