The Top 10 Books of 2017

If you know me, each year I try to read 52 books.  2017 was no exception.  I was actually able to read 54 books.

You can find the list on my blog: Click here for that list.

What were the best books I read for 2017?

Here’s my top 10 list for 2017:

  1. “The Boys in the Boat” – Daniel James Brown


A very moving TRUE story.

It focuses on the men’s rowing team for the 1936 Olympics.

For leaders, you’ll learn how putting the right person in the right “seat” really is key to success.

You’ll live the hard decisions that the coach had to make.

Beyond that, you’ll see the life of the boys who had to do the work of rowing.

For me, it was an amazing reminder that people have a massive life beyond what they do for the organization.

Make room for them to live that life.

  1. “Originals” – Adam Grant


This book is all about non-conformists and the chaos they create.

Grant focuses on creatives and how they move the world.

I’m not a high-creative but I lead many.

As a leader, this helped me understand how a creative presents an idea and why they believe so passionately in their ideas.

A must read for any leader who works with those who produce any kind of content.

  1. “Talk like Ted” – Carmine Gallo


I do a great deal of speaking.

One on one and to groups.

I meet with direct reports individually and with staff groups at various times.

This book gave me great insight on how to be more connective as a speaker.

Topics include length of the presentation, stories, body language and so much more.

If you do any type of presenting, this book will help you tremendously.

  1. “The Gatekeepers” – Chris Whipple


I love presidential history.

This book is about the White House chiefs of staff.

These men usually know stuff before the President does and it’s their job to break the news to him.

You’ll learn how they influenced their bosses and found the courage to speak truth to power.

As you read, place yourself in their shoes and live the various situations.

For a leader, you’ll better understand your direct reports.

Critical read for any leader.

  1. “Radical Candor” – Kim Scott


I’m a firm believer in candor.

Jack Welch first introduced me to the practice in his book, “Winning.”

Kim Scott helps candor become a practice not just a concept.

She breaks down the benefits of candor, how to embrace it and practice it.

A very beneficial book.

A must read for any leader who wants to lead a great team and build an enduring organization.

  1. “George Lucas: A Life”  – Brian Jones



My name is Brian.

I’m a Star Wars nerd.

This book dripped with leadership lessons.

Lucas wanted to quit Star Wars just a few weeks in to filming.

The self-doubt he fought was amazing.

His constant questioning led to innovations that movie makers today use.

Stellar book. Great storytelling.

  1. “1944” – Jay Wink


FDR is one my favorite Presidents and 1944 was a critical year for the United States.

This book was a must read for me.

Winik tells three or four stories simultaneously.

What was happening at the White House and how decisions were being made…

How those decisions were executed on the battlefield from the voices of military generals and soldiers…

From the Jewish people trapped in death camps and trying to escape…

And the personal toll leadership can take on a person…

Leadership is not a single-track focus.

There are multiple scenarios to consider and while trying to decide –  new events are occurring that can push a leader to a new decision.

As I read this book, I could feel the weight and burden of the Presidency.

  1. “Principles” – Ray Dalio


Dalio has built a very successful business.

This book is nothing more than how he did it.

From his practice of “radical honesty” to understanding that people have value, he lays out leadership principles that are simple but so often overlooked.

This is more than theory. He’s lived it and gives examples.

What “Winning” was for Jack Welch, “Principles” is for Ray Dalio.

Dalio has written a book that should be required reading for all leaders.

  1. “Hillbilly Elegy” – JD Vance



Just wow.

I didn’t want this book to end.

One side of my extended family is this book.

It helped me to understand where that side of the family has landed and why things are the way they are.

This book is a true story.

A compelling page turner that will help you understand how America ended up where it did in the 2016 Presidential election.

Need a glimpse into a world that is quickly fading?  Read this book!

  1. “Forged in Crisis” – Nancy Koehn


Nancy Koehn’s book, “Forged in Crisis” is by far the best book I read in 2017.

She does something that is so genius.

She tells you the stories of Shackleton, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Bonhoeffer and Rachel Carson.

As she unfolds their life stories, the story will pause and Koehn will explain what leadership lesson is being lived out.



This book was very moving for me.

As a believer, I’ve cried several times in my life reading the Bible.

No other book has ever caused me to feel emotion or made me cry.

“Forged in Crisis” did.

You feel the weightiness of leadership as Lincoln tries to carry his personal demons and keep a country together.   (The Lincoln section spoke to me powerfully.)

This book should be read by every leader.

It’s that good.

One of the most powerful passages from “Forged in Crisis” –

“Despite his despondency, Lincoln did not give way to his darkest fears. His resilience and commitment to preserve the Union helped sustain him. The ability to experience negative emotions without falling through the floorboards of doubt is a vital lesson for today’s leaders. Even in the face of great obstacles, individuals must learn to maintain their equanimity while trying to advance their cause. This is true for chief executives trying to transform a struggling company, entrepreneurs dealing with the ups and downs of starting a business, and mothers caring for sick children. If a leader falters and can’t recover, his or her mission is most likely doomed.” – pg.83

This book was so good that I bought a copy for all my direct reports and a copy for every single employee of the organization…and she’s been kind enough to sign each and every copy.

Not only that, we’ve contracted to have Koehn do a video conference and teach us some of the leadership principles from this book.

There it is.

My top 10 books of 2017.

For 2018, I’ll again set the goal at 52 books.

I’m already halfway through David Donald’s book on Lincoln.

See ya in the bookstore!




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