Recently, a friend asked when I’d be putting out my annual recommended book list. Realizing with a jolt that we’re getting into the holiday gift-buying season, I offer you a short yet very compelling list of books this year.
In the past, I’ve suggested books that were clearly about conflict resolution and strengthening home and work relationships. But, giving such books as gifts could certainly send the wrong message in the midst of an otherwise joyful holiday season!
So this year, I’m taking a different approach. I offer up four recently published or re-released books that teach us valuable lessons about conflict resolution while they’re ostensibly about other topics. Topics not as potentially loaded as conflict resolution. Topics that are entertaining and focus on the best of what we bring to our families, offices and communities.
Each of the following books is a good read filled with entertaining and eye-opening stories by gifted writers who have a knack for taking complex concepts and translating them into practical lessons for a good life.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. When I heard that Gladwell, bestselling author of The Tipping Point, had a new book out, I went straight to Toadstool to buy it. Gladwell’s a captivating writer who offers easy-to-consume fodder that stays with you a long time after finishing the book. Blink is an exploration of the ways our decisions are influenced by the information we absorb in “the blink of an eye.” From the opening story about the Getty Museum’s costly mistake in purchasing a fake statue, to psychologist John Gottman’s uncanny ability to accurately predict the likelihood of a couple staying married, to an examination of the infamous shooting of an unarmed Amadou Diallo by Bronx police, Blink will get your attention and teach you something about the importance of attending to your first impressions.
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman. You may be familiar with Goleman’s name and writing if you’ve heard of the bestselling Emotional Intelligence. Now Goleman turns his attention to human sociability, with this in-depth exploration of the ways our best and worst relationships influence everything from our moods to our cells. A bit of a hefty tome to the casual observer, it’s filled with entertaining and compelling stories that bring Goleman’s key point to life: We’re wired for cooperation and altruism and developing our social intelligence helps nurture those innate capacities. It’s a good book at the right time.
Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. Mediators have known for a long time that effective conflict resolution means working with both the rational and the emotional aspects of the conflict. Fisher and Shapiro, of the Harvard Negotiation Project, do a terrific job of organizing and explaining long-known ideas in such a way that they’re easily accessible and applicable in any negotiation at work or at home. Instead of attempting to set emotions aside because they’re “in the way,” the authors will help you understand how to tap the power of emotions to improve your decision-making.
The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Initially published in 2004, this book by New Yorker columnist Surowiecki started getting buzz last year and built even more momentum in 2006. Defying the idea that more minds put to a problem tend to reduce the quality of the decision, he makes a powerful and entertaining case that the reality is exactly the opposite: Large groups of people are better at solving problems and making effective decisions. Collective intelligence, it turns out, is a powerful force if we know how to martial it in our workplaces, schools, and communities.
And picture this: You are in New York City without access to a phone and with the need to find and meet up with a friend. Unfortunately, you and your friend failed to discuss where or when you’d meet. Where would you go? Would you go to the same long-known spot that many northeastern Americans would, and at the same time?
Read Surowiecki’s book and find out.