Review: Books on a Meaningful Life

April 2nd, 2018

Something almost universally true: everyone wants to live a meaningful life. However, the good life does not happen by chance. Youthful decisions about how we spend our time and who we spend it with create the amount of meaning we experience in middle age. How we choose to spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Last month, The Startup posted contributor Thomas Oppong’s recommended books on how to live life meaningfully. Four of his selections were among my favorites, too. I have personally recommended these books to colleagues and reviewed them on this blog, some as long as a decade ago. No surprise: these books have become classics and remain “best sellers” in the Ford Library.

book cover imageChristensen, Clayton M., et al. How will you measure your life? Harper Business, 2012.

Clayton M. Christensen, renowned professor at the Harvard Business School, is among the world’s top experts on innovation and growth. Using examples from his work with prominent global companies, he applies lessons learned to the careers and personal lives of students. He encourages students to consider the long-term results of different decisions and actions that have an impact on interpersonal relationships, personal integrity and career success. Full review.

How Will You Measure Your Life? is also available on our Business Bestseller Kindles and as an audiobook or eBook on OverDrive.

book cover imageGrosz, Stephen. The examined life : how we lose and find ourselves. W.W. Norton, 2013.

In his day to day practice as a psychotherapist, Stephen Grosz helps his patients understand themselves, their masked motivations and complex feelings so they can live happier and more fulfilled lives. These touching stories from his patients teach about love and loss, intimacy and separation, change and acceptance. Full review.

The Examined Life is also available as an audiobook CD.

book cover imageBrafman, Ori, et al. Sway : the irresistible pull of irrational behavior. Doubleday, 2008.

This brief and entertaining book examines the hidden influences that sometimes derails even the most principled decision-maker. Psychological concepts like loss aversion, diagnosis bias and the power of commitment are explained using vibrant examples from real life. After revealing how these hidden forces drive irrational behavior and why we are vulnerable to them, the authors provide strategies for dealing with distorted thinking. Full review.

Sway is also available as an audiobook CD.

book cover imageTavris, Carol, et al. Mistakes were made (but not by me) : why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. Harcourt, 2007.

It is difficult to admit mistakes but easy to find a justification for them. This book illuminates the ways our brains resolve the stress of cognitive dissonance to preserve our feelings of self-worth. The unreliable nature of memory and effects of personal bias impair our judgment in insidious ways, which ultimately impacts personal relationships, the legal justice system and seemingly objective scientific research. Full review.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: The Future of Happiness

March 19th, 2018

Blankson, Amy. The future of happiness : five modern strategies for balancing productivity and well-being in the digital era. BenBella Books, 2017.

book cover imageAmy Blankson’s The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era presents an interesting and timely topic for readers who may wonder if there are better ways to manage their digital lives. Her author biography touts some impressive bona fides such as an Ivy League education and presidential Point of Light awards. While the topic is engaging, the book is not. Readers interested in this book may enjoy Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Braving the Wilderness, or How to Be Happy at Work.

The author chose to have her brother write the foreword, and his effusive praise immediately strikes the false note of over-selling. She relies on family as support for and evidence of the validity of her claims and assertions, which threads its way throughout the book and gives it an aura of an extended marketing campaign for her consulting firm and her brother’s books.

The book is divided into two parts: The Three Burning Questions and The Five Strategies. While the questions of where we are heading and what happiness might look like they are worth exploring, the question of whether we would be better off without technology seems dated and superfluous, especially given her central thesis of using technology wisely. This is a second pattern that repeats throughout; the good ideas are overshadowed by the tired and overused.

The Five Strategies section shares these weaknesses, and adds to them with a number of misstatements of fact. For example, in the Strategy #4 section, she states that the Cold War ended in 1963, that the Kennedy years were “pre-Vietnam,” and that Jimmy Carter founded Habitat for Humanity. These errors both distract from the main theme and undercut the author’s credibility. The strategies themselves aren’t particularly modern or innovative – stay grounded, know thyself, train your brain, create a habitat for happiness, and innovate consciously. Here again there are few worthwhile solutions, but many of her suggestions read more like the inevitable New Year’s resolutions article in the January issue of any number of lifestyle magazines.

Finally, the author points out another reason not to bother. She has a penchant for recommending specific apps that she likes. She even states, “I am keenly aware that by the time it [the book] is published, it will be somewhat outdated.” Interesting topic, poor execution.

New DVDs for March

March 16th, 2018

Here are the latest additions to our DVD collection. Look for The Handmaid’s Tale, season 1 later this month.

Darkest Hour
Just Getting Started
Murder on the Orient Express
Only the Brave
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Wonder
The Ballad of Lefty Brown
Coco
The Florida Project
LBJ
Captain Underpants

You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.

Spring Break Reads

March 1st, 2018

As 2017 drew to a close, Inc.’s contributing editor Jeff Haden published his list of the best books of the year, which are designed to help readers connect with ideas and perspectives that will help them make changes in their lives. Any one of these books would be an enjoyable read over Spring Break.

One Device by Brian Merchant. The iPhone is the bestselling and most profitable product of all time, but despite Steve Jobs’ claims, the smartphone is not solely Apple’s invention. Like any breakthrough, the smartphone is a collective achievement involving technologies no one heard of and innovators no one remembers. This is the story of the device, its history and worldwide impact.
Also available as an audiobook and eBook on OverDrive.

Superconsumers by Eddie Yoon. The most knowledgeable and emotionally connected buyers comprise only 10% of all customers, yet these highly fixated superconsumers generate up to 70% of sales and profit. Numerous case studies, anecdotes and data show how these consumers can be tapped to shape strategies and products.

High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. Six habits practiced consistently lead to exceptional long-term results across multiple domains of life. Perhaps most salient are the first and last habits. The first is to seek clarity — know yourself and what you want. And the last is to demonstrate courage — stand up for yourself, your ideas and others.
Also available as an eBook on OverDrive and on Notable Business Books Kindles.

Principles by Ray Dalio. Reflections on life lessons learned from a long and successful career in investment management include a time-proven process for making choices and achieving goals. This book advises readers to be clear about what is wanted in life and to design a plan to attain it, and explains Dalio’s personal concepts of Radical Truth and Radical Transparency.
Also available as audiobook on OverDrive and on Notable Business Books Kindles.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. This book on resilience combines personal experiences and academic research to show how after a devastating loss, it is possible to recover and find deeper meaning in life. Those who develop compassion for themselves and draw on their own and others’ support can persevere over hardships such as illness, natural disasters and war.
Also available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive and on Notable Business Books Kindles.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

New Movies for February

February 20th, 2018

Here are the latest additions to our DVD collection:

Blade Runner 2049
Crooked House
The Foreigner
God’s Own Country
Goodbye Christopher Robin
Happy Death Day
Hollow in the Land
It
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Last Flag Flying
Marshall
Mark Felt : The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Passengers
Thank You for Your Service

You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.

Book Review: Braving the Wilderness

February 19th, 2018

Brown, Brené. Braving the wilderness : the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Random House, 2017.

book cover imageDivisions seem to define the current cultural moment for many of us. Instead of seeing each other’s similarities, we focus on the ways in which we are different. This skewed focus leads to loneliness and a lack of interpersonal connection. People are seeking answers in an effort to heal the pain caused by this unhappiness.

In her new book, Braving the Wilderness, author Brené Brown tackles this tough issue with clear advice and surprising suggestions. In this follow-up to her bestselling Rising Strong and Daring Greatly, Brown points to the idea of true belonging as the solution to creating lasting relationships with others. She defines true belonging as being consistently true to who you are, your values, and your beliefs, even when it is difficult to do so and you find yourself standing alone. She further describes this paradox using the framework of a Maya Angelou quote: “You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all.” Occupying this place of true belonging, in which you are authentic even when it creates discomfort, brings one into what Brown calls “the wilderness”: a place that is unforgiving yet sacred, dangerous yet breathtaking.

With the destination defined, Brown gives the reader the tools to reach the wilderness where true belonging lies through her BRAVING acronym: boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity. These seven elements of trust are the keys for a person to find both true belonging with themselves and to foster authentic connection with others that can not only withstand, but dismantle, the barriers that make us feel isolated from one another.

Through clear writing, relatable personal anecdotes, and pertinent research data, Braving the Wilderness guides the reader through difficult terrain with grace. However, it stops short of diving into the underlying causes of our cultural divisions. Readers of Brown’s previous works will also find some data reused in this concise and approachable introduction to authenticity and self-trust in troubled times.

Braving the Wilderness is also available as an eBook on OverDrive, an audiobook on OverDrive, and on Notable Business Books Kindles at the Ford Library.

Valentine’s Day Audiobooks on OverDrive

February 14th, 2018

Valentine's Day flowersHappy Valentine’s Day to you. From our hearts to yours, our gift is 10 classic audiobooks that you can download to your own device from OverDrive.

Here is a list of Duke students’ most beloved audiobooks:

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Good To Great by Jim Collins

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The Originals by Adam Grant

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Dollars and Sense

February 5th, 2018

Ariely, Dan, et al. Dollars and sense : how we misthink money and how to spend smarter. HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017.

book cover imageIn Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter, Dan Ariely, bestselling author and James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, teams up with Jeff Kreisler, attorney, author and comedian, to examine our irrational thinking and behavior with respect to money. While written for a general audience, the book references numerous scholarly studies and provides complete notes to undergird the authors’ observations and analysis. It is divided into three sections: how we define money, how we (mis)-assess value, and how we can think more clearly about money.

Part One lays out some basic characteristics of money and a couple of complicating factors in thinking wisely about it. The authors define money as a common good that is general, divisible, fungible and storable, and they remind their readers of the principles of opportunity costs and relative value. While these characteristics and principles are straightforward, they probably aren’t the first things we think of when we consider our finances.

Part Two is the bulk of the book and here the authors lay out the myriad ways in which human beings think unwisely about money — everything from avoiding the pain of paying, to overvaluing what we already have, to looking only at price to determine value. They also point out how much of our modern financial system has responded by doubling down on our unwise thinking to divide us from our hard-earned money in the easiest and most painless ways. This section is sobering and could be downright depressing, since, by being human, every reader will have fallen into one of more of these unwise thought processes. However, the saving grace of the book here and throughout is its humor, much of it self-deprecating. This humor provides the reader with a sense of common ground and with the comfort that even the experts are not immune from a slick sales pitch.

Part Three explores what we can do to mitigate the effects of our magical thinking about money. While we can never be — nor want to be — completely rational about money, there are things we can do to think more wisely about it. The authors point out what should matter in our decisions — opportunity cost, true benefit, and real pleasure — and what should not — sale prices or ease of payment among others. They provide suggestions for how we as individuals can think correctly and exercise forethought and self-control, and for how we as a society could transform our financial systems and use new technology to help us act more wisely.

In sum, Ariely and Kreisler present the sober truth about our irrational ways with money in a humorous and engaging book that is thought-provoking and hopefully, behavior-changing.

Dollars and Sense is also available as an audiobook on OverDrive, as an eBook on OverDrive, and on Notable Business Books Kindles at the Ford Library.

WSJ: Best Business Books 2017

January 22nd, 2018

Every year, the Wall Street Journal asks writers, academics, business owners, athletes and assorted interesting people for their recommendations for the best books of the year. Here’s what the contributors said for 2017:
 
recommender image“It’s been a strong year for books on economics, business and technology, according to Mohamed A. El-Erian, author and chief economic advisor at Allianz. He recommends 7 books from 2017, including: Principles, “Ray Dalio’s illuminating discussions of what has driven his and Bridgewater’s success; Hit Refresh, Satya Nadella’s engaging discussion of both his personal journey and the opportunities facing tech as Microsoft successfully reboots; and The One Device, Brian Merchant’s detailed analysis of what has gone into the creation and proliferation of the iPhone.”
 

reviewer imageDuff McDonald, author of the HBS critique, The Golden Passport. “I generally can’t stand books about management. An exception: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work. This is a book about life, about finding flow, the state of peak performance that no spreadsheet can model.”

 
reviewer imageDenise Morrison, CEO of the Campbell Soup company recommends two books: Thank You for Being Late and The Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Disruption is the new normal across business, politics and culture … These books explore how the supernova speed of changing technology is outpacing human evolution and our ability to manage through the change.”

 
reviewer imageCo-founder and President of Lyft Inc, John Zimmer reflects that “the happiest moments in life are those when we feel most connected to family, friends and the community around us. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging does an excellent job highlighting how we need to reclaim our sense of true community.”
 

reviewer imageOf all the books she read in 2017, CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi felt that Radical Technologies stood out. “It describes some of the ways innovation is transforming our daily lives…It’s a fascinating glimpse at what we can achieve when we embrace the changes happening all around us and infuse our lives with the spirit of possibility.”
 
Duke users can read the Wall Street Journal article, “Books of the Year: 12 Months of Reading”, in ABI/Inform Complete. Duke username and password required.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

New Movies for January

January 16th, 2018

Here are the newest additions to our DVD collection:

American MadeDetroit DVD cover
Detroit
Dunkirk
Battle of the Sexes
Despicable Me 3
Home Again
The King’s Choice
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Mayhem
The Mountain Between Us
Stronger
Victoria & Abdul

You may browse the entire DVD collection via the library catalog.