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Jay Papasan: 14 Books to Place On Your Summer Reading List

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Summer is here, which means sun-drenched days that pair perfectly with a good book in hand.

Whether you’re looking to become a more resilient business owner or go inward to investigate how you can be an agent of change, here’s a summer reading list from Keller Williams’ VP of learning and co-author of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and The ONE Thing, Jay Papasan, with something for you.

P.S. If you'd like a free copy of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent or SHIFT by Gary Keller, give us a call and we'd be happy to leave a copy for you to pick up!

As a connoisseur of puns and clever turns of phrase, I loved this book. Its core message is that we don’t need to be serious all the time in order to be taken seriously. The authors have been teaching a class on humor in the workplace at Stanford for years; it is both funny and serious. You’ll learn to leverage laughs in your business for better retention, culture, and results.

This book is great for understanding how we make bad decisions and how to be a better strategic thinker. One of the core ideas is that decisions can be good or bad and outcomes can be lucky or unlucky. We have to separate our decision-making from the outcome or risk what she calls “resulting.” That’s when we start to think our bad decisions were good because we got lucky or vice versa.

I may be cheating by including this on the list as I’m still reading it, but Katy Milkman’s approach to setting and achieving goals is a nice complement to The ONE Thing. Based on in-depth research, she shares advice for how to get your new habits to stick. Whether it’s by “temptation bundling” (adding a dash of fun to something that feels hard) or “cue based planning” (creating a trigger to prompt your desired action), you’ll find some good tips to use on your path to mastery.

Wealth building is a mindset, and as anyone who’s read The Millionaire Real Estate Investor knows, we tend to carry a lot of MythUnderstandings about money. Morgan Housel’s book does a great job of examining some of the misunderstandings about our finances and, through sharing poignant stories in his easy-to-read style, helps us assess the investments we make with our money and our happiness. Gary and I were also lucky to interview Morgan for a bonus episode of “Think Like a CEO.”

Liz Wiseman’s book on how to amplify the genius of others is a must-read for anyone in a leadership position. As she and KWRI President Marc King discussed during the recent Pivot: Shift Ahead book club, the key to maximizing results isn’t necessarily looking good and being right. Rather, by making space for others to use their talents, you’ll create a culture where everyone’s efforts are multiplied.

Most people think about money in terms of what it can buy. Here at KW, we tend to think about money as only being good for the good it can do. This book adds an extra dimension to that, by thinking about what money can earn. JL’s perspectives on financial independence are not to be missed. You can hear his discussion with Gary and me in another bonus episode of “Think Like a CEO.”

This past spring, I was saddened to hear we’d lost the author of one of my all-time favorite novels, Lonesome Dove. Before McMurtry, I wouldn’t entertain reading a western, much less an 864-page one. But the novel earned a Pulitzer Prize for good reason. The authentic characters and sublime storytelling will brand your heart. Our son, Gus, is named after the first Papasan to arrive in the U.S., Augustus Papacin. Still, the character “Gus” McCrae helped solidify the choice. I read Lonesome Dove on a spring break trip to Seaside, Florida, with my family. I have distinct memories of this because I’d broken my hand playing rugby and could only wade in the water. While everyone was swimming, I spent my days on a blanket lost in a western. Do yourself a favor. Hold off on the admittedly fantastic miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones as “Gus” and “Call.” Read the book.

The first time I read Grit, I listened to the audiobook. What Angela Duckworth had to say about finding success through persistent, focused action fascinated me so much that I ordered the hardcover right way. Any person will be inspired by this work, whether it’s to help them pursue success in their business or in their lives. Although the entire book is invaluable, the chapter on how to parent so that your children have a sense of tenacity really changed the way that Wendy and I approached raising our children. Join us in the Pivot: Shift Ahead FB Group where we’ll read through Grit throughout June and speak with Angela Duckworth herself to find out how we can get a little more ‘gritty.’

Keith Cunningham is one of the best minds in the business world today. The Road Less Stupid will give you the principles you need to make the right decisions for your business – so that you won’t be blindsided by “dumb” mistakes.

Gary and I were able to discuss what businesspeople can do in today’s shifting market to make their businesses smart again for a special episode of Think Like A CEO that’s definitely worth a listen.

Ryan Holiday’s book on stoicism, the Ancient Greek philosophy of enduring adversity or pain without complaining, is apropos for those of us who are challenged by our COVID world. Holiday’s advice to focus on the things that you can control and use them to help move yourself forward is as timely as it is timeless. I was fortunate to be able to do a webinar with Ryan back in 2015 for The ONE Thing where we shared tips about how to read productively and effectively.

Anyone who runs a business can tell you that it’s inspiring, fun, and … it’s hard. Ben Horowitz, with his background in Silicon Valley startups, gets it. In this book, he shares advice from the challenges he encountered in his rise to success – whether that’s having to have hard conversations with employees that aren’t meeting expectations, or how hard it is to maintain perspective on what’s important to yourself when an entire organization relies on you.

A fun-filled virtual reality adventure, this book is a must-read for all ages – but especially those who have a fondness for ’80s culture and video games. Given our overnight shift to a digital world, you’re in a better position than ever to root for Wade Watts as he races against time (and some pretty clever enemies) to solve puzzles, master virtual reality, and save the world.

Continuous Education

As Gary wrote last spring, we need to face the hard truth that racial injustice and inequality persist. And, in order to help change that, it’s critical to not only say something about it, but to do something about it. That’s why I’ve added these titles to my reading list:

  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – Kendi’s concept of antiracism adds a critical element to the conversation about racial justice in America. Instead of working with the policies and systems that are already built, Kendi asks us to use our imagination to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – The term, coined by DiAngelo in 2011, describes the strong emotions that follow after it is pointed out that a white person has unintentionally caused offense or hurt through their words or actions. DiAngelo showcases how these reactions (anger, fear, guilt, denial, and silence) coalesce to silence people of color and uphold the vicious system of white supremacy. Drawing from decades of experience running racial awareness workshops, DiAngelo paves the way for practical and sustainable action that can lead to lasting change.

Original Source: Outfront, KW. “Jay Papasan: 14 Books to Place On Your Summer Reading List.” KW Outfront Magazine, 16 June 2021,

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