Books to Watch | August 11, 2020
August 11, 2020
Each and every week, our marketing team—Marketing Director Blyth Meier (BRM), Digital Marketing Specialist Gabbi Cisneros (GMC), and Editorial Director Dylan Schleicher (DJJS)—highlights five new books we are most excited about.
This week, our choices are:
Heart Breath Mind: Train Your Heart to Conquer Stress and Achieve Success by Leah Lagos, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Regulating one's stress isn't just good for health. It can also be good for business! Dr. Leah Lagos's Heart Breath Mind is the guide to her unique ten-week program that pairs breathing techniques with cognitive strategies to improve our responses to stress. Even when I mentally believe I am at my most confident, my voice can still shake, my words still stutter, and I will forget certain terms altogether when giving a presentation or even just speaking one-on-one with someone. Heart Breath Mind's preface teaches me that these physical responses are not something to be ashamed of. Rather they are the human body's biological programmed responses to stress, the fight-or-flight strategies humans once used to survive their unpredictable environments. The problem is that we haven't translated these biological responses into new strategies for surviving in boardrooms, in sports matches, in debates, or other non-life-or-death situations. That's where Lagos's book comes in:
A critical part of our work together will be developing your somatic awareness—a heightened consciousness of how your body is feeling—so that you will recognize when you are stressed and can take action to shift yourself out of a state of stress and into what is called parasympathetic dominance.
Lagos clearly communicates the psychology and science behind the techniques she has established. While we may not yet be back in those same in-person situations that require mindful control of our stress levels, the daily pressures of adapting to our new quarantined work lives or understanding and undertaking the duties of dismantling the inequality in our world offer plenty of opportunities to practice the practical techniques that Heart Breath Mind program promotes. (GMC)
Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America by Michael Hiltzik, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2020 has brought us a wave of great new books about the Gilded Age. They are books that hold up a mirror to our own times, as both eras are marked by the rise of technology that altered our previous relationship with time and space, and how we interact with the world. Both fundamentally changed the economy, and resulted in waves of industry consolidation and monopoly power. It also changed social norms, bringing people of all walks of life together, even as it kept (and keeps) them in separate compartments.
Michael Hiltzik’s Iron Empires is one of the more epic and entertaining so far. Spanning generations, it documents the rise of the industrial empires that arose in America around the railroads, and the overreach of the robber barons who led and financed them. But it also gives them credit where it is due for their economic innovations and industrial organization, and explains how the efforts to break them up may have ultimately gone too far. It is very much a business history, explaining in rather intricate detail the machinations and maneuvers of powerful people for ever more power, profits, leverage, and control, the relationship between industrial management and labor, and how all of these competitions ultimately led to a shift in public opinion and policy toward the railroad companies and the men who built them into such powerful entities.
I find myself wondering how these iron empires might parallel the information empires of today, and how we might avoid the same mistakes—mistakes that allowed our once thriving rail networks to fall into the dilapidated state they are in today, even as other continents remain more vitally connected—with our internet networks. (DJJS)
The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn't, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi, Waterbrook
Like this week's book giveaway for Making Sense, Lazy Genius is also based on a podcast. The Lazy Genius Way offers methods and mindsets that you can adopt to make your life easier and more fulfilling. "The easy way out" may be looked down upon in many circles, but this book is a much-needed reminder for all us overachievers that in order to have enough time and energy to engage in the things you feel are most important, you have to be forgiving of yourself and simplify some other things.
Author Kendra Adachi is the Marie Kondo of our mental space. She's a frank yet empathetic friend who wants to keep us sane while pursuing our goals for ourselves and our families. Her primary audience is the overworked mother who could be any of us, honestly. Though I'm only 24 and have only been in a relationship for two years, I feel the mental and emotional weight that Adachi describes under the heading "The Real Reason You're Tired":
You're 'on' all the time, trying to be present with your people, managing the emotions of everyone around you, carrying the invisible needs of strangers in line at the post office, and figuring out how to meet your own needs with whatever you have left over—assuming you know what your needs are in the first place.
Unlike other approaches that designate specific daily practices, Adachi's guide leaves room for the changing circumstances in your life. Those few precious hours after work can either be dedicated to finding a gift for a random classmate at your kids's school OR you could decide on buying the same gift for every school gift exchange and have more time to devote to nutritious meal planning, family time, or whatever else will save your body, mind, and time from uncalled for stress. I love the many helpful examples and lists that Adachi provides for those of us who may be too exhausted to want to make a decision, even when it's supposed to be a simplified one. It seems too easy of a read for such a life-changing book, so now all you have to do is clear some time to start reading it! (GMC)
Radical Alignment: How to Have Game-Changing Conversations That Will Transform Your Business and Your Life by Alexandra Jamieson & Bob Gower, Sounds True
One of the things I have noticed a lot since being home with my wife and children all day every day is how little we really listen to one another. The kids are young, and finding their voice, and we’ve all become accustomed to tuning each other out because we’re so often all talking at once, over and around one another, trying to get our own information across while interpreting a person’s mood rather than listening intently to what they are actually trying to communicate to us. We exist happily through the majority of our days despite all this, but misunderstandings arise that would usually be avoided if we just communicated more clearly and openly, explained ourselves more explicitly, and listened with more empathy.
The challenges are different at work, but the quality of our relationships still comes down to the quality of our conversations. As the distance we’re being forced to put between us during the pandemic has changed how we have them—even if we’re still in the same building—there are a lot of things that haven’t changed. Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower have been helping organizations have better conversations for years, by injecting more humanity into professional interactions, and teaching people to be more strategic with their personal communication. They have developed a technique, the All-In Method (AIM), to help. In their new book, they explain why it’s important to achieve more clarity and understanding in our conversations, how to do so, and give us clear examples of how it builds common cause and brings us together at home and work. (DJJS)
Warndu Mai (Good Food): Introducing Native Australian Ingredients to Your Kitchen by Damien Coulthard & Rebecca Sullivan, Hachette Australia
My first international trip was to Australia when I was 18 years old to visit my friend Rowena whose family moved to our town for a year-long sabbatical in the midst of our middle school years. During that month in Sydney, I ate a pile of fresh-caught seafood, was introduced to the magic of pavlova, taught how to cut a mango, and fell in love with chocolate-orange Jaffas and Violet Crumble candy bars. What I did not do, however, was eat any native Australian cuisine. Ingredients like finger limes, Boonjie tamarind, anise myrtle, and rainforest cherry were not “on the menu” in 1989. Which is why I’m very grateful to married authors Damien Coulthard and Rebecca Sullivan for their new cookbook. They are the founders of Warndu (which means “good” in Coulthard’s Adnyamathanha language), a company which champions their country’s native foods. The aboriginal people of Australia have been fine-tuning their agricultural, foraging, and cooking methods for the better part of 60,000 years, which means they know the crops that not only can grow in a region, but also what should grow there. The cultivation and usage of native species not only provide a distinctive and delicious cuisine, but also helps protect the fragile environment.
Let’s use food as an opportunity to connect with our nations’ first people, to reconcile, to respect a deep and long culture. We all eat, three times a day. If we all want it, we can create demand for native food, give our Indidenous communities opportunity and respect, and give our farmers a value-added proposition rich in cultures and rich in repairing our soil. Our people need this, our environment needs this and most of all our bodies need this. Eat local. Like, properly.
What’s so captivating about reading this book is that I have almost zero reference for what these ingredients taste like. Boobialla? Bunya nut? Bush apple? Saltbush? Samphire? Wattleseed? I have no frame of reference. Thankfully the authors include plenty of information about these native ingredients, complete with photographs and replacement suggestions. Now I know that lilly pilly is a fruit that tastes like Granny Smith apple with hints of clove, and strawberry gum looks like a bay leaf but tastes like strawberries and cream, and youlk is a tuber with the unusual flavor combination of radish and Asian pear with kohlrabi and potato. Close your eyes and try to conjure up something sharp, sweet, savory, and starchy. Delicious.
What I love about the world of food is its limitlessness, its profound unknowability. Even if you are the best chef in your city, there is always another city, another country, another continent that cracks open an entirely new universe to you, full of flavors you didn’t know existed, techniques you thought you had mastered, and genius cooks that have been tending to their cuisines for generations, or in this case, tens of thousands of years. (BRM)
What we're reading away from work:
"I finished reading Raising Our Hands by Jenna Arnold last week, and I ran out of 3 post-it tab colors in the process. It encourages a lot of inner-work to be doing in terms of becoming allies for racial equality, but it also urges (white) women to actively make room for other voices, speak up when those voices aren't in the room, have difficult conversations with those around you, ask questions about inclusion/accessibility policies at your work/your children's school/the institutions you patronize... and more. The book is a lot. But worth it."—Gabbi Cisneros, Digital Marketing Specialist