Summer reading recommendations

Readers and editors share insights from their summer reads.

August 3, 2022



Some readers and CUNA editors are taking a page from our school days to write end-of-summer book reports on what we’ve read recently.

These business-related books focus on the need for quiet reflection, the benefits of a better workplace culture, the importance of embracing a cause, and more.

We'd like your book recommendations, too. Fill out the form below to let us know what books you've enjoyed and what you've taken away from them. We may share your comments on our website.

See below for summer reading recommendations and the insights they offer.

Share your reading recommendations:


Embrace quiet

I read, “In Emergency Break Glass: What Nietzsche Can Teach Us About Joyful Living in a Tech-Saturated World” by Nate Anderson. 

It’s a great book. It talks about Nietzsche, the German philosopher. He's not the best person. His philosophy is great, but some of his views are absolutely horrendous.

But the book’s about how we can employ his teachings to live in a tech-saturated world, where we're constantly turned on. We’re constantly connected to our technology, and we need to have moments of quiet where we're not trying to know everything about everything. 

That includes enjoying quiet and not always playing music, talking to someone, or watching a video—to truly engage in the act of thinking through quiet.

RICHELLE RAY, information technology project manager, $3.1 billion asset Educational Employees Credit Union, Fort Worth, Texas.

NEXT: Workplace culture

Workplace culture

Clint Pulver’s “I Love It Here” provides insights on building a successful workplace culture.

I have to admit I began reading another book for our summer leadership “book report” assignment. But when I started my first book, I found that while it offered plenty of motivational advice and inspirational stories of well-known, successful people, it provided little in the way of techniques or tools to improve one’s leadership acumen or day-to-day performance.

While editing a Credit Union Magazine article, I learned that Sandi Carangi, president/CEO at $99 million asset Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union in Hermitage, Pa., and her leadership read Pulver’s book for insights on keeping employees positive and engaged during a core conversion.

Sandi is among the people I most respect and admire in this industry, so her recommendation gave me enough reason to change. “I Love it Here” was a great choice on Sandi’s part. 

The book is based on more than 10,000 undercover interviews with employees, primarily millennials, to determine what defines a successful workplace culture and how great leaders create organizations people never want to leave.

Through this data-based approach, Pulver provides not only factual insight but step-by-step directions for building a meaningful workplace experience for both the organization and the employees.

At the end of each chapter, for example, Pulver asks questions that challenge readers to begin the process of transforming their own workplaces. Readers can apply the “Mastering your Moments” challenges to areas that include mentoring, building employee loyalty, training, stress release, team building, mental health, and execution.

By answering the questions, following the steps provided, and applying Pulver’s proven principles, leaders truly can make positive changes in their culture with the knowledge gleaned through the pages of “I Love it Here.” 

Just as important, the book’s data-driven approach will stay fresh for sharing valuable and applicable insights throughout credit union human resource and leadership teams for next several years.

RON JOOSS, senior editor, Credit Union National Association.

NEXT: Establish a just cause

Establish a just cause 

I’m not one to read business, leadership, or self-improvement books, typically favoring fiction or, as my wife says, “books about baseball.”

But I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I sped through Simon Sinek’s “The Infinite Game.” While the ideas are wide and the examples relatively niche, Sinek writes in a way that’s easy to follow and relatable for people in various industries, roles, and stages of life.

The idea of the book is simple: The most successful long-term businesses play an infinite game by avoiding a finite mindset and distractions such as shareholder supremacy and short-term profit. 

To succeed in the infinite game, Sinek believes businesses must establish a just cause, which he defines as “a specific vision of an ideal state of the future that inspires people.”

The credit union movement already has its just cause—financial well-being for all. However, it’s not enough to just establish a cause. 

Credit unions must keep financial well-being for all at the forefront of everything they do. That builds trust with consumers, who seek out companies that live by a just cause matching their own value system.

Another Sinek idea that’s relevant to the credit union movement is that of “worthy rivals.” If credit unions and banks view each other as worthy rivals instead of competitors, it offers the potential that financial institutions can work for the common good and make each other better in the infinite game. 

If the entire financial services landscape improves, so do credit unions. Credit unions continuing to improve and pursue their goal of financial well-being for all is how the movement sticks around to play the infinite game.

BROCK FRITZ, assistant editor, Credit Union National Association.

NEXT: Ancient lessons

Ancient lessons

Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” is an ancient text on stoicism and self-improvement, but many lessons apply to workplace leadership.

As a sort of history buff myself, I was naturally drawn to “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, often called the “last good emperor” of the Roman Empire or the “philosopher king.” 

Here are a few takeaways I got from key quotes of the book we can apply to leadership in the workplace and in all aspects of life.

“One person, on doing well by others, immediately accounts the expected favor in return. Another is not so quick, but still considers the person a debtor and knows the favor. A third kind of person acts as if not conscious of the deed, rather like a vine producing a cluster of grapes without making further demands, like a horse after its race, or a dog after its walk, or a bee after making its honey. Such a person, having done a good deed, won’t go shouting from rooftops but simply moves on to the next deed just like the vine produces another bunch of grapes in the right season.”

I interpret this as leading for the sake of leading because that’s what leaders do. As a leader you must know that thankless service is part of the job. It is nice to get recognition from time to time (which you should humbly accept), but good leaders should do their duty for the sake of their followers without the need for self-serving recognition.

“If we judge as good and evil only the things in the power of our own choice, then there is no room left for blaming gods or being hostile to others.”

I interpret this as good leaders take responsibility for their actions and sometimes for the actions of their followers. A strong leader doesn’t throw followers under the bus when something fails, especially when responsibility needs to be taken in a public way. It’s impossible to control events outside of our sphere, but we can control how we react to those events.

“If anyone can refute me‚ show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective‚ I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after.”

This is one of the most important qualities a leader should have: the ability to listen and learn from others when you may be wrong. One person can’t always be right, and it is important for all members of a team to be able to listen to each other, especially the leader.

YEEKENG YANG, digital media design specialist, Credit Union National Association.

NEXT: 3 'red thread' questions

3 ‘red thread’ questions 

 Maybe, just maybe, you don't have to love all of your job, Marcus Buckingham hints in his new book, “Love + Work.”

Watch for those signals that indicate where and when you're at your best―feeling the most creative and strongest in your actions.

When you sink so deeply and thoroughly into a project that time flies by and you haven't looked up for what seems to be hours? You've found your “red thread.”

Buckingham asks 11 “red thread” questions so you can consistently weave these experiences into your work. Try these three to get started on your “Love + Work” journey.

When was the last time:

  • Someone had to tear you away from what you were doing?
  • You surprised yourself by how well you did?
  • You wanted the activity to never end?

He admits that “love” and “work” don't typically go together.

Mayo Clinic's recent research of medical professionals revealed that 20% is the threshold. Spend at least 20% of your time at work performing specific duties you love and you're less likely to experience burnout.

“How you feel at work―whether your work is uplifting or soul-destroying, whether it fulfills you or empties you out, whether it makes you feel valued or utterly useless―all of it will be experienced most keenly at home, by you and the ones you love.”

As Buckingham says, “Anything of value you offer to others is your work.”

MICHELLE WILLITS, publisher, Credit Union National Association.

NEXT: Small changes, big results

Small changes, big results

I picked up “Atomic Habits” by James Clear shortly after its 2018 release, and it migrated from nightstand to coffee table to book shelf—and finally to a Florida beach, where reading ensued and procrastination ceased.

Still working on that particular habit.

Atomic Habits offers a framework for improvement by making small changes that ultimately yield desired results. While much of the book addresses personal habits and goals, the business applications are obvious: incremental positive steps can lead to impressive gains.

Clear offers four laws of behavior change to build better habits:

  1. Cue: Make it obvious.
  2. Craving: Make it attractive.
  3. Response: Make it easy.
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying.

The end goal is to make desired habits easy and effortless to adopt. 

Some insights from Atomic Habits: 

  • Create or remove environmental cues. Make cues for good habits obvious and those of bad habits invisible.
  • Embrace the two-minute rule. Scale down desired habits into two-minute increments (i.e., “run three miles” becomes “tie my running shoes.”).
  • Join a culture where the desired behavior is the normal behavior.
  • Master the art of showing up. Success is the product of daily habits, rarely transformation.
  • Tie your new habit into something you already do (i.e., “habit stacking”).
  • Detail how you’ll implement a new habit (“implementation intention”).
  • Verbalize your intentions to make attainment more likely.

Clear provides habit worksheets on his website readers can download to aid in the process. 

I’ll get right on that tomorrow.

BILL MERRICK, deputy editor, Credit Union National Association.

Be vulnerable to be brave

Having tough conversations at work can be scary.

Some conversations are tough, whether it’s a performance review, debriefing after the completion of a project, or figuring out why your team keeps encountering the same roadblock.

These are examples of conversations that I sometimes go into scared because I don’t know how they’ll end and I don’t have all of the control.

In her book, “Dare to Lead,” Brené Brown provides teachable moments for how to change your behaviors to become a daring leader who possesses the courage needed to have tough conversations.

Courage is made up of four skills sets:

  1. Rumbling with vulnerability.
  2. Living into our values.
  3. Braving trust.
  4. Learning to rise.

All of those skills sets are learnable, but the ability to rumble with vulnerability is the foundation of courage, Brown says, because without that skill, the other three are impossible to put into practice.

“A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard,” Brown says.

Brown defines vulnerability as the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It’s not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.

It’s about having tough conversations in a safe space where people are willing to share and receive feedback. Performance reviews, debriefings, and brainstorming solutions to roadblocks are all times when we’re vulnerable. They’re conversations we have daily.

Brown offers a variety of practical tips on how to become vulnerable and create safe spaces for tough conversations. She also provides further guidance and opportunity for reflection in an online workbook.

“The skill sets that make up courage are not new; they’ve been aspirational leadership skills for as long as there have been leaders. Yet we haven’t made great progress in developing these skills in leaders, because we don’t dig into the humanity of this work—it’s too messy. It’s much easier to talk about what we want and need than it is to talk about the fears, feelings, and scarcity (the belief that there’s not enough) that get in the way of achieving all of it. Basically, and perhaps ironically, we don’t have the courage for real talk about courage. But it’s time.”

JENNIFER PLAGER, managing editor, Credit Union National Association.