Best Business Books 2019
My Best Business Books 2019… Each year I read a lot of books – in the range of 40-55 books. And given I’m always reading and always talking about the best business books, it makes sense that people ask me what I’m reading and what I’d recommend.
To help with this process I’ve compiled my Best Business Books for 2019. I’ve been doing this since 2011.
So far this year to the start of December I’ve read 40 books. While the topics are quite diverse, they all relate to business in some way, particularly when you include the domain of personal performance – yes, even #5.
Here is my top ten business books for 2019…
1 David DeSteno PhD, Emotional Success
For more than three years I did a lot of reading, writing and practice around getting things done. I wrote three books Done, Weekly Done and Weekly Done 2 (yet to be released) and ran Project Done eight times.
My research started to see that a lot of the productivity research was geared toward left-brain step-by-step and task focused motivation. As a creative this didn’t work for me. But, I felt like I was just in the minority and that most people were coping just fine. But this book, by psychologist David Desteno, based on much of his own research, tells us that we’ve all been doing it wrong.
Traditional productivity is based totally on cognitive function. Yet, we could be getting more done, with less stress and enhancing our wellbeing if only we’d ditch pushing our willpower to its limit and engage our emotional power.
The implications of this are significant. For instance, DeSteno suggests this is the core reason behind our workplace mental health issues.
Further, he suggests the reason we are failing to tackle climate change effectively is that it is an emotional issue not a willpower one. It’s the same challenge of doing today what will best serve us tomorrow.
Any book that can provide all this is a well-deserved Book of the Year for 2019.
Read this if you want to boost your wellbeing and transform how you work and live.
2 Alex Soojung-Kim Pang – Rest
I needed this book – badly. At the time I read this I was burnt out, struggling to focus and needed a break.
But here’s the thing… I didn’t really know that until I read the book. I thought was just a bit tired – nothing a good night’s sleep wouldn’t fix. Also, if that were the case, I’d usually indulge in passive rest. I’d sit around, probably in front of the TV and even more likely, feed my face with some less than healthy delights.
But having read this I completely changed my strategy. I went for a walk. The next day I went for a bike ride. And after that I continued to bump up my exercise to recharge. This is the power of Active Rest.
The sub-title of this book is: why you get more done when you work less.
Alex even presents research that suggests that eight hours work is way too much. The optimum is four hours. And while that might seem extreme, he shares some high-profile creatives who have built successful careers with just that amount.
Read this if you want to get more done by doing less.
3 Christensen – Competing Against Luck
How do you identify your marketing prospects?
Typical marketing logic suggests that we should focus on a specific customer group or product type (eg a Customer Avatar). The problem with this approach is that the customer doesn’t think like this – nobody buys a product because they are a 23-year-old college student or a 40-year-old mother of two children. This may correlate with a decision to buy something and it’s not the cause.
Clayton Christensen is a world leader in innovation and the one who identified the pattern of disruptive innovation.
In this book, he promotes Customer Jobs as the way to have your marketing prospects select themselves. For instance, Ikea makes it fast and easy to furnish a house or new apartment. The key to their success is the way they have integrated their product suite to solve this customer job.
While not the creator of ‘customer jobs’, this book covers the topic clearly and in depth.
Previously, I rapped Christensen’s (and others) book How will you measure your life? over at Book Rapper as CEO of Your Life.
Read this if you want to update the way you think about your customers and your product/service offerings.
4 James Clear – Atomic Habits
I must like habits… The first book I read about habits was Charles Duhigg The Power of Habits. It blew my mind – particularly the pieces about community and organisational habits. I liked it so much that I rapped this book at Book Rapper as Automatic Success and I named it my Book of the Year for 2012.
And now a third book on habits has also inspired me.
While it didn’t grab the title of Book of the Year it easily made my list of Best Business Books 2019. James Clear has written a beautiful book. It’s easy to read, it’s highly practical and it’s extensive.
If I had to say which one I’d read first, I’d say this one. It’s a deep, detailed and perfect place to start. Then I’d either turn to Duhigg’s book if you want more depth and detail. Or if you want to know which habits to build I’d go straight to Burchard’s book.
Read this book to take one more step to become the person you really want to be.
5 Jason Fung – The Complete Guide to Fasting
This book might surprise you… Fasting? A Best Business Book 2019? Really?
Every day, I follow a compressed eating window. This means I have all of my food in a six to eight hour window. In comparison, most people eat in a 12 hour window beginning with breakfast first thing in the morning.
Also, this year – inspired by this book – I have completed two five-day fasts. Prior to reading this book, I would have thought that impossible. Dr Fung suggests the benefits of fasting can be had without having to do a full water only fast.
So why fast? Usually, people fast to lose weight. I’m not really in that category. Instead, I fast because it is one of the healthiest thing you can do for your body. Simply put, your body needs to devote a lot of energy to digesting your food. By not eating, you give your body a rest and frees it up resources to do an internal clean up. As a result, Dr Fung is able to reverse diabetes in his patients within months through controlled fasting.
My prediction is that fasting will become mainstream and normal within the next five years as the evidence continues to grow around its value and effectiveness in dealing with a number of typical health complaints. From a business perspective health and self-leadership is essential. If you’re not looking to boost your wellbeing your career and business will struggle.
Read this if you value your health.
6 Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism
Houston, we have a problem. Well, actually, I think the problem is much bigger than just Houston.
Dare I say it in public, but this book inspired me to quit Facebook. I now check my account about once a month. But, before you arc up in response, let me back track a little.
This book is not an attack on social media. Cal’s sub-title captures his intent: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.
In his previous book Deep Work, which I named my Book of the Year for 2016, he asked the big question: How do you stay relevant in an age when machines are taking over jobs? (My take)
In that book, he asked the question: How does your digital life help or hinder you? In Digital Minimalism he takes a deeper look. And as I hinted with my own social media use, once you read this you might re-think how you spend your time and your attention.
PS: And just to show how much of a fan boy I am, over at Book Rapper I also rapped Deep Work as Super Power and his first book Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You as Find Work You Love.
Read this if you want to live a focused and happy life in a world that is actively trying to grab your attention.
7 Kate Leaver, The Friendship Cure
For the past two years, I’ve been living a mobile lifestyle. More specifically, I have slept and lived in more than 25 different places across four states of Australia. Mostly, I’ve been house-sitting and looking after people’s cats, dogs, fish and even a rabbit.
The upside of this lifestyle is the opportunity to explore new places. The downside is that I’ve been spending too much time on my own and as a result feeling lonely. That’s why this book caught my eye – I need some friends!
Despite low expectations and thinking there was not a lot in this topic, I devoured this book in days. It’s quirky, funny and heartfelt. It’s a great read. Aussie born, British based, Kate pours her heart out and mixes it with a good dose of serious research.
The big insight here is that being lonely potentially has deeper health impacts than drinking or smoking. Ouch!
Further, there is evidence to say we are living in a loneliness epidemic and a potential tidal wave of health effects across society. I didn’t see that coming!
This book has forced me to rethink how I connect with people. As a result, I’m no longer hiding away. Well, at least less than I did previously.
Read this if you want to understand your friends better and possibly why you need to connect more than you currently do.
8 Paul Jarvis, Company of One
I wasn’t sure about this book when I first spotted it at the local library – a company of one seemed like such a simple idea. How could entrepreneur and blogger Paul Jarvis add any depth or insight to this one?
As the old cliché goes, don’t judge a book by its title.
Despite my own experience of running my company of one for many years, Jarvis added a whole bunch of fresh distinctions that I hadn’t previously seen.
You might have heard the old line that suggests a small business is just a big one waiting to grow up. Well, maybe. If that’s your dream then go for it.
In contrast, I’m with Paul: small is my ideal. I don’t want to grow up and have staff I have to manage. I might one day hire a VA but that would be about it. I don’t want big. I deliberately and intentionally want small.
While this book is highly useful guide for solo entrepreneurs, this is also a manifesto for the future of work and organisations. Why be big when you can be small?
Read this if you want to build your company of one and/or update your ideal for how a business can be run.
9 Josh Davis – Two Awesome Hours
As part of my two books of Weekly Done I’ve been collecting fast, easy and proven strategies to get more done each week.
From this book I was able to source six strategies to include in Weekly Done 2 – which I’m preparing to launch very soon.
As the sub-title proudly proclaims it’s “science based strategies to harness your best time and get your most important work done.”
I particularly like the chapter on distractions. Normally, we try to avoid distractions. But Davis suggests they’re more natural than our ability to focus on a single thing for hours on end. Therefore, we should learn how to use our distractions to our advantage.
Best of all Davis’ premise fits my preferred approach to work. Instead of working longer, work shorter and more effectively – thus the title, Two Awesome Hours.
Read this to be more productive without slogging away for longer.
10 Hector Garcia and Fransesc Miralles, Ikigai
Purpose is big right now. Perhaps it has always been important, now it’s seems that more and more people are talking about it. Ikigai is a Japanese version of purpose.
The thing I like about this is that it comes with a great visual model outlining a mix of factors.
While Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai was #10 on my list for 2017, I think this one is even better. (Although it still ranked #10. Oh well…)
In particular, Garcia and Miralles provide a deep and rich vein of examples that makes this an inspiring read.
Read this if you want to be inspired in life.
* Donald Miller, Building a Story Brand
This book would have easily made my top ten list except for one basic reason.
Firstly, it’s credentials. I’ve just read it for the third time – a rarity amongst the 500+ books I’ve read over the past 12 years. I’ve used to create marketing messages a number of times. It was the inspiration behind the term ‘Done’ and the jumping man for Project Done and my books Done and Weekly Done. Plus, it was the source book for our first ever Book Club event.
But I made the ruling that it was ineligible because it was my #2 on my Book of the Year List for 2018.
Read this if you want to win more customers and clients.
Themes of Best Books for 2019
As I review my list of best business books for 2019, there is a common thread here: personal health, self-leadership and wellbeing.
Many of these relate directly to mental health in the workplace. Emotional Success, Rest, The Friendship Cure, Digital Minimalism and even The Complete Guide to Fasting all address one aspect of this same wellbeing issue. And given the avalanche of mental health issues in the workplace, this is perhaps no surprise.
Atomic Habits adds to the personal productivity angle – as does Two Awesome Hours. Ikigai feeds this conversation – purpose is a potent grounding for all of our thinking, actions and wellbeing.
The other two books – Competing Against Luck and A Company of One – tend to stand alone as islands and hint at changes in the business landscape.
What was your best business book for 2019?