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A Manager's Guide to Summer Reading

Our 10 favorite new books for people managers.

So many books, so little time. 

What better season than summer to catch up on the next big idea, to be inspired and maybe to think about transforming your workplace? If that sounds too ambitious for July, how about learning how to run better meetings? As you’re curling your toes in the sand (or wherever summer takes you), consider digging into one or two of our 10 favorite new books for those who want to manage more effectively. 

And, who knows? If you stay curious, you just might pick up some good habits along the way.

Happy reading!

​Best Books for People Managers


Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries (St. Martin's Press)
Ever had an idea so crazy that you thought it just might work? Defined as "widely dismissed ideas whose champions often are written off as crazy," Loonshots is a romping, engaging read in a Gladwellian syle (if you like Outliers, this book is for you) that draws on incredible real-world examples. (Ever wonder why the world speaks English?) Safi Bahcall asserts that it's the way organizations are structured, not their culture, that's the key to innovation and success, and then shows how to nurture the seemingly silly ideas that can transform your business.​

Nine Lies About Work

Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World (Harvard Business Review)

Talent guru Marcus Buckingham and his co-author, Cisco SVP of Leadership Ashley Goodall, shine harsh light on something many of us have long suspected: The world of work is rife with outdated and ineffective systems, processes, tools, and assumptions. Rigorously researched and animated with real-life stories, this book exposes the myths, misconceptions and misfires we often take for granted and uncovers a handful of immutable workplace truths: team strength and unity matter most; more data-driven solutions and fewer top-down decisions are needed; jobs should be aligned with purpose. Spoiler alert: It turns out that employees really don't like feedback, but supportive attention can go a long way.

Dare to Lead

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (Random House)

Leadership is not about titles, status and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and their ideas and has the courage to develop that potential. When we dare to lead, we don't pretend to have the right answers; instead, we stay curious and ask the right questions. With humor, candor and storytelling so fabulous you can almost hear her warm, East Texas drawl, Brené Brown shows how to cultivate daring leaders and embed the value of courage in your culture.

If you missed the author's keynote at our 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, check out our recap.

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (Avery)

"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement," writes productivity guru James Clear, and in Atomic Habits he presents evidence-based self-improvement strategies to harness the enormously positive effect of habits and outlines the tools and strategies you need to transform your own behavior. Best of all, he introduces the "Four Laws of Behavior Change," based in large part on who you are and what you value to help make habits stick: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy and make it satisfying. With better habits, anything is possible.

Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs (Portfolio)

In Measure What MattersJohn Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates, to demonstrate the focus, agility and explosive growth that OKRs (objectives and key results) have spurred within so many thriving organizations. Doerr shows emerging and experienced leaders how developing and communicating transparent objectives and crafting measurable steps toward completing them can transform the workplace.


Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (Riverhead Books)

David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists to discover that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—it will be generalists, not specialists, who are primed to excel. It's natural curiosity and freedom of inquiry, including communication with others outside one's domain and hierarchy, that lead to breakthroughs and superior problem-solving. Epstein also shows how broad interests and even circuitous career paths can lead people to successful lives and delivers a convincing case for why people should expand their horizons in ways big and small.

Moment of Lift

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World (Flatiron Books)

Heartbreaking and heartwarming, this book by Melinda Gates delivers a simple but powerful message: Investing in women globally is imperative to making the world a better place. Diverse workplaces not only empower women, they engender more empathetic societies. In a deeply personal testimony of passionate conviction, Gates tells the story of her journey from a partner working behind the scenes to one of the world's foremost advocates for women, propelled by three core beliefs: no one should be excluded; all lives have equal value; and gender equity in education and workplaces is the lever that lifts all societies. To help turbocharge the change, she also shows ways in which anyone and everyone can make a difference.

The Surprising Science of Meetings

The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance (Oxford University Press)

If you think meetings are an inescapable, time-wasting cost of doing business (and, really, who doesn't?), you're not alone. Steven G. Rogelberg, researcher and consultant to some of the world's most successful companies, dives deep into the latest research from management and behavioral science to deliver proven practices and techniques to help managers get the most out of meetings while reducing wasted time. As fascinating as it is funny, this book makes the case that simple changes, such as tweaking the length of meetings, can have real impact, and provides useful tools for managers, including sample surveys, agendas and checklists.

Back to Human

Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation (Da Capo Lifelong Books)

Technology offers interminable power and potential. Dan Schawbel vividly shows, though, the detrimental effect it can have on human relationships and offers ways to course correct by fostering genuine connections. Asserting that it's leaders who must create workplaces in which teams feel genuinely connected, engaged and empowered without relying on technology, Back to Human ultimately helps readers choose when and how to use technology at work, if for no other reason than because more socially connected workforces are decidedly more engaged, productive and fulfilled.

If you missed the author's top-rated session "Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019" at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, check out our recap.

The Making of a Manager

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You (Portfolio)
Writing with compassion and a wealth of experience, Julie Zhou presents managers ­with a thoughtful and thorough understanding of what being a manager really means, including from-the-trenches solutions for managing people and leading teams, earning trust, communicating effectively, cultivating culture and delivering feedback. The Making of a Manager is a modern field guide packed with everyday examples and make-your-life-easier insights. For those taking on more responsibilities, those new to the job, or veteran managers looking for smart ways to reset, this is the handbook you need to be the kind of manager you wish you had.

Matt Davis manages the SHRM book-publishing program. 

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