SIYLI’s Holiday Book Recommendations

December 12, 2016

As the holidays draw near, many of us look forward to cozying up with a good book. Whether you want a few titles to enjoy during vacation or are looking for the perfect literary gift, we’ve got some suggestions, both fiction and non-fiction, from the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute staff.

Between the World and Me  by Ta-Nehisi Coates In this beautifully written and moving portrait of growing up black in the United States, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this book as a letter to his son, sharing his life's story and understanding of race. The result is a thought-provoking and eye-opening lesson in empathy and compassion. —Steph Stern, SIYLI engagement manager

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast I've long loved Roz Chast's cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, and this graphic memoir is just as funny and moving. Chast describes caring for her parents as they grew old and eventually passed away. She is funny and insightful, and her experiences feel universal as we all struggle to care for those around us through difficult circumstances and complicated family relationships. —Steph Stern, SIYLI engagement manager

books2City of Theives by David Benioff Set during the siege of Leningrad, this novel follows a young Jewish boy and a soldier on their search for eggs. The narrative is interesting, but what stands out are the relationships developed and how the characters support, connect and challenge one another while trying to survive a world of war and starvation. The novel is both humorous and serious and all the characters—from NKVD officers to cannibals and captured Russians—represent a full range of humanity. The setting is dark, but the writing protagonist’s authenticity and resilience create a beautiful book that’s more poignant than depressing. —Ilana Robbins Gross, SIYLI public program coordinator

Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language, and Religion 
 by Norman Fischer When you look at anything long enough, you start seeing new things–Norman Fischer's writing shows how this is true for language. We usually think of language as an inert tool, something that just transmits facts and opinions from me to you and you to me. Through poetry, critique, contemplation and meditation, Fischer considers how words and language create what we consider to be real. It's a work of great honesty and tireless consideration, seeking new freshness and alertness in the use of language, how we talk to others, how we talk to ourselves about our lives. Like Fischer, the book is not flashy and does not try to catch your attention, but it’s a relief to hear someone masterful lay plain the challenges and hope of a human life shaped so profoundly by its need to describe and give language to its experience. —Peter Bonanno, SIYLI director product development

Getting Things Done  by David Allen This is much more than just another business book trying to distill success down to a few principles. Getting Things Done is a detailed roadmap of how to capture all of the stuff floating around in your head, process it efficiently, organize and review it as needed in order to get it done and off your mind. With today's seemingly infinite access to information and the constant demands and distractions coming at the modern worker, most people need a system to deal with their reality (and their inbox) that goes beyond a to-do list. This book shows you how to implement and actually use a trustworthy system, manage energy and resources (versus time), and focus on what you can control while letting go of the rest. I think of it as applied mindfulness in daily working life.

Getting Things Done has helped me tremendously in my professional and personal life, and it is one of the first resources I recommend when a colleague or friend says they’re feeling overwhelmed by how much is on their plate. —Brandon Rennels, SIYLI teacher development manager

Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan SIYLI’s founder published a new bestselling book earlier this year that delves into how to cultivate a an important natural resource: the joy within us all. Joy is a sustainable state that fuels our creativity and inspiration for innovation.  It strengthens our ability to attract friends and to get along with people.  Learning to cultivate joy is the fundamental secret to success. The path to joy on demand is through mindfulness, but it doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Not only that, the book is packed with cartoons. —the entire staff at SIYLI

Not Always So by Shunryu Suzuki This is a collection of talks by the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. The title says it all: Don't be so sure about your particular views and perspectives. This book provides practical and wise guidance for developing a flexible, curious, warm-hearted mind and approach to life life. —Marc Lesser, SIYLI CEO

Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh This book is deceptively simple and easy to read. It explains how to enjoy each moment, everything from a walk in nature to washing the dishes, as well as how to transform the seeds of anger/fear/sadness that exist within us all. It can help serve as a guide to mindful living, and it’s a nice bedside companion to pick up and a read a chapter from in the morning or evening. The practices are simple, yet they take a lifetime to master. Thich Nhat Hanh is a gentle and encouraging guide, grounded in a life devoted to mindfulness practice. —Brandon Rennels, SIYLI teacher development manager

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) This list wouldn’t be complete without our bedrock title, the bestseller Search Inside Yourself. Written by SIYLI founder Chade-Meng Tan, who first developed the Search Inside Yourself program for the employees at Google, this course in health, happiness and creativity is improving the livelihood and productivity of companies, leaders and innovators around the world. —the entire staff at SIYLI

Siddhartha  by Herman Hesse It’s an oldie but a goodie and one of my all-time favorites, this parable, based loosely during the time of the historical Buddha, goes right to the heart of asking the big questions in life—about love, meaning, friendship and what really matters. —Marc Lesser, SIYLI CEO

The Wright Brothers  by David McCullough Two home-schooled brothers set out to solve the mystery of human flight, and the it reads like a mystery novel, while also providing great lessons on resilience, focus, and learning from and transforming failure. —Marc Lesser, SIYLI CEO