Every year, I look back and wish I read more. Whether it’s books, research articles, or even interesting blogs, I wish I blocked out more time for reading. Why? Because as I begin my end of the year reflection, I am always amazed how much of my current thinking, and new ideas, are shaped by the knowledge gained from reading.
When making these lists every year, I love observing the trends in the books I select. My reading list reflects what knowledge I value at a particular point in life. Over time, I can see how my lists have started very narrow, almost all training and science-based, and branched outwards. This year’s list is no different. It’s a strange mix of pure coaching books, scientific treatise, and explorations of the philosophical nature. In particular, one of the trends that stuck out was how we define success and what we value. I’m sure there is some deep reason for why this theme prevailed, but from a coaching standpoint, I can’t help but think it’s because of my growing appreciation for the fact that we are developing people. Not numbers or robots, but people.
For a list of the top non-coaching reads of 2017, please check out our list on the Peak Performance Newsletter.
Success. In sport and Life by Percy Cerutty
The title says it all, in this forgotten classic, legendary running coach Percy Cerutty outlines the ingredients for success. Before it became trendy to do so, Cerutty applied the teaching of Stoicism to life and running, leaving us with lessons about toughness, grit, mindsets, and more decades before researchers caught on. Cerutty rightly takes the X’s and O’s of coaching away from the center of the coaching model, and places the athlete, as a person, there. He believed that if you changed the person, the performance would follow.
Game Changer by Fergus Connolly and Phil White
When I first picked up this tome of a book, the first thing I noticed was how vast the knowledge covered was. This isn’t your traditional coaching book, but one that is as at ease in discussing philosophy or military tactics, as it is in talking about scoring goals in soccer. While written with team sports in mind, this gem of a book will have you picking nuggets of valuable (and usable) information, regardless of whom it is that you coach. I’d go a step further and say that even if you don’t coach in sports, you’ll find this book incredibly informative.
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford
Our first departure from athletics coaching books is a short read by modern-day philosopher Matthew Crawford. In this work, Crawford makes the case that our value should be in the work itself and that doing actual physical labor has more to teach us than we appreciate. It’s a philosophical treatise on why we need to reconnect with the actual world, get our hands a bit dirty, and do some physical labor.
In this book, Sam Walker set out to see what made all-time great sports teams tick. He looked at practically every team sport across the globe and painstakingly whittled them down into a list of the best of the best. From here, Walker began a deep dive to see what separated these dynasties from the rest of the field of very-good teams. Systemically eliminating many of the assumed difference makers, Walker lands on the fact that all of these teams had captains that fit a certain mold. Quite simply, this book will destroy your assumptions on many levels; from what makes teams successful to what makes a great captain. In particular, Walker’s dismantling of the extroverted motivating captain is fascinating and worth the read. Regardless of if you coach or if you are in the business world, this is a book on leadership that must be read.
How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
A longer scientific read on the fascinating world of emotions. Feldman-Barrett presents a new theory on the role of emotions, where they come from, and what their role is. From a coaching standpoint, I found this book illuminating and paradigm changing. It helped me understand anxiety in a better light, and also how fatigue, and the associated emotional response develops. After reading this text, you’ll be sure to have new ideas on how to deal with the tricky human component of coaching.
Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In by Brett Bartholomew
Strength Coach Brett Bartholomew fills a much-needed gap in the coaching literature. While we tend to obsess over the training and details around conditioning, Bartholomew nails the most important part of coaching, creating buy-in. In this easy to read book, he breaks down the different archetypes of individuals we will meet on our coaching journey, and then gives us actionable ways to handle and connect with each type. Quite simply, if you work with people, you need to read this book.
Great Thinkers. The School of Life.
For the busy individuals, consider this a primer on thinking. As the title suggests, this book takes us through some of histories greatest thinkers, from philosophers to architects to artists. For each individual, you get a cl=concise outline of their impact on the world. Going beyond a simple summary, it’s a primer on why their typical contribution to society is important and what we, as modern readers, should take away from it.
Status Anxiety. Alain de Botton.
How do you define success? A simple question that we often assume is intuitive; by work done, money made, races won, or some other simple metric. Yet, on a deeper dive, de Botton demonstrates how the modern world has created a world where we have confused status with “success.” De Botton takes us through the problems with the modern malady that is status anxiety and how to navigate this world. For coaches, the lessons on how to frame success, how to internalize it, and how to deal with it, are immensely valuable.
Endure: by Alex Hutchinson
Although not released until February of 2018, I couldn’t help but put Alex Hutchinson’s new book on the list. I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy and it is a magnificent book. Hutchinson breaks down everything that we know about fatigue. In an immensely readable, but deeply scientific, dive, Hutchinson unravels the mystery of how fatigue occurs in sport. This is a must read for any coach of any sport.
The Neo Generalist by Richard Martin and Kenneth Mikkelson
Avid reader and coach extraordinaire Vern Gambetta introduced me to this text, and I’m sure glad he did. We are all familiar with the specialist vs. generalist dichotomy. Are we experts at one particular thing, or do we know a little about a lot of things? The authors break apart this dichotomy, and make the case for what they call the Neo Generalist, which
And Last but not Least, my own book Peak Performance.
Yes, it may be a shameless plug, but thanks to the research, experts, and friends that helped us in writing this book, I learned more than I ever would have dreamed. The book represents a distillation of that knowledge learned. If you haven’t yet, please check it out. And thank you to all of those who purchased a copy, tweeted about it, or simply recommended to a friend or colleague. It would not have been the success it is without all of you, and I am deeply grateful for that. Thank you