The “Un-Summer” Reading List

Late in May and heading into this summer I had grand visions and aspirations.

I had collected title after title of books that I wanted to read from everyone else’s suggested summer reading list.

“A book a week,” I told myself. “You’ll catch up on all the books you’ve neglected for so long. You can do this!”

Fast forward to August. Guess how many books I read this summer? Go on … I’ll wait.

If you guessed 3/4 of one book, you, my friend, are the big winner.

I, however, am the big loser. NOT EVEN A WHOLE BOOK.

It’s true. I have read exactly 3/4 of Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Which, by the way, I do recommend, despite not having finished it. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

So what happened? Why did I fail so miserably?

If you work with or in schools, you almost certainly believe that there is a myth—maybe even a grand conspiracy—about the notion that summers are for vacation.

Are you laughing now? Rolling your eyes? Yes, me too.

In schools, summers are for strategizing, for planning, for filling those last seats, for collecting those annual fund pledges, and for updating that website content. Maybe you can take a day or three off for some R&R, but summers are most certainly not for lazing by the pool all summer, sipping piña coladas, and devouring novel after racy novel.

Between school visits, workshops, and the stuff of daily life, my summer slipped into oblivion. Yours may have done the same.

But I’m not complaining, and here’s why … while I may not have accomplished my reading goal for this summer, consulting with those schools and teaching at those workshops introduced me to a whole new list of books I want to read. Some are related to my work and some are just for fun.

Maybe some of these will interest you too.

I call it my …

When I Get a Spare Moment or
I’m Stuck in an Airport Reading Wish List
(all descriptors below are from

The Culture Code by Daniel CoyleThe Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
Daniel Coyle

Where does great culture come from? How do you build and sustain it in your group, or strengthen a culture that needs fixing? In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle goes inside some of the world’s most successful organizations—including the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs—and reveals what makes them tick.


Service Fanatics by James Merlino, MDService Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way
James Merlino, MD

Cleveland Clinic has long been recognized for driving some of the best clinical outcomes in the nation, but it was not always a leader in patient experience. There was a time when this revered organization ranked among the lowest in the country in this area. Within ten years, however, it had climbed to among the highest and has emerged as the thought leader in the space. How did Cleveland Clinic turn itself around so effectively and so quickly? More important, how can you do the same with your organization?

Crisis Ready by Melissa AgnesCrisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World
Melissa Agnes

No matter your level of security, due diligence, or control, the reality is that we live in uncertain times. Organizations are prone to a multitude of risks that can attack from every angle. And yet the greatest exposure does not lie within these risks. Rather, it lies in having a team that is not prepared to anticipate, foresee, or respond to a rising threat and its impact on your reputation, revenue, and relationships in real-time.

When your team is crisis ready, your organization is prepared for anything and everything that the modern world can throw at it.

Tribes by Seth GodinTribes
Seth Godin

Since it was first published almost a decade ago, Seth Godin’s visionary book has helped tens of thousands of leaders turn a scattering of followers into a loyal tribe. If you need to rally fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers around an idea, this book will demystify the process.


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark MansonThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Mark Manson

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.


The Year of Less by Cait FlandersThe Year of Less
Cait Flanders

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy–only keeping her from meeting her goals–she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

Pilgrimage by Tom AbrahamsPilgrimage
Tom Abrahams

High School teacher James Rockwell is vacationing in Maine with his family when an earth-changing explosion sends them on a race for their lives. Their first step is escaping an island in the midst of a tsunami, and it only gets more dangerous from there.

Can they find their way home as civilization crumbles around them? And if they do, what horrors will they find?

Big Trouble by Dave BarryBig Trouble
Dave Barry

In the city of Coconut Grove, Florida, these things happen: A struggling adman named Eliot Arnold drives home from a meeting with the Client From Hell. His teenage son, Matt, fills a Squirtmaster 9000 for his turn at a high school game called Killer. Matt’s intended victim, Jenny Herk, sits down in front of the TV with her mom for what she hopes will be a peaceful evening for once. Jenny’s alcoholic and secretly embezzling stepfather, Arthur, emerges from the maid’s room, angry at being rebuffed. Henry and Leonard, two hit men from New Jersey, pull up to the Herks’ house for a real game of Killer, Arthur’s embezzlement apparently not having been quite so secret to his employers after all. And a homeless man named Puggy settles down for the night in a treehouse just inside the Herks’ yard.

One final note on my reading list, and for the sake of full disclosure …

Tom Abrahams, the author of Pilgrimage, is my older brother and he just happens to be a really great writer. Pilgrimage is one of his latest releases. And yes, I’m a terrible sister because I haven’t yet read it.

But I will, I will … next time I’m stranded at the airport … I promise …

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