Book List 2012

Books have been only one of many sources of inspiration this year, but a very powerful one, in trying to properly understand the economic, ecological, cultural and social systems that I am part of, whether in my own home or at a global level.

They also make great gifts.  In fact, my favourite present that I gave last year was 3 copies of the same book, for the happy recipient to read and pass on.

So I have listed out the 50+ books that I have read this year and accompanied each one with a couple of sentences that don’t so much sum up the book, but represent my neatest personal take-away from it (have also linked the titles through to Amazon).

All these books I read fully, so can vouch for them being worthwhile.  But the extra special ones I have marked with a **.

Feel free to share this with anyone looking for present ideas.  Happy reading!

**Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Autonomy, mastery and purpose are the keys to motivation. Intrinsic drive is the best way to succeed, and also stay sane.  Fantastic – I think I’ll leave my job then.


Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly

The world is too complex for rational decision-making to be effective (as much as we believe the opposite).  Better to iterate and adapt rather than predict.  Oblique approaches more commonly produce successful outcomes.

Anything You Want

Do things for better reasons than just making money.  You’ll have a better time and you’ll probably make more money.


**Finite and Infinite Games

A “finite game” has a winner and an end, the goal is to veil yourself and triumph.  An “infinite game” has no winner and no end, the aim is to be authentic and keep playing.  Choosing nonwinnable games is more rewarding, and rare.  A pretty consistent message so far…

The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry

We love focusing on what doesn’t work, but what we focus on becomes our reality, and so our problems dominate the scene.  Escape incessant problem solving by focusing in the best of what is, and envisioning what might be.

**Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into the Fuel for Brilliance

Fear and anxiety make you want to move quickly from freedom to constraint, to close off options and stop exploring (or it prevents you from starting).  The more you can tolerate ambiguity, the more you can come up with better ideas and creations.

Betterness: Economics for Humans (Kindle Single)

Betterness is the next level of human exchange.  21st century competitiveness is not about kicking the next guy’s arse, but kicking your old habits.


Poke the Box

Go.  Start something and others will follow.  Just make sure you start.  Don’t be dissuaded by your Lizard Brain, the voice of Fear.


**Do the Work

Same as Poke The Box.  Quiet the chatter of your Monkey Mind, fight the forces of Resistance.  Sit down and get going.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Most of our time in the office is utterly wasted, often thanks to pointless meetings.  Don’t call a meeting unless you have decided something for discussion and circulated a one-pager on it.  Don’t turn up to a meeting unless you have some constructive disagreement with what’s been decided.


“My life is for itself and not for a spectacle”.  Probably better to read the original than this mash-up though.


Why We Do What We Do

Motivation isn’t something that can be done to us, it’s only something we can do to ourselves.  Control leads to dependence and inhibits motivation and creativity, and extrinsic goals end up owning you.


Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement

Movement is a way of life that we have forgotten.  Our brains have taken over our bodies, and even when we exercise we employ our brain to obsess about it.  Let loose: scamper, tumble, climb – the body requires it of you.

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential

Miserable fixed mindsets believe their abilities are carved in stone, every encounter is a test.  Enlightened growth mindsets believe any ability can be developed, and learn from every encounter.  Change your mindset to growth and stop making yourself miserable.

**Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Self knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.  Machine education encourages formulaic human beings.  Without the freedom to experience real life, there is no real learning.

Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track

Similar take as Dumbing Us Down: self discipline is the best discipline, self-initiated learning is the most efficient and best retained.  Mass education serves the institution more than it does children, who are taught not to challenge it.  Once grown, adults apply this particular lesson very well.

Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education

Each child has a spark of genius in them waiting to be ignited.  Schools are stuck in a rut of preparing kids for the next level of tests, on a purely linear track.  Mix it up so kids can learn what they love and what they are capable of, and get fired up.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

The future is uncertain and we need to be flexible.  Conformity is valued more than diversity, and the result is suppressed creativity.  So get uo to lots of crazy antics to find out your best, truest self.

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

Happiness is achieved internally through living a meaningful life, through five dimensions: Health, Relationships, Passions, Growth, Contribution.  Just like nef said too.

The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense

We must define our purpose and our vision of living that purpose.  When our definition is unclear or absent, it is reflected in our self-awareness, and we skim the surface of life, hollow and confused.

The How Of Happiness: A Practical Guide to Getting The Life You Want

Wealth, status and beauty only account for 10% of what makes you happy. 50% is in your DNA. And a critical 40% depends on what you actively DO to be happy.  Choose from a list of 12 activities!

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Try loads of new stuff.  Tear rabidly into your own habits.  It’s shedloads of fun, and good for your soul.

**Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life

An important book to read.  In order to stick with it, you must be objective and refrain from criticising and judging his style, which is a fitting and excellent way to put his advice to work immediately.

**Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Humans have become incarcerated in our destructive culture, seeing no alternative.  This happened when we shifted from believing that Man belongs to the world, to believing that the world belongs to Man.  This must be reversed, so we can return to the natural order ourselves, before nature does it anyway.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder

Drop your schedule and get yourself and your kids out into nature, because ever since we stopped doing that, we have all gone insane.  Along the lines of what I was rapping about this summer.

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream

Only when you get in touch with yourself can you achieve what you want.  Then, funky unexpected stuff happens, connections start revealing themselves, and there is no good or bad, just what you make of it.

Downshifting: The Bestselling Guide to Happier, Simpler Living

Being habitually busy has also made us go insane. Insights into simpler living.


Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action

There will always be fear; no amount of procrastination will make it go.  It can only be faced down when you decide “Whatever happens, I can deal with it”, and doing the thing that scares you.

**Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh

Many people lived very happily before the “progress” of the industrial monoculture.  When it came, it numbed their humanity.  Western culture oozed beguiling success on the outside, but desperate emptiness on the inside. A reminder of the sustainable alternative that existed for millennia.

The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life

At the root of the desire to acquire is discontent with the way things are now.  Focus on what makes you happy through simplification, and elevation of purpose.

The Effortless Life

Cause no harm, have no goals or expectations, give up false needs, unnecessary actions and the illusion of control, do things you love, don’t do things you hate, don’t rush, understand what is enough.  Then have a nice cuppa.

Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness

(Notice a pattern yet??) No-one actually believes that possessions equal happiness, but most of us act like we do, because we hear the lie so often.  Realise it and snap out of it.

Get Out While You Can – Escape The Rat Race

Gain freedom from the tyranny of wage slavery by developing multiple streams of income (i.e. making websites).  A rousing message for sure, and useful practical advice…for a highly flexible and spiritually bereft way of earning a living.

Authentic: How to Make a Living by Being Yourself

Civilisations fall when they can’t address the terminal issues they face.  As individuals we need to rise above our own distractions, find a Higher Self in order to address our collective dysfunction.


“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, to regard man an inhabitant of Nature, rather than a member of society”.

**As A Man Thinketh

A person must dig long and deep to discover their own truth and the serenity that accompanies it.  The more tranquil a person becomes, the greater their success, influence, power for good. Free on Kindle!

**Story of B

‘Sister’ book to Ishmael.  We’re still utterly buggered.  The solution can only come from people with changed minds; a new vision cannot come from within the existing (materialistic, scientific) paradigm, it must somehow come from outside it. Very through provoking.

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover : Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

We are afflicted by an immature, ego-driven form of masculinity, fuelled by our culture, and its lack of rites of passage into manhood.  We need to find our own way to let the chaotic, fragmented Boy ego die, so the mature and peaceful Man can emerge (with a beard, it seems).

**Solitude: Recovering the Power of Alone

Our life is not what happens to us, but how we perceive what happens to us.  In solitude, we become reacquainted with our conscious selves.  People at peace are those who accept who they really are, and stop making excuses.

Theory U: Learning from the Future as It Emerges: Leading from the Future as It Emerges

Problems cannot be solved by the same level of consciousness that created them.  We need a new, higher level of consciousness in leadership that can meet challenges in a more purposeful way.

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Zero Books)

The academic language of this book I found impenetrable at times, but I found one message especially appealing: Small glimmers of an alternative can have a disproportionate effect.

**Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential

External conflicts arise from internal conflicts within ourselves.  We are deeply entranced by illusions we create for ourselves, and then mistake for reality. We must wake up to the reality beneath the illusions.

**And We are Doing It!: Building an Ecovillage Future

It might be too much to ask for projects with “higher” goals to also be profitable and scalable in one jump.  Maybe we first simply need more instances of people changing their habits, raising their consciousness, and trying to do things differently.

Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Crutches – whether Nike trainers, work addictions or praise – make us weak and dependent, and unable to fly free like birdies. Also, barefoot running is totally amazing.

**The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Observe your thoughts without judgment, accept what is, stop reacting.  Be present and attentive instead of endlessly preoccupied with events of the past and projections of the future.  Then you might stop acting like such a wanker.

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too

Happiness doesn’t come from status or stuff, it comes from living life how you truly want.  Nothing too new, but always good to hear it through other people’s personal stories.

Pippa’s Progress

The path is not to take you from one place to another but from where you are to a deeper where you are.


The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The most important thing about any art is to work. Nothing else matters apart from sitting down every day and trying.  Reads like a slap in the face.


**Please Take One: One Step Towards a More Generous Life

Governments need our votes and businesses need our money. Starve them of both, while simultaneously taking responsibility and action yourself, to bring about a change of direction.

How to Find Fulfilling Work: The School of Life

Act first, reflect later.  And mix with people who see the world very differently, or you will be incarcerated by the self-reinforcing conventions of your tight social circle.  Pursue freedom, flow and meaning – just like Dan Pink says but with different words.

How to Meditate (Easwaran Inspirations)

Nothing worth having comes easily (apart from this book which is 77p). Being impatient about your progress in meditation (or even dwelling on your ’progress’) completely misses the point. Be cool.

Screw Work, Let’s Play: How to Do What You Love and Get Paid for it

Indulge your interests no matter how whimsical they seem or how much ridicule they attract, rather than sticking to conventions.  Recognise what is going on inside and act on it, rather than be directed by other people’s ecpectations and values.

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