My Favorite Books of 2016

Once in a while, I post a list of the books I read during the previous year. I try to read two books every month, selecting the titles from a list of topics I desire to grow in over the course of that twelve-month period.

This past year, eight of the twenty-four books I read were profound. Most of them surrounded the topic of the future, and the changes that the years ahead will offer. I studied these in preparation for my manuscript, Marching Off the Map, which will be released this year. I hope you find this list helpful in own your reading.


1. Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky

In this book, Shirky offers a useful hierarchy to the connected world we live in. He talks about how to organize without organizations in a domain of shared data having four levels: (1) Coordination (sharing posts on Facebook), (2) Cooperation (reaching shared goals like in Tumblr or Creative Commons), (3) Collaboration, (such as 3-D Warehouse) and (4) Collectivism, where groups achieve big goals (such as Reddit or YouTube). (See my blog on this coming soon.)

2. The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly

I thoroughly enjoyed this book about twelve technological forces that will shape our future. Author Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired magazine, peers into the next thirty years and helps us see a cognified world full of smart devices, houses, cars and networks. It’s a world of sharing, flowing, screening, filtering, remixing and tracking. It was easy to see how this will affect the world of education or anyone else who works with students. Each chapter is loaded with foresight.

3. The Disappearance of Childhood, by Neil Postman

This book was first written in 1978, then, revised in the early 1990s. Postman is a culture critic and master visionary who can see what impacts culture and kids with amazing accuracy. In this book he argues that for centuries, humankind experienced no clear childhood, but with the printing press, modern childhood emerged. As we march into the future, with media and technology seeping into every corner of our lives, we’re now experiencing the disappearance of childhood again.

4. Nobody in Charge, by Harlan Cleveland

This is a book full of essays on the future of leadership. It’s part of the Warren Bennis Series on leadership and is full of insights on how organizational leadership is moving away from a top down flow chart to a flat one, full of teammates who are empowered to own the vision and participate in it equally. This was my second time reading this book as it was published in 2002. It’s definitely a thought provoker.

5. The Study of Culture at a Distance, by Margaret Mead

This book is a treatment of contemporary Western culture and how it’s changed as well as how it changes the people who live in it. Mead looks at adolescence and how teens in non-Western civilizations experience very different levels of stress, anxiety and desires than teens in modern America. Some of her views and conclusions are eccentric, but I always learn when I read something by Margaret Mead.

6. The Wealth of Networks, by Yochai Benkler

This huge book was recommended by Kevin Kelly. It’s nine years old, but loaded with insight on where our world is going. The phenomenon Benkler describes as “social production” is reshaping markets, while at the same time offering new opportunities to enhance individual freedom, cultural diversity, political discourse, and justice. He understands “networks” better than probably anyone and believes democracy and prosperity are both enhanced by shared rather than restricted information.

7. The Future of Almost Everything, by Patrick Dixon

Dixon is a best-selling author who surveys the impact that technology is causing businesses to evolve in: (1) how they get things done; (2) how they manage people; and (3) how they approach the global market. He has unique insight into where our world is going and how it will influence the way we work, play and live. I was engulfed by his predictions and their impact on our work with students.

8. The Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross

This is a best-selling book that intrigued me because so many people are reading it. Alec Ross can see patterns in a chaotic world of information and forecast what will impact the marketplace today’s students will graduate into—a world of artificial intelligence, robotics, the commercialization of genomics and big data. He can see the next decade and how both adults and kids can prepare for it. It’s a big book and not for the fainthearted. It took me a while to wade through it, but it was worth it.

What books were your favorite of 2016? Leave a comment below.

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My Favorite Books of 2016