by John Brandon

Gift guide: The 15 best books of 2015 for IT leaders

Dec 09, 2015
HolidaysIT Leadership

Whether you’re looking for stocking stuffers for a friend, a Secret Santa gift for a coworker or even just a present for yourself, you can’t go wrong with one of these books for business-minded bibliophiles.

The holidays are a perfect time to invest in your own education. These books – whether you buy them on your own or ask for them as a gift – will give you keen insight as an IT leader coming into the New Year. Some challenge the notion of whether employees should be treated as assets, others provide a wealth of research about digital distraction and the rise of machine learning. 

sherry turkle reclaiming conversation

1. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age – Sherry Turkle 

MIT professor Sherry Turkle examines how our gadgets are distracting us from having real conversations with people in life and at work in her groundbreaking book. It’s a brilliant study because it contains so many powerful examples culled from hundreds of interviews. 

Pages: 448 (hardcover) Publisher: Penguin Press

shlomo benartzi smarter screen

2. The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior – Shlomo Benartzi & Jonah Lehrer 

This brilliant and well-researched book is about how our fascination with “screens” has led us to make rash decisions and impulse purchases. It examines how color, the position of icons and features, and other subtle cues impact our decisions and could lead to better ones. 

Pages: 256 (hardcover) Publisher: Portfolio

david brooks road to character

3. Road to Character – David Brooks 

Set aside a day or two to read the Road to Character. It’s a mainstream book with stories about how well-known figures like Dwight Eisenhower acted with character. For IT leaders, it’s a lesson in seeing beyond the spreadsheet and evaluating life in terms of character development. 

Pages: 320 (hardcover) Publisher: Random House 

ashlee vance elon musk

4. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Ashlee Vance 

Be careful before you read this biography of Elon Musk: It sucks you right into the narrative and becomes a page-turning epic of how the famous entrepreneur built his companies. What’s amazing is how author makes you feel part of the discovery process. 

Pages: 400 (hardcover) Publisher: Ecco

bob chapman everybody matters

5. Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family – Bob Chapman & Raj Sisodia 

Everybody Matters achieves the near impossible: It makes a long and winding story about acquisitions and financial strategies and makes it seem personal. It’s a book about treating employees not as pawns to be shuffled but as people with real talents and gifts. 

Pages: 272 (hardcover) Publisher: Portfolio 

brian grazer curious mind

6. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life – Brian Grazer 

Every IT leader needs to read this book my mega-producer Brian Grazer. It’s filled with examples of how Grazer pursued innovative ideas – sometimes by tracking down the person who invented the idea in person and picking their brain. It encourages everyone to do the same. 

Pages: 320 (hardcover) Publisher: Simon & Schuster 

jacquie mcnish losing the signal

7. Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry – Jacquie McNish & Sean Silcoff 

If you have ever wondered why BlackBerry took such a dramatic nose-dive, make sure you read Losing the Signal. It chronicles the rise and fall of the iconic smartphone company by recounting highly detailed stories of key executives and the decisions they made. 

Pages: 288 (hardcover Publisher: Flatiron Books 

randall munroe thing explainer

8. Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words – Randall Munroe 

There are two reasons to consider this book. One is that it’s includes fascinating explanations of complex subjects, such as how a microwave works. Seconds, it’s highly visual with detailed drawings you can study using a larger tablet like the iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy Tab. 

Pages: 64 (hardcover) Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

rodd wagner widgets

9. Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People – Rodd Wagner 

A treatise about how to treat employees more like actual humans rather than assets, this shorter book by Rodd Wagner contains highly practical tips for radically changing work culture. It suggests (gasp) that it’s OK to talk to employees about what they are thinking and feeling. 

Pages: 256 (hardcover) Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education 

martin ford rise of the robots

10. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future – Martin Ford 

The coming robotic revolution – thinking machines capable of making intelligent decisions – could lead to vast economic prosperity…or an empty void that leads to more unemployment. This engaging examination asks tough questions about whether AI always means innovation. 

Pages: 352 (hardcover) Publisher: Basic Books

philip e tetlock superforecasting

11. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction – Philip E. Tetlock & Dan Gardner 

Don’t confused this book about making more accurate predictions with anything weather-related. It’s really about good decision making after collecting enough information. (Something Steve Ballmer didn’t do when he predicted, in 2007, that the iPhone would fail.) 

Pages: 352 (hardcover) Publisher: Crown 

greg ip foolproof

12. Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe – Greg Ip 

This is a book about fear – and how that often drives innovation and financial investments. Ip is a Wall Street Journal reporter and his explanations about how anti-lock brakes don’t actually work and why air travel is so safe provide good lessons in smart product development. 

Pages: 336 (hardcover) Publisher: Little, Brown and Company 

general stanley mcchrystal team of teams

13. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World – General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman and Chris Fussell 

One of the best ways to develop a team, is to look at the most efficient, smallest team in your company. That’s the advice General Stanley McChrystal makes in his book on leadership, based on experiences building a smaller task force in Afghanistan. 

Pages: 304 (hardcover) Publisher: Portfolio 

marc goodman future crimes

14. Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It – Marc Goodman 

To get a better handle on security practices for the coming decade and more, read about the potential crimes before they even happen. Future Crimes covers how your smartphone can be used to track your location and how the bad guys are using Facebook to steal personal data. 

Pages: 464 (hardcover) Publisher: Doubleday 

marshall goldsmith triggers

15. Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be – Marshall Goldsmith & Mark Reiter 

What are the triggers for success? In this remarkably well-researched book, there are examples from leaders in business and practical advice about how to trigger actions in your own life. Marshall Goldsmith is an executive coach who looks closely at behaviors that influence success. 

Pages: 272 (hardcover) Publisher: Crown Business