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It’s the time of the year where we reflect on the year almost passed and, at the same time, we are in desperate need to find last-minute gifts. Below are a few of my favorite books of the year, insightful readings that shaped my year. (All links are non-affiliate)

Shift & Reset

Brian Reich, SVP/Global Editor for Edelman, is not happy with the state of non-profits and how many brands utilize Social Media to advance their objectives. Brian reveals a deep narrative that gives you a better understanding why the current methods of marketing increasingly fail and how to embrace the new paradigm. What I especially liked about this book that he doesn’t leave it to theory and big words. The book is filled with inspiring and clear action steps for non-profits and commercial brands.

The Flinch (Free)

Need a swift kick in the butt? Get this book now. It will kick you into action.

So, what is “The Flinch”? As author Julien Smith explains: “It’s a reaction that brings up old memories and haunts you with them. It tightens your chest and makes you want to run. It does whatever it must do to prevent you from moving forward. (…) Whatever form it takes, the flinch is there to support the status quo.”

The Flinch is not a marketing book, it’s a personal improvement book. When you read this book, you will learn something about yourself. And, who knows, you might just discover you have more guts and gumption than you ever imagined.

We Are All Weird

Any book list without mentioning Seth Godin’s work is not a complete list. Part of the Domino Project, “We are all weird”, nails what many have been saying is broken about marketing. The old days of blasting out your message to the masses and having it succeed are doomed. People don’t want mass marketing, they want me marketing.

Sure, mass markets will always exist and generic products and services will continue to garner profits, but they will become a minority and be outgrown by the new norm of being weird.

“The weird set an example for the rest of us. They raise the bar; they show us through their actions that in fact we’re wired to do the new, not to comply with someone a thousand miles away.”

It’s a quick read but one that will stick with you for a while.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Let’s face it: We all hate meetings, dread the weekly status, the meetings that exist for no reason, just to satisfy a corporate agenda. This book not only taps into this feeling and our meeting culture, but also suggests how to make meetings more effective, efficient, and worthy of attending.

So, if you’re sick of feeling like your time is being wasted by pointless meetings or are simply looking for ways to improve your professional capacity and productivity at work, then I highly recommend getting a copy. Buy one for all your co-workers, you might just transform your company in 2012.

Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis.

As a marketing professional, you need to understand the mechanics and details of our global economy because they determine behavior of current/future customers. “Lost Decades” is a comprehensive exploration of the political and economic roots of the current crisis as well as its long-term effective.

The authors show how financiers, politicians, and ideologues ushered in the crisis, and highlight the challenges we need to overcome to avoid more lost decades.

It’s a not an uplifting book but it gives you an understanding how silly the arguments and positions of our current breed of politicians are. If we get policy right, we’ll be fine in 10 years. If we continue on the current path of the two-party system ideologues, we might be in a permanent crisis.

Before I Go to Sleep

Let’s end on a positive note: “Before I go to sleep” is my favorite fiction book of the year.

Imagine waking up every day not knowing who you are. All memories disappear every time you fall asleep. Your partner is a stranger, explaining your life each and every day all over again. You used to have a normal life and now a mysterious accident forces you to live this bizarre existence.

I finished this book in one reading because of the strength of writing, and the way the author is able to transcend the basic premise and present profound questions about memory and identity. For me, this was the book of the year.

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A few years back, my niece visited my office and after spending the whole day with me, she was asked by her mother: “What does Uwe do all day?”

Her answer: “He’s in meetings.”

That’s a sad reality for the majority of us.

Boring Meetings. Useless meetings. Sloppy meetings. If the US army would be as sloppily run as our meetings, there wouldn’t be the United States of America. If my kid would be as poorly prepared for her school life as most meetings are, she’d drop out of school in 7th grade.

Meetings are important.

They are the wheel that set things in motion.

Unfortunately, that wheel doesn’t work 95% of the time.

“Read this before our next meeting.”

It’s the title of a book by Al Pittampalli, published by The Domino Project and the content will change your life.

Al Pittampalli describes the usual MS Office appointments as ‘weapons of mass interruption’ and explains that it’s far too easy for people to call team meetings without any real preparation and empathy for the impact another bad meeting might have on all recipients.

In addition, he describes the majority of meetings as stalling tactics and havens for complacency or collective indecision.

How to combat ‘Death by meetings’

– Only invite people to meetings who NEED to be there, not people who SHOULD be there.

– Circulate reading materials way ahead of the meeting, insisting that everybody actually read the material. If not, ask them to leave the meeting. Should have used their own time get informed, meetings are about decisions, not information.

– All meetings have to have a clear purpose, clear objective(s) and end on time.

– Meet only to support a decision that has already been made.

– Produce committed action plans.

Summer is over. Time to be productive again.

Don’t waste another hour with useless meetings.

Buy the book to get more in-depth insights. It took me 30 minutes to read it. But it will save me a lot of time and energy in the years to come.

Oh, and please, don’t invite me to any meetings.