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A Summer Reading List for the Professional Thinker

Originally posted on Medium.

For some of us, the drive to ideate is what gets us up in the morning. The prospect of new concepts or notions energizes us to our core. For the thinkers, dreamers and those of a highly curious nature, this reading list is for you.

While this list is far from exhaustive, these books either introduce, challenge concepts or provide guidance to efficiently help us accomplish or create more. For each book, I’ve added the official description and link to Amazon.

Have anything to add to the list?

The Well-Tempered City (2016)

In the vein of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, Jonathan F. P. Rose — a visionary in urban development and renewal — champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century.

Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity — and the home of eighty percent of the world’s population by 2050. As the 21st century progresses, metropolitan areas will bear the brunt of global megatrends such as climate change, natural resource depletion, population growth, income inequality, mass migrations, education and health disparities, among many others.

In The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan F. P. Rose — the man who “repairs the fabric of cities” — distills a lifetime of interdisciplinary research and firsthand experience into a five-pronged model for how to design and reshape our cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity. Drawing from the musical concept of “temperament” as a way to achieve harmony, Rose argues that well-tempered cities can be infused with systems that bend the arc of their development toward equality, resilience, adaptability, well-being, and the ever-unfolding harmony between civilization and nature. These goals may never be fully achieved, but our cities will be richer and happier if we aspire to them, and if we infuse our every plan and constructive step with this intention.

A celebration of the city and an impassioned argument for its role in addressing the important issues in these volatile times, The Well-Tempered City is a reasoned, hopeful blueprint for a thriving metropolis — and the future.

The Art of the Long View (1996)

What increasingly affects all of us, whether professional planners or individuals preparing for a better future, is not the tangibles of life — bottom-line numbers, for instance — but the intangibles: our hopes and fears, our beliefs and dreams. Only stories — scenarios — and our ability to visualize different kinds of futures adequately capture these intangibles.

In The Art of the Long View, now for the first time in paperback and with the addition of an all-new User’s Guide, Peter Schwartz outlines the “scenaric” approach, giving you the tools for developing a strategic vision within your business.

Schwartz describes the new techniques, originally developed within Royal/Dutch Shell, based on many of his firsthand scenario exercises with the world’s leading institutions and companies, including the White House, EPA, BellSouth, PG&E, and the International Stock Exchange.

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (2010)

If you’ve ever thought, “There must be more to life than this,” The Art of Non-Conformity is for you.

Based on Chris Guillebeau’s popular online manifesto “A Brief Guide to World Domination,” The Art of Non-Conformity defies common assumptions about life and work while arming you with the tools to live differently. You’ll discover how to live on your own terms by exploring creative self-employment, radical goal-setting, contrarian travel, and embracing life as a constant adventure.

Inspired and guided by Chris’s own story and those of others who have pursued unconventional lives, you can devise your own plan for world domination-and make the world a better place at the same time.

Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People (2016)

This book of thoroughly engaging essays from one of today’s most prodigious innovators provides a uniquely personal perspective on the lives and achievements of a selection of intriguing figures from the history of science and technology. Weaving together his immersive interest in people and history with insights gathered from his own experiences, Stephen Wolfram gives an ennobling look at some of the individuals whose ideas and creations have helped shape our world today.

From his recollections about working with Richard Feynman to his insights about how Alan Turing’s work has unleashed generations of innovation to the true role of Ada Lovelace in the history of computing, Wolfram takes the reader into the minds and lives of great thinkers and creators of the past few centuries and shows how great achievements can arise from dramatically different personalities and life trajectories.

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century (2016)

None of us has ever lived through a genuine industrial revolution. Until now.

Digital technology is transforming every corner of the economy, fundamentally altering the way things are done, who does them, and what they earn for their efforts. In The Wealth of HumansEconomist editor Ryan Avent brings up-to-the-minute research and reporting to bear on the major economic question of our time: can the modern world manage technological changes every bit as disruptive as those that shook the socioeconomic landscape of the 19th century?

Traveling from Shenzhen, to Gothenburg, to Mumbai, to Silicon Valley, Avent investigates the meaning of work in the twenty-first century: how technology is upending time-tested business models and thrusting workers of all kinds into a world wholly unlike that of a generation ago. It’s a world in which the relationships between capital and labor and between rich and poor have been overturned.

Past revolutions required rewriting the social contract: this one is unlikely to demand anything less. Avent looks to the history of the Industrial Revolution and the work of numerous experts for lessons in reordering society. The future needn’t be bleak, but as The Wealth of Humans explains, we can’t expect to restructure the world without a wrenching rethinking of what an economy should be.

Unleashing Your Brilliance: Tools & Techniques to Achieve Personal, Professional & Academic Success (2005)

The reader is given many tips on how to go beyond conscious learning to more easily absorb information. The content has been designed to appeal to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. Each chapter can be reviewed with both a crossword puzzle and an online introspective tool. This enables a deeper integration of the material. In easy-to-understand language, this book explains, how the brain processes information, how learning is affected by emotions and core beliefs, and how innate brain wiring can be altered both intentionally and unintentionally. Ideal for corporate learners, college/university students, home-schooling parents.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (2007)

Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider these aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. The Untethered Soul, spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves, and the world around us. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

This book, copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), offers a frank and friendly discussion of consciousness and how we can develop it. In part one, he examines the notion of self and the inner dialogue we all live with. Part two examines the experience of energy as it flows through us and works to show readers how to open their hearts to the energy of experience that permeates their lives. Ways to overcome tendencies to close down to the rest of the world are the subject of part three. Enlightenment, the embrace of universal consciousness, is the subject of part four. And finally, in part five, Singer returns to daily life and the pursuit of unconditional happiness. Throughout, the book maintains a light and engaging tone, free from heavy dogma and prescriptive religious references. The easy exercises that figure in each chapter help readers experience the ideas that Singer presents.

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