The Best Books I’ve Read

NOTE: I do not receive any form of compensation for recommending books. These are not Amazon affiliate links (you actually have to sell a lot or they cut you off). I just like the books listed below and think they are good reading for analytics professionals.


The War of Art

Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

I loved this book. I put it up there with Paul Cohello’s The Alchemist. It’s a very short read, and it’s going to hit a little differently each time you read it depending on where you’re at in your journey. I found it inspiring and motivational. It sends the message that we all have something to give to the world, and it’s up to us to choose what that gift is.

So, what’s the book about? It’s about creating. It doesn’t matter if you’re building a business or writing a blog, the creation is whatever you want it to be. This is a book about doing the work. The author broke the book into 3 parts.

The first part introduces a concept called Resistance. Resistance is how/why work doesn’t get done. Resistance manifests in many different forms like procrastination, addiction, and distraction. It’s a good perspective ways in which we avoid creation and avoid success.

Now that you know what Resistance is, the second part talks about “turn pro”. What does it really mean in terms of doing work to be a professional? How is the amateur different from the professional? Hint….it has a lot to do with habit and mind set.

The final part of the book goes into a “higher realm”. Being a devout agnostic, I was most skeptical of this part of the book, but this isn’t about God. It’s about where inspiration comes from and how we can work from a higher place, a place that is more about self and less about ego.

And finally, one of the things I like the most is that the author never promises you success or riches. It’s just about doing the work.

Seth Meyers Yes GIF by PeacockTV
Seth Meyers Yes GIF by PeacockTV


Peak Mind

Own Your Attention

I picked up this book because I feel like my phone takes up far too much of my attention. I recently noticed that I’ve started picking up my phone even when watching TV, which I’ve never done before and is starting to feel like an addiction. The author begins the book by discussing how we aren’t really present for a lot of our life. Instead, we are in the past or the future. That’s why we can’t remember much. We were never there to begin with.

I love this book because it explains why our brain does what it does, and the author doesn’t ask you to fight it. Instead, she shows you how improving your attention is more about awareness and redirection. The author also makes the point over and over again, rightly so, that if we want improvement, we need to train our minds, just like we train our bodies. She presents case studies from her work with the military and business leaders to demonstrate how we can regain control of attention and emotion to be better versions of ourselves.

You’ll enjoy this book if you want to regain control of your mind, your time, and your emotions and truly be present in life.


The Righteous Mind

Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion

I picked up this book because I truly wanted to understand why the country is so divided. The title hooked me and really resonated. You might be wondering what this has to do with analytics. Well, the book wasn’t exactly what I expected. It’s written by a psychologist. Because of that, it’s not exactly an easy read. In my opinion, the author uses far too many words that end in -ism. But, he uses good analogies to make all his points and does a darn good job of summarizing at the end of each chapter. Ultimately, this book is about how we feel and think …and what order that happens in. Do we think first or feel first? I won’t spoil the surprise. He also provides a model for what motivates different groups of people. Hint, we aren’t all motivated by the same things. What motivates one group is repulsive to another. I put this in my book review because I think this is a great book for managers to read and for anyone who is involved in change management, which is quite often those in the analytics space. That’s why I am recommending this book.


Data and Goliath

My husband works for a company called Red Van Workshop, and they do a company book club. This book showed up a few months ago for book club reading. I was intrigued by the title and the fact that it was already on my kitchen table. Because I didn’t choose the book, I didn’t have many expectations, unlike when I read The Price We Pay (see below). Going into The Price We Pay, I expected the book to be depressing and demoralizing, but it was the opposite. Data and Goliath, however, was actually depressing and demoralizing, so much so that I took a break from reading it. Data and Goliath explains how governments and corporations conduct surveillance on all citizens, and how we accept in the name of safety and convenience. Worse so, the solutions the author proposes feel unattainable. They would be good solutions, but they require things like global cooperation on internet standards, activism on the part of the citizenry, and functioning government, which I strongly feel we do not have at the moment. This book is a literary complement to the documentary “The Social Dilemma” with additional perspectives on how the all governments monitor citizens at home and abroad.

You might find this interesting if you have strong opinions about Edward Snowden, living off-grid, or just the general ways in which government and corporate America influence our lives.


One of the lesser-known facts about me is that I played club ultimate frisbee for more than a decade from college thru my early 30s. And, I still have good friends involved in ultimate. When George Floyd was killed last year by police on May 25, 2020, the AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League) put together an anti-racism discussion panel. One of my best friends, AJ Beard, was on the panel, so I turned in to watch.

It was a good talk and motivated me to learn more, hear more, and understand more. I’m a voracious reader, so I did what so many people do, I Googled books about racism. I thought it would be a good idea to order a book for both me and my Dad. His book was accompanied by a note that said – I think this topic is important, and I think we should learn about it together.

Ultimately, I should have spent more time finding the right book, but I leaned on popularity and ordered White Fragility. Since that first book, I’ve read 3 more books on racism. I don’t know what I expected, but now that the pages have turned, I want to share my thoughts on which books to read when and why. I definitely should have started with a different book.

Racism and white supremacy in America are important topics. Once you see it, it can’t be unseen, and I promise you will find things you were not expecting.

So You Want to Talk About Race

This was by far my favorite book of the 4. Simply put, it’s meant to facilitate conversations and discussions. It’s a great book club book or a book to read with coworkers. This is the book I should have chosen to read with my dad. It’s easy to read and explains concepts in plain language, which is not true of all of these books.

How to Be An Antiracist

This book focuses on systemic racism in all aspects of life – power, biology, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. And that is how the book is organized. It is very comprehensive. My only criticism is that he references changing policy a lot but doesn’t specify how policy could, would, or should change. I would recommend this as a second book.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

I can read and comprehend complex sentences, and the first half of this book was incredibly difficult to read. It read like a political science journal. My dad, who was an electrical engineer before retiring, commented that he found himself reading the same sentence over and over again having no idea what the author was trying to say. The second half of the book was much better, but my recommendation is not to make this your first book. It is a good book, but it’s not a great starter. It does what the title implies. It explains why discussing racism is so difficult for white people.

Me and White Supremacy

If you are going to buy any of these books (as opposed to checking them out of the library), buy this one. It is a workbook, and the author intends for you to read it over 4 weeks. Read one section of the book each week. Then, go thru the questions at the end of each section. This book is about introspection and challenging what you think you know or believe or feel. It’s a good book to dive into after you’ve read a few others and really thought about racism and white supremacy.

The Price We Pay, What Broke American Health Care – And How to Fix It

First, I think everyone should read this book, whether you are an analytics professional or not. If you are an analytics professional, then you will love the chapters that show how it is possible to ask and answer questions like — Is this procedure necessary? Is this physician an outlier or performing a procedure within surgeon-accepted boundaries? If you are a business owner or are involved at all in how the company you work for chooses health care, you should definitely read this book. It may change how you make decisions for your company. Finally, I expected to read this book and be completely and utterly depressed about the state of our health care system, but a good chunk of the read is devoted to people and businesses who are trying to change it. It leaves you feeling cautiously optimistic, and if this oil and gas thing doesn’t work out for me, health care analytics looks fascinating.

P.S. When searching for this book, know that there is another book called The Price We Pay (The Path of Temptation Book 1) that is not at all related to health care and might not be work-friendly.


Trust Me I’m Lying, Confessions Of A Media Manipulator

Wow, I did not realize it had been a year since I posted a book review. I swear I’ve been reading a ton. I mean, what else did we have to do during quarantine. Anyway, this book was written in 2013. However, in 7 years, this book has become more relevant not less. It’s a good read because it gives you a perspective on headlines and how they are generated. We’ve all heard the term “fake news”, but this book explains what that really means, who creates the fake news, and why. It’s a must-read for anyone who is seeking to understand why the modern world is so damn crazy. The answers are “money” and “we built it this way”. This book really makes you think about what you’re reading and whether or not you should believe it. The author also has a newsletter.


Everybody Lies, Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

I started reading this book. I bought this book at an airport. I started it. It was amazing, and then I left it on a plane. I just repurchased it on Kindle. The whole premise is that we all lie…in polls, to surveyors, on surveys (seriously, why?), to our neighbors. We say one thing and do the opposite. You know who we don’t lie to? Google. No lie. Seriously. Google search data can tell us a lot about what people really think. It’s terrifying and deeply fascinating, like a train wreck you just can’t look away from. This book takes a look at society from the perspective of what people ask Google. It’s only $3.99 on Kindle!


So You Want to Talk About Race

This is one of the best, if not THE BEST, books out there on racial bias. It easy to follow and understand. I think it’s a good book for a workplace book club read. I say that because I also read White Fragility, which is not easy to follow or understand. One night, when the George Floyd story was raging, I had downed a few cocktails (see About Me for cocktails) and decided it would be a good idea to purchase White Fragility and send a copy to my 75-year-old father. The idea was that we would read it together. That was a mistake. The first 3 chapters were more like reading a political science journal article. I got it, but this was the book I should have sent him. It’s written for the purpose of having conversations about race that are difficult. It is direct and unapologetic and explains all points clearly and concisely. You can’t argue with her.


Organize Tomorrow Today 8 Way to Retrain Your Mind by Dr. Jason Selk and Tom Bartow

I read a lot of productivity books. It’s one of my smaller obsessions. This is the best one yet. I checked it out from the library and renewed it three times so I could reread and take notes. This book is different because it focuses on micro-adjustments. And, it asks you to make those changes one at a time over a 3 month period, rather than all at once. It is also a great compliment to The Power of Habit, which I just happened to read right before this book. Check it out if…

  • You want to learn how to work in a more efficient and productive way.
  • You have tried other productivity hacks and haven’t made measurable gains.
  • You want to stand out in a crowd of average workers.


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This book was on my reading list for quite a long time and it did not disappoint. I expected the book to focus on personal habits, but it’s actually split up into three parts — the habits of individuals, the habits of successful organizations, and the habits of societies. Thus, it’s a great read for anyone looking to make a meaningful change in business or society. My favorite part was the break down of the civil rights movement and their explanation for why Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr were able to create meaningful change where others had failed. Check it out if…

  • You want to understand how to make a long term change to your personal habits and behaviors.
  • You want to learn how to create change in an organization.
  • You want to stand out in a crowd of average workers.


Sprint – How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp

Jake Knapp was one of the keynote speakers at the Gartner Analytics Conference in Orlando. He has spent over 10 years at Google and Google Ventures working the sprint method to speed up innovation. The sprint method works for designing products, services, robots, and reports. I’ll be working my first sprint in May and look forward to seeing how it pans out for us.

At the end of the book, the author talks about the Wright brothers (first in-flight). He says, “The Wright brothers started with an ambitious, practically crazy goal. At first, they didn’t know how to get there. So they figured out which big questions they needed to answer.” That is what a lot of analytics is about…figuring out which questions you need to answer. The main reason I like this book is that the sprint method drives you to focus on what are the important questions, and how do we answer them. Check out this book if…

  • Projects, products, or services take far too long to develop, and you want to speed it up.
  • You’ve experienced development failure at some point in the past.
  • You want to try something risky.


Make Time – How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

This book was also written by Jake Knapp. it isn’t about how to do more with less time. “This is a book about slowing down the crazy rush. It’s about making time for things that matter.” Personally, I want to do all the things. I love my job, blogging, biking, gardening, cooking, yoga, and my real estate side hustle, and I want to be really good at all of those things. However, I often find myself doing easy tasks just to cross them off my list. While momentarily satisfying, that tactic doesn’t make meaningful progress on any of my goals. Read this book if…

  • You’ve tried and failed with productivity hacks.
  • You want a simpler method for prioritizing the important parts of life.
  • You feel overwhelmed with to do lists.


The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

Nate Silver is a household name in data science, and The Signal and the Noise is a well-known work. Even if you aren’t that interested in data science, it’s still a good read to understand what we (the royal we) do and don’t understand about hot topics like climate change and politics, as well as “cooler” topics like earthquakes. I recommend it for the following reasons.

  • It approaches the subject of data science from the standpoint of — here are a few things we are good at predicting and why and here are a few things we are bad at predicting and why. It’s good grounding for aspiring data scientists.
  • Like Stephen Hawking, he’s great at discussing inflammatory topics, like politics and climate change, in a non-inflamatory, scientific way.
  • It’s a surprisingly easy read. The book is long, but I knocked out most of it over a long layover in the Santiago, Chile airport.


Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

You might be wondering why I added a “non-analytics” book to my book recommendations. I added this book because it focuses on asking and subsequently answering big (really big) questions like – Is there a God? And, asking and answering questions is precisely what analytics is about. I loved this book for the following reasons.

  • Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest minds of the modern “information age”. This book explains the manner in which he thinks through complex problems and questions using logic, reason, and science.
  • He discusses very controversial questions in a calm, rational, and peaceful manner, which is quite honestly a nice change from what modern discourse on hot topics has become.
  • He still has faith in the human race and our ability to overcome major problems. As a “recovering pessimist”, I appreciate his optimism.


Data Science for Business: What You Need to Know About Data Mining and Analytic Thinking by Foster Provost & Tom Fawcet

Datat Science for Business

Provost and Fawcett published this book in 2013, so it’s been around for a while. I read it as part of my masters program and recommend it for the following reasons.

  • It’s the easiest data science read you’ll ever find.
  • Rather than focusing on model building, statistics or technical capabilities, it dives into the softer side of data science — asking and shaping the right questions — which is critical to successful data science.
  • This book should be the start of your data science learning journey.

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