Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Best Books of 2012: Nonfiction

I've been reading (or at least skimming) over a dozen nonfiction books lately for my newest endeavor of writing a book. Most of these are nonfiction and relate to my area of work in student coaching. Yet, I also enjoy reading nonfiction books for the purpose and intention behind the story. The best nonfiction writers have a burden to share and passion to explore, which is true for this list.

A common theme throughout these three books is the tension behind how we were created and the choices we make. The interplay between our unique make-up and how we choose to use our giftings lends itself to the classic - yet compelling - "nature vs. nurture" debate.

With that in mind, here are my top nonfiction reads this year:

This book explains the nature of habits, why they exist in the first place, and how you change bad habits or create positive ones. The stories, examples, and research that author Charles Duhigg draws on span a variety of fields and experiences, making it an engaging and fascinating read... Especially if you're interested in psychology in individuals, business, and society.

"This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs - and becomes authentic - it's not only real, it starts to seem inevitable..."

I originally started this book because I am a runner. However, I quickly realized that this book is about ultra-runners and super-athletes who compete in races that are hundreds of miles. (And I thought I was proud of finishing a half-marathon?!) There was not much practical application to my own running journey (unless I decided to embrace the barefoot running phenomenon) besides a few mantras of "Don't fight the trail" and "Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast." Instead, what kept me reading was the compelling story about the Tarahumara Indians who are the best runners in the world. Author Christopher McDougall creatively weaves the biology, research, and anthropology behind running into a culmination of "the greatest race the world has never seen."

"You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everything else we love- everything we sentimentally call our "passions" and "desires"- it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run." 

Let me start by saying that I do not agree with everything that this book proposes. I believe we were each created with unique passions and that these can play a big role in helping us finding work we love. However, this book was a refreshing read precisely because of its different perspective. It also raises some critical points about the necessity of cultivating skills and having a craftsmen mindset, which focuses on the strengths you have to offer. It also discuss building career capital, which is critical for advancing in any field. Therefore, this book made my top books of 2012 list because I believe it's an important read for my generation who is apt to give up when work is hard, rather than persevere and succeed in small but significant ways. 

"Missions are powerful because they focus your energy toward a useful goal, and this in turn maximizes your impact on your world - a crucial factor in loving what you do."

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