We didn't get everything we were hoping for out of 2021, but we got a lot of great books!
We never got the full respite from the pandemic we were expecting in 2021, but we did get a bounty of great books to read—books that took us around the world, unearthed our history, and caused us to peer deeply inside ourselves. And for that, we are grateful. With the knowledge and understanding they provide, we are able to identify ways forward in our work, our businesses, ourselves, our communities, and our society. Rather than looking only at the best books about business, we’ve always strived to keep our focus on what books would most improve the human condition—for a single individual, those working in organizations, and for society—if taken to heart and kept in mind by those in business. That is the main consideration we made when narrowing our list of 40 books down to a shortlist of eight.
Our Owner, President & CEO Rebecca Scwartz recently reflected on how this focus has manifested itself in our own business:
When we changed the name of our 35-year-old business to Porchlight Book Company and launched our new website in 2019, one of our main intentions—repeated like a mantra—was to “keep books human.” Amidst all the rebranding and technology investing we were doing at the time, it was our way of reminding ourselves that the most important work we do is always in our relationships with others and in the service of the book. This encapsulation of our vision helps ensure that our services remain backed by our collective experience and expertise in the industry rather than by algorithms, and are consistently connected to who we are as people and the values we share. Following the leads of some of the best books of the year, seeking out the ideas they offer and finding the soul of each, the eight books on our shortlist echo this same commitment to focusing on the human element in business and economics.
The eight books on the shortlist are:
Leadership & Strategy: The Promises of Giants by John Amaechi OBE, Nicholas Brealey Publishing
Management & Workplace Culture: Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life by Gillian Tett, Avid Reader Press
Marketing & Sales: The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You by Pamela Slim, McGraw-Hill
Innovation & Creativity: Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways by Sarah Stein Greenberg and Stanford d.school, Ten Speed Press
Personal Development & Human Behavior: The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change by Michelle MiJung Kim, Hachette Go
Current Events & Public Affairs: Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door—Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy by Christopher Mims, Harper Business
Narrative & Biography: Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR by Lisa Napoli, Abrams Press
Big Ideas & New Perspectives: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee, One World
So much of what transpired these past two years reminds us that there is much work left to do and that our time is short. Those that put in the work to bring great books into the world seem to extend that time and slow it down, allowing us to see things more clearly. They help point us toward the most important work left to do, and pass on a greater understanding to those who come behind us through the books they produce. We want to extend our appreciation to the authors of these books and all the hands and minds that touched them on their journey to us, and to everyone in the industry whose work brings new ideas and perspectives to the culture and our collective, creative experience of being human.