Your Reboot Virtual Book Club

Need a fresh start? If you are trying to overcome disappointment, failure or grief or just want to give yourself a kick in the pants, I have started this list of books that are helping me reboot. Have a recommendation to share? Email me or share it in the comments below.

Currently reading: Coaching for Performance and Dare to Lead

Updated October 2018


Where to start, especially if you need a butt drop:

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown is a butt drop that is wrapped in compassion and self-compassion. So, funny story. When I come across book recommendations, usually from other books, I check to see if the book is available at the library. If they have it but the copies are checked out, I place a hold and I get in the queue. The week before Memorial Day, a friend sent me to Brené Brown’s Instagram feed to check out a post. And it was if it was written for me personally. I thought, “I need to check out Brené Brown.” The next day, my husband calls me from the library and says, there’s a hold ready for you, I am going to pick it up. He comes home with her book. A book I don’t remember reserving. Now THAT is the universe talking to you.

Also check out her wildly popular TEDx talk, The power of vulnerability.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Pretend you have a plain-speaking, colorful friend who is super smart and worldly. She’s been there and she’s figured it out and now she’s willing to mentor you and tell you that you are a badass. You’ll get that and more from this book. The best part of the book is her recommendations on other books to read depending on your needs.

I also recommend the You Are a Badass page-a-day calendar. This is a great way to start the day and the calendar part is not central to its utility meaning that you can tear off a page as needed. Even if that means you go through a week in one day. We all know some days are like that.

It’s not a book for everyone and it’s a bit dated at this point but I think Tim Ferris provides a good butt drop in The 4-Hour Work Week. He will challenge your excuses and your assumptions. If you have a nagging feeling that there must be more, it’s worth a read to at least open your mind to a different path for your life.

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. Even if you don’t know this book or this author, you likely know an oft-repeated quote from this book:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

This book is based on Williamson’s study and teaching of the concepts taught in A Course in Miracles. Again, this is a book that might not resonate for everyone but it’s a good companion to You Are a Badass and Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life.   Both disrupt the scripts that we keep memorizing, scripts that might be holding us back.

Where to start if you feel busy but not productive: 

Deep Work by Cal Newport

If you feel like you are drowning in email, inundated with to-dos, busy but not productive and distracted by everything, this book is for you. Computer science professor Cal Newport will help you examine what it means to do deep work and why it matters. Quitting the distractions isn’t easy but it’s worth doing, especially if you feel like you are jumping from thing to thing but getting nowhere.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
This book profiles the daily habits and rituals of more than 150 artists. If you ever wondered how to be a prolific writer, painter, etc., the answer is simple. Do the work every day. This book illustrates the importance of habit in getting things done. (There are some cautionary tales among these profiles, too.)

The profiles are short, a page or two or even less and you can skip around the book for inspiration or just to satisfy your curiosity about a favorite artist.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
by Daniel Levitin

This book was really a game changer for me. It validated in a final way what I have known for a while: multitasking is impossible and frequent task switching comes only at a huge cost. Understanding how memory works — that it’s more like a file that gets saved over and over again and less like a perfect truth has caused me to be more of a skeptic with my own memory and what I think I remember.

This book also has a number of practical suggestions for offloading things from your brain into systems that you can use to reserve that brain power for things that really matter to you.

If you don’t have the time to read the book right now, I suggest one his lectures on YouTube. I liked this one at the Aspen Institute.

Where to start if you feel stuck:

A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Thinking about the path not taken? The path you would have like to take if only you were good at math or languages or something else? This is the book is the compass to help you rediscover the road not taken or the road you never dreamed possible. Professor Oakley is an inspiration and she has practical advice for helping you learn anything. Knowledge is power, my friends.

And check out Prof. Oakley’s book for kids and teens: Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens

Learn better: mastering the skills for success in life, business, and
school, or, how to become an expert in just about anything  by Ulrich
Boser. This book was a great follow-up to Learning How to Learn. Boser reminds us that our intelligence and abilities aren’t set–there is so much room for us to grow and develop at any age. I especially appreciate the toolkits and references at the end of the book.

Don’t Pay for Your MBA by Laurie Pickard

You can DIY almost everything, why not your education. This inspiring book helps you see the possibilities of charting a new career course without adding degrees or debt.

Finding fulfillment

The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith

As the title suggests, maybe we are barking up the wrong tree in our search for happiness. Using a wide range of sources and experiences, Smith builds four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence to help the reader chart a different path through unhappiness.

The All or Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work by Eli Finkel

This was really a fascinating book about the history of marriage along with a practical how-to guide for creating a better marriage for yourself including a chapter on love hacks for your marriage. (You can also check out Try These ‘Love Hacks’ to Fix Your Marriage in The New York Times.) It’s good for all of us to examine what we expect from marriage and whether those expectations are actually reasonable.  Check out the feature article in the Northwestern Magazine, too.

Work as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond. I found this book at our local Goodwill and was pleasantly surprised by it. (We are lucky to have an amazing book section at our local Olympia Goodwill–it’s like a mini-bookstore.) It really challenges the idea of work and spiritual lives as separate and helps you to ask the question of what does my work mean? And how am I serving the world with my work.

Where to start if you want to be more resilient:

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

It’s humbling to realize that you lack grit. But it’s reassuring to know that you can develop grit. And grit helps you in so many areas of life. Give your grittiness a regular workout and you’ll be amazed at what you are able to accomplish and overcome.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The sudden death of her husband sent Sheryl Sandberg on a journey to find a way forward for herself and her family. This book is for anyone who has faced or is facing loss or adversity and wants to build resilience in their lives and find joy again.

Fostering a growth mindset in yourself and your kids (or other young people)

Definitely, read the appropriate chapters of Grit, above, if you elect not to read the whole book.

Also check out chapter 7 of  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

Crafting a better work life

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

I am sorry to admit that I had this book for more than three years before reading it cover to cover. Thank you again, Learning How to Learn, for helping me cultivate the ability to read more.  If you want to create amazing teams, it’s worth thinking about Sinek’s call to create circles of safety at work.

Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations by Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton

This was another game changer for me. If there is one takeaway from the book it is this: people are suffering and we need to cultivate the most generous interpretation of that suffering that we can in order to build compassionate organizations.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

I love Adam Grant. There is something in his work that resonates with me. At a basic level, I believe that we need each other and this book explains how and why this works. I signed up for his newsletter after reading Give and Take and found out about his WorkLife podcast and cruised through a whole season of episodes in less than two weeks. I have never been such a devoted podcast listener. I even liked the commercials.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

It’s worth printing out a copy of the radical candor framework as a reminder to care personally and challenge directly to stay in radical candor — and, I would argue, best human — quadrant.

Crafting a better life in general

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World-and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling.

Wow. This is an amazing book and it’s one that everyone should read. The incredible Rosling lays out with data and attention-grabbing stories why we are wrong about the world and why it’s important to get our facts straight. It’s an illuminating, educational, uplifting book.

Also be sure to check out gapminder.org and their project Dollar Street. It’s time to move beyond the first world-third world dichotomy. That thinking is holding us back.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams.

I love being outside, I love plants, I love to bring nature indoors so it’s not too surprising that I would be interested in a book called The Nature Fix, a book that promotes forest bathing. At last, I have a name for it! Read more in my post.

Update to the post: I ordered some hinoki soap on ETSY so I can try the hinoki experience with some actual bathing.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
by Daniel Levitin

[This one deserves to be in two categories.] This book was really a game changer for me. It validated in a final way what I have known for a while: multitasking is impossible and frequent task switching comes only at a huge cost. Understanding how memory works — that it’s more like a file that gets saved over and over again and less like a perfect truth has caused me to be more of a skeptic with my own memory and what I think I remember.

This book also has a number of practical suggestions for offloading things from your brain into systems that you can use to reserve that brain power for things that really matter to you.

If you don’t have the time to read the book right now, I suggest one of his lectures on YouTube. I liked this one at the Aspen Institute.


*Butt drop is a family term that has come to mean, “Get up and get on with your life.”