Well I guess it is the time of year for book lists, though whether you want these as gifts…These are the books I have read this year that throw most light on conflict and on my particular focus these days: why people don’t use systematic approaches to conflict, but prefer to wing it, deny it, evade it or declare war.
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Gremy, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. A great approach to actually facing the difficult conflictual conversations
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Due out in January 2012, a marvelous, big scale, research based complete reframing of political and religious differences. (Note: read in manuscript as I know Jon)
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. A comprehensive introduction to our two major brain systems: the automatic, fast unconscious one and the energy requiring conscious one, which together explain why it is do damn hard to get folk to use systematic approaches to conflict handling
- Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. The best recent guide to changing ourselves, which is hard.
- Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong. A really stimulating encouragement to living a more compassionate life and that means more compassion in our conflict too
- War by Sebastian Junger. The best recent guide to show how war is so appalling and yet so seductive
- The Science of Evil: on Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Simon Baron Cohen. A masterful introduction to the emerging science of empathy and its absence.
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr. A riff on my own perspective: ‘as our problems get more complex, our attention span diminishes’. Without making the effort to go deeper, and resist the shallows, we are screwed.
- Patterns, Thinking and Cognition: A Theory of Judgement by Howard Margolis. Perspective shifting take on how our brains instantly pattern recognize and so often get it wrong when it matters in conflict
- Darwin’s Cathedral by David Sloan Wilson. A great romp through the evolutionary reasons why religions work.
PS I recently re-read William Gibson’s great cyber-punk novel Pattern Recognition that I read most years, and that too throws light on conflict, not to mention introduces my favorite modern fictional heroine Cayce Pollard, and her helpful theory that jet lag happens when our soul is smeared out behind us, unable to keep up with our bodies in a jet age. It takes days to catch up. And yes I know this is Cartesian dualism, but I am a pragmatist and the insight works for me right now as I am suffering from this problem as I write…..