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Further your career from home with these seven book recommendations

Business books can be a vital source of inspiration and guidance at a time of uncertainty. We asked seven business leaders which titles they’re pulling off their bookshelves during the pandemic.

The Splendid and the Vile

Erik Larson (Random House Canada)

Recommended by David Morley, President and CEO, UNICEF

“People are saying this pandemic is the worst thing since the Second World War. This book is a brilliant history of a decisive 12-month period in that war and Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister. When he came to power, it seemed inevitable that Britain would be conquered by the Nazis, yet he showed optimism and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. His leadership lessons include slowing down on weekends to recharge, the value of being succinct, and he always told the truth – even when it was hard. ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ We can hope to emulate Churchill’s words, but never to equal them.”

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Greg McKeown (Crown Publishing Group)

Recommended by Susan Uthayakumar, President, Schneider Electric Canada

“When we find ourselves in moments of uncertainty or chaos, sticking to what is essential is important. The opening quote by Lin Yutang resonated with me: ‘The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essential.’ The way of the essentialist is learning to filter through the noise and choosing to be involved in activities that make a significant difference. It is an indispensable skill that requires a great deal of discipline. Having this level of clarity and preciseness, especially in today’s current reality, is a major advantage.”

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The Black Swan

Nassim Taleb (Random House Canada)

Recommended by Mark Wright, Chief Marketing Officer, Firmex

“Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is a remarkable book under normal circumstances and is painfully relevant today. Taleb talks about the extreme impact of highly unlikely events, and how conventional thinking can’t prepare you for the chaos that follows. In so many ways, this is a really hard book to take any practical business lessons from – how can you plan for unimaginable catastrophes? For me, the best-implied advice it offers is: prepare to be prepared. We know that “Black Swan” events are inevitable, but businesses can always improve how quickly, intelligently and compassionately they react in times of crisis. ”

Atomic Habits

James Clear (Penguin Publishing Group)

Recommended by Dilys D'Cruz, Vice President & Head Wealth Management, Meridian Credit Union

“With COVID-19 turning our lives and routines upside down, I felt it was the perfect time to add some positive change to my daily routine. The book Atomic Habits by James Clear is a fantastic, easy-to-read book that provides quick, tangible tips on creating new habits and breaking old ones. I am thrilled that I have now implemented several new habits that benefit both my physical and mental well-being. These include a morning meditation, a dog walk at noon through the forest and a short Pilates workout at 5 p.m. I would never have been able to do this so easily without reading this book. I highly recommend it.”

Power: A User’s Guide

Julie Diamond (Belly Song Press)

Recommended by Annahid Dashtgard, Co-founder, Anima Leadership

“At no other time in recent history have we seen the divide between good and bad leadership so starkly. The difference between the two is about how leaders understand and wield the authority and responsibility of their role. Good leaders frame hard situations, bridge differences and reassure through comments like ‘we have your back.’ This book is a great primer for understanding that having power is not a bad thing; it’s how we use it that matters. I recommend it so that we can all brush up on our leadership skills to support our collective during this time of crisis.”

Awakening Compassion at Work

Jane Dutton and Monica Worline (Berrett-Koehler Publishers)

Recommended by Patricia Hewlin, Associate Professor, McGill University, Desautels Faculty of Management

“I found Awakening Compassion in the Workplace a good read particularly during this moment in history that has upended the normalcy of life, business and leadership worldwide. Jane Dutton and Monica Worline’s research shows how organizations – their structures, processes and values – can foster or hinder compassion in times of suffering. Organizational values of supporting and taking care of each other equip leaders to adjust to hardship and create solutions that promote human dignity and capability. The authors guide readers on how to ‘awaken’ compassion as a tool for good judgment and improving the functioning of organizations.”

Love Does

Bob Goff (Nelson Books)

Recommended by Paul Burns, Managing Director, Twitter Canada

“It’s not often you come across a book that truly changes your perspective on life, but Love Does is that book for me. It offers some of the best-kept secrets in leadership – many of which can have huge impacts in a professional or career setting. This book features some of the best human stories ever told with the underlying principle that love is the real fuel that creates a life of impact – more than just thoughts and feelings. It’s a love that actually takes action. Leading through a crisis pushes us all to dig deep, wade through the unknown and attempt to grasp those few things that are known. I love this book because, in the midst of this kind of radical uncertainty, these stories reveal that love is always the best strategy.”


Credits: Collected by ANDREA YU; Editing by STEPHANIE CHAN; Design and development by JEANINE BRITO

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