the gurus, writers, and books that change the way we think and work - educational, inspirational and motivational authors and books
Here are lists of recommended writers, gurus, thinkers and academics, plus many great books for self-development, teaching, training and understanding the subjects on this website.
The list of writers and gurus provides a basis for researching many of the great thinkers, concepts and methodologies that have shaped today's world of organizations and relationships - in and away from work.
See the bookshop page for more details of key books and links for buying them.
We are all different and we therefore take different things from different books.
These book selections are some I consider to be especially inspirational and helpful.
Many have an additional relevance to ethical work and living.
Some of the books are not typical self-development books - they are inspirational in other ways: they can help us to see life differently - to understand ourselves and others, to make the most of opportunities and time, and to achieve greater self-fulfilment.
The relaunched bookshop page now features reviews of most of these books, and additional book recommendations.
- The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
- Love- Leo Buscaglia
- Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
- Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
- The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly - Jean Dominique Bauby
- The Thin Yellow Line - William Moore
- A Guide To Rational Living - Albert Ellis
- Some Other Rainbow - John McCarthy and Jill Morrell
- The Phantom Tollbooth- Norton Juster
- The Primal Scream - Arthur Janov
- Thriving In Mind - Katherine Benziger
- If Life is a Game, These are the Rules - Cherie Carter-Scott
- I'm OK You're OK - Thomas Harris
- Games People Play - Eric Berne
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
- Buying Facilitation - Sharon Drew Morgen
- Genes, Peoples And Languages - Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
- Making Globalization Work; The Next Steps to Global Justice - Joseph Stiglitz
- The Importance of Living - Lin Yutang
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman
- How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
- Chicken Soup for the Soul - Jack Canfield
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
- Peace Is Every Step - Thich Nhat Hahn
- The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
- Love is the Killer App - Tim Sanders
- SUMO - Paul McGee
- The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success - Deepak Chopra
- Meetings with Remarkable Men - George I Gurdjieff
- The Road Less Travelled - M Scott Peck
- Moving Forward, Keeping Still - Mahatma Ghandi
- Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki
- The Magic of Thinking Big - David Schwartz
- The Millionaire Mind - Thomas P Stanley
- If This is a Man - Primo Levi
- Awaken the Giant Within - Anthony Robbins
- Over the Top - Zig Ziglar (audiotape)
- Fish! - Lundin, Paul & Christensen
- Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life - Christopher Reeve
- If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! - Sheldon B Copp
- The One Minute Manager - Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson
- Illusions - Richard Bach
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
- The Hard Questions For An Authentic Life - Susan Piver
- Make Your Own Good Fortune (How to Seize Life's Opportunities) - Douglas Miller
- Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll - Peter Cook
- john adair
- ichak adizes
- igor ansoff
- richard bandler
- chris argyris
- chester barnard
- christopher a bartlett
- gary s becker
- eric berne
- ken blanchard
- edward de bono
- katharine cook briggs
- isabel briggs myers
- alfred chandler
- clayton christensen
- ronald coase
- stephen covey
- thomas davenport
- david deida
- w edwards deming
- peter drucker
- erik erikson
- esther dyson
- albert ellis
- reg evans
- henri fayol
- david gershon and gail straub
- sumantra ghoshal
- george gilder
- malcolm gladwell
- daniel goleman
- andrews grove
- gary hamel
- michael hammer
- charles handy
- paul hersey
- frederick herzberg
- john humble
- elliott jaques
- carl jung
- joseph juran
- rosabeth moss kanter
- robert kaplan
- david keirsey
- kevin kelly
- john maynard keynes
- philip kotler
- john kotter
- theodore levitt
- rensis likert
- douglas mcgregor
- james macgregor burns
- james march
- abraham maslow
- elton w mayo
- albert mehrabian
- robert c merton
- henry mintzberg
- akio morita
- sharon drew morgen
- john naisbitt
- keniche ohmae
- richard pascale
- don peppers
- tom peters
- jeffrey pfeffer
- b joseph pine
- michael e porter
- c k prahalad
- robert reich
- anthony robbins
- carl rogers
- jim rohn
- paul romer
- edgar schein
- myron s scholes
- richard schonberger
- e f schumacher
- john seely brown
- peter senge
- alfred p sloan
- adrian j slywotzky
- joseph stiglitz
- gail straub & david gershon
- donald tapscott
- frederick w taylor
- david teece
- alvin toffler
- lester thurow
- edward tufte
- hal varian
- victor vroom
- robert waterman jr
- tomas j watson jr
- max weber
- ken wilber
See the bookshop page for more recent recommended books and other book recommendations.
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Project Managing Change - Ira Blake & Cindy Bush (Prentice Hall - December 2008)
Wow, this book is absolutely jam-packed full of methods for managing successful change in teams and organisations.
And it reads very easily, whether you skim it, cherry-pick from the masses of tools and templates, or absorb it cover-to-cover - it's all good.
The presentation is extremely clear. Serious content, delivered in a very friendly way.
It's full of classic and modern effective change management processes, tools, and guidance.
A treasure trove for trainers, and a blueprint for consultants and managers.
Thank You for Arguing - Jay Heinrichs (Allen Lane, new edition Jan 2008)
Misleadingly titled, this book actually explains the theory and techniques of persuasion, influence, and effective communications, and it does so brilliantly.
It's also a super reference resource and fountain of new ideas for trainers and teachers in communications.
The book will be useful for anyone wanting to develop winning communications - for selling, leading, managing, teaching, negotiating, speaking, presenting, parenting, and life in general.
It's extremely well-structured, easy to read, enabling dipping in to particular theories and methods, although it's a book you can read in one sitting if you have the time, even given its 300 pages. Heinrichs has assembled a seriously cohesive collection of communications techniques, underpinned by solid theory, illustrated with entertaining examples ranging from the ancient Greeks to Homer Simpson. It's more than a collection - it's a strategic toolbox.
A central theme (and likely change in approach after reading the book) is focusing on the main aim and resisting the urge to score emotional points, which might win the odd battle (with oneself or others) but usually loses the war, and main purpose.
Heinrichs even manages to explain how George W Bush kept winning - and you might be surprised at the reasoning, which is not a million miles away from Hillary's teary eyes in the New Hampshire coffee shop. An element of vulnerability can be very powerful indeed in evoking support and trust.
I've read lots of books about communications, persuasion and influence, etc., and I'd rate this as perhaps the most useful and rich in practical tools of them all.
The superb ten-page closing summary of the theories and tools is worth the price alone.
Brilliant Idea - Douglas Miller (Pearson, Jan 2008)
Douglas Miller has featured here previously, because he's a superb writer for people wanting to improve in life and work. This latest book focuses on ideas and goals and making them happen. Containing many relevant mini case-studies and several useful underpinning theory references, Brilliant Idea teaches and provides a structure - with ideas and methods for all types of people - for making a difference. The book is packed with ideas for trainers and coaches helping people to bring innovation and improvement to all situations. The book includes excellent sections on:
- overcoming psychological barriers
- generating ideas and different types of innovation
- working and communicating with people and teams - in relation to new ideas and innovation
- decision-making - especially levels of freedom for different situations
- quick models for assessing impact and effectiveness of ideas
- launch drivers and resisters model
- different behaviours for differernt organizational cultures
- dealing with lethargy and resistance
- idea life-cycles and curves
Yo Blair! is a clear powerful book. In robust and incisive terms, it explains why Tony Blair became one of the most reviled figures of modern times, and by implication why so many people have become disillusioned with politics.
Everyone should read this book to understand the facts behind the headlines and the spin, and to see why we should all be more interested in what leaders do in our name.
The book is a fascinating account of the Blair years, from which some serious leadership lessons arise.
The real shame of Blair's arrogance and delusion is that he remained in power for so long. Same goes for Bush of course. Worryingly, the shame belongs to us all, because we tolerate what these people do in our name.
Given our freedom to object, we get the leaders we deserve, and so the book is a lesson for followers as well as leaders.
This is very unusual book. Peter Cook successfully relates lots of principles about business, leadership and management to music performance, and especially to many esoteric rock music stories, situations, general music industry dynamics.
My time to review books is limited these days, but I happily made an exception in this case.
The book is written in a fast-moving and amusing style - packed full of solid theories and techniques for effective modern business development, management, leadership, marketing, selling and customer care, at every turn brought to life through rock music analogies.
The design of the layout cleverly offers a quick cartoon-style summary on each right page, to support the heavier text on each corresponding left page. It's a neat format.
Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll is also a goldmine of spicey references for trainers and teachers, even though the strong rock music theming will appeal mostly to fans of the genre and by implication won't be everybody's bag.
The references to John Otway's wonderful world tour private jet round the world party (Otway and Cook know each other and occasionally work together) are sadly for the time being not quite so powerful, given Otway's cancellation, or hopefully mere postponement of the extravaganza, nevertheless the main messages about being innovative, passionate, and shooting for the stars, still resonate loud and clear.
This book is great because it contains all the sold theory, and it's powerfully different.
For those of you who love rock music almost as much as your work, this is a super read and really unusual reference tool.
(Prices and availability vary - shop around if you need to.)
- Excellence In Coaching - Edited by Jonathan Passmore - super collection of leading-edge contributions from some of the finest modern coaching practitioners and experts.
- Handbook of Model Job Descriptions - Barry Cushway - excellent guide to job descriptions with over 200 job description examples, and additional job elements sections - (also see the March 2008 revised edition) covering executive, management, engineering, production, estates, surveying, finance, financial services, HR, IT, legal, leisure, PR, purchasing, stores, R&D, science, secretarial, clerical, sales and marketing, transport and distribution, voluntary and charity.
- How to Grow Leaders - John Adair - The Key Seven Leadership Principles from the great man himself: Adair is rightly regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern leadership.
- The Group Trainer's Handbook - David Leigh - A superb comprehensive and practical guide to modern effective training design and delivery.
- Experiential Learning - Colin Beard & John Wilson (definitely shop around for this one...) - a rich modern guide to the crucial experiential aspect of modern training and education in which theory and application are extensively and expertly explained.
The Dictionary of Concise Writing
The Dimwit's Dictionary (2nd Edition)
by Robert Hartwell Fiske
(Marion St Press, 2006)
Robert Hartwell Fiske, editor of the Vocabula Review, has created two very practical books for improving written communications. The emphasis is on what we write - how to be clear, memorable and understood - and the principles extend to speech and presentations too.
The Dictionary of Concise Writing is both an enlightening tutorial and an extremely useful dictionary for all who seek to write and speak with more clarity and impact. Contains over 3,000 stodgy idioms with over 10,000 sharper alternatives, plus a super introductory guide that will also be a boon for communications trainers.
The Dimwit's Dictionary extends the theme, providing alerts and alternatives to over 5,000 clichés that are often used lazily and to poor effect, when clearer language would be far more effective and memorable.
If you want to inspire people and convey your ideas more clearly and quickly then you will find either or both of these excellent books really helpful. The Concise Writing Dictionary is the most generally useful. The Dimwit's Dictionary is a more specific guide to clichés and alternatives.
Lore of the Land: A Guide to England's Legends - Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson (Paperback edition available 9 Nov 2006. First published in hardcover 2005.)
This is a truly riveting and marvellous book for lovers of myth, legend, folklore and to an extent local English history too. This book is simply unputdownable, especially if you've travelled around a bit and know a few parts of England. Over 900 pages, including lots of interesting pictures, the detail is arranged in county and place-name order, and some of the places are very small indeed - the coverage is awesome. The comprehensive index enables searching by type of legend and folklore detail and names, etc., and the 48 page bibliography indicates the depth of research used in creating this work by experts Westwood and Simpson. Buy this book for pleasure, interest, fascination, and also if you travel around England in your work - you will for ever have something interesting to say about where you are.
Talking for Britain - Simon Elmes (Paperback edition of hardcover first published in 2005)
Fascinating journey through Britain's regional dialects and English language variations, based on BBC Radio 4's Voices series, which was produced by the author. A factual and detailed study in local language and slang expressions, the book also includes twelve separate regional mini-glossaries. The 'documentary style' of this unusual book reflects extensive field research that underpins the findings. The main index of regional words alone makes this an indispensable resource for those who enjoy or work with language and etymology. It's puzzling that Penguin came to publish it rather than BBC Books, given that presumably the research was effectively funded by the BBC. Some one will no doubt correct me if I'm barking up the wrong tree here. Or just barking. Whatever, it's a wonderful book.
Zen and the Pen - Robert Christopher
Unique, charming and practical guide to Zen writing and self-publishing. How to write a book and self-publish in 90 days. Limited edition of 200 proof copies. Available from the author, and also from Pureland Japanese Meditation Centre. One of the more esoteric and individual recommendations on this website; if you like Zen and Buddhist ideas, and want to write a book, this will help you. Contact Robert Christopher, End Cottage, Bigby, Lincolnshire, DN38 6ER, UK. Tel +44 (0) 1652 628361.
Making Globalization Work; The Next Steps to Global Justice - Joseph Stiglitz "...Globalization does not have to be bad for the environment, increase inequality, weaken cultural diversity, and advance corporate interests at the expense of the well-being of ordinary citizens..."
"...Corporate governance can recognize the rights not only of shareholders, but of others who are touched by the actions of corporations... An engaged and educated citizenry can understand how to make globalization work... and can demand that their political leaders shape globalization accordingly."
Published by Penguin Allen Lane 7th September 2006.
Joseph Stiglitz is one of the leading modern thinkers and writers on Globalization and global corporate and government responsibility. His humanity is inspirational and his command of global economics issues is awesome. Nobel Prizewinner for Economics in 2001, he was VP and chief economist at the World Bank from 1997-2000, prior to which he was member and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton, 1993-97.
Stiglitz left Washington for the World Bank because of his passion to address poverty in the developing world. He is an economist of unique standing, driven by fairness and justice. His previous book Globalization and its Discontents was a significant and best-selling work; so will this be. Stiglitz is (at time of writing) Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University.
Stiglitz writes in the preface to Make Globlization Work:
"...This book reflects my faith in democratic processes; my belief that an informed citizenry is more likely to provide some checks against the abuses of the special corporate and financial interests that have so dominated the globalization process; that ordinary citizens of the advanced industrial countries, as well as of the developing world, share a common interest in making globalization work. I hope that this book, like its predecessor, will help transform the globalization debate - and, ultimately, the political processes which shape globalization..."
The hard cover price will reduce in time but this book should be read now, not later.
N.B. This book is not a light read. It's packed with hard facts, statistics, and extensive sophisticated reasoning. The book is also an excellent reference tool. It cuts through the waffle and provides evidence for why historical Western thinking doesn't work, and what needs to change in business and politics for the world to be a better place.
Lizzie West and the White Buffalo - I Pledge Allegiance to Myself
Not a book, a CD. Lizzie West is an extraordinary talent with a philosophy to match. An advocate of self-determination and humanitarian values, Lizzie West and the White Buffalo - I Pledge Allegiance to Myself is her second album, released in April 2006. It will captivate all who love soulful meaningful music. Lizzie West was the AOL and Entertainment Weekly 'Breakout Artist' of 2003 following the re-release of her self-published debut album 'Holy Road: Freedom Songs', which incidentally features a remarkable musical version of Mary Frye's magical poem 'Do not stand at my grave and weep' (track title 'Prayer').
Allen's English Phrases - Robert Allen
This is a wonderful big reference book that will be useful for anyone seeking to understand modern English expressions and/or to research phrase origins and usage. No doubt the price will reduce with a soft-cover edition, until such time the hard-cover is worth the extra given that a book like this is timeless and actually quite beautiful. Allen's English Phrases contains meanings, origins, dates and usage examples of over 6,000 modern English phrases and expressions. It is compiled and edited by Robert Allen, a leading authority on the English language. There are many books of etymology and phrases origins; what makes this one special is its focus on the modern expressions that are commonly neglected by lesser works. Judging by the correspondence I receive people increasingly seek meanings of modern language clichés, and this book excels for that purpose. Allen's studiously accurate approach has resulted in a seriously useful reference book for researchers, language fans, and people seeking to better understand modern English. The book would also be a useful learning resource for all self-respecting offshore call-centres serving the English market. Allen's English Phrases is published by Penguin in July 2006.
Night - Elie Wiesel (2006 new translation)
Considered by many to be the greatest book from the Holocaust, Night is a truly inspiring record of Elie Wiesel's experiences under the Nazis at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. This new edition published by Penguin in June 2006 is an updated translation by Elie Wiesel's wife Marion Wiesel, and contains a new preface by the author.
The lessons from Night, orginally written in 1955, concern the survival of the human spirit through unimaginably terrible experiences, and as such provide extraordinary illustration and inspiration for self-determination and inner resolve.
Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work against violence, repression and racism.
Night ranks alonside other great inspirational works from the Holocaust, notably Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, Primo Levi's If This is a Man, and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.
Three Wins: Service Redesign Through Flow Modelling - Simon Dodds
This remarkable book charts the successful redesign of the Vascular Surgery Outpatient Clinic at Good Hope Hospital, in North-East Birmingham from 2000-2004, which was subsequently rolled-out across the region during 2005. Simon Dodds and his team won the first Innovation Award for Service Delivery for the change and improvement that they achieved - notably resulting in the 'three wins':
- a better service to patients,
- a skilled, motivated and enthusiastic team,
- and a substantial cost saving in treatment costs
And Death Came Third - Andy Lopata and Peter Roper
Excellent guide to modern networking, introductions, and using relationships and contacts in business - plus a separate guide to public speaking and giving presentations. The extensive tips and techniques are clearly presented, very quick and easy to read, and supported by plenty of stories and examples. Extraverts will enjoy this book a lot and be able to apply all of it. Introverts might find some of the ideas less easy to embrace and use, but if you are keen to promote yourself and to work with and through others this book explains how to do it. The book is notable also for its own very successful network marketing campaign. These people practice what they preach and it certainly works for them. The plaudits at the front of the book go on for eight pages and reads like a who's who of world's greatest networkers - like I say these guys practice what they preach.
Freakonomics - Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner
This book has attracted rave reviews, and with reasonable cause. It's a sort of pop collection of socio-economical questions and answers, creatively and scientifically interpreted in a way which will make you think differently about a number of things that you've wondered about already, and a few others that you've not considered before at all. Using seemingly obscure subjects, the authors explore motivation and success - from individual and social standpoints - in a genuinely different and enlightening way. The book has a big American slant, but the fascinating perspectives are transferable to our understanding of modern society and business and behaviour everywhere. It's a stimulating and enlightening read, and aside from the learning, provides endless facts and correlations that will spice up your conversation for as long as you can remember it all. Particularly notable sections explain the similarity between drugs traders and conventional business organisations; why it's often not a good idea to sell your house through an estate agent; how crime levels are more related to abortion laws than policing, and how people's names are linked to success in life.
Make Your Own Good Fortune (How to Seize Life's Opportunities) - Douglas Miller
This is an excellent book for personal development - not at all up its own backside like many of this genre. Instead, Douglas Miller extends his positive-thinking ideas (from his previous book, Positive Thinking Positive Action) into practical techniques for understanding, spotting and acting on opportunities to make the most of your life. Very real, very well written, and very no-nonsense. Published April 2006. Part of the excellent BBC Books 'Essential Steps' personal develop series.
The Wisdom of Crowds - James Surowiecki
The first popular and accessible commentary on the value of collective judgement. People in groups are remarkably effective in evaluating and deciding things, and the lessons in this book are immensely useful for managers and leaders. It's a counter-view to Sir Alec Issigonis' assertion that a camel is a horse designed by committee, although author James Suroweicki does explain that the key to collective wisdom is independent thought, which arguably most committees struggle to preserve. This is a remarkable book which many people have already discovered to be relevant to life, management and organisations of all sorts. If you've not yet read it get hold of a copy.
Words to the Wise - Michael J Sheehan
Michael Sheehan is a leading authority and writer on language and etymology. He has a wonderful style - he's a natural teacher - and his depth of expertise is considerable. This book contains masses of interesting information about word and phrase origins, unusual grammatical devices and features of language - all in a very digestible format based on Sheehan's 'questions and answers' US radio show appearances. Even the most adept communicators will find much in this book to enrich and refine their use of the written and spoken word. Not available via Amazon.co.uk, hence link to Amazon.com.
S.U.M.O. - Paul McGee
Paul McGee's wonderful guide to living a positive and successful life. Easy and entertaining to read, practical to apply, modern in outlook and philosophy. This is a really super book for anyone interested in making the most of their life. Even the most well-balanced and fulfilled people will find much of value in this lovely book. Incidentally SUMO stands for Shut Up Move On.
The A-Z of Us - Jim Keeble
Amusing yet serious and insightful observations of relationships, especially between parents and children. Game-playing with other people's emotions for reasons of personal insecurities are invariably destructive. You will see yourself, and people you know, in the behaviours of the characters. A fiction that must have been based on personal experience - and a highly perceptive appreciation of it - that will help you better understand your own behaviours and feelings, and those of the people around you.
Eunoia - Christian Bök
Eunoia means 'beautiful thinking'. It's the shortest English word containing all five vowels. This incredible book, which took seven years to write and was first published in 2002, is a remarkable literary work. Each of its five chapters contains words using only one of the five vowels. A uniquely strange and beautiful reading experience.
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