The Eight Books I Read in 2023 That Keep Coming Up in Conversation

We covered 51 titles this year in Wiser by Choice — my monthly leadership book club where I read the books so you don’t have to.

At this threshold of a new year, I’m looking back on that list of books and noticing which ones keep coming up in conversation and why.

Equity — This is a book about designing systems that make it easy to opt into inclusive and equitable behaviours. It highlights the importance of framing messaging around shared values and observable, expected behaviours, and rejects the lies of rugged individualism and luck. Of all the books on equity, diversity and inclusion I read this year, this one felt brought a potent combination of feeling true, important and accessible.

Fire Weather — Just before sending my 19-year-old son on a road trip across Canada in his new 2005 Subaru in August, toward the city of Kelowna, BC that was literally on fire the day he left, I read this book. It’s a detailed, journalistic account of what it was like to live through the 2016 wildfire that devoured Fort McMurray, Alberta. The fire is the protagonist of this story, and I can’t unsee it. I think it should be required reading for anyone interested in the practical ways climate change and our economic choices at global and household levels conflate in life-altering ways.

Hidden Potential — To read Adam Grant is to stay relevant and accurate. His newest book has a lot to do with how we learn and how we don’t. I might be exhibiting some recency bias here, but several of his stories, and the behavioural science data underpinning them, have stayed with me — to the point that I devoted an entire Wiser by Choice session to this single title after reading it.

Leading with Joy — As the title suggests, this book is about centring joy in our leadership, and I’m down for it. It’s a call to imagination that has ignited a refreshed focus in my practice. These women invite us to picture what it would be like if people were rested, prepared, aligned and feisty. They write “Imagine leadership that is bold, interesting, exciting, and rooted in community and joy…so much would be possible!”

Navigating the Messy Middle — A Canadian title that centres the diverse experiences of midlife women, describing how transitioning into our second half rarely meets our expectations — both personally and in terms of not adhering to the unhelpful narratives society feeds us about aging.

Right Kind of Wrong — I read what Amy Edmondson writes. Known for popularizing the term “psychological safety,” she has now tackled the idea of failing well, in her signature Harvard way. Her “typology of failure” — which kind to avoid and which ones to pursue — is a helpful tool I’m already using with my clients.

10x is Easier than 2x — I have mixed feelings about this book, but it does keep coming up in conversation, so it makes the list. The idea is that committing to a massive goal allows you to say such decisive nos to so many distractions that it is actually easier than diluting our focus across a wide range of less ambitious priorities. The writing style bugged me at times, but I’m probably more bugged by how hard this is for me to put into practice.

Unreasonable Hospitality — This book has furthered my journey toward being a true experience designer and I think of it often. Imagine sitting at an upscale restaurant in New York. Your server overhears that you wish you’d tried a hot dog from a street vendor during your visit to the city. So he goes and gets you one, plated alongside their chef-made delicacies. That’s what memorable moments are made of. I was yesterday years old when I learned that Tesla includes karaoke in their vehicles, and it occurred to me that Will Guidara might be proud.

I’m making Wiser by Choice free from January to March 2024 because I believe more people should be exposed to more good books. Please come, and invite your friends.

And also please know how grateful I am for you. It’s not easy putting ideas out in the world, wondering if others are reading them and finding them useful. Your engagement with my work keeps me fuelled and I appreciate it.

Wishing you a year full of imagination, curiosity and expansiveness (my word for the year, I think).

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