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20 Books To Change How You Think About Business, Well-Being, Wonder and Nature

Closeup Photo of Assorted-title Books

In the wake of a devastating fire several years ago that consumed my study, leaving behind charred remnants of cherished volumes, I found solace in the collective effort to salvage what remained.

Four friends gathered. One of them created an assembly line to air out and salvage as many books as possible. Why? Because I had an intimate relationship with numerous copies of books with my marginalia, and I didn’t want cheap replacements. I still lost hundreds of volumes.

Books aren’t just objects. Books are agents of wonder as they expand my perspective on what is real, what is true, and what is possible.

Many clients, customers, audience members, and readers often ask me about the books that shape my world, so I offer here a glimpse into my reading journey —touching upon themes ranging from business strategies to personal well-being.

The past year for Tracking Wonder has been solid and grounding. I attribute that sensibility in part to a steady early-morning ritual of reading and reflection—a curriculum of sorts that spanned centuries and traversed diverse domains of knowledge. While the complete list of titles is extensive and eclectic – one title was published in 1852 – it has been My Curriculum.

Exploring Business and Strategy

One of my Young Genius character strengths is imaginative. This trait manifests in adulthood as innovative problem-solving, creative thinking, and forward-looking strategic planning. These abilities benefit not only myself but also my team and clients alike.

Emergent Strategy

By Adrienne Maree Brown

This book illuminated the power of collaboration and innovative thinking in shaping business strategy, leaving me inspired to embrace new possibilities. Read the introduction, and you know that this creative activist is a wonder tracker. It’s an unconventional book that often reads like a mosaic.

Key Takeaway: Embrace collaborative thinking and adaptability to shape innovative business and collectivist strategies.

Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides

By Geoffrey Cohen

Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides by Geoffrey L. Cohen | Goodreads

This Stanford psychologist unpacks a lot of the science with frankly disturbing studies in psychology before psychologists had ethical standards to uphold. Cohen’s insights into human connection and the importance of shared values prompted me to rethink the way I foster teamwork and community.

Key Takeaway: Shared values are the bridge to fostering genuine connections and belonging in teams. It helped me think through ways to foster belonging among masterminds and teams with our Wonder Connection Interventions. Results have been stellar.

Your Future Self: How to Make Tomorrow Better Today

By Hal Hershfield

Your Future Self: How to Make Tomorrow Better Today by Hal Hershfield | Goodreads

This psychologist and professor of marketing at UCLA examines human behavior as expressed through the relationship of your present self with your image of your future self. Hershfield’s exploration of how our present actions shape our future selves struck a chord with me. complement our work with Deliberate Daydreaming, Horizon Vision work, and Young Genius work.

Key Takeaway: Our present actions profoundly impact our future selves, highlighting the importance of intentional living.

Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Be Ready for Almost Anything

By Jane McGonigal

Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything―Even Things That Seem Impossible Today by Jane McGonigal | Goodreads

This futurist and gaming expert’s book challenged me to embrace uncertainty with courage and resilience. She unpacks a lot of futurist scenarios and their implications for imagining any possibilities as “imaginable.” I found it compelling but short on take-aways.

The Retention Revolution: 7 Surprising (and Very Human!) Ways to Keep Employees Connected to Your Company

By Erica Keswin

In this third book from, Erica Keswin, a seasoned organizational consultant, presents actionable strategies to nurture genuine belonging and improve retention—a crucial aspect in an era where employee loyalty seems scarce.

Key Takeaway: This insightful read prompts a reconsideration of my approach to onboarding new team members and clients.

Becoming Coachable: Unleashing the Power of Executive Coaching to Transform Your Leadership and Life eBook : Osman, Scott, Lane, Jacquelyn, Goldsmith, Marshall: Amazon.in: Kindle Store

This book crossed my path when I was in search of personal coaching and questioning my own coachability. Its insights not only confirmed my openness to growth but also encouraged me to empower clients to embrace their journey of development irrespective of our strategic direction.

Key Takeaway: Discovering my coachability has reinforced my commitment to fostering growth and agency in both myself and my clients.

Hidden Potential

By Adam Grant

The Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant

Grant takes on the myth of innateness – that greatness comes from mysterious innate traits. Instead, he provides evidence-based insights on character, resilience, and growth, informing discussions with clients and my teen daughter.

Key Takeaway: This enriching journey has deepened my understanding of key concepts and reinforced the principles we encourage in our character training and client development work.

Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure

By Maggie Jackson

Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure by Maggie Jackson | Goodreads

This book recently captured my attention, marking its place on my recent reading list. As I begin to explore Jackson’s work and connect with her insights, I anticipate a profound expansion of my perspectives and a deeper dive into themes that resonate with our body of work at Tracking Wonder.

Trauma, Anxiety, Well-being

During the midpoint of 2023, I found myself compelled to embark on a journey of personal introspection. I began to grasp the presence of unresolved trauma within me. As a father of two daughters, I confronted once more the anxiety that arises from striving to fulfill my role as their protector without becoming overbearing.

The Myth of Normal

By Gabor Maté

Gabor Maté presents an exhaustive exploration into the complexities of trauma. Collaborating with his son, Maté offers intimate insights into his own traumatic experiences, shedding light on the pervasive nature of trauma within broken systems. Immersing oneself in this profound narrative reaffirms the stark reality of trauma’s prevalence, challenging preconceived notions and exposing systemic perpetuation.

Key Takeaway: While the term “trauma” may be overused and misapplied, delving into this comprehensive tome emphasizes the urgent need for systemic change.


By Deb Dana

This book by Deb Dana, a leading figure in Polyvagal Theory, proposes that as mammals, our nervous systems have evolved for our adaptation and that by regulating the nervous system, we can further enhance truly resonant connection with other humans. This book provides an accessible primer from a master teacher with scaffolding units and exercises.

Key Takeaway: This primer serves as a calming balm, empowering readers with invaluable tools for navigating interpersonal dynamics and promoting emotional well-being.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood

By Lisa Damour

This prominent psychologist and host of the Untangled Podcast provides invaluable guidance for parents navigating the complexities of raising teenage daughters. It includes numerous helpful client stories and paraphrases of conversations between teen
and therapist, parent and therapist, and parent and teen.

Key Takeaway: Damour’s guidance has been instrumental in fostering a deeper understanding of my daughter’s world, reshaping my perspective on parenthood and reinforcing the importance of resilience in the face of challenges.

When Worry Works: How to Harness Your Parenting Stress and Guide Your Teen to Success

By Dana Dorfman

Psychotherapist and anxiety expert Dr. Dana Dorfman’s empathetic insights provide a roadmap for navigating parental stress, offering practical strategies for promoting teen success without pathologizing anxiety.

Key Takeaway: Dorfman’s framework for understanding Parental Anxiety Reaction Types has been transformative for many people towards a more balanced and resilient parenting approach.

Getting Over Ourselves: Moving Beyond a Culture of Burnout, Loneliness, and Narcissism

By Christina Congleton

Through a sweeping argument, Congleton exposes the influences perpetuating self-centeredness, challenging readers to transcend the societal norms of burnout and isolation. Toward the end, she acknowledges the importance of tracking wonder amidst uncertainty.

Key Takeaway: Congleton’s thought-provoking analysis invites reflection on our individual and collective roles in shaping a more compassionate and connected society. It is short on solutions or possibilities moving forward.

Team Habits

By Charlie Gilkey

This business coach – and friend – lays out a practical guide for neutralizing tensions, fostering belonging, and smoothing out communication bumps through building small habits as a team. Here’s our LinkedIn Live Wonder@Work Talk.

Key Takeaway: It’s helped us have new language around our own business processes, and it’s
given me a new frame around team culture.

Models of Tracking Wonder

Thoreau’s 1852 Journals

By Henry David Thoreau –

Thoreau made his journals a life’s work – totaling over two million words over 24 years. While natural historians and scientists dominated the discourse on natural phenomena in the 19th century, Henry David Thoreau’s deliberate living allowed him to offer a fresh, lyrical perspective, emphasizing the intimacy of nature’s details, psychological insights, and the wonder of it all. Some of his journal entries are remarkably prescient, inspiring me to cultivate greater observance and perception of my surroundings.

Key Takeaway: Thoreau’s writings serve as a constant reminder to attune ourselves to the wonders of the natural world and to seek deeper understanding through mindful perception as well as scientific observation.

One Long River of Song

By Brian Doyle –

Beloved writer and teacher Brian Doyle’s ability to infuse ordinary occurrences with profound significance, such as recounting the near-death experience of one of his twin sons, is both humbling and inspiring. This book holds a cherished place next to my meditation cushion, its pages often serving as a prelude to moments of introspection.

Key Takeaway: Doyle’s profound ability to find wonder in the ordinary serves as a poignant reminder of the beauty inherent in every moment, urging us to discover a similar depth of appreciation in daily life.

The Book of (More) Delights

By Ross Gay

Writer Ross Gay’s writing style is characterized by its expansiveness and parenthetical musings. Through his honest and joyful reflections, Gay emphasizes the importance of tracking delight amidst life’s challenges, weaving in personal experiences of resilience and wonder.

Key Takeaway: Gay’s celebration of delight underscores its inherent worth, urging me to cultivate a daily practice of finding joy even in the face of adversity.

Unplugged & Unbound

Despite only acquiring a smartphone in 2021 at the insistence of my assistant for travel purposes, I have maintained a cautious approach to its usage. Yet, despite this limited engagement with digital technology, I have observed the adverse effects of my laptop’s constant internet connection and the digital realm. At times, I’ve felt the toll on my cognition, mood, and overall well-being during the past decade or more. Since 2018, I have actively initiated experiments and experiences aimed at intentionally disconnecting and reconnecting with alternative avenues of engagement. We’ve also designed the UNPLUGGED + UNBOUND Retreat Experiences. How does being in natural surroundings affect our moods, mind, and creative capacity? What are the greater untapped connections among nature, mind, and collective action and possibilities? These books inform these experiments.

Rooted: Life at the Crossroad of Nature, Science & Spirit

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Lyana Lynn Haupt, a naturalist and eco-philosopher, presents a deeply personal exploration that accentuates the significance of wonder and practices fostering a deeper connection with our environment.

Key Takeaway: Haupt’s narrative invigorates my awareness, sensitivities, perspectives, and practices, inspiring me to further cultivate such connections and facilitate similar experiences for others. In a culture overly fixated on measurements and science, Haupt adeptly positions scientific inquiry alongside poetry and direct experience as essential forms of understanding.

Digital Minimalism

By Cal Newport

Cal Newport, a computer science professor, notably abstains from social media, and his book outlines strategies for developing a personalized philosophy for digital usage, including a 30-day detox. By emphasizing deliberate engagement with technology and the pursuit of meaningful activities, Newport’s work reinforces the necessity of conscious digital consumption.

Key Takeaway: Newport’s insights underscore the imperative for individuals, including myself, to approach digital technology, devices, and applications with greater mindfulness and intentionality. In addressing personal and collective challenges, deliberate engagement with digital platforms emerges as both feasible and indispensable.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By Florence Williams

This book immediately piqued my interest with its compelling subtitle. Florence Williams, a science journalist, seamlessly integrates her personal narrative into a broader exploration of the science behind nature’s therapeutic benefits. Through her own experiences and global travels, Williams sheds light on the practical applications of her findings, such as incorporating hinoki oil into her bedroom environment for improved sleep quality.

Key Takeaway: Williams’ insights have already influenced my daily practices, leading to tangible improvements in my sleep patterns. Her work grounds me in the scientific understanding of phenomena I have long researched, reinforcing the significance of nature’s role in enhancing our well-being and our creative innovation.

As we seek to level up how we lead, advance complex endeavors, and lead lives of meaning and possibility, I invite you to share your own reading experiences and reflections. Your input adds to our shared pool of knowledge and inspires fresh questions.

Invitation: Share this list with your colleagues, inviting them to join our knowledge pool as we continue to build an international community that values curiosity and ongoing learning.
You can use this copy if it’s helpful: This book list from Tracking Wonder author and strategist Jeffrey Davis offers a fascinating overview of provocative titles in business, strategy, well-being, psychology, nature, and more – all for innovative leaders, entrepreneurs, and change-makers who think outside the norm.

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