My suggestion – try a book synopsis a week during the duration
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Click here for our newest additions
OK – it’s time to admit the truth about this present moment. It is not going away by this afternoon.
We are stuck. We may be stuck until there is a vaccine. Maybe it will take more than one vaccine.
So, in the article The reason why your brain’s so foggy right now, according to a neurologist, we read this:
There’s also something to be said about starting something new in quarantine that you may not have gotten to otherwise. There’s a “fresh start energy” in the air right now. And as psychologist Laurie Santos, PhD, host of The Happiness Lab podcast and professor of Yale’s viral happiness course, recently said a Facebook live, “Wonderful research by Katie Milken and others shows that these new situations and these new moments of fresh starts allow us to form habits better.”
Now, you can be really ambitious:
Learn Japanese, or Spanish, or Arabic.
Take some math courses.
Learn to write computer code.
Learn to paint.
But here is a simple idea that could pay rich dividends. Something practical, and “easy.”
You can learn the key content of books that you have been intending to read.
You can do this by listening to my synopses of some of the very best business books.
My synopses are just over 20 minutes. You can listen to the audio, while following along with my comprehensive, multi-page handout. Print out the handout, get your pen in hand, turn on the audio, and listen as you underline key thoughts and write notes to yourself in the margin.
Now: why is Randy Mayeux qualified to present these synopses? He has presented synopses of business books every month to a live audience in Dallas since April, 1998; 22+ years. (The last two months have been live over Zoom). One guy, reading and sharing.
Twenty minutes a week. After ten weeks, you’ve learned the key content of ten books.
Is it better for you to fully read the books for yourself? Of course. But, you haven’t by now. And this is more than enough to get your thoughts brewing. You will learn transferable principles, you will learn lessons to put to work, and you will become more literate.
These are much more than book reviews. These are quick, deeper dives into the key content of these books than you might imagine.
Here are thirteen titles to get you stated (Three months worth; one book a week for thirteen weeks). This is just a recommendation. I have many other titles to choose from. But this list includes four books on the current New York Times list of best-selling business books, one book that was the Financial Times Business Book of the Year, two selections that were my own choices for the business book of the year, and one book that is the most important book I have ever read (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).
Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.
Drive by Daniel Pink.
The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford.
Digital Transformation by Thomas Siebel.*
Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.
Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Great by Choice by Jim Collins.
Range by David Epsein.
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown.
These thirteen would provide a pretty good thirteen week “crash course” on business books. And, there are many, many more to choose from.
Each synopsis is $4.99. Or, you can purchase a subscription, and get all synopses available
Give it a try. If nothing else, it might help you be better prepared for when things return to some other kind of normal,
* Note the full title of Digital Transformation by Siebel — Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction. Pretty graphic descriptive; maybe especially pertinent to this moment.
(Note: in the first many years, Randy was joined by his colleague Karl Krayer; each of them presenting one book a month. Due to health difficulties, Karl had to drop out of the collaboration a few years ago. So, some of the synopses from earlier years available on the web site were presented by Karl).
Once a month, on this blog, I post about the list of Best-Selling Business Books from the New York Times. They update this list monthly. And they include the top ten best-selling business books of the month.
This list always includes some “older” books. For example, this month, the #1 book, Atomic Habits, was published in 2018, the #4 book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, was published in 2011, and the #6 book, Outliers, was published in 2008.
This month’s list includes four books written by women authors. This is a higher percentage than in most months.
And of the ten books, we have presented synopses of eight of the ten at our monthly First Firday Book Synopsis events in Dallas. I presented five of the synopses; Atomic Habits; Dare to Lead; Outliers; Extreme Ownership; and Range; my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented his synopses of Thinking, Fast and Slow and Grit; and a guest presenter, Ed Savage. presented Leadership.
Let me pause to make a personal observation. This is the third month in a row for Atomic Habits to be at the top spot; and it was at #2 for both January and February. This is quite a run. But I think it makes sense. We are feeling a little uncertain; like we’ve lost our center. Maybe the need of this moment is to tackle our own manageable and controllable productivity. Building good habits, removing bad habits, is at the heart of such concerns. This may be survival-level focus in these difficult coronavirus days we face.
More observation: there are others on the list that also make sense at this time. Thinking, Fast and Slow is partially a book about learning how to think with our “slow” brains; to ponder longer-term implications. And the Doris Kearns Goodwin book on Leadership is about presidential leadership; especially appropriate now.
Of the eight books we have presented, you would not go wrong reading any of them. I am presenting my synopsis of Atomic Habits remotely to my second different business audience this week later today. I presented my synopsis of Extreme Ownership to a group of leaders in mid-size cities just recently. And Range is the book I chose as the best business book of the year for 2019. You might want to read my post: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is my Business Book of the Year for 2019 – (Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is runner-up).
All eight are worth your time! They are good, useful, challenging books.
Here is the May, 2020 New York Times list of best-selling business books. Click here to visit the New York Times site for links to reviews of some of these books.
#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brwon
#3 – Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sondenshein
#4 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#5 – Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
#6 – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
#7 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#8 – Grit by Angela Duckworth
#9 – Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin
#10 – Range by David Epstein
We make our synopses available to purchase. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page, where you can search for synopses by title. Click here for our newest additions. Each synopsis comes with our comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of the presentations.
The New York Times has just published its list of best-selling business books for February, 2020. The new book by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Williink is at the top spot.
Of the ten books on this month’s list, after tomorrow, we will have presented nine of the ten at our monthly event in Dallas, the First Friday Book Synopsis. It looks like I timed it well: I am presenting Jocko’s new book at tomorrow’s session.
After tomorrow, of the ten, I will have presented synopses of eight of the ten, and my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented the perennial best seller, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. (The only book we have not presented from this month’s list is Robert Iger’s book, The Ride of a Lifetime).
Alas, of these ten, there is only one woman author on the list: Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. I presented my synopsis of this book last January. (I have selected the new book by Mika Brzezenski, Career Comebacks, for the March First Friday Book Synopsis).
And Range by David Epstein is still on this month’s list. This excellent book was my selection for the best business book of the year, 2019. You might want to read my blog post: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is my Business Book of the Year for 2019 – (Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is runner-up).
Here is the New York Times list of best-selling business books for February. Click here to go to the NY Times site, for links to reviews of a few of the books.
#1 – Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual by Jocko Willink
#2 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#3 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#4 – The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
#5 – Principles by Ray Dalio
#6 – Outliers by Malcolm Galdwell
#7 – The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
#8 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#9 – Range by David Epstein
#10 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
We well the synopses of the books we present at the First Firday Book Synopsis. Each synopsis comes with the audio recording of our presentation, and the comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout for the book. Go to the “buy synopses” tab at the top of this page. And, click here for our newest additions (from the last 10 months, or so).
The New York Times has published its first list of best-selling business books of 2020. The January, 2020 list, as always, has the top ten best-selling business books of the month.
Of the ten books on this month’s list, I have presented synopses of seven of them at our monthly event in Dallas, the First Friday Book Synopsis. And, my former colleague Karl Krayer presented a synopsis of one other. That is eight out of the ten best-sellers that we have selected, and presented, at our event. We don’t miss many…
I presented synopses of: Atomic Habits, Dare to Lead, Principles, The Infinite Game, Outliers, Extreme Ownership, and Range. Range was my selection for the best business book of 2020. Obviously, I think it was a very good book in a year of many good books published. You might want to read my blog post: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is my Business Book of the Year for 2019 – (Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is runner-up).
And Karl Krayer presented a synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow quite a few years ago.
By the way, there are some long-time best-sellers on this month’s list. (There frequently are). For example, I presented my synopsis of the 2008 book Outliers at the January, 2009 session of the First Friday Book Synopsis. Karl presented Thinking, Fast and Slow, published in 2011, at the April, 2012 session of our event. And I presented Extreme Ownership at the December, 2015 session of our event, the year it was published.
One other observation: there is a shortage of women authors in this month’s list. Alas, that is the case many months. On this month’s list, only one book was written by a woman: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
Here is the New York Times list of the ten best-selling business books for January 2020. Click over to their web site for more info about these books, and links to reviews of some of the books.
#1 – The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
#2 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#3 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#4 – Principles by Ray Dalio
#5 – The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
#6 – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
#7 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#8 – The Man Who Solved the Market by Gregory Zuckerman
#9 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#10 – Range by David Epstein
We record our synopses at our monthly events. You can purchase our synopses, with the audio recording, and the pdf of our multi-page, comprehensive handouts, from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page. Click here for our newest additions.
First, my constraints: I select my book of the year from the books I have presented during the year at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas (now in our 22nd. Year). This year, I presented synopses of 23 books. (We had a guest presenter for one book this year, which gave us our total of 24 book synopses presented – 2 books a month, every month).
Next, when I choose my selection for book of the year, I ask myself: which book really did break new ground; ground that I do not remember being covered in earlier books? That rules out some very good books. For example, I presented two terrific books dealing with some aspect of candor and psychological safety. One, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, was likely the best selling business book of the year (the most months at #1 on the New York Times best selling business books list). The other book dealing with this, The Fearless Organization, was by Amy Edmondson. Both were excellent books; both took us for deep dives. But, their ideas were not new to me. I first remember reading about psychological safety from Charles Duhigg. (He may have referenced Amy Edmondson; I do not remember).
So, important books, for sure. Worth reading. But, not my book for the year.
I also presented synopses of terrific books on:
• technological change and digital transformation; AI Superpowers; Industries of the Future and Digital Transformation. And add to these the book The Optimist’s Telescope, that has plenty of overlap with that arena.
• I presented a few terrific books about workplace issues: Why do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?; The Making of a Manager; Nine Lies about Work.
• A great book for coaches, and those needing coaching (i.e., just about everybody!): The Trillion Dollar Coach.
• A provocative book about workplace culture: What You Do is Who You Are.
And, let me say that for 2019, I did not present a single book that I found “not worth the time.” These are all good books. I’ll go so far as to say that if you read all 23 books I presented, you would be a better manager, a better leader, a more comprehensive, broad-based thinker; more literate. 2019 was a very good year for business books.
(See this blog post for the complete list of books I presented in 2019: Part #1 of The Year in Review from the First Friday Book Synopsis, 2019).
But, for my selection for book of the year, I chose a book that really did break some new ground for me. And I had two that were my “finalists.” I recommend that you move both up to the top of your reading list.
My runner up for best book of the year was Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. St. Martin’s Press (2019). Here’s the opening paragraph of my blog post about this book:
I love it when I read a book and I feel like I am learning so much that is new to me. That’s exactly how I felt reading Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. I first heard of this book when I heard Krys Boyd interview the author on her Think program on KERA in Dallas. (Click here to listen to her interview). I presented my synopsis of this book at the May First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
And I included this:
So, just what is a loonshot? Here’s the argument in brief (from the book):
- The most important breakthroughs come from loonshots, widely dismissed ideas whose champions are often written off as crazy.
- Large groups of people are needed to translate those breakthroughs into technologies that win wars, products that save lives, or strategies that change industries.
- Applying the science of phase transitions to the behavior of teams, companies, or any group with a mission provides practical rules for nurturing loonshots faster and better.
This is a very good book.
But my selection for Business Book of the Year, 2019, is Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein.Riverhead Books (2019).
I started my blog post for this book with some definitions:
Range (verb) — to roam at large or freely
Generalist — a person whose knowledge, aptitudes, and skills are applied to a field as a whole or to a variety of different fields (opposed to specialist).
And I stated: In my synopsis, I ask: What is the point? Narrow expertise is great – until it isn’t. The breakthroughs may come from a group with greater diversity – a generalists group. And, people who are generalists may be a little bit happier.
And this: What is this book?
• This is a career path book
• This is a parenting book
• This is a book about educating children (and adults) – note: slow learning is the best learning
• This is a book on how to get better at decision-making
• This is a book about how to get better at coming up with breakthrough innovations
• This is a book about how to get better at problem-identification and problem-solving
• This is a book about the pluses of narrow expertise; AND… the minuses of narrow expertise
What this book does is tell us that, yes, the 10,000 hour rule is great. But maybe plenty of hours invested in broad-based and diverse areas of interest may be every bit as valuable; maybe even more valuable.
I like to say that “the more you know, the more you know.” After reading this book, maybe I need to tweak that: “The more widely you learn, and know, the more you know…”
There it is: Range by David Epstein is my selection for the best business book of the year, 2019. And that is in a very competitive field of very good books.
You can purchase my synopses for all of these books, and many more, from the “buy synopses” tab at the top of this page. Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation recorded live at the First Friday Book Synopsis event in Dallas. Click here for our newest additions.
And, if you use the search box on this page, you can find my blog post, with my lessons and takeaways, on just about all of these books I presented in 2019, and many more from earlier years.