My Favorite Books of 2013

It’s time to close out the reading year – just in time to start a new one!

A quick review of the numbers:

Purchased or review copies of books – 91

Library books checked out – 87

Kindle books downloaded – 27

That’s 205 books read in 2013, averaging almost 4 a week. I’m not a speed-reader per se, but I do read fast – and I don’t read everything in every book.

In no particular order, here are my 13 favorite books published in 2013.

Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees, by Doug Lipp

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, by Tom and David Kelley

Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, by Debra Kaye

Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics, by Michael Barone

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone

What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences, by Brian Solis

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip & Dan Heath

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day, by Todd Henry

Turn This Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by David Marquet

Leading Missional Communities, by Mike Breen

Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet, by Shep Hyken

Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customer, Your Products, and Your People, by Joseph Michelli

I realize this is a very arbitrary list, and is weighted toward the category of customer experience. No apologies there – I happen to believe that organizations of every size and type have a LOT to learn about their customers.

If you’re interested in more than just the title, read on!

Disney U, Doug Lipp

Leadership lessons from the iconic brand you can use to drive Disney-style success

In helping Walt Disney create “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Van France and his team started a business revolution in 1955 that eventually became the Disney University—the employee training and development program that powers one of the most famous brands on earth.

Disney U examines how Van France’s timeless company values and leadership expertise have turned into a training and development dynasty: the Disney U. The book reveals the heart of the Disney Culture and describes the company’s values and operational philosophies that support the world-famous Disney brand.

Creative Confidence, David & Tom Kelley

IDEO founder and Stanford d.school creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and the author of the bestselling The Art of Innovation, have written a powerful and compelling book on unleashing the creativity that lies within each and every one of us.

Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.”  But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative.  In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford d.school, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems.  It is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers.

Red Thread Thinking, Debra Kaye

Success is all about connections.

Debra Kaye explodes conventional thinking about innovation and provides an approach that anyone or any business can use to expose the crucial links among observations, experiences, facts, and feelings that on the surface do not seem related–but are–to uncover fresh, brilliant insights. In Red Thread Thinking, Kaye shows you how to weave originality from disparate information and turn it into a product or service that can shake up the marketplace–and your business.

What sets Red Thread Thinking apart from other books is that it reveals exactly how to identify and understand hidden cultural codes and shifts in consumer perceptions that speak to emerging and existing markets and, as a result, catapult fresh products to iconic status.

A mold-breaking system, Red Thread Thinking sharpens your innovation skills and can assist in problem solving, whether preparing a talk, pitching a project to your colleagues and boss, managing staff in a more productive way, or taking business to a new level.

Shaping Our Nation, Michael Barone

It is often said that America has become culturally diverse only in the past quarter century. But from the country’s beginning, cultural variety and conflict have been a centrifugal force in American politics and a crucial reason for our rise to power.

The peopling of the United States is one of the most important stories of the last five hundred years, and in Shaping our Nation, bestselling author and demographics expert Michael Barone illuminates a new angle on America’s rise, using a vast array of political and social data to show America is the product of a series large, unexpected mass movements—both internal and external—which typically lasted only one or two generations but in that time reshaped the nation, and created lasting tensions that were difficult to resolve.

Sweeping, thought-provoking, and ultimately hopeful, Shaping Our Nation is an unprecedented addition to our understanding of America’s cultural past, with deep implications for the immigration, economic, and social policies of the future.

The Everything Store, Brad Stone

Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become “the everything store,” offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices.

To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. Until now. Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. Compared to tech’s other elite innovators–Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg–Bezos is a private man. But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing.

What’s the Future of Business, Brian Solis

Rethink your business model to incorporate the power of “user” experiences.

What’s the Future of Business? will galvanize a new movement that aligns the tenets of user experience with the vision of innovative leadership to improve business performance, engagement, and relationships for a new generation of consumerism. It provides an overview of real-world experiences versus “user” experiences in relation to products, services, mobile, social media, and commerce, among others. This book explains why experience is everything and how the future of business will come down to shared experiences.

Discover how user experience design affects your business, and how you can harness its power for meaningful revenue growth.

Decisive, Chip & Dan Heath

Chip and Dan Heath, the bestselling authors of Switch and Made to Stick, tackle one of the most critical topics in our work and personal lives: how to make better decisions.

Research in psychology has revealed that our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities: We’re overconfident. We seek out information that supports us and downplay information that doesn’t. We get distracted by short-term emotions. When it comes to making choices, it seems, our brains are flawed instruments. Unfortunately, merely being aware of these shortcomings doesn’t fix the problem any more than knowing that we are nearsighted helps us to see. The real question is: How can we do better?

In Decisive, the Heaths, based on an exhaustive study of the decision-making literature, introduce a four-step process designed to counteract these biases. Written in an engaging and compulsively readable style, Decisive takes readers on an unforgettable journey, from a rock star’s ingenious decision-making trick to a CEO’s disastrous acquisition, to a single question that can often resolve thorny personal decisions.

Along the way, we learn the answers to critical questions like these: How can we stop the cycle of agonizing over our decisions? How can we make group decisions without destructive politics? And how can we ensure that we don’t overlook precious opportunities to change our course? 

Decisive is the Heath brothers’ most powerful—and important—book yet, offering fresh strategies and practical tools enabling us to make better choices. Because the right decision, at the right moment, can make all the difference.

David & Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell

Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won.

Or should he have?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms—all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity.

Die Empty, Todd Henry

Most of us live with the stubborn idea that we’ll always have tomorrow to do our most important and valuable work. We fill our days with frantic activity, bouncing from task to task, scrambling to make deadlines and chase the next promotion. But by the end of each day we’re often left asking ourselves “did the work I do today really matter?” We feel the ticking of the clock, but we’re stuck in first gear, unsure of the path forward and without a road map to guide us.

Here’s the hard truth: sooner or later all of our tomorrows will run out, so how we choose to spend today is significant. Each day that we postpone difficult tasks and succumb to the clutter that chokes creativity, discipline, and innovation results in a net deficit to the world, our organizations, and ourselves.

Die Empty is a tool for people who aren’t willing to put off their most important work for another day. Todd Henry explains the forces that keep us in stagnation, and introduces a process for instilling consistent practices into your life that will keep you on a true and steady course.

It’s not about slaving over a project or living on a whim–it’s about embracing the idea that time is finite and making the unique contribution to the world that only you can make. Henry shows how to cultivate the mindset and the methods you need to sustain your enthusiasm, push through mental barriers, and unleash your best work each day.

Turn This Ship Around, David Marquet

David Marquet, an experienced Navy officer, was used to giving orders. As newly appointed captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine, he was responsible for more than a hundred sailors, deep in the sea. In this high-stress environment, where there is no margin for error, it was crucial his men did their job and did it well. But the ship was dogged by poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention in the fleet.

Marquet acted like any other captain until, one day, he unknowingly gave an impossible order, and his crew tried to follow it anyway. When he asked why the order wasn’t challenged, the answer was “Because you told me to.” Marquet realized he was leading in a culture of followers, and they were all in danger unless they fundamentally changed the way they did things.

That’s when Marquet took matters into his own hands and pushed for leadership at every level. Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy’s traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control.

Before long, each member of Marquet’s crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.

No matter your business or position, you can apply Marquet’s radical guidelines to turn your own ship around. The payoff: a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.

Leading Missional Communities, Mike Breen

Missional Communities (MCs) are a hot topic right now in the church, and many are excited about the potential of MCs to be a vehicle that allows the church to better live out its mission in the world. But if we embrace and implement MCs merely as a new program, they won’t live up to their potential and we’ll be on to the next hot topic in a few months. MCs are helpful only if we use them as a vehicle that allows us to point ourselves towards a much deeper issue: how we can learn to live our everyday lives as extended families on mission.

Breen calls this reality oikos (“household” in Greek), and that’s actually what this book is about. Think of it like this: an MC is a great vehicle, but vehicles are supposed to take you somewhere. The destination the vehicle of MC takes us to is oikos. Breen believes oikos is something the Spirit of God is doing in this time to restore the church’s ability to function fruitfully in discipleship and mission the way the early church did, publicly living out this is the make-or-break issue for the Western church.

Breen believes we simply will not see God’s dream for the world come true unless we learn how to function as extended families on mission. And MCs are a great vehicle that helps jump-start that culture-shifting process. Breen began using MCs over 25 years ago, and has seen both breakthrough and failure.

The great thing is that it isn’t actually that complicated, and God will give us the power to do it. This isn’t a task reserved for church leaders, pastors, or experts—it’s for everyone! The goal is to learn how to function as an extended family on mission.

Amaze Every Customer Every Time, Shep Hyken

You must deliver an amazing customer experience. Why? It is the competitive edge of new-era business—in any market and any economy.

Renowned customer experience expert Shep Hyken explains how consistently amazing customers through stellar service can elevate your company from good to great. All transformations require a role model, and Shep has found the perfect role model to inspire your team: Ace Hardware. Ace was named as one of the top ten customer service brands in America by BusinessWeek and ranked highest in its industry for customer satisfaction. Through revealing stories from Ace’s over-the-top work with customers, Shep explores the five tactical areas of customer amazement: leadership, culture, one-on-one, competitive edge, and community.

Delivering amazing service requires everyone in your organization to step up and be a leader. It doesn’t take a title. It takes the right set of tools and principles. To help you empower employees at all levels, Shep brings the content to a deeply practical level. His 52 Amazement Tools—like “Ask the extra question” and “Focus on the customer, not the money”—are simple, clear, useful for almost anybody, and supported with compelling research and stories.

In Amaze Every Customer, you will find the tools and tactics you need to transform your company into a seriously customer-focused operation that will amaze every customer every time.

Leading the Starbucks Way, Joseph Michelli

One of the best-recognized and admired brands in the world, Starbucks singlehandedly transformed the ordinary delivery of coffee into a cultural phenomenon–a result of the company’s exemplary leadership practices.

Joseph Michelli, author of the bestseller The Starbucks Experience, explains that the international success of Starbucks begins with a promise: To inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. Michelli offers a perspective on the leadership principles that drove the iconic coffee company’s resurgence from serious setbacks during the economic downturn–one of the few true turnaround stories of this time. And the company continues to grow dramatically, entering new markets and channels with fresh products and technologies.

In Leading the Starbucks Way, Michelli establishes five actionable principles that fuel long-term global sustainability at Starbucks and that can be used in any company, in any industry:

  • Savor and Elevate
  • Love to Be Loved
  • Reach for Common Ground
  • Mobilize the Connection
  • Cherish and Challenge Your Legacy

Leading the Starbucks Way is a penetrating look at the inner workings of one of today’s most successful brands. The company gave Michelli one-on-one access to a variety of employees (called partners) to write this book–from baristas to senior leaders, including Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and chief executive officer.

Well, that’s it – it’s time to close out the “books” on 2013…

…I’ve got a few books ready to pick up at the library, and a couple on order scheduled to be released this week!

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3 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of 2013

  1. Wow, Bob. WOW. I’m desperately trying to finish up 1.5 books so I can hit my goal of 52 for 2013. I’m impressed, and challenged! I always knew you were a voracious reader, but dang…

  2. Pingback: Be Our Guest – How Disney Exceeds Guest Expectations | 27gen

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