Check back often to catch the ongoing updates on my favorite books…
Skill-Building and Performance
Outliers – The Story of Success
Malcolm Gladwell – New York: Little Brown, and Company, 2008
Malcolm Gladwell explodes the myth that excellence is the result of some mysterious, innate talent. By examining research and the lives of a variety of “outliers’ he explores the logic of extraordinary success, delving into the impact of ‘deep practice’ (10,000 hours…), family, and birthplace.
The Talent Code – Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown. Here’s How
Daniel Coyle – New York: Bantam Books, 2009
Weaving together real world examples with brain science and behavioral research, Daniel Coyle breaks the process of expert skill-building into three main pieces: deep practice, coaching, and motivation.
Talent Is Overrated – What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
Geoff Colvin – New York: Portfolio, 2008
Geoff Colvin explores ‘deliberate practice’ in individual and group contexts. This book covers much of the same ground as The Talent Code with the inclusion of a section describing organizational applications.
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working – The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance
Tony Schwartz – New York: Free Press, 2010
Tony Schwartz covers a wide range of topics in this actionable book focused on creating efficiency in the workplace. His premise is that people need four types of energy to perform at their best; physical (sustainability), emotional (security), mental (self-expression), and spiritual (significance). He provides practical steps and illustrations for each section. For example; we work best in 45 to 90 minute, highly focused sprints intermixed with periods of renewal.
Practicing, The Psychology of Creation, and Overcoming Creative Blocks
The War of Art – Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Steven Pressfield – New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2002
This classic book (by the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) should be read by everyone. We are all artists and have a gift to give the world. Steven Pressfield inspires in this funny, straight-from-the-hip, kick in the pants, identifying the roadblocks that keep our potential under wraps and prescribing strategies that take no prisoners.
Free Play – Improvisation in Life and Art
Stephen Nachmanovitch – New York: Putnam, 1990
This is one of the best books I have ever read on the essence of improvisation and the creative process.
Effortless Mastery – Liberating the Master Musician Within
Kenny Werner – New Albany: Jamey Abersold Jazz, Inc., 1996
Jazz piano virtuoso Kenny Werner shares his approach to practicing, getting out of the music’s way, and developing a state of relaxed focus.
The Art of Practicing – A Guide to Making Music From the Heart
Madeline Bruser – New York: Bell Tower, 1997
This book describes both a physical and spiritual approach to practicing a musical instrument. While most of her instructions are for pianists, the principles can be applied to any instrument.
Practicing – A Musician’s Return to Music
Glenn Kurtz – New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007
Classical guitarist Glenn Kurtz describes his personal journey as a music student who eventually drifts away from his passion only to return years later. The book is largely a memoir but contains many vivid descriptions of the process of practicing.
The Pat Metheny Interviews – The Inner Workings of His Creativity Revealed
Richard Niles – New York: Hal Leonard, 2009
With the unique perspective of a fellow guitarist and long-time friend, Richard Niles captures the essence of Pat Metheny’s creative evolution, process, and work ethic in a collection of conversations culled from a three-part BBC radio series.