January 14, 2019 by Areeb Athar

With the new year comes new resolutions. Generally, we find these idealistic goals pretty easy to set out. Turns out, it can be a lot more difficult to actually fulfill them.

Despite the challenge, one resolution which you should persevere to accomplish is to start reading. Time and time again, we hear this same advice from mentors, teachers, and business leaders. Reading can develop our understanding of the world, strengthen our grasp of language, and provide mental stimulation – all of which contribute to holistic self-development. Admittedly, however, it can be intimidating to initially break into the habit or to know where exactly to start.

To help, we compiled a list of books recommended by several Western and Ivey students, which they claim had significant impacts on their professional, educational, and personal lives. Over the course of their university tenures, these books have been the source of their fundamental knowledge, invaluable insight, and personal empowerment – all while stimulating genuine interest.

Take the leap. Pick up one of the recommendations that appeals to you, and kickstart the new year with a new book.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari

Recommended by Kathy Hu, HBA1

“I’ve always had relatively radical views of humankind, society, and political and economic organization, constantly questioning traditional assumptions. However, Homo Deus disrupted my most basic assumptions of humankind, breaking down ideas of individualism, liberalism, and humanism. Harari took these schools of thought that I have always taken for granted and illustrated how their demise will be a result of the value of data surpassing the value of humankind.”

Harari’s follow-up to Sapiens, which explored the origins and development of our species throughout history, Homo Deus alternatively serves to explore the future that we face. It offers a holistic, interdisciplinary outlook into the different ways humanity will continue to progress, and raises questions regarding the challenges we may come to face – how long will humanity continue its dominance of the world, and at what point will the intersection with technology and data surpass our control?

Also be sure to check out the aforementioned Sapiens, and Harari’s newest release 21 lessons for the 21st century.

The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

Recommended by Victor Lal, HBA2

“It was just a book that helped a lot with thinking positively about a lot of different situations”

In The Happiness Advantage, Achor examines the essential relation between positivity, happiness, and success. He disregards the commonly held belief that hard work creates success, which ultimately leads to personal happiness. Conversely, he argues that it is a reversed reality; happiness is the element which fuels success. Using his research, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg

Recommended by Katherine Tang, HBA2

“I found Lean In to be unique from all the other women empowerment books because of the perspective Sheryl Sandburg brings. She talks about her journey, lessons, and mistakes as she navigated up the corporate ladder, and now, as she has “made it” as a senior leader. Despite all that is going on with Facebook right now, her advice is honest and practical, and gave me an inside look into how a senior mentor thinks.”

Sandburg’s Lean In offers invaluable guidance and experience from one of the most successful women in business, inspiring ambition and leadership throughout. Using her own experiences to help paint the picture, she seeks to inform on many of the challenges women may face in their professional careers, and what they can do to overcome them. Her advice has been met with resounding positivity and inspiration.

Deep Work, Cal Newport

Recommended by Bijan Mirshahi, 2nd Year Student (Economics)

“With the rising presence of technology in our daily lives, it has become increasingly difficult to stay focused on a task (such as studying) for an extended period of time. Deep Work, written by Cal Newport, taught me multiple strategies I can implement into my daily life to strengthen my focus and, as a result, become more productive. Personally, I found the suggestions offered in this book to be incredibly useful for studying. If you’d like to improve your focus and become more productive, I’d highly suggest giving this book a read!”

Newport’s Deep Work presents an especially relevant message to many of us who struggle with an increasingly distraction-filled environment. It presents several stories with subsequent lessons, and actionable advice to help instill habits of deep work – the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Deep Work puts many of our daily routines into perspective, and can ultimately result in more effective results, greater efficiency, and overall personal fulfillment.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Recommended By Saad Afroz, HBA1

“If you find yourself having a difficult time finishing a book, I’d highly recommend trying The Alchemist. The book is an easy read that is packed with memorable lines which all help you better understand the importance of pursuing your passion, a topic that is highly relevant throughout undergrad. The journey of the protagonist forces one to realize that you can’t really escape the feelings you have within your heart, so it’s better to just listen to them. The messages highlighted within The Alchemist have helped guide me through HBA 1.”

Who says that fiction can’t prove to be meaningful? Coelho’s international bestseller, originally written in Portuguese, recounts the story of Santiago, a young Andalusian shepherd boy, in search of an eternal treasure. Underlying the story is the fundamental wisdom of following our dreams, and using one’s heart to guide their path. These lessons of introspection, love, happiness, and truth through a captivating tale make The Alchemist a must-read.

Give and Take, Adam Grant

Recommended By Srijan Walia, HBA1

“Give and Take highlights the benefits of being a part of the rare breed of people who help others without expecting anything in return. I think this is a great book that truly drives home the importance of relationships, selflessness, and community and even though it’s hard to always be a giver, this book will surely motivate you to be one.”

Give and Take by Adam Grant delves into the increasing importance of our interactions with others, highlighting the distinction of “givers” in our society – people who primarily seek to give to others, expecting nothing in return. Through in-depth research combined with captivating stories, Grant provides an essential guide to our interpersonal engagements, in several applicable situations.

Competition Demystified, Bruce Greenwald & Judd Kahn

Recommended By Brad Perez, 2nd Year Student (Economics)

“I would highly recommend reading Competition Demystified if you have any interest in business! Before I read this book I had a really flawed understanding of what makes a great business in the long run. This books helps remove a lot of the buzz surrounding a number of businesses and breaks down the few competitive advantages a business could potentially posses.”

Competition Demystified has evolved into a fundamental resource for business strategy, establishing a modern guide to competitive advantages. Greenwald breaks down competition among businesses, arguing that barriers to entry are the primary determining factor. He then draws on a wide variety of examples, helping clearly communicate the potential of, then the capacity to capitalize on, competitive advantages. If you’re looking to build your fundamental business understanding, Competition Demystified should definitely be added to your list.

Creativity, Inc., Edwin Catmull & Amy Wallace

Recommended By Amaara Dhanji, HBA2

“The reason why this book impacted me is because it taught me about managing and growing a creative company, the insights that the founders of Pixar had and some of the super interesting background on how some of their most popular films were created. It was a very inspiring read and reminded me that my personal creative goals are attainable”

Creativity, Inc. recounts Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull’s perspective on managing the studio behind some of the most groundbreaking films of all time. He draws from his own experience some of the essentials of fostering creativity through management, explaining how to best establish a creative work culture. For anyone seeking advice in creativity and originality, and an insight into one of the most fascinating companies around, Creativity, Inc. will surely be a captivating read.

The Confidence Code, Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

Recommended By Jessica Myles, HBA1

“Claire Shipman and Katty Kay’s self-help book for women is a New York Times Bestseller and a part of a genre of books published post-financial crisis that encourage women to be less self-doubting and more ambitious. Is the reason women earn less and get promoted less really due to our own lack of self-confidence? Is the secret to success in business to simply act more like men? Whether you agree with Shipman and Kay’s points or not, I think this book is a great starting point to reflect on the current state of feminism in the business world.”

In what has become a go-to book for women empowerment, Shipman and Kay explain the key role of confidence, and how to maximally achieve it, for women of all ages and career paths. They combine research in diverse fields such as genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition, while recounting stories of successful women in the world and workplace. Collectively, they strive to provide helpful advice with inspiration for women to set out and achieve what they desire.

Some other books that students loved:

Shoe Dog, Phil Knight

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Steven Pinker

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

Blink, Malcolm Gladwell

Grit, Angela Duckworth

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson

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