Gemba’s 2016 Summer Reading List

Believe it or not, reading is still a favorite leisure activity across all generations. Yes, it’s true. Despite our obvious obsession with social media outlets, Clash of Clans, and Netflix binging, we still value reading. As a writer, this is jolly good news. Reading is one of the best ways to escape from the challenges of our every day lives and divulge ourselves in someone else’s struggles, triumphs, and hard-earned advice.

And with warmer weather on the horizon, I’m taking a wild guess that a lot of us will be spending our summer days lounging in hammocks with a good book in one hand and a fruity adult beverage in the other. At least, that’s what I hope we’ll all be doing this summer. One can dream, right?

To help get you started, us Gemba folk put together a little reading list of some of our favorite books that’ll have you smiling, crying, and thinking deeply while swinging in your hammock.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 12.53.28 PM1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

After a lifetime of refusing uncomfortable situations, Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, dedicates an entire year to saying ‘yes’ to invitations, opportunities, and anything she would have otherwise declined. This book chronicles her inspiring transformation and demonstrates how one simple word has the power to change our lives.

“This hilarious story of Shonda’s year of saying yes to everything opened my eyes and mind to accepting opportunities that were initially uncomfortable. It’s in these moments that we grow. If we ignore those challenging situations, we rob ourselves of experience.” ~ Gemba contributor: Sarah

2. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The title is misleading because the words “win” and “influence”Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 2.10.28 PM make you think that the point of the book is competition and that you’re manipulating people rather than forming authentic, meaningful relationships. But truly, it’s a book about how to work with people; how to appeal to their interests as a means to arriving at successful collaboration. It’s also a guidebook for how to change your own behavior for your own happiness.

“The book has helped me to be a better collaborator, and a more understanding person. By trying to figure out how to appeal to another person in order to come to a successful resolution, I have to heighten my listening skills (one of my personal challenges), and learn to become genuinely interested in others. It has helped me immensely in networking situations, and honestly I’ve learned more about all sorts of things professionally and otherwise because the tips in this book have influenced my behavior.” ~ Gemba Contributor: Emily

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.28.31 AM3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The great American novel. A work in which Steinbeck developed his most complicated characters and dove deep into life’s most complex themes: self discovery, love’s abundance, and love’s absence. The novel celebrates tragedy and darkness, but also incorporates incredible positivity and optimism. The descriptions of places, the metaphors and language used, the way Steinback forces his readers to invest themselves in the characters of the book – it’s incredible.

” I just loved the plot, the ambitious nature of it all and how complex, full and real all the characters are. Duality of man (and woman!).” ~ Gemba Contributor: Matt


4. Lean In by Sheryl SandbergScreen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.36.04 AM

In her #1 National Best Seller, Sandberg examines women’s role in the workforce and how their progress toward equality has stalled in recent years. Using hard facts, personal anecdotes, and dedicated research, she eloquently initiates a necessary conversation about what women can do rather than focusing on what they can’t.

“One of my key takeaways was that women sometimes limit themselves from success. We think we may not want to reach management level because someday we’ll want to get married, have kids and maybe work part-time. Lean In helped me keep my possibilities open and go for what I want now because later on in life my priorities may change, and that is okay.” ~ Gemba Contributor: Morgan


Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.53.18 AM5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

In the wake of her mother’s death, Cheryl embarks on a solo hiking trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. With no experience and very little outdoor knowledge, she makes her way across the rugged landscape of the west coast, forming genuine relationships with fellow hikers along the way. Wild is a story that intertwines love, drugs, faith, and discovery, and incapsulates what it means to forgive, forget, and fulfill life’s purpose.

“I wasn’t expecting this book to affect me the way that it did. I cried, laughed, cried some more. It forced me to think deeply about my own life, my own struggles, and whether I’ve lived abundantly thus far. If anything, Wild made me curious. I think that’s what the best books have a tendency to do – they make us curious about the world and the people we share it with.” ~ Gemba Contributor: Shelby


6. Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie ShankleScreen Shot 2016-04-29 at 12.17.29 PM

In her memoir on the beauty of friendship, Melanie Shankle paints a meaningful picture of what it’s like to walk through the trials of life with your best friends by your side. Anyone with a friend should read this book. It’ll remind you that friendship is a gift, something to cherish, nurture, and never take for granted. Make sure you’re stocked up on tissues before diving in to this gem.

An excerpt from the book: “Real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard. It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off.” ~ Gemba Contributors: Sarah and Shelby


Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.11.59 PM7. Caffeine for the Creative Mind by Stefan Mumaw

This is not a traditional book – it’s a book full of exercises to wake up your brain.  It contains a wide variety of fun and unique warm-ups to get your creative juices flowing or to shift directions when moving from one project to the next.
“I really like this book because I saw the speaker at the How Design Live conference last year.  He led a few awesome sessions and he totally changed the way I thought about brainstorms.  When I saw him speak and purchased this book I was new to hosting brainstorms and felt a little unsure about it. But now it’s my go-to toolkit for creative ideas and exercises that makes me feel more confident in leading brainstorms.” ~ Gemba Contributor: Allison

8. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.17.07 PMNewport

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Instead of arguing that distraction is bad, author and professor, Cal Newport, instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

I am always seeking ways to remove distraction and live my life more minimally to focus on what really matters. This book brings those concepts into a work application, through steady, cognitively demanding focus, and so far the results are exciting. After a session of deep work, I feel the same sense of euphoria as I do after completing a hearty jog or bike ride. His four rules for how to work deeply are easy to digest and adhere to – with a little effort and planning.” ~ Gemba Contributor: John

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