Why we Need More of the Right Kind of Books

Right kinds of books


I love books. The ones I've read, and the ones I'd love to read.

Reading is a form of freedom. Libraries and bookstores are some of my favorite places in the world. Growing up, we had a library of 5,000 books in the house—so much possibility. Right at a point in my life when I also had the time. Though there's always time for good books.

Lately, I started reaching out to people who I think should write one. Because we seem to miss the books we could really use. Whenever I come across a substantive body of thought—usually in a blog or a podcast—I reach out to the author to inquire about books on the topic.

And often the books I find on the subject fall short. They don't cover the theory well. Or they precipitate too quickly into tactical application. Before the thesis was fully formed. I tend to stir clear of self-help material and “how to” stuff. There's the web for that. There are videos.

Books are for entering new worlds. My sweet spot are good conversation books. That is books that make me think, and that could hold a conversation with me.

I start with who's writing. How they see the world, their voice. Who, and then what. Why comes later. Even with fiction, I'm a serial reader. Tana French, Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths are some favorites. At some point I realized that mystery books by women are much more difficult to figure out. Good for thinking.

I read select non fiction. I've loved Maria Konnikova's The Biggest Bluff. From the motivation for writing the book, to the quest of learning to manage herself, to the stories. She put a ton of value in the book. Because she did the work. I enjoyed Matt Ridely's books. Hence I also look at who and what he's reading.

As for the people I'm chasing to write books…

I'm hoping at some point my dear friend and colleague Peter Tunjic publishes a book on his theory of capitals. We've been talking about his ideas and work for the better part of twenty years. His theory has had a great influence in my work. And I'd love to have it all in one place.

Recently I came across Jonathan Cook's work on ritual design. I listened to and read two years of his podcast, cover to cover. Then I went on to all of his articles. When I was done, I reached out to him to ask when he's planning to publish. His work and Peter's are what I call foundational.

Foundational work opens the door to a new paradigm.

Big ideas. New stories. They require deeper thinkingfor the author and the reader. They did the work. You do the work reading. Hence the transfer of value. These are the books that stay with you. That you go back to and re-read. The theory holds. The energy flows.

Publishing is a business. And many contemporary books read a bit formulaic. Speaking is similar. A keynote who's able to transmit energy and inspiration is worth gold. But event organizers obsess over tactical advice.

Have you noticed that once money takes center stage it sucks the energy out of the space? This is why humanity takes centuries to discover the value it has right under its nose. Starting with the person.

So this is me making the case for discovering and publishing more of the right kind of books. Someone has to take a chance on people with no huge social media following, no controversy, or gimmick. These are people busy doing the work, not getting likes and raising hell.


Telling the books by their focus

Having said all that, I've spotted a couple of books that look promising. I don't judge books by their cover. But I do by their focus. These are in the near future. And I haven't read them. But I've heard a conversation with the author for one, and the second came highly recommended by someone whose work I respect.

The premise of Ron Carucci's To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice and Purpose is that value is in being who you say you are. He's done a ton of research to find the elements of culture that help companies close the gap between intention and behavior. He says honesty is a capability. You can develop it.

In a recent podcast, he talks about four key elements in culture that encourage the development of this capability in culture:

  1. Clear identityin my work I've also found that often companies that do not recognize who they are cannot tell a good story. Words promise, actions follow through. 
  2. Accountability—yes, please. Taking responsibility seems to have gone out of fashion. Yet, it's crucial to demonstrating competence, one of the pillars of trustworthiness.
  3. Governance—it supports infrastructure and commerce. Because it's slower to change, it has more power.
  4. Cross-functional relationships—companies need to support bridging the seams between groups. the intersection of functions is where value goes to die. When you fragment the company, you fragment the truth. Fragmentation is a reality in society, but also in our self. Hence our process for understanding problems is broken.

Thought also tricks us. “Any real change in presentation is a change of being,” says physicist David Bohm. It produces an internal change as response. When it's not genuine, it's mis-representation and we should approach the people who are under its spell as victims. 

Canucci's book releases in the U.S. May 25.

As I wait for Jonathan Cook's book on ritual design, Gillian Tett has written a book on Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life. Anthropology is the study of human culture. Anthropologists train to understand humans in past and present societies. Firms like IDEO have long employed people trained in the discipline to focus on innovation

Tett's book is out on June 8.