Books are one of my first loves. I partly attribute my terrible eyesight to many nights spent under the covers with a torch reading a book because it was just unputdownable. Of late I’ve been reading different genres of books, away from the fictional novels that I used to devour on the regular. When I look at the novels I loved so much, I notice that I have a ton of James Patterson‘s books. That man’s writing changed my life!
I remember how Mr Oluoch and Mr Kiai helped feed my addiction by getting me a library card to the Strathmore library. Oh my days! I’d never seen so many books in one place in my life. There I met Wilbur Smith with his African adventures, got to hang out with the Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Secret Seven and Nancy Drew as they solved mystery after mystery. I was one of the gang. I’d pick my selection of three books for the week and check them out with Umeme (I think that was what they called him), the really nice librarian who scared me though because he had a piece of his index finger missing.
If I bequeath nothing else to my daughter, let her have my passion for reading and love books. Books are a gateway into another world, an escape from reality if only for 20 minutes. To build one’s imagination, creativity, language, expression – books!
Books are very personal, with different tastes attracted to different subjects or topics. There are many great books out there that can help you grow and develop yourself. In no particular order of importance, I present 10 books out of very many that have had a profound impact on my outlook on life, business, work and relationships:
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – In this book, Gladwell explores what exactly makes people successful, famous or high-achievers (Hint: It is not what you probably think). He also speaks on the concept of the 10,000 Hour Rule, in which Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time put into your craft.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey – A classic when it was was first published in 1989 to date, this book continues to impact the way in which we approach our personal and professional effectiveness. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north” principles based on a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – Psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s memoir chronicles his time at the Auschwitz camp and other concentration camps during the Nazi era. His wife, father, mother and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps, only he and his sister survived, but he never lost the qualities of compassion, loyalty, undaunted spirit and thirst for life (earning his pilot’s licence aged 67). Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck – After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth – Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”
- Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval – It is not native intelligence or natural talent that makes people excel, it’s old-fashioned hard work, sweat equity, and determination. In Grit to Great, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval tackle a topic that is close to their hearts, one that they feel is the real secret to their own success in their careers–and in the careers of so many people they know and have met. And that is the incredible power of grit, perseverance, perspiration, determination, and sheer stick-to-it-tiveness. We are all dazzled by the notion that there are some people who get ahead, who reach the corner office because they are simply gifted, or well-connected, or both. But research shows that we far overvalue talent and intellectual ability in our culture. The fact is, so many people get ahead–even the gifted ones–because they worked incredibly hard, put in the thousands of hours of practice and extra sweat equity, and made their own luck.
- Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – In Decisive, Chip Heath and Dan Heath tackle the thorny problem of how to overcome our natural biases and irrational thinking to make better decisions, about our work, lives, companies and careers. When it comes to decision making, our brains are flawed instruments. But given that we are biologically hard-wired to act foolishly and behave irrationally at times, how can we do better? The Heath brothers, drawing on extensive studies, stories and research, offer specific, practical tools that can help us to think more clearly about our options, and get out of our heads, to improve our decision making, at work and at home.
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek – Start with Why analyses leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Steve Jobs and discovers that they all think in the same way – they all started with why. Simon Sinek explains the framework needed for businesses to move past knowing what they do to how they do it, and then to ask the more important question-WHY? Why do we do what we do? Why do we exist? Learning to ask these questions can unlock the secret to inspirational business. Sinek explains what it truly takes to lead and inspire and how anyone can learn how to do it.
- Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne – This international bestseller challenges everything you thought you knew about the requirements for strategic success. Since the dawn of the industrial age, companies have engaged in head-to-head competition in search of sustained, profitable growth. They have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share, and struggled for differentiation. Yet, as this influential and immensely popular book shows, these hallmarks of competitive strategy are not the way to create profitable growth in the future. Authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne argue that cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors argue that lasting success comes not from battling competitors, but from creating “blue oceans” — untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. Such strategic moves, which the authors call “value innovation,” create powerful leaps in value that often render rivals obsolete for more than a decade. Blue Ocean Strategy presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and outlines principles and tools any company can use to create and capture their own blue oceans.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – This is the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history, The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons -their love, their sacrifices, and their lies.
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