We will admit, whether out of habit or history, that we are lovers of books. We read them, write them and give them away.
This may come as no surprise, because as university professors, books have always been part of the picture. Even as sales of paper versions decline, the e-book more than compensates for the decline in hard / paperback sales, while improving availability and access.
But which books are fundamental? And how does reading a great book for the first time or going back and reviewing something you haven’t seen since college / graduate school have the potential to make you a better leader or a more advanced junior assistant manager with double secret probation?
As for what a great book is? Is it enjoyable to read or something that offers amazing content? Can you deliver both? How about a textbook that is a real “syllable” but contains content that you have used dozens of times in your career?
In addition, while we all imagine that we are “above average” (how else to explain employment in the sports industry), at least 50% of us are logically wrong. This is something we see when students come back to us years after graduation and ask what new books they should consider reading (decree: a standard lecture on this whole thing, ‘lifelong learning’).
Feel free to agree, disagree or change the list below, but instead of asking what’s in your wallet, go check out what’s on your bookshelf, your Kindle or epub reader (Google Books vs. Apple Books?). Then consider asking if one of these “summer readings” can offer more than just distraction.
Can a few hours of selected reading make you smarter about the seismic challenges your organization faces or the ambitious career path you are planning? We think we could, so let’s suggest a few that will help in both cases.
The New One-Minute Manager (HarperCollins, 2015) “Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.” Revolutionary when first released in 1982, the new modern version is just as important in helping build team cohesion.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons for Personal Change” (Fireside, 1989) “Stephen Covey.” It has never been published because the habits presented endure. This book actually inspired two of our books.
“Pity: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” (Scribner, 2016) “Angela Duckworth.” Some succeed, others fail. Duckworth explains why. Courage remains a topic of great interest to business leaders in the world after COVID.
Outliers: A Success Story (Little, Brown and Co., 2008) “Malcolm Gladwell.” Maybe our favorite author – not because he uses an example of hockey at the beginning of the book, but because his work is so accessible
“You can’t hurt me: control your mind and resist the odds” (Lioncrest Publishing, 2018) “David Goggins.” Overcoming the horrific beginnings of his life, Goggins became a military leader, Ironman and others (including the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to ever complete SEAL training, the US Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller Training). Really inspiring.
Shoe Dog: Memoirs from the Creator of Nike (Scribner, 2016) “Phil Knight.” Many were surprised at how easy this book was to read and how candid Knight was about his success. We like that he has an academic tone to the products he offers for the home, which is not surprising given his connections with Oregon and Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“Competitive Advantage: Creating and Maintaining Excellent Performance” (The Free Press, 1985) “Michael Porter.” The old school? Hell yes. Family? For many, this was legendary. If you can’t get yourself to read a 1985 book, no problem, as Porter continues to write on today’s competitive environment and is the author of a virtual library of new editions and derivatives. One we really like, The Competitive Advantage of Nations (1998), brings a global lens to his work.
“The Elusive Fan: Rediscovering Sport in a Crowded Market” (McGraw-Hill, 2006) “Irving Raine, Philip Kotler, and Ben Shields.” Do you think this book is outdated? Think again. As early as 2006, the authors predicted the rise of e-sports.
“Intangible Assets: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry” (Little, Brown and Co., 2020) “Joan Ryan.” Great written review of this intangible, so many write off. The truth is this: team chemistry is a real thing. Not to mention the increasingly challenging post-COVID reality of hybrid work.
“Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of Success” (Harper Perennial, 2010) “Matthew Sayed.” Every time you can have Beckham and Mozart in the same sentence, you know you’re aware of something. We also appreciate works that include sports and other activities when looking at the path to success
“The Captain Class: The Hidden Power That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams” (Random House, 2017) “Sam Walker.” The former sports editor of The Wall Street Journal spent years researching each great dynasty. He now works for the LA Rams. Did you find a secret sauce? And if so, will this sauce continue to work in 2022, given the ever-changing state of affairs?
Will you read them all? This is unlikely. But in a world of uncertainty and challenge, each of these “champions” can help more than you can imagine.
Rick Burton is David B. Falk, a professor of sports management at the University of Syracuse. Norm O’Reilly is dean of the University of Maine’s School of Business. Their new book, NHL Business: Lessons from the Fastest Ice Game, will be published by the University of Toronto Press in October.