What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

by Shana Montesol Johnson

What’s on your summer reading list? Since I am currently on a family vacation with my two kids, ages 5 and 2, I am not getting much reading done.  I’m living vicariously through friends who have recommended their favorite summer picks, and I’ve got a growing list of novels I’d love to read at some point.

In addition to fiction and light fare, I think that summer is a great time to delve into books (or articles, blog posts, audiobooks, or podcasts) that are related to helping you be more effective in your job, happier at work, and more satisfied with your career. Of course, you don’t want to think about work when you’re on vacation – but this is not so much about work as it is about YOU.

Maybe there’s a book or a podcast that a colleague (or your boss!) recommended to you months ago, and you finally have some time to read it.  Perhaps you’ve reflected and regrouped on the first half of 2011 and have identified an area on which you’d like to focus for the rest of the year.  Reading a book (or a couple of articles) on that topic could be a great way to get you started down the right path.

Here are some of my recommendations, grouped by topic:

If you’re trying to figure out what job situation would put you on a path toward a high-impact career you love:

If you have a rocky relationship with someone in your work or personal life, or if you sometimes wish you were more assertive:

  • Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher – I have returned to this book numerous times since I first read it a number of years ago.  Clearly and compellingly written, practical, helpful.

If you want to become more organized, more productive, and make better use of your time:

  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen – A classic when it comes to personal productivity.  The approach outlined by Allen is fairly complex – I admit that I haven’t fully implemented it, but I have adopted many aspects of it into my approach to task management.
  • The Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More by Stever Robins – Engaging, entertaining (a book on productivity that’s funny?!), and extremely practical.  I actually recommend the audiobook version of this book because the author is as fun to listen to on this book as he is on his popular – and recommended – podcast, “The Get-It-Done-Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More.”  (Warning: While the podcast is bite-sized at about 7 minutes each episode, the audiobook runs about 6 hours.  I found the time commitment worthwhile —  I listen to audiobooks while commuting. However, I recommended it to my husband, and he stopped listening to it after two chapters, claiming he could “get more done” by not finishing the book. 🙂 )

If you are a new manager, or a seasoned manager interested in enhancing your skills:

  • Manager Tools podcast with Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne – A treasure trove of advice for managers, delivered in 30-45 minute podcasts.  Topics range from how to give feedback to your direct reports to how to run effective meetings, and beyond.  Although targeted mainly to managers working in for-profit corporations in the US, it’s still applicable to international development.

If you are a manager who wants to take a coaching approach to managing your staff / team:

If you want to learn more about what motivates people – from your boss, to your team, to yourself:

If you are seeking that ever-elusive work/life balance

  • “Unicorns, rainbows, and work-life balance,” by Pamela Slim – If you’re thinking about work-life balance, you probably don’t have time to read an entire book.  This blog post, which clocks in at just under 1300 words, is one of the best pieces work/life balance I’ve ever read.  And I’m not biased – although it is by my mentor coach, the brilliant Pam Slim.

If you are sometimes unhappy, frustrated, or impatient (and who isn’t, from time to time?!):

  • Loving What Is by Byron Katie – I actually recommend the audiobook version of this book because it’s helpful and insightful to listen to the author interacting with workshop participants and using the book’s Four Questions to help them “love what is.”  She introduces a powerful technique to get past self-limiting thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back.


This list is by no means exhaustive. I’d love to add to it, both in terms of additional items as well as new categories.  What books (or other resources) would you recommend to help people excel at their jobs, make a difference in a career they love, and have a life?  Please share in the Comments below, or if you’re shy, you can email me at shana [at] developmentcrossroads [dot] com

Photo courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


I love the Manager Tools podcasts! They are fantastic! I am heading on vacation this weekend and I am going to stop at the library and pick up a few of these and maybe download some podcasts too. Thanks! Great timing!


Shana Montesol Johnson

Great to hear you love Manager Tools podcasts, too! Let me know what you end up reading on your vacation — would love to hear your thoughts. Have a great break!


Eric Sardual

Thanks for sharing these titles, Shana. I’m intrigued and will work on doing some more reading this summer. 😀 Trust the family’s well. Hugs to them from me.


Shana Montesol Johnson

Eric, thanks for stopping by the blog! I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on some of these books. Hope all is well in your business — and that you’re getting some well-deserved time off.


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