My Top Ten Books of 2018

Every year, I try to read at least one book per week. With the campaign, this goal has become more challenging than in past years; and while I missed my mark of reading 52 books, I still managed to read 26. I read books that do one of three (hopefully all three) things:

  1. Make me a better business person
  2. Make me a better citizen
  3. Make me a better human

Here are my Top 10 books for the year 2018:

10 – The Way We Never Were

In “The Way We Never Were,” acclaimed historian Stephanie Coontz provides a myth-shattering examination of two centuries of the American family, sweeping away misconceptions about the past that cloud current debates about domestic life. The 1950s do not present a workable model of how to conduct our personal lives today, Coontz argues, and neither does any other era from our cultural past. This revised edition includes a new introduction and epilogue, looking at what has and has not changed since the original publication in 1992, and exploring how the clash between growing gender equality and rising economic inequality is reshaping family life, marriage, and male-female relationships in our modern era.

This book will shake up your reality on what you think “traditional family life” was like back in the “good old days.” It’s an especially good book for anyone who is discouraged by our current socio-economic climate and wishes things could just go back to a better time.

9 – Urban Street Design Guide

The NACTO “Urban Street Design Guide” shows how streets of every size can be re-imagined and reoriented to prioritize safe driving and transit, biking, walking, and public activity. Unlike older, more conservative engineering manuals, this design guide emphasizes the core principle that urban streets are public places and have a larger role to play in communities than solely being conduits for traffic.

While I loved this book, unless you’re an urban development geek like myself and a few of my friends, I can’t imagine you would enjoy this book, but I can tell you this: You’ll never look at a road or sidewalk the same way again.

8 – Tactical Urbanism

“Tactical Urbanism,” written by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia, two founders of the movement, promises to be the foundational guide for urban transformation. The authors begin with an in-depth history of the Tactical Urbanism movement and its place among other social, political, and urban planning trends. A detailed set of case studies, from guerilla wayfinding signs in Raleigh, to pavement transformed into parks in San Francisco, to a street art campaign leading to a new streetcar line in El Paso, demonstrate the breadth and scalability of tactical urbanism interventions

As a fan of collaborative strategies, this book spoke to me and I hope it does to you. If you are a community activist, this book will show you some great ways that you can make an impact on your city without big budget dollars or even the support from local government. It’s a play-by-play on how to take back control of your city from bureaucratic politicians who just like to say ‘no’.

7 – Streetfight

Like a modern-day Jane Jacobs, Janette Sadik-Khan transformed New York City’s streets to make room for pedestrians, bikers, buses, and green spaces. Describing the battles she fought to enact change, Streetfight imparts wisdom and practical advice that other cities can follow to make their own streets safer and more vibrant.

While other urban development books talk about what makes a city great, this book focuses on the fight you will expect while working with zoning, codes, and politicians who just don’t get it. It was like a playbook for me as I work toward becoming the Mayor of Tampa.  Frankly, I think this book should be required reading for any politician in office that has to make decsions about zoning and codes that affect neighborhoods.

6 – Clockwork

Mike Michalowicz, the author of “Profit First” and other small-business bestsellers (if you remember, he made it to my top 10 list last year with Profit First), offers a straightforward step-by-step path out of the dilemma of being bogged down in the daily grind, constantly putting out fires, answering an endless stream of questions, and continually hunting for cash.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mike, and his charm and wit transfer into his books nicely. They are easy reads that speak to entrepreneurs in a very real, raw, honest way. This book really gets to the core of how to grow and scale a company in a healthy way without having to work 24/7.  And if you are a business owner, just read all of his books.  They are that good!

5 – Crimes Against Logic

Award-winning philosopher, Jamie Whyte, uncovers the truth under all the BS. In the daily battle for our hearts and minds–not to mention our hard-earned cash–the truth is usually the first casualty. It’s time we learned how to see through the rhetoric, faulty reasoning, and misinformation that we’re subjected to from morning to night by talk-radio hosts, op-ed columnists, advertisers, self-help gurus, business “thinkers,” and, of course, politicians. And no one is better equipped to show us how than award-winning philosopher Jamie Whyte.

If you’re like me, and love to engage in dialogue with people who see life differently than you (After all, if 2 people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary, right?), this book shows you how to hear beyond the words and identify the context in faulty thinking.

4 – Return on Character

Fred Kiel offers evidence–solid data that demonstrates the connection between character, leadership excellence, and organizational results. It shows not only that leadership character matters for organizational success, but how it matters; and concrete evidence that it leads to better business results.

This book outlines the difference between what he called the Self-Focused CEO, and the Virtuoso CEO. Through his research, he has found four characteristics present in every virtuoso: Integrity, Responsibility, Forgiveness, and Compassion. It’s a great book to point out your flaws, identify your strengths, and provide a path to improving the areas that need work.

3 – The Color of Law

Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law” offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson.) Exploding the myth of de facto segregation, arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation with undisguised racial zoning, public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities, subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs, tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation, and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods.

This book shook me to my core. My #1 and #2 books reinforced what I already believed; this book changed my view of the world…and I can never go back. I urge every white American to read this book. It won’t be easy. You will read things that make you ashamed of our country’s past. It will make you appreciate (although we will never fully understand) the struggle that African Americans go through on a day-to-day basis, even in today’s ‘equal rights’ world.

2 – Happy City

Charles Montgomery’s “Happy City” is revolutionizing the way we think about urban life.

After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks, and condo towers an improvement on the car dependence of the suburbs? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

This book turned me on to one of my favorite Mayors: Enrique Penalosa, the Mayor of Bogota. Before his terms as Mayor, Bogota was the murder capital of the world. By the end of his term, Bogota was one of the happiest places to live in the world. Quite a change! And this book outlines how our environment dictates how we feel day in and day out. It’s a must read for anyone in a leadership role within a city.

1 – The Opposite of Hate

As a progressive commentator on Fox News and now CNN, Sally Kohn has made a career out of bridging intractable political differences and learning how to talk respectfully with people whose views she disagrees with passionately. Her viral TED Talk on the need to practice emotional—rather than political—correctness sparked a new way of considering how often we amplify our differences and diminish our connections.

This book spoke to me on many levels: first because I always believe it’s possible to speak respectfully to people with whom you disagree, and secondly, no matter how cannibalistic our society has become, as far as wanting to hurt people through traditional and social media, there is still a glimmer of hope that people may change.

In a book I’m reading this year, I read that you don’t get what you expect in life, you get what you tolerate. And it seems that, as a society, we have become a culture that tolerates divisiveness, vitriol, and slander. I think we would all do better as a society if we all read “The Opposite of Hate.”