It’s getting to that last month of the year, when we all get reflective and start to think about what was the best part of the old year, and what we’re looking forward to in the new one.  As I’m sure you know, I am a book lover, and I thought I’d add my list of favorite and useful books I’ve read this year- helpful for anyone considering Christmas gifts for the geeks in their lives as well.

In No Particular Order:


If You Were Here: A Novel"" “>If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster.  Jen Lancaster has been a favorite of mine since my friend, beth harte, introduced me to her books a few years ago.  While Jen’s previous books were more life adventure sort of books, If You Were Here is her first fiction novel. Her writing is funny, touching and it has a sense of authenticity to it- It feels like she’s telling these stories to friends over drinks.  Meeting her at a reading in Center City Philadelphia this Spring felt like meeting Bruce Springsteen- it was a big deal for me, especially since I was finishing my own book at the time.  Her previous book- My Fair Lazy, inspired me to take my first trip to Chicago and go to Moto, a molecular gastronomy restaurant that makes you rethink what food can be.  It currently holds my personal record for having spent the most on a meal ever,  and having the most amazing time doing so I could imagine.

The Help- Kathryn Stockett  Yes, I read it, and enjoyed it- and the book is much more in depth than the movie.  I think the only thing missing from this story is the current irony where most of the people in the 50’s and 60’s who were prejudiced and unkind to The Help are now older people, depending on the very people they were abusive to, to take care of them in their old age.  Karma can be a b*tch.


The Myth of the Garage– by Chip and Dan Heath.  This book is a collection of great short pieces by the brothers responsible for Made to Stick and Switch– two other books I constantly recommend.  I find myself taking notes about things I want to remember or points to use in my work when trying to explain complex things to people who are a bit scared of all this new online stuff.  Even better, it’s free as an e-book on Kindle, Nook and iBooks.

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home"" “>The Upside of Irrationality– by Dan Ariely Dan’s work helps explain why we all do things that logically don’t make sense and how we can get in our own way.    I love this sort of cultural anthropology, and I’m a huge fan.

Steve Jobs"" “>Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson.  The passing of Steve Jobs was hard for a lot of us geeks this year.  Steve had good sides and bad sides, but above all, he had standards, taste, a strong sense of design and aesthetics, and showed us technology could be simple and sublime as well as functional and complex.  It’s a complex tale I’m still winding my way through, but I appreciate a hero’s tale that reminds us all that we aren’t perfect, but that is okay, too.

What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media– Chris Lehmann & Scott McLeod.  For teachers in the group, Chris Lehmann, the principal of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, is one of the most thoughtful, kind and amazing people I know.  His book helps you figure out the way forward, as technology becomes more a part of the student’s lives, even if you aren’t 100% comfortable with it yourself.  Time is short, and you need to get with the program as quickly as possible.

Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail"" “>Malled- Caitlin Kelly  I think everyone should understand what it’s like to work jobs in other fields.  Caitlin Kelly, a journalist, beings to work in retail as a way to make ends meet, and gives us an inside look at what it looks like from the other side of the counter.  Like last year’s Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip–Confessions of a Cynical Waiter (P.S.)"" “>Waiter’s Rant by Steve Dublinica, you’ll end up being a lot more patient and understanding with all the sales clerks you meet.  From a business owner’s point of view, you’ll realize how important your front line personnel are to your overall success or failure.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions"" “>Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki.  Guy  picks up the ball from Seth Godin, in urging us all to think about what we can do to enchant the people we do business with daily.  How can we be excellent, unexpected, surprising and delightful?  How can we bring a bit more into the mix?  Guy gives us some great stuff to mull over.  Seth Godin meets Dan Ariely.

No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing"" “>No Bulls**t Social Media- Jason Falls & Erik Deckers.  While I should disclose up front that I consider Jason a friend and someone who I respect highly – and he’s a blast to share a meal with – His book is definitely worth your time, even for those who consider themselves social media savvy.   This is the no-gloss book to recommend to people who are still trying to figure out what this social media thing is about, and why it doesn’t seem to be “working” the same way traditional marketing works.  It contains the conversations all of us in this general social media marketing arena have with each other- it’s about time everyone else knew it, too.  Basic business good sense does not go out the door just because you have a website.

Chuck Klosterman IV- A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas- this is a fun romp from one of the kings of “literary non-fiction”.  Chuck has a bunch of interesting interviews and some of his famous riffs that always make me laugh and walk away totally amazed.

All of Seth Godin’s Domino Project books, including:

Poke The Box- Seth Godin

Do The Work-Steven Pressfield

We are All Weird- Seth Godin

Anything You Want- Derek Sivers

Pick Four (Zig Ziglar workbooks)

Read This Before Our Next meeting- Al Pittamipalli

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas- Dan Zarella

End Malaria- Collection of work including amazing people like Mitch Joel, Sir Ken Robinson, Pam Slim, Steven Johnson, and Jeff Jarvis, to name only a few.

Each and every book on this list is worth your time, your attention, your money, and worth sharing with friends.  I’m also excited to say that another friend will be launching a book in this series shortly, and I can’t wait to tell you more about that one- it will change your life.

That’s probably more than the classic top ten, but it should give you a good idea where I’ve spent my time and attention this year, and where I think yours can be well spent as well.

And I have to add this last one:

For any teachers, educators, speakers, parents or other folks interested in education, please check out The Differentiated Instruction Book of Lists (J-B Ed: Reach and Teach)"" “>The Differentiated Instruction Book of Lists, by Jenifer Fox and me, Whitney Hoffman.   My friend, Chris Brogan, did a video review of the book recently, and it sums up what Jenifer and I were trying to achieve- giving teachers, parents and anyone interested in education a roadmap to how to reach everyone in your audience/classroom, and how to teach with your students in mind.  For me, the best reviews I could get for the work we put into the book is this sort of response- that it made people think, consider, and try something new to better reach their audience.  That’s all an author can ask for in the end.