Here is a short list of books that I have found valuable and that I think are relevant to the coaching experience. 

Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies by Woodrow Hartzog (2018).

There are lots of great books about privacy out there. This is the privacy book I recommend to people who are not privacy professionals.

Leaders: Myth and Reality by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone (2018).

There are oodles of good books about leadership. I think this one excels because it looks at a variety of leaders from diverse periods of history and diverse jobs, not just military leaders and politicians. It also looks a various manifestations of leadership.

Ocean Horizon and Windrose Icon

The overall effect is to move away from a traditional top-down conception of leadership to a redefinition of the concept of leadership as, “a complex system of relationships between leaders and followers, in a particular context, that provides meaning to its members.” 

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute (2000).

This is a well-crafted and powerful book.

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again by Robert D. Putnam with Shaylyn Romney Garrett (2020).

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks (2020).

These books struck me as a natural pairing.  The Upswing builds on Putnam’s earlier work, Bowling Alone, to show how a series of economic, social, and cultural trends map to a pattern he calls the “I-We-I” curve.  It is a swing from the self-referential Gilded Age to change driven by the Progressive Era that promoted more community-oriented societal activity.  This trend peaked in the 1960’s, and began a descent through the “Me Decade” of the 1970’s to the individual-focused (some might say narcissistic) society of today, with highly polarized politics and massive income inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age.  The data is extensive and expertly handled.  The explicitness of the methodology is a masterclass in social science technique.  It’s a helpful and insightful history of the last 125 years.  The remedy, according to the book, is not top-down government action but bottom-up community action, driven by other-oriented individuals acting locally.  In The Second Mountain, David Brooks talks about who is going to be taking that community action. It will be people who have climbed the metaphorical “first mountain” of career success and now seek to ascend the “second mountain” of a moral, other-oriented life with deeper meaning. 

Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind, by Judson Brewer, Md, PhD (2021). 

Curiosity is a core precept of coaching, and also turns out to be a key to contending with anxiety.  Dr. Brewer shows how curiosity and mindfulness can be deployed to break up addiction to anxiety and learn new behaviors.

Truman by David McCullough (1992).

Harry Truman was an auto-didact who understood the importance of reading history.  He worked hard, prepared extensively, and spent his lifetime overcoming his own self-doubt to prove wrong the many people who thought he would not amount to much (including his mother-in-law!). Time and again he rose to the moment, and in the end he changed the world.  He wasn’t perfect; no one is.  But there is a lot to learn from the way he lived and the story is well told in this Pulitzer Prize-winning book.   

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro (1974).

Over the last year, Caro’s monumental biography has been visible on the bookshelves of many TV commentators, and for good reason.  It was a remarkable accomplishment of research, interviews, persistence, and engaging writing.  The subject, Robert Moses, is complicated.  He did some pretty big things in his long career, as well as some things that were reprehensible.  I’m a fan of the book, not the man.  But I think students of government or political science should read this book, and the lessons of what to do – and what not to do – are pertinent for people pursuing a career in public service as well as for privacy professionals.  Look at how the guy got things done.  How he leveraged good design in his work.  How he amassed power and influence, built support, inspired and motivated people, controlled agendas and budgets, and thought long-term and strategically.  He also abused his power, and as Caro notes, ended up pursuing power for its own sake.  It’s also a good history of a great city in the first half of the 20th century.