Books about 2014’s work challenges

by | Dec 8, 2014 | Blog | 2 comments

KindleCan you trust yourself to try new things without becoming overwhelmed, overburdened and overtired?

That sums up my challenges for this year. That also describes the topics of my favorite business books of 2014.

This year’s list features a mix of self-help/self-awareness, behavior design and productivity topics backed by evidence—all books that I’ve enjoyed reading and have added value to my life.

(By the way, variety, including experimentation, remains the spice of life, even though we all can benefit from strong healthy habits. The departure from the status quo applies to book lists too. For example, for the second year in a row, I’m breaking with my formula for this annual December blog post on books, even though it’s a favorite with readers.)

Here are my top five books: 

  1. The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More by David DeSteno, PhD. Provocative, thought-provoking book backed by extensive research on the risks and benefits of trusting others. New research shows that trust is more situation-based than an individual personality trait. That’s why questions such as “Should I trust you?” and “Can I trust myself?” deserve the answer “It depends” rather than “yes” or “no.”
  2. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. This guide intended primarily for product designers who want to engage users for their products has valuable lessons for anyone who wants to build engagement. (It should be required reading for those responsible for engagement initiatives in organizations.) Eyal’s “Hook model” for building a viral loop of continuous engagement includes a trigger, an action, a variable reward and an investment from the user.
  3. Mindfulness: 25th Anniversary Edition by Ellen Langer. An update of the groundbreaking book about the dangers of sleep walking through life by the influential Harvard psychology professor. When you’re mindlessly following routines and other automatic behaviors, you can make errors, experience pain and find yourself on a path you didn’t mean to take. To pay more attention and be mindful, you need to stress process over outcomes and trust your intuition.
  4. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin. A how-to guide that’s backed with easy-to-understand science about the value of using external systems to help you pay attention and remember to keep track of important information without undue wear, tear and stress on your brain and body. (See the blog post Outsource and organize to improve performance for more information.)
  5. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. An introduction to the “systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.” The book includes some great tips on how to say “no” and be true to yourself while kind to others. (For more, see the blog post Say “no” in a yes, and VUCA world.)

The list intentionally includes just five books to avoid overwhelm.

However, I also regularly recommend these three books to anyone interested in accessible, important insights about neuroscience:

Do you have a favorite book from 2014? And what’s on your reading list for the end of the year and into 2015? Please share!


  1. Patrick Reilly

    To Sell is Human by Dan Pink

    Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett

  2. Liz Guthridge

    Thanks, Patrick. Dan Pink’s To Sell is Human is a great book, which I thought would be more influential than his bestseller Drive. (You don’t want me predicting consumer trends.) I’ve not yet read Executive Presence, which is now going on my list.

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