- The holiday weekend is a perfect time to curl up with some short books.
- We selected nine that are particularly informative, entertaining, and easy to read.
- They include guides to building your dream career and being happier.
The first day back at work after a holiday weekend is a great time to brag to colleagues about all the awesome things you did.
Here’s one idea: “I read an entire book and it changed my life!”
Below, Business Insider has listed nine books that will do just that. You can probably get through them in a long weekend — both because they’re relatively short and because they’re so compelling that you won’t be able to put them down.
Grab one (or more) before you head out — we can guarantee you’ll resurface as a more knowledgeable and interesting person.
‘Payoff’ by Dan Ariely
This TED book is just over 100 pages and it’s jam-packed with creative lessons about what motivates people to do their best work.
Ariely is a behavioral economist and professor at Duke University, and he’s published of a number of popular books, including “Predictably Irrational.” In “Payoff,” Ariely argues that human motivation is a lot more complex than we might believe. Most importantly, money isn’t everything.
In fact, getting pizza and compliments can be more motivating than getting a financial bonus. And letting people take ownership of a project and giving them credit for it makes them more inclined to do it well.
‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
“Design thinking” is a process that’s typically used to improve on an object or experience, like a lightbulb or online dating. But in this book, two Stanford professors explain how you can apply the same process to your career, relationships, and life in general.
“Designing Your Life,” which is an extension of Burnett and Evans’ Stanford course by the same name, includes plenty of helpful brainstorming exercises. One such exercise is “mind-mapping,” in which you play a game of word association to help generate ideas about different types of careers you could pursue — or create.
Another one is “Odyssey Planning,” in which you map out different ways your life could potentially unfold. So in one life, for example, you could be a lounge singer; in another, you could be an investment banker. The goal is to realize that you could do a lot of things — and many of them could make you happy and unfulfilled.
‘It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
“It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work” is essentially a polemic against the modern workplace, broken down into super short essays about Basecamp’s unique culture. For example, every time someone quits or is fired, a detailed “goodbye announcement” email is sent around to the entire company. The idea is to be as honest and as transparent as possible. And salaries are largely non-negotiable, to avoid paying people for their haggling skills instead of their performance.
Overall, it’s a super easy but super enlightening read that will make you rethink the way you work, lead, and live.
‘TED Talks’ by Chris Anderson
If you’ve ever watched and enjoyed a TED Talk, you’ll devour this recent book by TED curator Chris Anderson. Anderson demystifies the TED experience, breaking down thecore components of a successful presentation.
Importantly, those core components remain the same whether you’re speaking to an audience of thousands, or just a handful of people in a conference room. For example: Figure out the point you want to make and don’t ramble. Tell a story. Break down big ideas into smaller chunks.
Throughout the book, Anderson sprinkles in anecdotes from past TED speakers, such as Monica Lewinsky, who told a (darkly) funny story right at the beginning of her talk. When the joke landed, and the audience laughed, she felt confident enough to continue with the presentation.
‘Why We Work’ by Barry Schwartz
Here’s another TED book that hovers near the 100-page mark. Like Ariely, Schwartz — who is a professor at Swarthmore College — constructs a powerful argument against the common misconception that motivation is just about money.
In fact, Schwartz writes, you can harness the power of intrinsic motivation — or people’s desire to do a good job for the sake of doing a good job — to get better work from your employees.
Talented teachers show up to classrooms and are instructed to “teach to the test,” or the standardized exam at the end of the school year. Their performance is measured — and their compensation determined — largely based on their students’ scores on those tests.
Schwartz calls this system “assembly-line education” and says that it’s “the antithesis of smart job design” and job performance.
‘Never Split the Difference’ by Chris Voss
We’ll be honest: This book isn’t super short. But it’s a total page-turner.
Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, and as he and Tahl Raz outline the surprising psychology behind negotiations, he recounts gripping stories from his years of experience working with terrorists and criminals.
For example, the authors explain why focusing on what your negotiation partner wantscan help you reach the desired outcome, and why you should encourage your negotiation partner to tell you “no” in order to get to an ultimate “yes.”
‘The New Rules of Work’ by Alex Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew
Cavoulacos and Minshew are the cofounders, and COO and CEO, respectively, of popular career advice and job listings site The Muse.
In their 2017 book, they share the most important lessons they’ve learned about finding and building your dream career. Don’t be intimidated by the book’s length — it’s written in a really conversational tone, with lots of exercises sprinkled throughout. Plus, you can skip around to the parts that make the most sense for you and where you’re at in your career.
Some highlights from the book: A template for cold-emailingsomeone at your dream company, a fresh take on post-interview thank-you notes, and advice on how to keep from stagnating in your current role.
‘Make Time’ by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
This guide to productivity at work and at home is filled with (surprise!) doodles and bullet points, making it lighter than it might appear at first.
The authors are former Google employees, one of whom created the company’s design sprint process — meaning they’re familiar with how stressful and demanding life can get. They walk readers through a novel, simple process for prioritizing your goals, and then maximizing your energy and attention so you really achieve them.
It all starts with establishing a “highlight” every day, as in the most important thing you want to tackle in the next 24 hours. It could be a product update; it could be cooking dinner for your family. You’re not only being realistic about how much you can get done, but also minimizing distractions from the really important stuff.
‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin
The premise of “The Happiness Project” is simple: Rubin outlines the year she spent trying to be a happier person, deploying science-backed strategies in her relationships and her career. It’s a breezy and surprisingly educational read, whose main takeaway is that true fulfillment is often in the everyday details.
What’s more, it’s all about learning what works for you. One of the “rules” that Rubin develops for herself during her experiment is simply “Be Gretchen.” She’s not a huge fan of music or fashion, and she needs to abstain completely from sugar or else she’ll go overboard. Armed with these insights, she’s able to craft a life that brings her daily fulfillment.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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