Culture Thinking

12 Books I Loved this Year

December 20, 2013

By Lulu Raghavan

One of the upsides of traveling for work is the undisturbed downtime I get on planes to catch-up on reading. I love getting book recommendations online, and by word of mouth from colleagues. But my favourite way to seek out compelling books is by stealing glances at the bookshelves of people I end up meeting at their offices.

Here are 12 books that I discovered this past year that I would highly recommend:

1. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

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Sheryl believes that women’s progress in business has stagnated. She has started a movement to urge women to move forward to the top of every industry while juggling work and family. Progress can only happen when women become absolutely self-confident and men support them in their endeavours.My favourite takeaway from the book: the most important choice any woman makes is the man she marries. Get that wrong and your annihilate your chances of professional success. Men should read this book!

2. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

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A breezy read, this book has made me totally rethink my mornings to include some more high-value activities like bonding with my daughters, concentrated bouts of writing, and everyday exercise. “The best morning rituals are activities that, when practiced regularly, result in long-term benefits.”

3. Rigorous Magic by Jim Taylor and Steve Hatch


The Big Idea is the one of the most overused words in our industry. This book beautifully delineates the seven main types of communication ideas and sheds light on what the hell a big idea is. I have gained much better insight from this book on generating and judging different types of ideas.

4. Die Empty by Todd Henry

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Die Empty is urgent in its purpose to help creative people do their best work everyday. It has helped me cultivate the mindset of “what did I do today that really matters?” “Brilliant work is forged by those who consistently approach their days with urgency and diligence.” Goes flat against the belief that creativity is random and unstructured.

5. Grow by Jim Stengel


Jim Stengel (former CMO of P&G) proves the link between ideals and profit. He has developed the Stengel 50, an index of the world’s fastest growing companies,each of which has a well-defined ideal that has powered its growth and profit. What I found most valuable was to read the ideals statement of the Stengel 50, which include brands as diverse as, Dove, Louis Vuitton, Petrobras, Samsung and Red Bull.


6. Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

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Strategy is such a loosely bandied about term and we all – especially MBAs – think we understand and practice it very well. This is a humbling read because you’re likely to walk away with a bagful of new insights.

I loved the part that is on thinking like a strategist. Richard presents a number of ways of thinking about thinking that can help you create better strategies.

7. Tata Log by Harish Bhat

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Eight diverse and fascinating stories about the Tata Group that reveal what the Tata Way is all about. Whether it wasthe takeover of Tetley, the development of Tata Indica or the birth of Eka, India’s first Supercomputer,each story is filled with wonder and suspense. What better way than stories to learn more about one of our most enduring brands. I really enjoyed getting to know Tata that much more deeply.

8. Corporate Chanakya by Radhakrishnan Pillai


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more it changes, the more it is the same thing. Chanakya documented his ideas on leadership and strategy way back in the 4th century BC and they all still hold true even today. Now that is genius.  Dip into this book for pearls of ancient wisdom. One thing that has stuck with me: The most important thing in communication is to hear what has not been said.

9. Own the Room by Jen Su/Maignan Wilkins

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The most powerful insight in this book is that you don’t have to be the most senior or the most experienced person in a meeting to “own the room.” You just have to have unique value and connect to every one else in a positive way. When you have these two, you have what the authours call a “signature voice” which helps you take your presence to great levels. Given how many meetings I attend in a day, I found this book extremely helpful in finding my own signature voice and helping others find theirs too.

10. Sexy Little Numbers by Dimitri Maex


Who knew that numbers can reveal so much about your business? Dimitri shows how by looking differently at the existing data you have about your customers, you can improve your strategy, the tactics you use to carry out your strategy and the execution of your tactics. I learnt the valuable lesson oftelling a story with the data. “Numbers alone don’t convince anyone of anything.”

11. Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon


Austin Kleon shares ten things that nobody told you about being creative. My biggest take away from the book is the energy we constantly need to be on top of our creative game. Devour this book on your next flight.

12. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo


Gallo has dissected every Steve Jobs presentation ever and written a book in three acts. Act one is about creating the story. Act two shows you how to deliver the experience. Act three is about the supreme importance of refining and rehearsing. “Do not let your ideas die because you failed to present them in a way that sparked the imagination of your listeners.”

This blog was originally published by Campaign India (December 2013).

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