Summer time means reading time. Some folks dig into books at the beach while soaking up sunshine and others soak in literature under a blanket in a dark, air conditioned basement. Others enjoy audiobooks during long or meandering road trips. My favourite place to read during the summer is on my deck in the shade. However you enjoy your books, this is the season for enhancing your personal and professional potential through literature. Here is The Potentiality’s summer reading list. The works of fiction and non-fiction are arranged based on the competencies that we write about.

Leadership

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari explores the 150,000 years of Homo Sapiens, our fairly ridiculous species of apes. Two things about the book really changed my perspective on life. First, Harari’s explanation of how Europeans colonized the world in part because of admitting they didn’t know what was beyond their farthest borders or points of exploration was fascinating. Acknowledging ignorance unleashed human ingenuity in spectacular and terrifying ways and, the author argues, led to the scientific revolution and capitalism (which have intersected to form modern society). Also, the gap in comprehension between our imagination of the natural world and the reality is disturbing. For example, if you took all the domesticated animals on Earth and put them on a scale they would weigh about 700 million tons. All the humans weigh about 300 million tons. And, get this, non-domesticated animals – from penguins to whales – only account for 100 million tons. Penguins feature prominently in our culture, but for every penguin on Earth there are 1,000 chickens. For every giraffe there are almost 2,000 cattle. What are we doing, people?!

This book will teach you about leadership because great leaders deeply understand humanity as a giant, global community, but can also make every experience a uniquely human one for the people with whom they are leading. Also, this book will enhance your curiosity, which is another important leadership quality.

Collaboration

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic world where the Traveling Symphony works together to, first, survive and, second, to bring culture to the remaining human beings occupying the Great Lakes region of North America. The story has caravans, cults, pandemics, knife-fights, and showcases what it takes to build and sustain resilient communities in a broken world.

This book will teach you about collaboration because the heroine and the villain both take direction from the same graphic novel, Station Eleven. Great collaborators create common vision and shared value while eliminating what Gervase R. Bushe calls “interpersonal mush”, which is all the miscommunication, egotism and gossip that gets in the way of doing great work.

Communication

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

In Radical Candor, Kim Scott outlines how to give timely and helpful feedback in the moment. Radical candor perfectly combines deeply caring about a person’s potential and being direct in your communication of praise or criticism. My favourite part of the book (and website and podcast) is how Scott recommends ways for soliciting feedback from others. When leaders ask others for feedback and demonstrate shifts in behaviour based on what they hear then it makes it easier for folks to receive it.

This book will teach you how to communicate consistently with deep, personal care of people as well as with incredibly precise directness. Radical candor is the thing that is absent in most workplaces, families and circles of friendship.

Adaptability

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie dissects how we think about race through the medium of a love story that spans three continents. The protagonist, Ifemelu, adapts her identity to different contexts and builds beautiful resilience by suffering through loss and loneliness. My favourite aspect of the book is how it offers non-African readers the opportunity to shift our perspective about the continent of Africa and the country of Nigeria. The characters are, for the most part, upper-middle-class, well-educated, entrepreneurial and, as more or less reflect the neo-liberal idea of “success”.

This book will shift your perspective about how you perceive – or think you perceive – people who are different. It offers a fairly hot, fresh take on peoples’ journey within and beyond Africa because the story is mostly absent of poverty, violence and other clichés with which most stories from this part of the world are filled. Get in touch with your unconscious biases and start shifting your perspective about who makes up our communities.

Creativity

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

In Oryx and Crake, Canadian Literary Hero Margaret Atwood takes readers on a journey through a gruesome and eerily familiar dystopic future. Atwood might be one of the best writer on Earth in terms of this particular skillset. While fairly haunting because of its too-on-the-nose connection with modernity, this incredibly fun read reveals the dangers of human creativity. The mastermind of humanity’s downfall, Crake, demonstrates an almost unreal aptitude for big picture innovation and the book itself is a celebrated work of literary creativity, too.

This book will help you understand why it is important to put creativity in a box every now and then. Or to align ethical principles to your next big idea. After all, we need creative solutions for bringing clean water to more of the world and ending gun violence, not for selling more clothes and winning the next Bachelorette reality show.

Learning & Thinking

Originals by Adam Grant

In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant investigates how innovators and disruptors see the world differently (and behave accordingly). My favourite part about this book are the stories of leaders who cultivate dissent on their teams (or their billion-dollar enterprises) in order to foster a culture of originality.

This book will teach you how to think differently and, more importantly, how to create the conditions for others to embrace originality, too.

You should also read…

  • World War Z by Max Brooks because it offers an inspiring, horrifying and accurate tale of how humankind is our own worst enemy and best friend; there is nothing that we can’t think of, destroy and repair.
  • Quiet by Susan Cain because you probably talk too much and need to listen more.
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers because it is pretty much the greatest tale of planned happenstance that you will ever hear told.
  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara because there’s leadership and then there’s Battle of Gettysberg leadership.
  • Community by Peter Block because when we think of organizations as communities, not corporations, things are more inclusive, loving, engaging, and sustainable for the long term.
  • Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton because it provides tried, tested and true techniques for finding common ground for the next time you’re negotiating something.
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman because it is a fun and raucous exploration into modern love, hipness and success – or, like, whatever…

We hope that the list helps you make your community a little more knowledgeable and a little healthier, too.

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