The 3-5 Books That Sit on My Office Shelf

3-5 top books

This came as a question to me via Jose. It's very appropriate because companies pay me to write. That's also (but not only) why I read a lot. The other reasons include broadening cultural horizons, which often includes disagreeing with other authors. Rarely with the classics, though. Because the classics don't try to sell me a framework, mostly (more further down.)

3-5 books I reference often enough to keep on my office shelf. They've changed little over the last ten to twelve years. You'll see many references to the thinking, research and practice of the authors in my writing as their work impacts mine.


Metaphors We Live By, authored by Berkeley linguist George Lakoff and the philosopher Mark Johnson at the University of Oregon was published in 1980. I have the edition with a new afterword (2003.) I've made plenty of notes in the margins and reasoned about some of the ideas in my notebooks.

EcoQua : Fabriano is my notebook of choice in many colors, in case you were wondering. You can get them with grid or blank paper.


Finite and Infinite Games: : A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse was published in 1986. Carse says there are at least two kinds of gameshe calls one finite, the other infinite. The difference between the two is that we play a finite game for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing to play.

It's important because play or game symbolizes how we show up in life. Many books attempt to prove or disprove a thesis and exhaust you by asking you to expend energy in going through the reasons why / why not. Carse shares his vision of how to reinterpret the world and lets the reader free to draw personal insights.

This is a book about patterns.


Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet was published in 1995. Charvet describes the mental filters or meta programs we employ in communication in practical contexts. For example, what questions to use to elicit a person's position, how to identify what meta program positions are best suited to a given job, how to frame a job or product ad so that it speaks to the audience for whom it is intended, and so on.

I don't reference it as much in my writing as I do in my work. Most pages are lined with notes and I have index cards inserted here and there where I expand on certain chapters with my own examples.


On Dialogue, which collects physicist David Bohm's thoughts on the inclination of modern society to “break things up which are not really separate” and thus fragment the world into “selves” that are at odds with each other.

We hardly experience good conversations anymore, and when we do, we leave unaware of the process that led us to feel satisfied we had a true meeting of the minds. That's because we view conversation as the mere exchange of information where everyone is sending and some people may be receiving.

Taken this way, conversation and communication in general becomes a utility but is not very useful in creating something new. I take this small book published in 2004 from original material by David Bohm to heart. Lee Nichol selected and edited it.


The Clock of the Long Now is the Stewart Brand book I referenced in my article as one of the 3-5 books that sits on my office shelf. This is a curated collection of essays. In addition to The Order of Civilization, which is my most revisited essay, I enjoy reading about Kairos and Chronos, and The Long Now.

The title essay talks about a 1979 conversation with Brian Eno, which instigated Brand's thinking. The collection was published in 1999. Hence the themes and topics were buzzing around Brand's work for two decades. It's fitting as the idea is to expand the now to a period you can experience personally.

Rather that expiring things as they hatch, hatching things through work over the course of three generations.

Reference material

This is my evergreen setup to orient my work. Any time I get stuck, I use one or more of these references to expand my thinking and practice. I also make extensive use of dictionaries—synonyms and antonyms, etymology, translation (technical lingo as legal, medical / scientific especially), and slang (culture.)

As for the notebooks, I tend to jot down notes when I'm listening to podcasts and online lectures. My notes are both in English and Italian as I listen to and read most often in both languages. I read a ton of classics in both languages as well. I never tire of timeless ideas… what makes us human, and the stories of the people whose work endured through the centuries.

I'm curious. Which 3-5 books sit on your office shelf?


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