What you need to know about the forces reshaping our industry.


June 21, 2018

10 must-read books for the summer, according to Advisory Board experts

Daily Briefing
    In honor of summer's arrival, Advisory Board's experts offer 10 recommendations on what you should read now to become a better leader, think more clearly, and explore contemporary issues within and beyond health care.


    The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

    Craig Pirner

    Craig Pirner, Managing Director, Talent Development

    I recommend The Art of Gathering. Parker, an experienced facilitator, provocatively argues that too many gatherings, personal and professional, are governed by process and routine—instead of by purpose—and therefore suffer from blandness and lost opportunity. She offers practical tips for how to make meetings, conferences, and parties more meaningful and useful—from the moment you decide to gather people until the moment you disband the gathering. Her tips are illustrated by entertaining stories and the book is fun and thought-provoking, with many applications for professional and personal life.

    The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky

     Matt Cornner

    Matt Cornner, Senior Director, Talent Development Partnerships

    The Practice of Adaptive Leadership offers critical insights to leaders regarding the nature and requirements of leading change and transformation in an increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. These insights have never been more relevant to health care leaders. Heifetz and his colleagues draw an important distinction between technical challenges (those that can be addressed with leaders' current abilities, skills, tools and knowledge) and adaptive challenges (those that require new learning at both a cognitive and emotional level) that arise amidst change and transformation.

    They note, "When change involves real or potential loss, people hold on to what they have and resist the change. A key to leadership, then, is the diagnostic capacity to find out the kinds of losses at stake in a changing situation, from life and loved ones to jobs, wealth, status, relevance, community, loyalty, identity, and competence. Adaptive leadership almost always puts you in the business of assessing, managing, distributing, and providing contexts for losses that move people through those losses to a new place."

    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

     David Willis

    David Willis, Executive Director, Research

    My absolute favorite nonfiction book in recent years is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, who basically invented the field of behavioral economics.

    Kahneman is the leading expert in his field, and this highly readable volume covers the fascinating science of how we actually make decisions. Across four decades of research, Kahneman (and others in the field) have challenged and chipped away at the prevailing economic view of individuals as rational utility maximizers. The research now overwhelmingly shows how far from that ideal paradigm we actually behave as human beings. I highly recommend this book, both to understand your own likely blind spots and biases, but also as input into any strategy oriented around consumer behavior.

    Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

    Brian H. Yokley, Senior Marketing Director, Research

    Major advancements and breakthroughs in history can typically be traced back to an individual who seemingly approaches the world a little differently from the rest of us. Adam Grant has dubbed these individuals "originals" and claims they range from the likes of Mozart, Martin Luther King Jr., and Shakespeare, to today's bloggers, entrepreneurs and movie makers. However, Grant claims that these folks are not actually that different from you and I. Rather, he believes "originality" can be cultivated and developed—but not in an obvious way.

    For instance, did you know that most successful entrepreneurs are actually risk-averse? That sometimes success isn't based on a single high quality idea, but rather the quantity of ideas? Or that procrastination can actually increase creativity? There is an abundance of interesting and thought-provoking examples peppered throughout this book which Grant uses to provide practical advice for increasing your own creativity and thereby enhancing your own pursuits.

    Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your Life Depended on It by Christopher Voss

     Matt Cornner

    Russell Davis, Executive Director, Research

    When the former FBI lead international hostage negotiator tells you how to negotiate, you listen. The title comes from Voss’s professional negotiating experience (i.e., you can't "split" a hostage). His advice upends conventional negotiating wisdom (e.g., understanding your "Best alternative to negotiated agreement," meeting in the middle) and the narratives are gripping. The most useful book on negotiation I’ve ever picked up. You’ll read it twice.


    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

     Megan Tooley

    Megan Tooley, Practice Manager, Cardiovascular Roundtable

    When you first pick up Sapiens, it may feel like you're diving into a text book, but the author's witty, engaging, and sometimes satirical writing style quickly disabuses you of that notion. Harari blends historical evidence with modern analogies to bring the past hundreds of thousands of years to life, while challenging many of our current beliefs about history. Sapiens presents a revealing look at evolution, society, and what it means to be a human—and I couldn't put it down.

    River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candace Millard

     Jenn Stewart

    Jennifer Stewart, Executive Director, Research

    When I'm not at my desk, I love to explore the great outdoors. This book fits into this love—and manages to hit the very rare trifecta of being a gripping, stay-awake-at-night adventure story, plus incredibly well written and absolutely true. While adventure literature can too often just focus on the outward achievement—while overlooking group dynamics and the psychological uncertainty of participants—this book captures that inward perspective incredibly well. Also, I have to admit: I enjoyed reading about the adversity, challenges, and discovery… all from the warmth and comfort of my bed!

    Contemporary Issues

    Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele

     Jenn Stewart

    Allison Cuff Shimooka, Executive Director, Research

    My recommendation is for Whistling Vivaldi because the book changed the way I look at the world. Prior to reading it, I knew nothing about the concept of stereotype threat and its impact. And more importantly, I had no idea what I could do help ameliorate the negative impact that stereotypes have on my friends, colleagues and the organizations and patients we serve.

    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


    Tomi Ogundimu, Practice Manager, Population Health Advisor

    Coming-of-age stories have always been my favorite. Americanah is one of the first in that genre reflecting a narrative I can strongly identify with. It explores the dynamic relationship we have with race and class, but from an immigrant's perspective. Well-written, engaging, and witty, Ngozi takes you through an epic love story with a lot of something extra. If you're looking to gain perspective on our American culture with a new set of eyes, this is the summer read for you.

    How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

     Thomas Seay

    Thomas Seay, Editor-in-Chief, Daily Briefing

    The elevator pitch for How to Change Your Mind writes itself: "The author of The Omnivore's Dilemma tries magic mushrooms (and psychedelic toad venom.)" But Pollan's travelogues form a relatively small part of his latest book.

    Other sections explore the often-forgotten history of 20th century scientific research into the therapeutic effects of LSD, the emerging neuroscience of how psychedelics alter the brain, and the medical counterculture built up by therapists—with greater or lesser degrees of formal training—who believe strongly in the power of these drugs to heal the sick and improve the lives of the healthy. Regardless of your views about the medical potential of these substances (and Pollan makes clear that the jury is, by and large, still out), it's a compelling portrait of how an informal culture of medicine has marched forward, even as society has consigned psychedelics to the margins.

    Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

    Rob Lazerow Gillian

    Rob Lazerow, Managing Director, Health Care Advisory Board and

    Gillian Michaelson, Consultant, Health Care Advisory Board

    Dreamland is an excellent read on the origin of the opioid crisis from veteran reporter Sam Quinones. Quinones explores the massive increase in U.S. opioid use over the past two decades through two complementary lenses. First, he tracks the increase in the legal use of opioids, driven by a lack of clinical research and the interests of large pharmaceutical organizations. Second, he explores the expansion and standardization of the illicit drug trade—including the trade of opiates. Quinones' influential work has led him to speak about the issue across the country, including in a Senate hearing where he spoke about potential congressional interventions.

    After you've dug into the history of the opioid crisis, pull up to the modern day and learn more about your role in mitigating this epidemic and how we can support you by visiting our opioid resource page.

    Have a Question?


    Ask our experts a question on any topic in health care by visiting our member portal, AskAdvisory.