What's the best part of December? Holiday cookies are nice, and so are festive gatherings, twinkling lights, and few days of rest and togetherness to close out the year. But for bookworms, the true highlight of the season might just be the avalanche of "best books of the year" lists.
Right now just about every publication and influencer out there is touting its top reads. This abundance of recommendations is inspiring but also overwhelming. Who has time to check a million sites and blogs? Thankfully, Facebook recently launched its #ReadToLead campaign to round up many of these recommendations in one place.
For the online event, the social network asked an impressive array of leaders, from Virgin boss Richard Branson to astronaut Scott Kelly, to share a picture or video outlining their favorite reads of 2016. It's an early holiday feast for book lovers. Here's a selection of the huge number of picks on offer (along with explanations of why a book earned its recommendation, when available).
Richard Branson, Virgin founder
- Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck: "It opens your eyes to the small pleasures of life, and the great wonders of humanity in the little moments that matter. Less a direction on how to lead, you could see it as a subtle guide on how to live.
- Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed: It "highlights the need for a growth mindset in life. It advocates for changing attitudes towards failure, and understanding that the only way we learn is by trying things and altering our behavior based on the results."
Bobbi Brown, founder and CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
Tina Brown, president and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media
- Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy: "Her book is a gripping and engaging portrait of law enforcement neglect of violence-plagued African American communities on the south side of Los Angeles in the 1990s."
Bill George, Harvard Business School professor
- The Road to Character by David Brooks: "The best book on the importance of character in leaders. Be sure to study the 'Humility Code' in the final chapter."
- Mindful Work by David Gelles: "The growing importance of mindfulness meditation in enhancing corporate health and productivity."
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: "Inspiring story of underprivileged boys who won the 1963 Olympic gold medal through sheer persistence."
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: "The greatest leader of our lifetime on how he found his purpose in prison."
Yves Guillmont, founder of Ubisoft
- The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama: "In it, the Dalai Lama explains how to change our perceptions to find happiness in unexpected times and places. Every meeting, event, and most importantly, challenge is a chance to learn and grow. Developing this state of mind is the key to happiness and success!"
Margaret Heffernan, entrepreneur and Inc.com columnist
- Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull: "A common-sense account of how PIXAR achieved so much so fast. No nonsense, it is full of great insights into the kind of leadership that makes everyone successful."
- Team of Teams by Gen. Stanley McChrystal: "I don't think business is war, but McChrystal has achieved such high-level collaboration across silos and feuding organizations that any leader can learn from him. This is the far opposite of command-and-control, so be prepared to shift some stereotypes."
- Giving Voice to Values by Mary Gentile: "Many so-called leaders are just excellent sheep; true leaders are the people -- at any level of an organization -- who think for themselves and speak out. This book offers excellent guidance for how to do so effectively."
- Give and Take by Adam Grant: "An excellent argument demonstrating that great leaders give, think deeply about others, and appreciate that nobody succeeds alone. An excellent way to undo all the competitive nonsense you might have learned from school."
Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer: "Because of its messages about taking care of people, the importance of bold action, and its focus on integrity and morality."
- The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Aircraft and America's Finest Hour by Andrei Cherny: "For its emphasis on positive leadership in the face of adversity, its message that small acts of kindness mean a lot, and its story of innovation."
- The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: This book "teaches us that failure is a chance to learn, that teamwork is vital, and perseverance pays off."
Scott Kelly, astronaut
- Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing: "The true story of British explorer Ernest Shackleton and the 27-man crew who set sail for Antarctica to cross on foot the last uncharted continent. The ill-fated expedition forced the crew to abandon their ship after it was crushed by ice and begin a journey of survival. It is not only a story of sufferance but also an inspiring tale of leadership."
Matt Salzberg, founder and CEO of blue Apron
- Righteous Porkchop by Nicolette Hahn Niman: "a great read on the pitfalls of factory farming and a look at how to improve the supply chain to produce healthier, more humane and tastier meat."
- The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan: "Required reading for anybody who cares about where his or her food comes from. A great overview on the problems in food today and how we can build a better system"
- Judo Strategy by David Yoffie and Mary Kwak: "Full of tons of strategy tips for young companies taking on large established players and industries. The key in Judo is to use your larger opponents strength and momentum against him."
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon: "One of my favorite novels about an immigrant who escaped World War II and started a comic book empire."
Dan Schulman, PayPal CEO
- Montana 1948 by Larry Watson: "It is a great, riveting story, but it has profound underlying themes that resonate philosophically with me. The book forces you to question the fact that certain biases are specific to an historic moment and place. What was unquestioned then can be seen in a very different light now; and, the truth is frequently not what one believes it to be."
Devin Wenig, eBay CEO
- Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez: "A take on the Silicon Valley's cult-like culture. I found it to be incredibly -- if not brutally -- honest. It's a great read for anyone looking to launch a startup or thinking of working in one."