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2020 Scrummer Reading List

We all know this is a very different kind of summer (or winter for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere). One where the need to escape, learn, grow maybe even more acute.  Our annual tribute to great reads (and listens) is here to help. 

We asked the team what books they are currently nose-deep in, or that they highly recommend others check-out. As always, they came back with some great suggestions across genres. 

JJ Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer recommends:

Book cover of 'Both Flesh And Not' by David Foster Wallace  "Both Flesh And Not " by David Foster Wallace

From the state of bribery at the US Open, to the sharpest of literary criticism, to Wittgenstein this posthumous book of essays is one I missed in 2012 when it was published. This collection gathers together works published in various places from 1988 to 2007. In between each piece Foster Wallace, one of the great American stylists, gives you lists of words. Words as far afield as "debouche," "embrown," and "elute."  My favorite - "decollate" (to behead), "decollete" (cut low at the neckline). Connection through placement... The best essay is his title piece Federer Both Flesh and Not first published in the New York Times in 2006. In it, he describes the seeming magical abilities of elite athletes by examining the luminous talent and grace of Roger Federer. One bit that struck me was when he writes that elite athletes expose a fundamental truth of the human condition - beauty itself. “The human beauty we’re talking about,” he writes, “is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”




Book cover of Poet in New York by Federico Garcia Lorca  "Poet in New York " by Federico Garcia Lorca

Lorca is the greatest of gifts, an amazing poet I had yet to discover. Fitting this book was given to me as a birthday present. And I love the fact the Spanish and English versions appear side-by-side.  


Jessica Larsen, Product Owner, Scrum Inc. Training Program recommends:

Book cover of The Fearless Organization by Amy Edmundson"The Fearless Organization" by Amy Edmundson

Today's workforce spends more time collaborating (team-based work) than ever before; knowledge and innovation are crucial sources of competitive advantage in nearly every industry, yet 70-85% of the world's workforce is either not engaged or actively disengaged at their jobs. In this book, Edmundson discusses the importance of psychological safety and creating an environment of respect for people (a pillar of the Toyota Way) in improving workplace engagement. For me, this book provided great empirical evidence and theoretical basis for why the Scrum Values and pillars of the Toyota Way are so important in the workplace.


Mark Rosania, Product Owner, Transformation Services recommends:

Book cover of The Bastard Brigade by Sam Kean"The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bombby Sam Kean

Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during WW II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research; Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses - dubbed the Alsos mission - and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany's feared Uranium Club. No theater of the war, from battlefields to laboratories, was considered off-limits, and for good reason: the entire outcome of the war rested on Also's shoulders.


Matthew Jacobs, Chief Product Owner, Agile Transformations recommends:

Book cover of A Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan
A Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?” by Aaron Dignan

This is a fascinating book on the future of work and what a reinvented organization could look like. Dignan leverages a lot of Scrum principles in this work but sometimes with a twist.





Book cover of The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by Erik Larson

A brilliantly researched book (as all of Larsen's are) but I have to disagree with the subtitle. As you read you realize this book also shows how Churchill leveraged “Agile techniques” to prepare England's respond to Hitler’s take over of Europe and to win the Battle of Britain





Veronica Ruiz, Director, Marketing and Communications recommends:

Book_cover of Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker RhodesGhost Boys - by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

This book was assigned to my fifth grader, parents were also invited to read it. I am glad that I did. The book tackles timely issues like racial bias, bullying, and class directly, honestly, and deftly. It reflects current events and explores the long history of racism. It is a short and powerful book.


Patrick Roach, Chief Product Owner, Training & Consulting recommends:

Logo of Make Me Smart Podcast hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood"Make Me Smart" hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood

This is a daily news podcast focused on tech, the economy, and culture. It's ~15 minutes of well-researched content that only focuses on a few topics each day. Kai and Molly do a great job of making sense of what it all means. I learn something new every day.



Brandon Cole, Art Director recommends:

Book cover of Atomic Habits by James Clear

"Atomic Habits, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones"  by James Clear

Why do we struggle to change or improve our habits? James Clear writes one of my favorite reads of the last few years in Atomic Habits, discussing the importance of tiny changes and marginal gains. His balance of storytelling and statistics reminds me of a Malcolm Gladwell book where you find yourself grabbing a pencil or highlighter to document some of the information.

Find yourself questioning the norms of habit-forming in this excellent New York Times bestselling book.




Book cover of Lean Presentation Design by Maurizio La Cava

"Lean Presentation Design"  by Maurizio La Cava

Did you know many people spend more time designing and organizing in PowerPoint than they do creating the content? In Lean Presentation Design, Maurizio La Cava covers everything you need to know about creating successful presentations without being a designer.


Jess Jagoditsh, Scrum of Scrums Master, Transformation recommends:

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman

This is a story about our inherent need for human connection. Events from Eleanor's past erased her understanding of why humans need each other and of the warm feelings that come with friendship and caring. The story is particularly relevant right now as the global pandemic and shelter-in-place have caused many of us to be at home, sometimes alone, every day. Let us not forget the importance of having relationships and community.

Jack Harmening, Transformation Team Member recommends:

Book cover of The Fate of Rome by Kyle Harper "The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire" by Kyle Harper

The Fate of Rome is my first foray into a new kind of historical analysis that links biology, economics, and good old-fashioned archeology. It's just an awesome book for any fan of history. Harper describes how different experts have analyzed bones, cliffsides, soil, coins, viruses, bacteria, and of course, ancient documents, to track a complete history of the health and wealth of the Roman people, as well as the climate and disease ecologies they experienced. The Rise and Fall of Rome were both more linked to external variables than I ever imagined. Read this if you want to learn from the past, so that, maybe, we aren't doomed to repeat it.

Book cover of The Narrow Corridor by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

"The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty" by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Another historical view of economics and institutions, I paired this one with 'The Fate of Rome' because Acemoglu has always been interested in how institutional design affects the wealth of nations. The conclusion here is that personal and political liberties persist when a set of institutions walk the 'narrow corridor,' dodging authoritarianism or weak governance on either side. Perhaps if the Romans not been dominated by "extractive" hierarchies, perhaps they could have innovated enough to survive the changing climate and plagues that shook its foundations. Read this if you want to learn more about why some nations fail, and others succeed.

Tom Bullock, Product Owner, Storyteller recommends:


Book cover of Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein

Why We're Polarized" by Ezra Klein

Yes, this is a book about the causes and effects of America’s polarized political system. Dig a little deeper and it's about much more than that. Klein weaves in a significant amount of social science and data to help explain how and why polarization occurs. And it can occur anywhere. This non-partisan book about politics is a must for anyone thinking about change management.





Drawing of Cover of Charlie Bullock's What's Magic Without A Little Mischief?

“What's Magic Without A Little Mischief" by Charlie Bullock

Sorry, you can't get a copy of this one, not yet at least. But I still think it's worth sharing.
Charlie, our 9-year-old daughter, loves to write. Summer felt like the perfect time to start her first novel. What’s Magic WIthout a Little Mischief tells the tale of the Ko children as they discover the secrets their murdered parents never told them, including the magical abilities they all possess, and the threat they face in the shadows. Charlie is 6 chapters in, and I’m loving it!




Megan Fremont-Smith, Transformation Team Member recommends:

Book cover of Dare to Lead by Brene Brown"Dare to Lead"  by Brene Brown

This book is about using courage and vulnerability to lead. If you are looking for a good read on the human-centric approach to leadership this book is for you.


Ray Robinson, Transformation Advisor recommends:

Book Cover of Principles by Ray Dalio"Principles"  by Ray Dalio

I was drawn to Ray Dalio’s after seeing him on a 60 Minutes segment. In his most recent book, Mr. Dalio gives a biographical narrative to his successful rise in the financial industry. Through his experiences, he came to develop a fairly lengthy set of learned principles he has leveraged to reach his success.

Two favorite things about the book:
1) The backstory of Bridgewater Associates
2) Dalio does have a deep appreciation for the importance of people and culture in a successful organization


Elizabeth Frazier, Training Program Team Member

"The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers"  by Ben Horowitz

This was recommended to me by a fabulous colleague.  The hard thing...There's no simple recipe. I'm still finishing the book, but so far, it's a good 'listen' from someone who is willing to share the challenges he faced, the approaches he took, and glimpses into the places he found inspiration.







"Talking to my Daughter about the Economy:  A Brief History of Capitalism" by Yanis Varoufakis

If you like something that looks at the complexity of a subject but can talk about it in a simple way, try this. I like his premise that to call yourself an expert in any topic, you need to be able to discuss it clearly a non-expert in the topic, and connect it with our humanity. It was a book that didn't require that I sign up for a particular approach, but invited me to think (and to talk about it with my kids.) 







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