What are your favorite book recommendations?

What are your favorite book recommendations? Topics can include Leadership, Acquisition, Negotiations, Problem Solving, Communication, etc.

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My favorite book on communication (I also think it applies to leadership and many other areas of life) is Crucial Conversations. When I get to a new position, I buy a copy for my leadership team and we read it together.

I first read it when I was doing Contracting Officer Assignments and found it helpful when having tough conversation with higher ranking individuals to tell them who they were (or in some cases were not) getting in the current assignment cycle. It was maybe even more helpful when explaining to officers why we were sending them to a location that was not anywhere on their list of preferences.

Reading it as a team helps us have common terminology when dealing with communication issues.

For contracting, I recommend the classic Administration of Government Contracts. It’s expensive, but it does a great job of walking the reader through contracting issues in plain language while referencing applicable court cases.

We just started with regular telework in my office. If you are thinking about telework, consider reading Remote. It will challenge many of your assumptions about remote work.

The original book from Jason Fried & DHH is Rework. It will also make you think differently about productivity and managing work in the office. It’s written from the perspective of a small business owner, but many of the principle can be applied within the government with a little creativity.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

8-Page Summary: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55dbfccee4b08731143170b6/t/599c857c579fb31fe9ae019d/1503430013454/The+Hard+Thing+About+Hard+Things+-+Ben+Horowitz.pdf

I just finished this via audiobook from the local Library. If you’re not using the Libby app to get books on your phone, audio or reading app, you should.

This isn’t a typical leadership book; which is why I like it. It’s about leading when everything is going wrong. The author points out that most leadership books are too positive but in the real world people screw up, business fail, products flop, and folks get fired.

There is a chapter called “the struggle”; read this summary. If you like it, read the book.


Any of the John Maxwell books


Knowing more about how and why we or others do things has always seemed like a great starting point as a follower or leader; the following reads provide a solid foundation in that regard:

My favorite leadership reads, right now, are:

If you just want fast facts on how to be a better [insert goal], read this:

My favorite contracting book is Source Selection Answer Book, 2nd Edition, by Vernon Edwards. It will give you a great mindset for source selections and contract formation.

By the way, did you know that Air Force Portal has awesome reading tools including digital books and executive summaries of best sellers?


It looks like The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is the most popular on Amazon. Is that the best one to read first?

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That’s a great one! I also liked “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”


I had our squadron leadership take the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership course as a team. It’s offered on many bases; ours was provided by our professional development center.

It’s a great course with take home material. (I took it twice … once alone, which prompted the recommendation for the entire team)

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Definitely recommend the Innovator’s Dilemma for anyone looking to innovate in their particular area of responsibility.

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We curated an innovation reading list at https://aida.mitre.org/innovation-reading-list/ to include everything from Innovator’s Dilemma, FIRE, Simplicity Cycle, Lean Startup, Good to Great, Made to Stick and many more.


Funny thing … I just came across this post right after re-reading an article about the book and author. You can find it here:


Beyond Blame: Learning From Failure and Success

This book is a bit more IT related. However, I think it’s applicable for all people who desire to improve their own organizations (whenever its your own team or from the enterprise level).

The book is also a short read too! Less than a hundred pages!


Thanks @enochchu!

Here is a site where you might find it used for less than Amazon…

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  1. Wooden on Leadership, John Wooden
  2. Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink
  3. Team of Teams, General McChrystal
  4. One Misson, Chris Fussell
  5. Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni
  6. The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni
  7. Start with Why, Simon Sinek
  8. Why Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek
  9. Fighter Pilot, Christina Olds
  10. Antifragile, Nassim Taleb

@Mark_Wagner Thanks for posting this summary! This book has been on my list for awhile but after reading this article, bumped it up immediately and just ordered on prime to be delivered tomorrow. Can’t wait to read it!

  • John Kotter’s Heart of Change is a great starting guide on how to implement change in your organization and get it to stick. The Air Force is always changing but sometimes we need to slow down and remember deliberate decision making for long term gains versus quick reactions to long term problems.

  • The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World demonstrates what can happen when we are willing to fail and fail spectacularly. The book goes into the politics of creating an organization, maintaining its relevance, and also what can happen when a contract is allowed to fail: internet, drones, and squirt guns.

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Got it!

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The downside is that you might start to think, see, and speak different than the majority of the practitioners around you. (your training/knowledge-sharing burden just increased)

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Thirteen years ago an author wrote that “Abundance, Asia, and Automation are nudging us into the Conceptual Age.”

“The “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age–are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous–the “right brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning–increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders.”

I think he was and is right.

From: A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink

An excerpt is available here.