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In 2017, one of my goals is to read more books by women and by people of color. As part of my year of devotion and paying more attention to where I spend my mental energy, I’m keeping track of all of the books I read.
To do this, I’ve made this page an ongoing book recommendation page on my website where I’ll keep track of the books each month, and I’ll also share each month’s book recommendations as part of my newsletter. You’ll find my book references tapping into a broader range of voices. Scroll down to see the entire book list for the year.
- Total number of authors: 35
- Total number of books: 31
- Women authors: 21 (60%)
- POC authors: 4 (11%)
Got a great book you love? Send me a note and let me know what I should read next. hello (at) sarahkpeck (dot) com.
Here are the book recommendations so far:
2017 v11 — October:
Montessori: A Modern Approach, by Paula Polk Lillard. I’m reading more about school philosophy and child-raising. Montessori is a philosophy of observing a child and letting them go through processes of self-discovery with far fewer interruptions than modern school typically has. Her approach places a gentle respect for children at the highest regard, and devotes the approach to encouraging discovery, attention, and concentration in the developing individual.
Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business, by Ramit Sethi. Great, short book but a little heavy-handed on the constant upsell to the website that they’re promoting. Best tips: playing safe is the riskiest thing you can do. Not educating yourself about money means you’re constantly losing it as time passes, because of inflation. The invisible risk of working a mediocre job that doesn’t teach you anything is stagnation, and worse, “moving backwards” compared to everyone else that’s actively gaining.
Truly, Madly, Guilty, by Liane Moriarty. I read this fiction book as a book for pleasure. It was easy to read and fast, by the author of the book Big Little Lies. Not a must-read but definitely a fun beach read.
The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy.
Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy, by Chitra Ramaswamy.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker.
* not yet tallied above.
2017 v10 — September 4TH:
Unsubscribe, by Jocelyn Glei. Written by the founding editor of 99U, the book is something I wish I’d written—and it’s edited down to an easy manual that’s also a fast read (win!). Yet while this primer on how to write, send, and manage email goes a long way, I still think the topic on the whole needs more study, that is, I’m not sure the book solved the problem of “killing email anxiety,” at least for me.
Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More, by Erin Boyle. This book is simple and beautiful. The design, layout, and photography are gorgeous. The content is well-written and kind. I’m in love with the book, as it’s an outline of many of the philosophies of living that my husband and I hold dear: living with less, with the right things (that work), and with having beauty in our homes.
Exactly What to Say, by Phil M Jones. Word-for-word scripts for sales, negotiations, conversations, and talks that matter. The phrases and arrangements are super useful (for example, giving people three options, where the first is the current world and the last is your proposed solution, can be a very strategic move). It’s a fast read, about 90 pages, with about 20 different chapters. The hard part is putting it to practice.
The Fifth Trimester, by Lauren Smith Brody. I want to gush about this book: you know how sitting down with a great writer makes you feel well taken care of? This book reads like you’re sitting down with a wise girlfriend who has taken the time to create a comprehensive manual for how to be a working mama (and how to manage the intricacies of pumping, colleague negotiations, and looking sharp for meetings).
2017 v9 — July 31st:
This month was a social media sabbatical experiment, so I found myself diving into a ton of books (with less time to spend on social media, I was surprised how much more time I had to read). In fact, it made me FLY through books and enjoy the sustained attention of reading I haven’t felt in a long time. In addition to the below, I read and skimmed several books on healthy eating and the craft of writing!
The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This is a book I could (and need) to read on repeat, alongside Essentialism. Narrowing down what we do is critical to success.
Are You My Mother?, A comic drama by Alison Bechdel. Interwoven graphic depictions of dreams, memories, and psychological insights from Freud, Winnicott, and more in a memoir/comic novel.
Appetites: Why Women Want, by Caroline Knapp. Haunting, troubling, winding—this book examines the hungers of women through a personal and intense memoir of a woman who struggled with anorexia. At her lightest, she weighed 83 pounds and eight a cheese cube and an apple for dinner. But it wasn’t entirely about food. She writes: “Satisfying hungers, taking things in, indulging in bodily pleasures—these are not easy matters for a lot of women.”
White Hot Truth, by Danielle LaPorte. Beautifully designed book, wisdom nuggets throughout. Didn’t move me as much as her other two books, which left a high bar to fill, but still a generous read.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. A narrative depiction of what it’s like to live through the death of your best friend, shot at what you thought would be a routine traffic stop.
2017 v8 — June 30th
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, by Mark Manson. Filled with profanity in a somewhat delightful way, Mark Manson takes some of his best writing and puts it together in a book to talk about deeper philosophical and psychological necessities for building a great life. Ironically, it’s not the aspirations of greatness that make us the most satisfied, but the simpler elements: connecting to each other, showing up for the daily routine, and putting in the work. In a subtle paradox, he shows how letting go actually creates greater freedom and happiness.
I loved the chapter on disentangling fault from responsibility—it may not be your fault that something happened to you, but it is your responsibility to decide how to react and where you’re going to go from here. The book is ultimately a battle cry for men (and women) to get in touch with their emotions, and he shares his own history of doing the opposite as a way to show why it’s so important in the first place. Well-written, and likely a good match for an audience that wouldn’t even glance at a book like White Hot Truth in the bookstore because the latter has, well, gold glitter and embossing on it. This one has the word “Fuck” on it, and therefore can disguise itself before it reveals that it, too, is a book about values, character, and philosophy.
The Upstarts, by Brad Stone. This book chronicles two skyrocketing startup successes from the 2010’s, AirBNB and Uber. I’m not sure there were more than two pages and a handful of sentences devoted to any of the women in this story, other than Austin, a female manager at Uber, and Arianna Huffington, mentioned occasionally as Uber’s winding entanglement in CEO struggles came to light. The book chronicles the men who started two companies and the myriad companies building similar products, and how they succeeded in creating huge, industry-wide disruption on a scale not often seen before. Because these are case studies, it makes (some) sense that the books are dominated by one gender (there weren’t a tremendous number of people featured in the book overall). Yet I was surprised by how jarring it was to switch from a year of reading mostly books by female authors and switch back into the dominant male voice of startups, and, perhaps, the still-dominant voice of our generation.
The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier. I was alerted to this book because of the incredibly in-depth post the author writes about how he sold 180,000 copies of his book the first year and each of the strategies he used to sell the book. I’ll confess I also felt some empathy with his book-writing process and the years it took, since my book is on a seemingly similar pace. The book outlines seven key questions we can use to insert coaching strategies into our work as managers and leaders, in less than ten minutes a day. The art of asking great questions is such a critical skill, and I’ve noticed that we don’t seem to take enough time to dive deeply into the asking of questions to find the shape of the puzzle. Often, we leap headfirst into advice mode and leave the listener feeling steamrolled, rather than helped. I’d buy a copy of this book for everyone.
2017 v7 — May 29th
Bleaker House, by Nell Stevens. Strangely slow, yet still a page-turner. Debut novel from an MFA graduate who wins a travel fellowship to go anywhere in the world and write. She chooses Bleaker Island, and holes herself away for several weeks to attempt to write her novel on the coldest, darkest, loneliest place on earth. Parts of the writing moved quickly (the “Twosies,” as it were), and the introspective bits were slower and less captivating. Overall, enjoyed the book as a pleasant fiction read.
Captivate. I found out about the nerd of nerds, Vanessa Van Edwards, by listening to Jenny Blake’s podcast, Pivot, and devoured the entire episode. It’s behavior science meets research meets interpersonal psychology, and I’m loving it.
2017 v6 — May 15th
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Now turned into a television series inspired by the book, I had to read the book first. A creepy, dystopian novel where birth rates plummet and women are forced out of work, and then into service in a strange, big-brother-is-watching-you world. It left a pit in my stomach, and I’m still thinking about it (as well as Station 11, another fiction book that won’t leave my mind).
Poser: My Life in 23 Poses, by Clare Dederer. A memoir inspired by a woman who takes to yoga and documents how her journey into learning more about yoga (fastidiously and then, obsessively) transforms her own life. Now, my one major beef with this book is that it was actually 28 chapters long, not 23, as billed. Because she did Child’s Pose four different times. I suppose… that makes sense.
The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell. An easy, novel-like read of what one young couple learned by moving to Denmark and having their first kid. I loved being a fly on the window and learning about different work schedules (stop by 4pm! go home!), taking a long winter time to focus on “hygge” (cozy time), and how well their health care and social systems set people up for success.
How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, by Joanna Faber and Julie King. This book is ostensibly for small children, but could be tweaked to be a great management book, too. The key? Listen to people’s emotions, and, when replying to them, describe what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it. It’s the trick to better communication for everyone. Rather than telling someone why they shouldn’t feel the way they feel, or skipping straight to fixing problems, simply telling someone that you see how they’re feeling works wonders.
2017 v5 — March 28th
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. This book, by one of my favorite authors of all time, takes us through the writing practice and the craft of being a writer, from those shitty first drafts to the weird ways we obsess over our work. She makes me feel normal, sane, and inspired to continue to write.
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. This is considered one of the seminal books on creativity and creative practice, and, as a writer, I’ve gone through the book time and time again to continue to dig deeper. The 12-week program gets you inside of a life with a creative practice. She’s who I learned Morning Pages from, and I recommend going through this book several times in order to expand your own creative journey.
The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White. This classic little book helps me every time I have a question about English. It’s filled with little delights and helpful hints, and is not a huge book.
2017 v.4 —March 10th
The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. If you’ve heard of the idea of “Upper Limit Problems,” or the concept of transcending from working in your Zone of Excellence to your Zone of Genius, this is the book those ideas are from. Reading this again opened my eyes to a lot of ways in which I’m staying stuck in my “good” areas of working and not shifting into the areas where I’m truly phenomenal.
Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This book filled me with new ways of thinking about my new son, as well as what it means to be a child, a teenager, and an adult. Called “one of the most influential books about children ever published,” it definitely opened my eyes, but also made me feel a bit neurotic about parenting for a few weeks afterwards. I wrote an extended review with chapter summaries about the book.
2017 v.3 —February 20th
Playing Big, by Tara Sophia Mohr. This month is all about re-reading a few classics, for me. The books that you buy on kindle and on paperback, and sometimes buy an additional paper copy of because you highlight it and use it so frequently. Every time I level up in my business and my work, and expand into the edges of my comfort zones, I re-read Tara’s notes on the different ways we feel fear, and remind myself that “playing big” comes with it a special, delicious, different kind of fear. The good one.
(I’m re-launching the Mastermind this month and it comes with all sorts of ways to expand as well as ways to doubt myself. It’s part of the process and it means that I’m working on something worth building.)
Body of Work, by Pamela Slim. In a world of work that can feel disjointed and disconnected, how do you find the thread that connects your story together? Pam was one of my first business coaches and taught me to see my multiple threads of employment as “projects” within a larger portfolio of work.
2017 v.2 — January 31st
Roots: The Saga of An American Family, by Alex Haley. Incredible, long read about the ancestry and history of a family ripped from his homeland and brought into the markets of the new world slavery.
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. A talented neurosurgeon who studies language, mortality, and brain science is suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer. This is the book he writes in the final year of his life. I started sobbing at several points in the book—moving.
The New Better Off, by Courtney Martin. What does it mean to live a good life? And why are we still all blindly chasing after “The American Dream”? In her examination of what really matters to most of us, she uncovers how ritual, community, and meaning can be formed in ways both unexpected and everyday. This book puts words to so much that I too have been thinking about.
2017 v.1 — January 17th
Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti. Heartbreaking memoir. At times distinctly uncomfortable but important to read. I wish these stories women told weren’t true. I wish more of my men friends read these books and understood.
Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A series of letters from a father to his young son. Simply outstanding.
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Another brilliant memoir of what it’s like to grow up in the poverty-stricken hills of Appalachia. Reminded me of the plight of so many in America, and how many perspectives there are throughout this country.
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