Here’s a brief comment on the books I’ve read this February. I’ve never read 9 books in a month before and it was interesting how I many more connections between different books I made. I think reading this much in general has amazing effects of focus, mood and analytical reasoning in general.

Paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz

Starting off by detailing how consumer choice has actually left us psychologically worse off, Schwartz’s Paradox of choice does seem quite negative. But by being aware of how consumers, and people in general, make decisions you can definitely improve how you make decisions.

Key findings explored in the book include how more options aren’t always better because it makes it harder to decide, and to decide well. Even if you do decide well there is no protecting you from regret. Schwartz recommends that people limit their options in order to counter the excessive consumption and realise that the human mind is uniquely unfit to know what will make it happy. As soon as you know and understand how consumerism affects your brain you will be better able to mitigate its negative psychological effects.

Power of habit by Charles Duhigg

Cited by many business leaders and entrepreneurs as a must read I had to give it a go. The first part book talks of how we develop and break habits as individuals, the second part; as organisations and the third part as societies. So if you’re interested in psychology, organisational culture or sociology this books a brilliant read.

My main takeaways from this book are the importance of keystone habits and easy habit breaking. Keystone habits are habits that grow into other areas. A great example of this is journaling. Journaling for me has been particularly instrumental in maintaining my high levels of productivity. The way I like to put it is: if you know you’re going to have to write it down in black and white there’s no way you’re going to avoid doing your assignment in favour of a 4 hour Netflix binge.

Extreme ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin takes lessons from the battle field and applies them to business but largely in ways you wouldnn’t think. Jocko and Leif refer to clear communication, a lack of ego and a high degree of collectivism is essential for a teams performance. The underlying ethos of the book is that leaders should not blame their teams failure on anyone but themselves, they must take “extreme ownership”, the highest possible level of responsibility.

I did like this book and I can think of a lot of people with weak and failure attitudes could do this reading this book. It’s highly practical but if you don’t really care for long drawn out anecdotes then you might not enjoy it. It’s not that I don’t value practical experience and lessons it’s that I prefer advice to be based on data and studies. It’s definitely a “self help” book which is perhaps why I didn’t prefer it as much as the other books I read this month. If like me you prefer psychology, economics, sociology or philosophy books for yourself improvement I’d give this a miss. I’d recommend reading a summary.

Inside Organisations by Charles Handy

Handy’s Inside Organisations is a great book for a basic insight into organisational culture. Goes through different organisational cultures, psychological contracts and is very insightful throughout.

Post Truth: the new war on truth and how to fight back by Mathew D’Ancona

D’anacona’s Post Truth is a short book, covering the rise of and implications of the declining importance of truth. Citing elements of postmodern philosophy as being a driving force behind the new era of pos truth, D’Anacona draws parallels between Trump and Brexit to highlight the new reality: we are living in a post truth society.

Drive by Daniel H Pink

Drive by Daniel H Pink is a must read business book. Exposing the gap between what science knows and what business does in relation to motivation, Pink explains psychology and business theories in simple terms, making the book a great read for students.

Although the book is primarily concerned with the underappreciated contribution of Social Determination Theory, it also explores classic business theories like Theory X and Y and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In general my main take away from this book is that intrinsic motivation is essential to success in many areas of life.

Propaganda by Edward Bernays

Despite being obvious, at least to marketers now, Propaganda was revolutionary for its time. Written by Edward Bernays, the most important man you’ve never heard of, Propaganda discusses how triggering emotion and impulse can vastly increase sales.

Somewhat controversial, its not difficult to see why. The tone of the book is incredibly elitist and Machiavellian throughout. Thought provoking but its delivery seems needlessly sinister. To be fait to Bernays he does make a constant effort to justify use of propaganda and goes into the importance of ethical use of it.  He argues propaganda is used by all institutions and educators, politicians, businessmen, parents; learners are all affected by and can use propaganda

Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence is a sales and marketing bible to say the least. Cialdini explores 7 key principles of persuasion and delves into how and why they work. Although written by Cialdini to warn consumers of “compliance practitioners” it’s considered essential reading for anyone in business. Best book I’ve read this month and that’s saying something because I’ve read 9. I won’t spoil it for you because this genuinely is a life changing book that a review or summary cannot do any degree of justice.

Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Homes by Maria Konnikova

Drawing on findings from the most recent and respected psychologists, Mastermind exposes the brains heuristics and cogitative biases that often let us down. There’s a lot of psychological effects to remember so if you’ve not read this sort of thing before I’d take notes, you won’t regret it.

To put it best this book is a more practical guide of the classic Thinking Fast and Slow with a lot of references to Sherlock Holmes. It’s definitely improved the way I think and make decisions.

To summarise…

I feel like I’ve learned more this month than I’ve learned in most academic years. My key takeaways overall is that I should think slow to think better and the benefits of taking action, building habits and getting stuff done.

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