2021 was an interesting year, with its share of ups and downs. I had the opportunity to work for a great organization headquartered just outside Atlanta, Georgia. The office was 300 miles from my house in Charlotte, so this meant that my weekly commute took over four hours each way—and that allowed for me to crush books each week by listening to them on Audible at 2X speed as I traveled down the interstate. Audible has allowed me to learn and grow in a completely new way—and for that I am most grateful.
My default preference is to seek out books that help me improve my leadership skills, typically taught through a military lens. However, this year I worked in a little more fiction and even a couple autobiographies.
Here are the top five books that I read in 2021 that I suggest adding to your must-read list:
Author Derek Thompson shares his thoughts on what makes a hit a hit, from Rock & Roll dominating the charts in the 1950s to every single person you know swiping left and right on Tinder. Throughout this book, Derek uses real world analogies and explains what external amplification made it possible for those examples to go viral. This book is great for marketers looking to learn more about social influence.
Colonel David Hackworth (Hack) lied about his age to support the World War II effort in the Merchant Marines, and then went on to become a highly decorated U.S. Army Officer who served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Hack shares stories from his time deployed, and it is through these stories that you will learn how he was able to motivate his teammates through challenging times and deal with politics from upper management. About Face is a whopping 875 pages and spans over 40 hours of listening time on Audible. Therefore, you need to be into military history and leadership to enjoy this book. If you are, then this is a must read.
This Ogilvy executive shares his thoughts after working 30+ years at one of the top advertising firms in the world. Throughout Alchemy, Rory asks the question as to why consumers buy a specific product—is it because they want it, they need it, or they are simply trying to signal to others that they are successful? This is another terrific read for all marketers interested in consumer behavior.
I am a huge fan of Retired General Stanley McChrystal and religiously listen to his leadership focused podcast “No Turning Back.” I have read each of his books, including his latest Risk: A User’s Guide. In this must-read book McChrystal shares his battle-tested system for detecting and responding to risk. Drawing on examples ranging from military history to the business world, and offering practical exercises to improve preparedness, McChrystal illustrates how 10 factors are always in effect—and how by considering them, individuals and organizations can exert mastery over every conceivable sort of risk that they might face. This book is a must read for all business leaders that need to build a healthy risk immune system.
I don’t consider myself a Foo Fighters fan but there is no arguing that Foo front man Dave Grohl is one of the biggest celebrities on the planet. This book was written and narrated by Dave and retells his life story from the early days playing drums on a pillow because he didn’t own a drum kit to the modern day rockstar life that has him playing with Paul McCartney on Saturday Night Live. Dave shares his perspective on the tragic death of Nirvana’s leader Kurt Cobain and how he rebounded from that tragedy to start one of the biggest bands of all times. This is a fun read that is guaranteed not to disappoint.
Even know these didn’t make the top five here is my complete list (in no particular order):
- Good Company by Arthur M. Blank
- The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
- Leadership Strategies and Tactics by Jocko Willink
- A Walk in The Woods by Bill Bryson
- Thinking, Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
- What Unites Us Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather & Elliot Kirschner
- The Data Detective by Tim Harford
- That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph
- Revelation by Russell Brand
- Endurance by Alfred Lansing
- Buy Then Build by Walker Deibel
- Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson & Kenneth Blanchard
- The Energy Paradox by Steve R. Gundry
- Resurrecting Home by A. American
- Forsaking Home by A. American
- Legacy by James Kerr
- Pappyland by Wright Thompson
- Leaders by Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers & Jay Mangone
- Thirteen Days by Robert F. Kennedy
- Home Coming by A. American
- Trident K9 Warriors by Michael Ritland & Gary Brozek
- Conflicted Home by A. American
- Home Invasion by A. American
- Enforcing Home by A. American
- The Talent War by Mike Sarraille, George Randle & Josh Cotton
- The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
- Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc
- The Remaining by D.J. Molles
- The Remaining: Aftermath, by D.J. Molles
If you are interested in any of the above, please shoot me a note as I would be happy to share my thoughts on each and every one of them.