Simon T. Bailey’s Top 22 Books to Spark Your Brilliance
Years ago, one of my mentors told me that readers are leaders and leaders are readers. Well, that statement became a mental tattoo and I never forgot. Jim Rohn said it best: “The book you don’t read won’t help.”
According to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, 23% of American adults say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic, or audio form. Pew found that an American’s likelihood of reading was directly correlated with wealth and education level.
One of the greatest gifts in my life was meeting my mentor, Dr. Mark Chironna. When I first met him, he had 4,000 books in his personal library. He invited me to back up my car and load up on books, so I did. Twenty-five years later, my entire life has changed as a result of reading books. Recently, he shared that he’s read more than 18,000 books and he’s only 67 years of age.
One of my biggest regrets is not reading to my children when they were growing up. They are now in college and, thanks to their mother, they are sharp and astute. However, I have a new granddaughter and one of the gifts that we’ve given to her at four weeks old is a book. Her mother is already reading to her.
Here’s the bottom line: if you intend to thrive in 2022 and beyond, I suggest you start or join a virtual or in-person book club. The genius of reading a book together is hearing other’s perspectives.
Here are my personal favorite books that I’ve enjoyed and my feedback.
FLUX – 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change, by April Rinne
I heard that April is a “change navigator,” one of the fifty leading female futurists in the world, a Harvard Law School graduate, and a Fulbright Scholar. Recently, I heard her present at a conference, and I took five pages of notes. My favorite Superpower is #8: Let Go of the Future.
Why the Best are the Best – 25 Powerful Words that Impact, Inspire, and Define Champions, by Kevin Eastman
Meeting Kevin someday is on the top of my bucket list. One of my favorites in his book is the powerful word “unrequired.” He defines it as “the work that others don’t see, don’t think about, and won’t do that I must make a priority.”
Diversity Is NOT Enough – A Roadmap to recruit, develop, and promote Black Leaders in America, by Keith R. Wyche
Finally, someone has written a book about how to give Black leaders in corporate America a real hand up instead of a handout. Keith shares a collection of best practices, vetted by over 40 years of working as a corporate board member, senior executive and DEI consultant.
Choose to Win – Transform Your Life One Simple Choice at a Time, by Tom Ziglar
One of my favorite sections of the book is about being “an intentional noticer.” It takes time to notice others. Tom’s book will challenge you to shift from chasing success to pursuing significance.
A Treasury of Success Unlimited, Edited by OG Mandino
Official publication of The Napoleon Hill Foundation. This book is a vault of riveting stories by individuals who lost hope and found a way to reclaim their future.
Lead the Field – How to Become an Authority and Dominate Your Competition, by Adam D. Witty
One of my key takeaways: “When you and your business are the authority, you have a powerful microphone and platform in that crowded bazaar, which makes all the difference.”
Smart Leadership – Four Simple Choices to Scale Your Impact, by Mark Miller
For 40+ years, Mark has been the cultural torchbearer for Chick-Fil-A and is Vice President of High Performance Leadership there. I wish I had had this book when I was first promoted to a leadership role. He simplifies and demystifies how to lead effectively in a world of uncertainty.
Twelve and a Half – Leveraging The Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success, by Gary Vaynerchuk
One of the pastors at the church that I’ve attended for 25 years found me after service and said, “I have a gift for you.” It was Gary’s latest book. I looked at it and said to myself, “He is giving me a book from a guy that’s smart and drops the ‘F’ bomb in every other sentence.” And then I read his book and had to repent for judging Gary V. WOW…this is probably one of the best-written and most insightful books on emotional intelligence that I’ve read in a long time. Net net…get the book.
Success Habits of Super Achievers, by Kyle Wilson and friends
I love this book. Kyle has interviewed eighty iconic thought leaders on his podcast, then distilled their wisdom down to a book. You will learn lessons from Dr. Amy Novotny, Brian Tracy, Les Brown, Darren Hardy, John Assaraf, Denis Waitley, and Lisa Haisha, just to name a few.
The Parable of Dollars, by Dr. Sam Adeyemi
I thought I knew about finances and how to think about money until I read Dr. Sam’s book. I realized that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I highlighted, dog-eared, wrote notes on the side of the pages, and at one point stopped to reflect on what I would implement. I highly recommend this book.
Chosen – Becoming the Person You Were Meant To Be, by Robert J Watkins
Reading this book is like going to see your doctor for an annual physical. Robert gets to the heart of the matter in gut-wrenching steps, such as Get Real with Yourself, Never Stay Where You’re Not Valued, and G from Disregarded to Chosen. I love this book. It will bless your life.
Unleashing Your Hero – Rise Above Any Challenge, Expand Your Impact, and Be the Hero The World Needs, by Kevin D. Brown
I was having breakfast with Kevin when he gave me a signed copy of his book. Just imagine, without any prompting, I stood up in the middle of the restaurant on a Friday morning and told everyone that they had to get a copy of this book. I’ve read it from cover to cover. It’s a game changer. I asked him to sign copies for five amazing staffers at the restaurant. As if that wasn’t enough, I asked him to sign an individual copy for each of my four children. I hope to be like him when I grow up.
Mary McLeod Bethune – Building a Better World, – edited by Audrey Thomas McCluskey and Elaine M. Smith
Mary McLeod Bethune died on May 18, 1955, and lived nearly 80 years as an advocate and spokeswoman for the oppressed and disenfranchised. This book covers the last five years of her life and the enormous legacy that she left Bethune-Cookman College (now University), an HBCU in Daytona Beach, Florida. Very insightful.
Spark – How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers, by Claudia Kalb
It’s never too late to become the person you might have been. I love this book. It takes you inside the minds of thirteen iconic figures who left significant imprints in art, music, medicine, business, and politics. Claudia explores child prodigies in their early childhood to those who captured lightning in a bottle between 13 to 27 years of age to mid-lifers who began to figure it out in their 30s and 40s. One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou, who is featured: “The 50s [meaning age] are everything you’ve been meaning to be.”
Is That All There Is? What Are You Doing for The Rest of Your Life, by Bruce Turkel
In this well-written 400-page book, I immediately started underlining and highlighting. This masterpiece hit me right between the eyeballs and invited me to do some deep introspection. One of my favorite lines in the book is when Bruce describes his journey and says, “I had no idea what to do next.” His raw honesty will have you turning page after page. In fact, I would encourage you to get a glass of wine and get ready to enjoy it.
Don’t Drop the Mic, by T.D. Jakes
I’ve listened to this audiobook at least four times and I will probably listen to it at least 10x more. It’s priceless. If you present or do public speaking at any level, then you need this book.
The Sum of Us – What Racism Costs Everyone and How We can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee
If you love data and want to understand racism through a fresh lens, then download the audio version of this book.
The Practice – Shipping Creative Work, by Seth Godin
I am partial to Seth because he was born in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. More importantly is a marketplace prophet that catapults you into the future through thought-provoking revelations that challenge business as usual. All of his books are must-reads. One of my favorite quotes from this book: “Doing what you love is for amateurs. Loving what you are doing is for professionals.”
Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess – 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Toxic Thinking, by Dr. Caroline Leaf
This book right here should be required reading for every person who has had to shelter in place during the pandemic. Please start a book club with this brilliant wisdom from Dr. Leaf.
Leadership from the Inside Out – Becoming a Leader for Life, by Kevin Cashman
I am currently coaching six executive leaders, and after reading this book, I am going to recommend it to them. Read: Leadership is about horizontal connection instead of vertical ascension.
All About Love, by Bell Hooks
I discovered this author by pure accident. It was pure serendipity. I love NPR and they posted a story about this author passing away. Well, I was curious and started researching her life. Her real name was Gloria Jean Watkins and she taught at Stanford and Yale universities. I immediately downloaded this book and purchased five more of her other books. This lady was an incredible thinker and teacher who will speak to your head and heart.
Be Exceptional – Master the Five Traits that Set Extraordinary People Apart, by Joe Navarro
I listened to this audiobook and was kicking myself that I didn’t have anything to write on as Joe, a retired FBI Special Agent, was dropping joy bombs. If you ever wanted to peek inside the minds of anyone working in special intelligence, then this is the book. What I love the most is how his insight is transferrable to you wherever you are, personally or professionally.