I’m cheating again. I called this ‘personal growth’ because I don’t have a better category. I suppose I could use the catchall ‘self help’ but I deplore that label because it has come to mean pop psychology dribble from the Oprah circuit. I also considered ‘professional development’ as that is a common label for these kinds of books but not all of them are strictly professional. I think these books would help anyone anywhere and not just in the realm of our work lives.
So I went with personal growth. If you have a better idea for a category, let me know. But now, here goes my top three personal growth books.
Quiet, Susan Cain
Love is not quite the right word for the way I feel about this book. Need is a better word. Cain’s work on how introverts are different and how they can cope in a world that glamorizes the ‘extrovert ideal’ is revolutionary, not just to introverts but to those who love them. As a non-shy introvert I found it very difficult to carry the mantle of extrovert that people demand from their pastor. It is not evil that they expect it, it is simply the way things are. Cain’s book is a major help for those introverts who have to live as though they were extroverts.
Getting Things Done, David Allen
I am not a naturally organized human being. I tend to leave things lying around, make piles of important things and forget about them, and I’m forever scribbling notes and ideas down on something. Allen’s book puts forward the idea that if you are organized, then you will be more productive. The time it takes to put your stuff together in a cohesive, well managed, and systematized process will pay off dividends in the long run.
He is right. He argues for some simple steps that make sense but that most people don’t do because they think that every situation is the exception.
I recommend this book highly for people who work in an office environment, have large amounts of data to deal with (both paper and digital) and students. I read it first as an audio book and it is only a three hour listen. Listen to it while working out or driving. It will help you pull it together.
Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson
This book is a metaphor shoved inside of an allegory. What I love about this book is the simple question, What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Most everyone read this book in the 90’s as it was pushed pretty heavy in professional circles as a marketing book. I don’t think of it as a marketing book but as a book about finding joy in life. At its core Who Moved My Cheese is a guide to identifying the rut you’re in and then figuring out how to bravely crawl out of it.
So my top three personal growth books are a personality book, an administrative book, and a leadership guide. Only Quiet is a long read, the other two are brief, the kind of things you can knock out in a day or two and feel very accomplished about. It took me a long time to process through Quiet, but I think that is just the nature of that subject material.
What books would you put on your personal growth favorites list?
image from citypaper.com