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Summer Reading: Stretch Your Thinking – Read Outside Your Line

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June 29th, 2017

- Updated on

January 29, 2019 - 3:11pm
Longing for a break? Yep, it’s nearly the 4th of July. Ready to put the daily grind behind for a week or two? Me, too. This year, I’m tackling a 6-day bike ride through northern Michigan with two of my sisters in the middle of July. The supported ride, called the Michigander, is certain to kick our collective booties, stretching our physical limits, but that’s the point. Try something new and ultra-challenging for our stage of life, something we would never do alone, something completely out of our comfort zone that tests our limits, pushes us to live outside our lines. We’ve done portions of the Appalachian trail during Hurricane Joaquin, hiked the Narrows in Zion, and now the Michigander. We train every year for a new adventure that keeps us challenged and builds our relationships closer throughout the year, culminating in a trip chock full of new discoveries about ourselves, each other, and our stunningly beautiful country. 

But even if you are not planning a get-away, you can take yourself on a mental adventure by reading outside your own lines. Tackle a subject completely different than your usual line of business, study something that stretches your thinking, that shatters the assumptions you may have acquired and causes you to change your perspective, to learn something entirely new.

With that in mind, I explored Amazon for some fascinating new books for our summer reading list. These are not your usual business books, or even books about leadership. But they do offer perspectives about our collective future and the possibilities of managing our inner and outer world that gives that sense of “WOW!” that comes from looking at reality from an entirely new perspective. Here’s my summer reading list. Grab one, crack it open and see what you think.
The Vanishing American Adult Book Jacket
St. Martin's Griffin Press,
May 16, 2017
320 pages
The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Sen. Ben Sasse
From the Publisher: “Our democracy depends on responsible, contributing adults to function properly—…A call to arms, The Vanishing American Adult will ignite a much-needed debate about the link between the way we're raising our children and the future of our country.”
Review: "Sasse's book is good. Good enough, in fact, to quiet the part of my mind that doesn't want a lecture from a senator right now... [He] taps into a sense of unease that a lot of us feel about our kids (and ourselves) as we watch devices suck up increasing amounts of time and energy and our world spiral into a sort of distracted directionlessness. He doesn't pretend to offer a silver bullet, but he offers clear steps for nudging our kids out of their comfort zones and toward curiosity and that elusive compulsion... chock-full of fantastic advice." ―The Chicago Tribune

Humility is the New Smart Book Jacket
Berrett-Koehler Publishers,
January 16, 2017
224 pages
Humility is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig
From the Publisher: “We are on the leading edge of a Smart Machine Age led by artificial intelligence that will be as transformative as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors…when it comes to smart machines, we can't beat 'em and we can't join 'em. To win, we have to play a different game. Hess and Ludwig offer us that game plan. The key is to change our definition of what it means to be smart. We need to excel at critical, creative, and innovative thinking and emotionally engaging with others—things machines can't do well. Hess and Ludwig call it being NewSmart. In this extraordinarily timely book, they offer detailed guidance for developing five NewSmart attitudes and four critical behaviors that will help us adapt to the new reality.”
Review: “This book has a very important message: new forms of relationships and a more humane attitude toward each other will become essential ingredients of a new way of being. Humility, more personal relationships, and collaboration will no longer be options but the key to health, productivity, and a sense of well-being.”
—Edgar H. Schein, Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management

The Knowledge Illusion Book Jacket
Riverhead Books,
March 14, 2017
301 Pages
The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Phillip Fernbach
From the Publisher: “Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don’t even know how a pen or a toilet works. How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge…This book contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the world around us.”
Review: “We all know less than we think we do, including how much we know about how much we know. There’s no cure for this condition, but there is a treatment: this fascinating book. The Knowledge Illusion is filled with insights on how we should deal with our individual ignorance and collective wisdom.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

A Crack in Creation Book Jacket
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
June 13, 2017
304 pages
A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg
From the Publisher: “Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. Not, that is, until the spring of 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the new gene-editing tool CRISPR—a revolutionary new technology that she helped create—to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers, and will help address the world’s hunger crisis. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have myriad, unforeseeable consequences—to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create “better” humans.
Writing with fellow researcher Samuel Sternberg, Doudna shares the thrilling story of her discovery, and passionately argues that enormous responsibility comes with the ability to rewrite the code of life. With CRISPR, she shows, we have effectively taken control of evolution. What will we do with this unfathomable power?”
Review: “Fascinating… When people refer to CRISPR now, they talk about wiping out disease, resurrecting woolly mammoths, and fashioning designer babies. Such implications fascinate and torment Doudna, and she writes about them movingly with Samuel Sternberg, a biochemist and former research colleague, in A Crack in Creation.”—Bloomberg Businessweek

Think Wrong BJ
Instigator Press,
October 25, 2016
252 pages
Think Wrong: How to Conquer the Status Quo and Do Work that Matters by John Bielenberg, Mike Burn, Greg Galle and Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson
From the Publisher: “The way we solve problems is broken. We are trapped by techniques and assumptions of a prior era.
Today challenges emerge at an ever-accelerating rate, and we struggle to find the imaginative answers we crave. When we do, biology and culture conspire to obstruct our progress. Think Wrong: How to Conquer the Status Quo and Do Work That Matters teaches you how to use Future's radical problem-solving system to reliably produce surprising, ingenious, and seemingly magical answers to your most wicked questions. This book provides you with new language, frameworks, and tools to conquer the status quo and drive change.”
Review: “The founders of Future take readers on a wonderful first-hand journey of disruptive innovation. Think Wrong is as inviting as a cookbook by Jamie Oliver and as instructive as a business book by Clayton Christensen. The authors show us how to unlock human ingenuity to build and grow clever, practical, original, and viable solutions to our biggest challenges and most exciting opportunities.”  —Rita Gunther McGrath, Professor at Columbia Business School

How Emotions Are Made Book Jacket
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
March 7, 2017
425 pages
How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
From the Publisher: “A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions that could revolutionize psychology, health care, the legal system, and our understanding of the human mind…Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose theory of emotion is driving a deeper understanding of the mind and brain, and shedding new light on what it means to be human. Her research overturns the widely held belief that emotions are housed in different parts of the brain and are universally expressed and recognized. Instead, she has shown that emotion is constructed in the moment, by core systems that interact across the whole brain, aided by a lifetime of learning. This new theory means that you play a much greater role in your emotional life than you ever thought. Its repercussions are already shaking the foundations not only of psychology but also of medicine, the legal system, child-rearing, meditation, and even airport security.”
Review: "I have never seen a book so devoted to understanding the nature of emotions...the book is down-to-earth and a delight to read. With a high level of knowledge and articulate style, Barrett delivers a prime example of modern prose in digestible chunks."
—Seattle Book Review, 5 Stars

Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.