[Blog] 37+ Good Reads From Angela

37+ Good Reads From Angela

At a few of our recent virtual events, our popular speaker, Angela Cheung (Managing Director of APV and Communication and Development Committee Member of BXAI), shared with us a wealth of wisdom and advice on career strategies and presentation skills.  If you are curious about what inspires her, here are more than 37 good reads from Angela that you can’t miss!  Encompassing poignant life stories and self-help books on business, career, life, and more, this book list also comes with Angela’s insightful comments on each book. Which titles strike your fancy?

The Books I Gift and Recommend the Most

1) Getting Things Done: The Art Of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

This book completely changed the way I worked and increased my output while reducing my stress considerably.  To this day, I apply so many of the author’s systems (but not all of them).  I would say this book is great for its recommended systems for getting things done and less strong on areas such as the mindsets behind motivation and procrastination (see later book recommendations for that), though the author would disagree with me!

2) Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

I used to gift a copy of this book to every new employee because the unconventional business thinking and values are very similar to those of my boss.

3) Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player by Robert Rodriguez

I liked giving this book to my junior creatives as gifts.  It’s a wildly entertaining tale from the maverick writer/director Robert Rodriguez on how he made his first feature film for $7,000.

4) Primal branding: Create Belief Systems that Attract Communities by Patrick Hanlon

This is the book I’ve been telling all my clients to read since I picked it up a year ago.  They never do, so I find myself summarizing this book all the time!  It explains how you go from selling a product that people simply buy to building a brand and community that people will love, connect with, and talk about.

5) Gateless by Sebastian Marshall and Kai Zau

Attendees of the BXAI Summer Program in Beijing might remember Sebastian Marshall, my co-trainer for the presentation skills workshop.  I recommend this book to people who are asking themselves, “What shall I do with my life?”  While it doesn’t give you the miracle answer to this question, Gateless does offer strategies and actions for how to serve the “future you” and how to spend your time wisely to help figure out what you want to do.  I always find it difficult to summarize Sebastian and Kai’s philosophy and frameworks for life so I simply tell people to check it out for themselves.  Both authors have proved to be wonderful “frentors”.

Books I’m Currently Reading and Recommend to People

I haven’t even finished reading these books yet and I’m already recommending them!  I hope someone from BXAI can finish these books and send me their notes so I don’t have to!

6) The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched by Alex Banayan 

The author doesn’t give up until he’s met and interviewed successful people such as Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, and Bill Gates, and that’s when he realizes that they all have one thing in common – they didn’t follow a traditional path to their career, but found ‘the third door’.  The writing slightly irritates me, which is why I can’t seem to finish it, but the key lesson – to look for the ‘third door’ – is a valuable one and the book focuses on how to go about doing that.

7) The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

I heard Gretchen Rubin explain the four tendencies, which include Upholder, Obliger, Rebel, and Questioner, in a podcast and it was such a huge revelation.

8) Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

I read the first chapter and for some reason I believe it tells me all I need to know and thus I don’t need to read the rest!  Range makes the case that in a world in which everyone is telling you to specialize (e.g. spend 10,000 hours honing your one amazing skill), the fact of the matter is that generalists do better in this modern complex world.  Sometimes you like a book because it tells you what you want to hear, so perhaps I enjoyed this one because it validates my career choices and multiple interests!

Books Based on True Stories that Make Me Cry and Uplift My Soul at the Same Time

9) Any book about Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Shackleton

I’m drawn to pretty much any book about Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Shackleton.  They achieved so much against the odds that it’s hard for me to write any kind of summary to do their lives justice.  Just google them!

10) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

I want all my friends to read this book and yet at the same time, I can’t bear to gift it because the first section in which Frankl describes his experience of death, suffering, cruelty, and survival in Nazi concentration camps is so harrowing it’s close to unbearable at times.  If I ever feel like complaining about #firstworldproblems – this is the book I think about.

11) Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read

Like books about Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Shackleton, whenever I see a book about the 1972 Andes plane crash survivors, I’ll pick it up and flip through it.  An incredible TRUE story about friendship and the will to survive.

Books About the Creative Struggle and Doing the Work

This is a long list.  There’s nothing quite like procrastinating by reading books about procrastination!  I would rather you don’t read these books at all and just get on with creating stuff.  I wish I could pull out one of these books as THE definitive guide to getting your creative work done but I can’t pick – I’ve learnt a little from each of them.  My overall learning is that motivation is complex – so for me, I try to set up systems, accountability, habits, rewards, and ‘punishments’ for myself, anything to avoid having to rely on motivation alone.

12) Several non-fiction books by Steven Pressfield and Julia Cameron

Steven Pressfield’s books (in order of recommendation): The War of Art, The Artist’s Journey, Turning Pro

Steven Pressfield writes about breaking through your mental blocks (he calls it “The Resistance”) to create your work.

Julia Cameron’s books (in order of recommendation): The Artist’s Way, Finding Water, The Artist’s Way Workbook

If Steven Pressfield is a kick up the butt, Julia Cameron is the warm arm around your shoulder.  I just re-read The Artist’s Way this year when I needed to get back into a difficult creative endeavor.  (Or was it when I needed to procrastinate about getting back into a difficult creative endeavor?  Umm…)

13) On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King

Writing advice from a great writer.

14) Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

This is one of those books that you can pick up and flick to any page for some quick inspiration.  Mason Currey describes the daily rituals of master thinkers and creators including Andy Warhol, Jane Austen, and Benjamin Franklin (yes, him again) in the kind of nerdy detail that I love and secretly hope that if I copied Beethoven’s ritual of counting out exactly 60 coffee beans every morning, I too could write a sublime symphony.  The routines that stuck in my mind were those of Anthony Trollope (he had a regular full-time job at the post office), Ernest Hemingway (I thought he sat around drinking mojitos all day long but he used to get up very early to write), and Gertrude Stein, who only wrote for about 30 minutes a day and would have friends around almost every evening for raucous parties and conversations.

15) Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

The author’s brother was struggling to write a report about birds and their father turned to him and said, “Just take it bird by bird.”  I write the words “bird by bird” in big bold caps on the front page of most of my notebooks and say it to myself if I’m feeling overwhelmed.

16) Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull

A book about how to nourish a creative team for sustained success by the co-founder of Pixar.

Books about Habits and Productivity

17) The Now Habit: A Strategic Program For Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil A. Fiore

If you forced me to pick one out of all the books I’ve read on procrastination, it would probably be The Now Habit.  I love the way the author makes you schedule play the same way you schedule your work, and I recall a sentence that says something like “Ultimately, nothing helps banish the bad feeling of procrastination more than getting the work done.”  I know that sounds obvious but that one sentence did so much for me!

18) 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

You have the same hours a week as Barack Obama, a single working mother of six, and the world’s most prolific minds.  If you do the math (8 hours x 7 days of sleep, 40 hours each workweek), you still have around 68 to 72 hours a week to get your other stuff done.  This book will stop you saying, “I just don’t have enough time.”

19) The 26-Hour Day by Vince Panella

This book has worksheets if you’re someone who likes to go step-by-step.  The main point I remember from this book is the compounding effect of continual improvement: a 1/2 percent improvement applied 5 days a week will improve you 300 percent in one year, 1,000 percent in two years, 3,000 percent in three years, 10,000 percent in four years.  There you have it.  You might not need to read the book now!

Books about Business

20) Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury

An all-time classic book on negotiation that made me look at conflict resolution and negotiation in a completely different way and has helped me resolve many a sticky situation.

21) The Compound Effect: Multiplying Your Success One Simple Step At A Time by Darren Hardy

Most of us understand the power of the compound effect when it comes to investing, but have you applied it to other areas of your life?  This book will help you do that.

22) The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Almost the original bible of marketing and better than the updated ‘sequel’, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is a very easy read and includes timeless principles, even though some of the examples are dated.

23) Blood, Brains & Beer: The Autobiography of David Ogilvy by David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy, the father of advertising and the original “Madman”, is such an old-school wit that he could talk about anything and make it sound interesting.

24) The Power of Twos: How Relationships Drive Creativity by Joshua Wolf Shenk

This book challenges the myth of the lone genius and takes a deeper look at the power of successful partnerships through examples such as Marie and Pierre Currie, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

25) A bunch of books by Seth Godin (in order of recommendation): Tribes, Linchpin, Purple Cow, The Dip

Seth Godin has a brilliant way of expressing (mostly marketing) ideas and offers novel and practical ways to implement them.  Note: his latest book is called This Is Marketing and I just can’t get into it at all.

26) Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk

A book that shows you how to harness the free power of the internet to monetize your passion.  Some of the info is outdated but the author’s story is inspiring and the key principles still apply.  Head straight to the 21-step to-do list at the back of the book if you’re short of time.

27) Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

One of the best-known books about behavioral economics.

28) Several books by Chip and Dan Heath: Made To Stick, Switch, The Power Of Moments

The Heath brothers always uncover important modern business insights with lots of entertaining examples.

29) Books by Robert B. Cialdini: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

I felt a tiny bit evil after reading these two books.

30) Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, and The Talent Code and The Little Book Of Talent by Daniel Coyle

I read these all around the same time and I can’t quite remember which one offers which advice!  My key takeaways were that you can “work on your greatness” and that talent is not simply about DNA or something you’re born/not born with.

31) Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

I like the way this book breaks down the specific marketing channels so you can work out which ones will work for your business.

32) So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

If you can build up your skills and value, you’ll increase your odds of getting offered interesting work.  Thus, don’t think about what the world can offer you (i.e. don’t follow your passion), but think about what valuable thing you can offer the world.

33) Emotional Intelligence and Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

I attended a course on emotional intelligence and these books were included as required reading. They helped me become a much better manager.

34) The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

If you already have a good understanding of the 80/20 principle (also known as the Pareto Principle) and how to apply it, you probably don’t need to read this book.

35) The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson 

As with many other “shelf-help” books, you only need to read the first few chapters of this book to get the key point.  The rest is padding.  It’s a useful message though – it’s the small and steady things you do every day that add up over time.  You might not be amazing at all things, but you can think about the “slight edge” you have.

Books about Career and Life

36) How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

Funny and unique career tips.

37) 59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute by Richard Wiseman

Scientifically proven life hacks from someone who’s frustrated with the whole self-help industry and their snake-oil remedies.