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The 2022 Digital Tonto Reading List

2022 December 11
by Greg Satell

“Don’t believe everything you think” has become something of a mantra of mine. It’s a simple idea, but desperately hard to accomplish. Once we get an idea in our heads, confirmation bias kicks in and we go looking for evidence that supports it while ignoring facts which would point us in another direction.

What makes the problem even more pervasive is that we tend to get our ideas from people around us who are exposed to the same information sources we are. So our social networks reinforce our biases and increase our level of certainty. That’s how we end up going in very wrong directions and making big mistakes.

One way out of the trap is to read widely. Looking through the books I’ve read over the past year I’m struck by the contrasting points of view and how different they are from past lists. Every year is an opportunity to learn more and see farther, which is what Borges probably meant when he said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

Book (And Video) Of The Year

The Gates of Europe by Serhii Plokhy

Obviously, Ukraine has been a focal point this year and, for many people unfamiliar with the country, can be somewhat confusing. What is at the root of the conflict? What are they fighting over? What did the Ukrainians to raise the ire of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

This book by Serhey Plokhi, who leads Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute and is probably the preeminent authority on Ukrainian history today, provides an excellent guide to Ukraine’s history and culture and does it in a way that makes it not only understandable, but so interesting the pages almost read themselves.

In the same vein, Timothy Snyder’s course on The Making of Modern Ukraine is so good that even Ukrainians I know are hooked on it. The Yale professor does far more than tell the story of one country, he explains its context in terms of European history, the rise and fall of nations, empires and religions. It’s probably the most remarkable thing I’ve ever watched.

Both of these will not only help you understand recent events, they will change the way you see the world, which is what good books and courses should do.

Business, Management And Leadership

At the end of the 20th Century, Jack Welch was considered an icon and his views on how to run a company were taken as gospel in many circles. The Man Who Broke Capitalism by New York Times reporter, David Gelles dispels that notion. It seems that narrative is catching on as the legendary reporter William Cohan released a book about the same subject last month (that I haven’t read yet).

Richard Rumelt has long been one of the best thinkers on business strategy and his new book, The Crux, is as good as any you’ll read on the subject. In a similar vein, I read To Risk it All, Admiral James Straridis’s book on leadership which was not only gives excellent advice, but full of exciting stories about naval heroes, is incredibly fun to read.

Whitney Johnson’s new book, Smart Growth, provides a wonderful playbook for creating a true learning organization and Joan Ball’s Stop, Ask, Explore offers great advice on how to figure out where you’re going next. I also read Work With Me by Barbara Annis and John Gray and was glad I did. For anyone who wants to collaborate more effectively with gender intelligence it is a must-read.

Finally, if you’re thinking about speaking professionally, or even seriously as an amateur The Referable Speaker by Michael Port and Andrew Davis is something you’ll want to pick up.

Transformation, Change And Innovation

In Talking About a Revolution, Yassmin Abdel-Magied delivers an insightful collection about essays about change. I also finally got around to reading Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath and really liked it. As with their other books, it offers a great blend of scientific research and stellar storytelling. I also read John Kotter’s classic, The Heart of Change, but was disappointed to find that it was more about communicating change than making it happen.

AOL founder Steve Case tells the story about how he is helping to build regional innovation ecosystems in the heart of the country in The Rise of the Rest. In Radically Human Accenture’s technology Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson, explain how companies that can build collaboration between humans and machines will have a competitive edge.

I also read Anand Giridharadas’s The Persuaders, which explains how progressive activists are pushing for change. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it very persuasive, which seems like a problem.

History, Society And Politics

I loved Moisés Naím’s earlier book, the End of Power, so when his new book, The Revenge of Power came out I bought it right away and was not disappointed. I also finally got around to reading Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall and it was well worth the wait. It really helps you see the world in a new light.

I’ve read many books on Russia over the years, but Putin’s People by Catherine Belton is one of the very best and included a lot of things I hadn’t heard about before. I also liked Fiona Hill’s memoir, There Is Nothing For You Here which gives insight into both Russia and the Trump administration.

Katherine Stewart’s The Power Worshipers is an incredibly eye-opening book about the Christian Nationalist political movement. The Prize by Dale Russakof, tells the story of what happened after Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to the Newark school system and shows how hard it can be to reform education in America.

Finally, I highly recommend picking up The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt, which explains how we make moral judgments. It’s will not only help you understand your own views better, it will also help you bridge differences you have with others around you.


So that’s my list for this year. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments section.

I will publish my “Top Posts of 2022” next Sunday and then will take the rest of the year off. I’ll be back on Sunday, January 8th with my future trend for 2023.

See you then…

Greg Satell is a transformation & change expert, international keynote speaker, and bestselling author of Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change. His previous effort, Mapping Innovation, was selected as one of the best business books of 2017. You can learn more about Greg on his website, and follow him on Twitter @DigitalTonto

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Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile


4 Responses leave one →
  1. David Hoo permalink
    December 12, 2022

    Read books on change: “How Minds Change: The Science of Belief, Opinion and Persuasion”

  2. December 12, 2022

    Thanks David! I’ll check that out.

    – Greg

  3. Fernando permalink
    December 13, 2022

    The righteous mind is great!

  4. December 14, 2022

    Yes, it was!

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