Never-Ending Summer Reading List

Well, it should be no trouble finding a theme for any part of 2020 – even if the summer slipped up on us and is now on the downhill slope toward fall. It makes sense that the ‘work from home’ framework would support even more time for reading and blogging and yet this one seems a bit overdue.

Of course we are partial to reading that supports our work: economic development, placemaking, and themes in workforce and talent. Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey Into the Heart of America by James and Deborah Fallows is an inspiring travelogue that includes best practices and observations from across the nation. We have heard them speak at conferences over the last couple of years, but seeing their work knitted together into one book is inspiring. With trends turning away from mega-cities right now, the time is right for Matthew Hoagland’s Think Small: The Millennial’s Guide to Building a Meaningful Life in Rural America.  From his new home in Yanceyville, North Carolina, Hoagland outlines the benefits and opportunities for building a life outside the urban core.

Back when he started working on his dissertation, Google analytics was an arcane and underappreciated source of data. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has uncovered some striking ‘truths’ and disturbing patterns by mining and analyzing search data and linking it to national and international events and sequences. Dig in to Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are for some eye-opening applications of search history for politics, sports, and culture. He gives us something to think about in the gap between what people say and what search patterns reveal.

Being open to cues and messages from others is an important lifeskill, and critical for sales-oriented work like economic development.  Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers  was published last year and is relevant to current events in 2020. Gladwell’s mixture of anecdotes and journalism is a refreshing reminder to check your perceptions and be present with new and formative relationships. Good advice for anyone in economic development is Just Listen, Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone , Mark Goulston’s book which serves as a toolkit for getting your own points across by – you guessed it – paying attention to others’. If you have the discipline to follow through, he provides techniques and diagrams for you to connect with and influence your teammates, family, clients ……anyone.

Remember back when we had a lot of in-person meetings? Well Dr. Steve Rogelberg sure does, and he has applied his psychology research and training to helping us shape meaningful and productive meetings with The Surprising Science of Meetings. If you were able to come to our Women’s Economic Development Network conference in February, you received a copy of this terrific primer. We followed up in a blog with Dr. Rogelberg on remote meetings when the world shifted. Read it here.

Before worklife and homelife began to blur this spring, we were thinking a lot about how using our time impacts our productivity and mental health. A favorite is Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport for disconnecting and being present. We also liked his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.  If you need to re-instate the boundary between work and home, try Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee. With the uncertainty of pandemic and wavering economy, it may take more than reclaiming leisure to protect mental peace.

For inspiration and self-care, consider some old favorites, We are unabashed fans of Brené Brown and her latest book, Dare to Lead, is a short application of her research and teaching on vulnerability and ‘wholeheartedness’ to courageous leadership and culture. She assures us that leadership is needed and impactful at all levels of the organization and her coaching calls us to share and cultivate that courageous ‘showing up’ in our work and in our lives. Oprah Winfrey also has a new-ish book for introspection, The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose.  Her format capitalizes on her interview skills, bringing the voices of other writers, artists, and thinkers to create a guide “for activating your deepest vision of your self”. The hard-copy book includes one hundred awe-inspiring photographs, but consider the audiobook format, to hear the book in the voices of Oprah herself and her cool and insightful subjects like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jay-Z, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Conventional wisdom and even some research says that reading is surging during the pandemic. People report increased leisure time and 35% cited looking for an ‘escape from the crisis’.  Here are some absorbing novels that fit the bill.  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is a multi-award winner telling the story of the Kentucky “blue people” and the fierce Packhouse Librarians who wielded literacy during the Great Depression. If your attention span or powers of concentration are not ready for a full novel, try out a tome of linked short stories like A Visit from the Goon Squad. Jennifer Egan promises to transport the reader through a tightly woven story and Rock ‘n’ Roll history. Reaching back to the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, introduces surfing not as a sport, but a ‘beautiful addiction’. If you want to get ‘lost’ in the beauty of oceans, this is a wonderful read. Any of these should provide a new and compelling environment to forget the difficulties and limitations of this strange summer.

We do love reading, and we would love to hear what you are reading. Tweet to us at @Creative_EDC or comment on our Facebook page.  Maybe we will pull together some more suggestions for the short, chilly days of winter.

Check out others’ recommendations for summer reading this year!

Bill Gates

Adam Grant

Oprah Winfrey

New York Times

Washington Post


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