The best books on disillusionment and transformation

Who am I?

For years, I’ve asked myself why I crashed. What was the complex web of principles and circumstances that landed a successful, upstanding, highly qualified person into a psychiatrist’s office? And, further, what inner strengths led me to ultimate transformation and a better understanding of myself and my environment? This book has been a project of self-exploration, of the stories and decisions that helped me climb, fall, and recover—exploring the confluence of love and career.


I wrote...

Hand on the Shoulder: Finding Freedom in the Confluence of Love and Career

By Grant Tate,

Book cover of Hand on the Shoulder: Finding Freedom in the Confluence of Love and Career

What is my book about?

Hand on the Shoulder: Finding Freedom in the Confluence of Love and Career takes readers on a journey from a small town in Virginia to a fast-moving career in a high-tech company. Navigating occupational complexities, foreign cultures, and rapid societal change, Grant searches for meaning while spiraling into disillusionment and loneliness. Grant climbs the long slide from despair to peace, ultimately renewing his understanding of what truly matters in life. 

Readers will experience the joys and absurdities of work life and the struggle to find a balance between personal ambition and the human need for love. The book includes small-town stories, deeply personal experiences, conflicts in corporate life, and encounters with the CEO who diminished IBM’s culture.

The books I picked & why

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The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

By David Brooks,

Book cover of The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

Why this book?

David Brooks presents a model of two steps in a person's life. The first, striving for identity, building a career, chasing one’s idea of success, starting relationships, and perhaps a family.

The second, finding a new level of enlightenment through finding a deeper, more comprehensive purpose while serving society through broader relationships and motivations.

Brooks gives us a model for the second mountain by making four major commitments: vocation, marriage, philosophy, faith, and community.

My book could be considered a case study for Brooks. We both faced disillusionment in our first mountain, hit bottom, and ultimately found a new path.

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

By David Brooks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Second Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Everybody tells you to live for a cause larger than yourself, but how exactly do you do it? The author of The Road to Character explores what it takes to lead a meaningful life in a self-centered world.

“Deeply moving, frequently eloquent and extraordinarily incisive.”—The Washington Post

Every so often, you meet people who radiate joy—who seem to know why they were put on this earth, who glow with a kind of inner light. Life, for these people, has often followed what we might think of as a two-mountain shape. They get out of…


A Guide to Liberating Your Soul

By Richard Barrett,

Book cover of A Guide to Liberating Your Soul

Why this book?

Richard Barrett’s book is like the engineer's guide to self-enlightenment. Like David Brooks in the second mountain, the author describes a personal journey to discover one’s inner purpose and soul.

The book's first section explores ways to develop self-knowledge, even providing a variety of charts to explain the author's philosophical concepts: exploring consciousness, self-identity, and beliefs. Part two defines ways to discover one’s purpose and then articulates pathways and strategies to live that purpose.

Had I read and studied this book in my early life, my path might have been much different. That is, of course, if I had the mind to follow Barrett’s suggestions.

A Guide to Liberating Your Soul

By Richard Barrett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Guide to Liberating Your Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everything you need to know about personal transformation. Drawing on leading-edge theories of science, religion and psychology, Richard Barrett provides a detailed account of the interactions of the personality with the soul. He weaves together a comprehensive model of consciousness with the soul at the center. He teaches you ten strategies for attaining soul consciousness and how to see and live life from the perspective of the soul.


A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM

By Thomas J. Watson Jr.,

Book cover of A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM

Why this book?

This book, the transcript of Thomas J Watson Jr.'s 1963 lecture at Columbia University, describes the core values on which the IBM corporation was built: respect for the individual, best customer service of any company in the world, excellence in everything we do. The small book is rich with guidelines for good management and examples of real-life incidents where the principles were applied.

Watson's book is fundamentally important today because it provides a foundation for understanding how IBM, the company for which I invested much of my career, lost its way when it deviated from Watson‘s core values.

A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM

By Thomas J. Watson Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Business and Its Beliefs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the timeless business book that still brings perspective and guidance to today's bottom-line executives. When first published in 1963, IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr.'s "A Business and Its Beliefs" gave readers an unprecedented look inside IBM's executive offices. Watson-son of IBM's founder - candidly discussed how the company clung to its values during the first great technological shift, and how this refusal to compromise became IBM's strength. He also became one of the first CEOs to question business's place and responsibility in society, and openly discuss how firms could meet expanding social expectations while still turning a profit.…


The Soul of a New Machine

By Tracy Kidder,

Book cover of The Soul of a New Machine

Why this book?

Tracy kidder‘s book from 1981 gives us an exquisitely detailed story of the human technical and organizational efforts that developed a new computer. This is one of the best and most accurate descriptions of technical product development. Kidder gives us an intimate view of the personalities, conflicts, and decisions that drove a team toward its ultimate goal.

Having lived through similar experiences, Kidder’s work was exceptionally enlightening for me.

The Soul of a New Machine

By Tracy Kidder,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Soul of a New Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tracy Kidder's "riveting" story of one company's efforts to bring a new microcomputer to market won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and has become essential reading for understanding the history of the American tech industry.

Computers have changed since 1981 when The Soul of a New Machine first examined the culture of the computer revolution. What has not changed is the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations.

The Soul…


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Book cover of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Why this book?

Crucial Conversations is the best-selling guidebook on ways to handle difficult conversations. It provides practical advice for engaging with people in the most critical of human interactions. The advice builds on empirical data while illustrating the principles with real-life examples. An extensive questionnaire helps the reader self-evaluate their competence with conflictual situations.

Everyone needs this book. How I wish I knew these techniques when my first marriage was falling apart.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Crucial Conversations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times and Washington Post bestseller that changed the way millions communicate

"[Crucial Conversations] draws our attention to those defining moments that literally shape our lives, our relationships, and our world. . . . This book deserves to take its place as one of the key thought leadership contributions of our time."
-from the Foreword by Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"The quality of your life comes out of the quality of your dialogues and conversations. Here's how to instantly uplift your crucial conversations."
-Mark Victor Hansen, cocreator of the #1…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in mountains, school, and friendships?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about mountains, school, and friendships.

Mountains Explore 10 books about mountains
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Medical Detectives, The Wooden Horse, and Predictably Irrational if you like this list.