TED Bookstore Curation

This year, I got asked to co-create the TEDbookstore with fellow TEDsters. I mentioned in an earlier post, it was a bit of a “sophie’s choice” moment because I felt like I could have done another theme and direction and chosen another 10 amazing body of work.

There are two threads that unites these.  Certainly the first is about preparing for the future. The second is about how all voices need to be allowed / enabled / encouraged. So perhaps it all ties back to a core thesis of mine: the future is not created; the future is co-created.


Redesigning Leadership. By John Maeda.
How will reinvent the world around us? Well it will involve having folks take the big step away from just being themselves (the thing we all know best) and join something larger (the thing we fear may let us down).

Changing the Game. By Roger Martin
The dumbest idea in the world is maximizing shareholder value. As long as we chase the wrong metric, we won’t fix the financial system. A smart conversation starter, and I think one that corporate directors ought to debate further.

The Mesh. By Lisa Gansky.
Seriously, if you’re not figuring out how to organize / produce and distribute/ sell and market in a way that allows you to co-create value in this Social Era, you’ve missed the boat.  Similarly, Macrowikinomics (by Don Tapscott) and Getting Results from Crowds (By Ross Dawson, Steve Bynghall) are definitive guides for any type of organization.

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Notice how women aren’t equally represented on the TED stage (or on the corporate, or governance stage)? Well, until we appreciate how humans make the craziest (i.e. stupidest) decisions based on biases, we’ll never create a more just (and more importantly, better) society.

India Calling. by Anand Giridharadas.
Being born in India and raised in the US, I found myself nodding vigorously as Anand captures the nature of family, class, and fundamentally — what it means to be Indian.

A Fine Balance. Rohinton Mistry.A Fine Balance
Having lived in an Indian slum from age 2-5, I’ve LIVED the effect of a government that cannot or will not work for everyone, especially the powerless. This story captures that sensation in a visceral way and reminds me to fight for those who have no voice.

<Interestingly enough, Brian Stevenson spoke at TED about how all of our survival is tied to EACH of our survival. And his was the most popular TEDtalk ever if the standing ovation is a measure. Thematically the same in idea, this book will really help you FEEL the world of oppression and lost voices.>

The Flinch
, Julien Smith.
He’s the NYT best selling author of Trust Agents, but this book talks about that moment right before real performance happens, where we choose to flinch, and step back or… to be fearless. I imagine the results we’d get if entire organizations were full of fearlessness.

Wrinkle in Time.  By Madeleine L’Engle.
This was my favorite book in 6th grade. Even though this has an allure of physics and math (with an evil force threatening the planet), the book holds gems of life’s truths.  One that has stuck with me is that “alike and Equal are not the same”.

The Illuminated Rumi. Coleman Barks and Ilustrated by Michael Green.
When I’m stuck writing some Harvard post, I’ll turn to this to unlock wisdom.


For offsites, for the story teller in everyone, for fun… these can be addictively fun. Everyone got them at Christmas from me, and this will be your gift to give next year.

Somebodies and Nobodies. By Robert Fuller.
On the “ism” we rarely talk about but that encompasses racism, sexism and ageism – rankism denies equality in dignity. In the distinction between rank and rankism lies the difference between dignity and indignity – for people, for nations.

Join the Club by Tina Rosenberg
In every case of change, the change agent has thrown out the old models for social change – motivating people with information and using appeals based on fear – to employ a more effective (and abundant) resource: working with each other.


P.S. Each curator was so amazing. That’s what made the bookstore “full-spectrum”, the theme of the conference. Here’s Brainpicker’s (Maria Papova) picks.
P.P.S. Thanks to the TED team for asking me to do it. I believe strongly that it’s community that creates experience and so was happy to contribute in little ways this week.

8 Replies

  1. Yikes, your book list comes out at the same time as Seth’s. Hello Amazon.

    I was just so blown away by Thinking, Fast and Slow. I’ve been gobbling up all the behavioral economics I can over the past few years, but this book for the first time laid it all out, end-to-end, not as a series of quirky observations, but as a complete picture of how we approach the world. It’s absolutely brilliant. I’m glad you highlighted it.

    In contrast, I was so disappointed in The Mesh. Sure, great idea, got it by page 5, thanks, done. This would have been a nice couple of blog posts. As a book, it was a waste of my time and money. (In fairness, if there was a great insight after the halfway point, I missed it, because I had deleted it with extreme prejudice by then. But I’m pretty confident there wasn’t.)

    Ah, a Wrinkle in Time. What a gift it would be to be able to read that again for the first time. I wish I liked her more personal, nonfiction writing.

    I love Tina Rosenburg’s Fixes series in the NYT, so I’m delighted for the pointer to the book. Ordering now.


    1. I can appreciate multiple points of view on The Mesh. But let me argue that the 5 pages was an important 5 pages.

      The fact that authors can only earn money off of ideas when they are packaged as 80,000 pieces is — to put it bluntly, bullshit.

      For example, the 5 part series I’ve released on HBR is work I have spent at least several hundred hours directly working on and it represents many more years of practical experience, of course. I earn zero on that. Zero. And if I were to turn it into an 80,000 book, it would be no more valuable and probably far less read.

    2. And dude, you should see my reading pile. Some people have figured out I read and are sending me advanced reading copies. Oh, shittola. I gotta spend some time digging out soon.

  2. Pingback: Two Great Examples of Filtering to Improve Your Information Diet « Innovation Leadership Network
    1. Sorry you don’t approve. But I wasn’t writing for your approval. It was how I FELT.

      1. I completely understand how you felt and what you meant. As someone with personal connection and raw emotion about the story of Sophie’s Choice, it was hard for me to focus on the content of your post, which is what I wanted to do. It wasn’t a judgement, just an emotional reaction to my own fear of minimizing the anguish of the choice that Sophie made. Just something I wanted you to consider.

        1. Something to consider is well done.

          When we judge people for how they feel, we are judging their state of being. When we give a suggestion for how to be better, we are enabling better action.

          I responded to the criticism on something about how I FELT quite differently than when you provided context. Your feelings / responses / etc are yours. I don’t need them foisted on me (neither does anyone else) but each of us helping one another to see the perspectives of our words in the world… that’s helpful.

          Thanks for circling back.

Leave a reply

Leave a Reply