Reading for Resilience: My Quarantine Book List


Back when I was a Marketing Director for an organization, I found it challenging to read outside of work. If you can relate, then this recap list will likely help you.   

Perhaps due to the unprecedented global quarantine or the fact that I landed a corporate client with 100 people who needed some inspiration on resilience I got really curious about how we get stronger through struggle. How do we withstand insurmountable challenges? What has been learned already to get us through? 

Here’s a snapshot of the 14 books, many about resilience, that I’ve read in the last 6 months.     


Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance

Angela Duckworth (2018)

I enjoyed how the author weaves in neurobiology and organizational culture alongside stories and studies. Some of which reveal: 

·  “More than 2/3 of adults are not engaged at work.” While these numbers provide evidence that it’s the “norm,” I argue that it doesn’t make it “normal.” 

·  “Optimists outsell pessimists 20-40% in various industries.” Hanging onto hope, or rather cultivating it, is so important. 

She also discusses the “neurobiology of hope” and how our brain, specifically our limbic system, can be rewired and how that builds resilience. 

A few other relevant notes that stood out.

·  “Society depends on the stable interpersonal relationships.” 

·  “Our desire to connect is a basic human need.”

·  “Each of us enriches the environment for all of us.” 

·  “People who cooperate are more likely to survive than loners.” Therefore, communication skills are very important. 

For the organizational setting, a communication focus is important to help create resilience: 

·  “Building a culture of grit requires a focus on the power of words.” If you want to create a great culture, you have to have core values that everyone lives and embodies, not only posted on walls.” 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. 


The Power of Discord: Why the Ups and Downs of Relationships Are the Secret to Building Intimacy, Resilience, and Trust

Claudia M Gold MD & Ed Tronick PhD (2020)

I found this book one learning about the still face experiment which occurs between mother and child. So much (but not all) of the focus in the book had to do with how our earliest relationship forms our future relationships.

My biggest highlight here is that if you find yourself frustrated by the amount of misunderstandings you experience, don’t be. Research reveals that 70% of the time relationships are “mismatched.” This means it’s much more likely you will misunderstand before you understand in conversation. If we view understanding, or “attunement” as they call it, as the norm then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Effective communication between people, one person understanding the intended meaning of another, takes work and doesn’t come naturally. 

The resilience comes into the story here when we work though these difficulties and misunderstandings. Struggle makes us stronger; it builds trust and resilience in our relationships. Navigating disagreement creates developmental growth and builds our resilience.  

You may want to skip this read if you’re not up for exploring the parent-child relationship, but I have recommended it to some. 


Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs

Michaela Haas, PhD. (2016) 

In a word, it is intense. If you’re going through a tough time you may want to skip it until you are past the struggle. She does use the art of science, spirituality and storytelling to weave together 12 true stories of human resilience however, which make for a compelling read. 

Recounting some traumatic events from holocaust survivors and prisoner of war survivors to Maya Angelou and more, what real people can survive is astounding. The author includes her own story of battling some severe health challenges as well, which is what made her pursue this topic.  

I enjoyed her discussion of how going through all the challenges and trauma that life throws our way creates what she calls “post traumatic growth” – which is how we build resilience.  

The number one tip she shares, and I’m not surprised by it at all, is meditation. She talks of her life and Buddhist experience and closes with the summary that all in all, resilience is simply about never giving up.  


Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates us

Dan Pink (2009) 

I read this book because as a coach and consultant I’m often asked about how to motivate people. Mr. Pink nails it when he points out the “mismatch between what business does and what science knows”! 

He shares how reward-punishment style motivation may have a place but in the information economy today, it has 7 major flaws.  Two of those flaws: it kills intrinsic motivation and creativity. These two key concepts just happen to be areas that I find myself working on with many of my coaching clients. In coaching, you get the opportunity to tap into what intrinsically motivates you. 

Dan Pink and I also agree on the importance of finding your flow state. He points out that it’s not just a “nice thing” to find your flow state, but rather a necessity! Flow is your deep sense of engagement, or as he puts it “the oxygen for the soul.” 

Because there are many hurdles to staying motivated, I highly recommend this book as you can see here in my video recap.  


The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People

Judith Orloff (2018)

When you are in a helping profession me, you have to do things that support yourself while serving others. The author, Dr. Judith Orloff is considered the “godmother of the empath movement” and is part of UCLA’s Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. 

This is a great resource for anyone who has felt they can easily take on other people’s energy. If you’re not familiar with the concept of “empaths” it basically someone who considered highly intuitive, sensitive and has the ability to feel to the extreme, and as a result are often prone to exhaustion and sensory overload. 

Dr. Orloff is an empath herself so she writes from personal experience. Through this book you learn some tips and tools to stop taking on the energy and stress of others. She’s all about highlighting the fact that being sensitive is not a bad thing but rather it is a strength when you learn how maximize the benefits. 


Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ

Daniel Goleman (1995, 2005)

The first note I made in this book is that “feeling matters more than thinking.” Reviews call Daniel Goleman’s book a “brilliant report.” What I didn’t expect was its focus on education, not business. While it wasn’t what I expected, it’s still a book about what makes people high achievers. 

I often find myself learning about how the limbic system in the brain has much impact on the way we interact with other people as well as with health, learning and memory. 

One study he includes discusses the flow state. He notes that students who achieve up to their academic potential do so because studying puts them in flow state. Long story short, if you enjoy your work or studies, you’re more likely to be successful. Focus on your strengths! 

Another point of interest was his emphasis on giving feedback. He states, “without feedback, people are in the dark and have no idea where they stand with their boss or their peers and what is expected of them. Any problems will only get worse as time passes.” I often talk with leaders and mangers about how to provide feedback in a constructive way to build trust and teamwork so this hit home.

This is a great book for anyone interested in what really creates high performance, especially if you are in education. Goleman has another book that I’m reading now that focuses more on business. 


Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Seth Godin (2011)  

We have moved from the industrial economy into the informational economy, Seth says. While reading this book I thought, this is why the nature of work that I know is so different than that of my parents or grandparents. Work used to be about fitting in, and it’s now about standing out. In fact, standing out is required unless you want to risk being replaceable.  

And many workers have been replaced in their job due technological developments or less expensive workers. To be irreplaceable you have to bring your full humanity into your work or as he calls it, your “emotional labor.” 

“The lizard brain wants you to shut up and sit down and keep your day job” he writes. And I can relate! When you become an entrepreneur after having been an employee, your brain is constantly telling you there’s an “easier” way. Hint: it’s the same ole way you’ve always done it before. The brain likes sameness. It’s trying to protect you and keep you comfortable. 

Another part I really enjoyed was his chapter on resistance. I’ve read about resistance and the amygdala hijack in the brain many times before. It’s what keeps us from doing the work or “art” that we really want to do. Seth has a great way of concisely describing how our brain works against us to hold us back though “the resistance.” 

I enjoyed this book so much that I listened to it twice! 


Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

George Thompson (2013)

Written by a former police officer, an ideal read to help us navigate disagreement and conflict. 

In passing you might think of judo as combat or martial arts but right away the author defines judo as: “the gentle way.” This helps set the tone for the rest of the chapters. Empathy is the cornerstone for verbal judo – and is key for all effective communication.  

George has three principles: One: All people want to be treated with dignity and respect. Two: All people want to be asked rather than told to do something and Three: all people want to be informed why they are being asked or ordered to do something. 

These are key principles in persuasion to deescalate situations he used in law enforcement. Considering the year we’ve endured in 2020, upon finishing this book I searched for where he is now. I found that for 30 years George traveled internationally and trained over 1 million people in de-escalation of conflict. He passed away in 2011. 

A few takeaways from the author: 

·  Abstract depersonalization is destroying our society. Practice being specific. 

·  Use positive feedback, there’s real skill in being positive. 

·  Respond instead of reacting. React suggests you are being controlled from the outside. When you respond, you are in control.

·  An ancient samurai said the ridged mind breaks under pressure. Bend don’t break. Take pride in your ability to bend. Flexibility equals strength, rigidity equals weakness.


Tao Te Ching: A New English Version

Stephen Mitchell (2006) 

For years I heard Wayne Dyer talk about the “Dow,” as it’s pronounced. So, in the tumultuous year of 2020, what better time to read some ancient wisdom? Not much is known about the author Lao-tzu, but he’s thought to be from time of Confucius (551-479 BCE). This brief book of wisdom had me noting page after page of concise takeaways. Here are a few: 

·  “Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear.”    

·  “Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life.” 

·  “Teaching without words, performing without actions: that is the master’s way.” 

·  “There is no greater illusion than fear, no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself.” 

·  “The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.” 

If any of these have you scratching your head, then the Tao Te Ching is a must read!

A few more books that may fall under a different category besides resilience that I also read during quarantine include: 


The Brand Flip: Why customers now run companies and how to profit from it (Voices That Matter)

Marty Neumeier (2016)

A quick, informative read, The Brand Flip gets my recommendation for all who want to brand something, including themselves. It’s a great reminder that you can do anything, but not everything all at once. The images and, in particular, the map of a hypothetical tea brand is used to illustrate bringing a new way of branding to life. 

The main idea behind this book is that consumers need to be a part of brand creation today. Gone are the days where a company creates a brand to simply be consumed by clients and customers. The model has experienced a flip, no doubt due to the nature of social media. Today, clients and customers want to influence a brand, have a say and be a part of a tribe. 


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Roger Fisher (2011)

I listened to this on audible and frankly couldn’t get through the entire book. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I found the voiceover rather annoying. ;) To each his/her own. Perhaps if I read the physical copy I would feel differently. But after having read other books that emphasize that “no” is the way to “yes” perhaps I prefer that way of thinking. 


Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There.

Richard Fenton, Andrea Waltz (2019)

This short read is told through a parable. Since it’s so brief it’s a good reminder of how to view “no” in sales. I recall relating to two parts to this story in particular. One is to recognize each “no” you get is getting you closer to a “yes.” When I was first searching for a job out of college, I kept every rejection letter I received. Instead of feeling bad when I got a letter telling me no, I made myself smile a little and recognize that it was a step in the right direction. The other part that is relatable is the connection to your future self. I find this a great visualization to ask my coaching clients as an exercise. What would your future self say or feel about what you are experiencing now? What advice would they give you through a challenge you are facing right now? I find my future self usually reassures me and has some wisdom to offer if I am willing to listen. 


The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Michael Bungay Stanier (2016) 

Written with managers in mind, this is a highly recommended book for anyone leading a team. I would also recommend it to my coaching colleagues and anyone who is interested in having more powerful conversations. 

This book helps “translate the neuroscience of engagement” in conversation. A coaching conversation highlights empathy, listening, and questions. All of this allows you to strengthen your ability to communicate effectively. 

The author introduces the 3 P model to focus conversation. The 3 P’s are: Project, people, and patterns. Project stands for whatever you’re working on. People centers on the relationships involved and how they’re involved in the problem. And patterns are about your own behavior and how those patterns of behavior may present a hurdle getting what you want.  

He also names the #1 most helpful question as the AWE question. It stands for “and what else?” When someone answers your question, give them some space and then ask the AWE question and see what happens. Usually a deeper answer will emerge that can be very helpful in problem solving. 


Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

BJ Fogg (2019)

I have a quote on my wall that states, “tiny tweaks can lead to big changes” (Amy Cuddy said that). It’s safe to say I admire BJ Fogg’s perspective. I also appreciate he knows who he is and tells us up front that he’s a researcher, not a coach. He studies human behavior and I respect that. 

The main philosophy here is that when you want to create change in your life successfully do three things: make it easy, make it fit your life and make it rewarding. I appreciate his focus on the reward and that is one of my biggest takeaways from this book. We really need to celebrate our wins! When we do, it rewires our brain toward a new behavior. This simple yet powerful tip is highly undervalued in our society. The emotion of joy is truly magic. It’s time to tap into it more often. 

On the flip side, I felt the book was very long and I kept wondering “is this done yet.” So, while it’s a good book with some simple tips to create habit change it didn’t quite hold my attention like other books on habits have in the past. But that’s also from someone who reads multiple books on habit change so you may want to take my perspective with a grain of salt! 

Share Your Book Recommendations

If you have already read these books and have thoughts to share or perhaps you have recommendations of your own, I’d love to hear! Reach out here and let me know.


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