Here are the best books for a better life in 2020

Looking past a tree trunk down a path and to a lake

As a researcher, writer and speaker that focus on collaboration and overcoming conflict one of the sources that I receive content from is The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley. As experts in neuroscience with a recommended reading list of 10 books to provide “thought-provoking, practical and inspirational science” I wanted to share these and another book with you too. I also offer some editorial comments that I thought you may find helpful too. Having completed over 2,500 mediations, negotiations and facilitations in my career, I wanted to share some thoughts from that perspective too.          


Best books by category with comments


Diversity, equity and inclusion




Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudices That Shapes What We See, Think and Do This cutting-edge book provides real world applications. We all have bias. By realizing we have bias, accepting them and then reaching out to others to learn, we can make better personal and public policy choices going forward.

This next book is not from the Greater Good Science Center, but it is on point with this topic. It is entitled, Be Diversity Competent by a friend of mine by the name of Dr. Jermaine M. Davis. His book provides a fresh perspective teaching individuals and organizations how to communicate appropriately across differences. It is very well written and provides excellent insights for constructive actions.

The Power of Human: How our Shared Humanity Can Help Us Create a Better World Connecting with others is key. With our social media socialization, we are moving further apart on truly connecting. It is easy to de-humanize those that are different from us. This author looks at why we do this and proposes focusing on shared identities, practicing perspectives, understanding power dynamics and taking the time to meet with people fact to face so that we can strengthen neural networks that support humanization and nurturing relationships.

The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness As a black woman raised in the South who suffered racial discrimination, the author found that mindfulness helped her overcome anger, frustration and confusion. Racial discrimination effects all of us. She offers insights for self and for interacting with others.


Diversity insights


The Collaboration Effect® is based on connecting relationships, listening actively and educating judiciously to be able to build bridges and negotiate effectively with others. Understanding our biases, and taking constructive steps to build relationships with others is critical towards overcoming these biases and increasing understanding. With the new year around the corner here are ideas you might apply in 2020 to move out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons in the learning zone?

Prayer, reflection, meditation, and mindfulness are effective ways to clear the brain and become more at peace with ourselves and the world around us. Consider taking at least 10 minutes a day to do this for yourself. You may be surprised at the results. Wouldn’t you like to be calmer, less prone to anger and feel more at peace with yourself and others?

We know what to eat and we know what we need to do in term of exercise to be healthy. Why is that we cannot apply the same analysis and take proper actions with our brains? These texts offer us great ideas on how to have a healthier brain and life.


Practical advice for a better life


Create a better world for yourself


The Power of Human: How Our Shared Humanity Can Help Us Create a Better World Our increased use of technology is one of the causes of our dehumanizing each other according to the authors. This is making us lonelier and less empathetic. This also makes us more prone to bullying and being bullied. Our political parties are both keying in on this. By focusing on shared identities, practicing perspective taking, understanding power dynamics and taking the time to meet others face to face we can strengthen neural networks. This can be accomplished at both an individual and society level.

The Power of Agency: The 7 principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Our Own Terms We tend to have an inability to weigh in competing needs and to find an emotional and physical balance to think more clearly. The authors point out how to grow this ability called agency by affiliating with positive people, avoid distracting stimuli like cell phones and to continue to learn and look for opportunities. These processes keep us healthy and active.


Overcome negativity


The Power of Bad: How Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It The authors point out that when there is a gawkers gap such as when everyone slows down to see that the police pulled over a speeder for example on the expressway this is simply a natural tendency. Why do people do this. This is a pet peeve of mine. Why don’t we just keep driving? This is why. We look for the negative to avoid being negatively impacted. This is a natural bias. This book presents how to overcome this bias with humor, reframing and positive reinforcement.

The Positive Shift: Mastering Mindset to Improve Happiness, Health and Longevity It turns out that a positive optimistic mindset improves health and makes us happier. The author offers several techniques to help even the pessimists in the group. There are ways to shift your mind. Cognitive reframing, self-compassion and gratitude are examples. Humor is healthy in difficult situations. Her work is supported by her research.


Find joy and happiness


The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage     The author points out that the joy of exercise increases happiness that benefits out bodies and our minds. Exercise helps us overcome depression and anxiety, strengthens our resilience and makes us more hopeful. It improves our emotional and social health. We need to focus on exercise and movement for healthy brains too.


Aging and end of life

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimaging Life This author as a professor of geriatrics takes a look at “aging” and “old age” and points out that this stage of life is not about “dying”. Aging today can easily last a half a century. She points out that just as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, pre-teens, teenagers and young adults develop into adults, similarly there are stages in aging in later life. This involves another developmental stage with new interests, learning and growth. This involves our mental and physical perspectives. This time of life needs rebranding and appreciation.     

A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death The authors of this book offer practical advice on what to think about and what to do at this stage or life. By breaking down what needs to be done into practical steps it is possible to take a complex activity and make it manageable.

These eight books have a common thread on providing us with insights to provide us with a better life at various stages of our lives. By making the effort to physically connect with others and focus on values we will be able to see others in a new light. All to often we try unfortunately to impact other’s beliefs. That is false narrative. When we reach out to others we are in conflict with and focus on values, this approach offers real possibilities of overcoming conflicts.


Putting it all together


By turning off our cell phones and social media so that we can focus on each other this too can help us work to restore empathy and understanding. We know how to eat right and exercise. It turns out that is good for our brains too.

Given other stereotypes, from the first section of this article we need to guard against these same negatives regarding aging. Aging simply has several stages too. This includes advanced aging and facing death. It is all part of life. However, along the way there are many elements associated with learning and exploring new initiatives mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

The blog this week focused on sharing some sound bites that I thought you may find helpful that I found interesting. As a mediator, negotiator and facilitator, all of these texts make sense to me. I was hoping you might enjoy the nuggets presented here too. You may want to explore these texts further to enhance your own understanding. Maybe one or more of these ideas may help you or someone you need to start off the new year right with one of these texts.

Happy Holidays!

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]