Smarter Faster Better: The secrets of being productive in life and in business by Charles Duhigg

Pulitzer Prize-winner, Charles Duhigg has done it again. In Smarter Faster Better he takes cutting-edge science, business psychology and a wide range of stories to give us a better understanding of productivity. Working harder doesn’t guarantee success in life and business. Productivity relies on making certain choices, every day. By applying these principles in our personal and business lives, we can obtain extraordinary results, without becoming more busy. We can learn how to turn organizations into more effective workplaces where employees are valued team members, are encouraged take initiative and where trust and loyalty is the norm. A must-read for anyone who wants to be more effective in the world and get more things done.

Flow: The psychology of optimal experience by Mihali Csikszentmihalyi

Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores his now famous theory of optimal experience, called flow. Flow is the state of mind in which people are so involved in an activity, that nothing else seems to matter. The best moments often occur when the body and mind are stretched to the limit in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Such experiences do not necessarily occur when circumstances are ideal or are pleasant at the time they occur. It is more than simple happiness. In the midst of chaos, with practice and discipline, it is possible to find serenity (and meaning.)

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. In The Museum of Innocence, he paints an extraordinary love story. It spans decades as it follows Kemal and Füsun, exploring the width and depth of friendship, passion, love and obsession. It’s set against the backdrop of the class struggles, the position of women in society and the political upheaval in Istanbul during the late twentieth century. His depiction of erotic obsession metamorphoses into one of boundless patience and self-centered love. It is a tale equally of heartbreak as it is one of happiness.

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness is the bittersweet and raw rendition of growing up in a small Mennonite community. The story is seen through the eyes of Nomi Nickel, a teenager who is on a crash course in growing up as she tries to make sense of her mother and sister’s recent disappearance. It is a story about what it means to be family and community and about what it takes to rip families and communities apart. The humor is original, sweet and dark, and it is impossible to walk away without being touched by the grit, and feeling the pain of the reluctant heroine of the story.

Proof of Heaven – A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D.

For more than 25 years Dr. Eben Alexander, renowned academic neurosurgeon, honed his scientific worldview, studying how the the brain, the mind and consciousness work. Then, in November 2008 he developed an inexplicable brain infection, which pushed him to the brink of death. He spent a week in a coma, during which he experienced a transcendental near-death experience (NDE). He recovered completely and recorded his experience, hence the title.

He experienced the hyper-reality of the spiritual realm, similar to numerous recounted NDEs. The past six years he has spent reconciling his unique spiritual experience with contemporary physics and scientific understanding. He is the co-founder of Eternea, which busy itself with a better understanding of science and religion, and has put together a research team to study this. You can visit him at www.ebenalexander.com and www.eternea.org  Proof of heaven is a compelling story that breaks taboos, attempting to lift the veil on the Afterlife, challenging scientists, skeptics, believers and seekers alike.

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann

A little, but powerful book about being successful in business and life. Written in narrative nonfiction format, it tells the story of one man’s discovery of giving, abundance and success. It focusses on five laws that govern immeasurable success. At its heart it is about giving more than you can earn in monetary terms. It’s about delivering service when you wish to influence others, placing others’ needs above your own and giving your authentic self. Once you grasp these principles and apply them, business success will become more of a reality. A quick read, but worthwhile to read at least twice a year. (I recently read the Afrikaans translation.)

Children Of The Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

A gripping brave tale of the Iranian revolution, spanning three generations from 1983 t0 2011. With autobiographical undertones, Delijani paint haunting pictures of sets of children, their parents and grandparents, of how their lives are torn apart by the crackdown of a ruthless government. These are the children of the Jacaranda tree. Amidst the loss and terror, love and beauty is still to be found. A visceral journey, with rich characters, making you seethe and cry. A must read.

Physician Suicide Letters: Answered by Pamela Wible, M.D.

Physician and medical student suicide is usually kept under guarded wraps. It’s a well kept secret. The phenomenon, which claims at least 400 individuals annually in the US, is one of the alarming results of dysfunctional medical systems. This happens globally. Often the medical culture is one “that condones hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, and teaching by public humiliation.” Physicians and students who struggle to cope with the unrelenting stress, is often marginalized by the same system that train and manage them. They are made out to be weak and incompetent. Assistance to physicians for mental health issues presently comes at the price of additional punishment by the respective colleges.

Pamela Wible, known for her international efforts to stop the abuse in medicine, answers letters of victims of abuse, and their family members. People don’t commit suicide—they die due to suicide.

Public awareness of this very real entity is necessary if we ever hope to change the culture and empower individuals who are trained to help people, but in the end see no other way out due to relentless bullying and abuse.

We can stop this.

MINDSET: The new psychology of success. How we can learn to fulfill our potential – by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D

The simple believes we have about ourselves, form our “mindset.” The view we adopt for ourselves, strongly affects the way we lead our lives and fulfill our potential. There are essentially two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. In the fixed mindset’s eyes, your destiny is preordained: you’re either smart or dumb, talented or not, intelligence is finite and having to apply effort, signals you’re a failure. This often limits what they will and can accomplish in life.

The growth mindset embraces effort, they want to learn new things and enjoy a challenge. Failure for them is not the end of things, it only spurs them on to change their tactics, make a new plan and practice even harder; hence they continue growing and learning.

We are often a mix of the two mindsets. It is possible to learn and adopt the growth mindset, but it has to be nurtured to be maintained throughout life.

“What people believe, they achieve.” A fascinating read. Highly recommended.

PET GOATS & PAP SMEARS: 101 Medical Adventures to Open Your Mind – by Pamela Wible, M.D.

Pamela Wible’s effervescent style will take you on a rollercoaster ride and introduce you to endless possibilities. Don’t let the cover fool you! She is a brave pioneer who challenges corporate bodies and groups who are attempting to make the independent family doctor in America obsolete. Through her often hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching and otherwise brutally honest rendition of life in the medical world, she paints a picture of how it is still possible to create a more ideal clinic.

She shows that it is possible to survive the onslaught and still make an impact on people’s, on patients’ lives, beyond merely diagnosing and and cutting out or prescribing a pill. In the end, it’s all about living, caring and giving—between caregiver and recipient—and it’s reciprocal.