My favorite books on the heart of leaders when democracy is at risk

Why am I passionate about this?

My family moved to Italy when I was six, and I attended Italian first grade in a fishing village where I had to rely on reading body language as I didn’t grasp the language for a bit. Fortunately for me, Italians have lots of body language to read so I could navigate the inevitable cliques and power dynamics evident even at the elementary school level. From that experience to being taken to view the Dachau concentration camp a year later, I’ve always been sensitive to how “the other” gets treated—often unfairly—and the role leaders can play for good or evil.


I wrote...

Two Cheers for Democracy: How Emotions Drive Leadership Style

By Dan Hill,

Book cover of Two Cheers for Democracy: How Emotions Drive Leadership Style

What is my book about?

As George Orwell writes, “By the age of 50 a man has the face he deserves.” Two Cheers for Democracy uses facial coding to evaluate the emotional nature of every U.S. president ever as well as every U.S. presidential debate ever held; along with profiles of world leaders going back to Adolf Hitler. Correlations are drawn using the ranking of U.S. presidents’ efficacy in office as judged by presidential scholars, and by using Gallup Poll results following every debate to evaluate which emotional displays were most effective with voters. But the key section comes at the end, with world leaders’ emotive results correlated to Freedom House’s evaluation of whether those leaders tend to be democratic or autocratic in nature.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences

Dan Hill Why did I love this book?

A well-researched and decidedly non-partisan book in analysis. Groucho Marx famously remarked that “all people are born alike—except Republicans and Democrats.” Differing personality traits, values, and emotional displays are all covered in this book. It even finds study results to suggest that political differences aren’t easily resolved in part because they go all the way down to our DNA!

By John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Alford

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Buried in many people and operating largely outside the realm of conscious thought are forces inclining us toward liberal or conservative political convictions. Our biology predisposes us to see and understand the world in different ways, not always reason and the careful consideration of facts. These predispositions are in turn responsible for a significant portion of the political and ideological conflict that marks human history.

With verve and wit, renowned social scientists John Hibbing, Kevin Smith, and John Alford-pioneers in the field of biopolitics-present overwhelming evidence that people differ politically not just because they grew up in different cultures or…


Book cover of Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking

Dan Hill Why did I love this book?

Armed with the latest findings in neurobiology, the author explores how profoundly emotions drive our behavior and “thinking.” Why the air quotes around the word, thinking? The answer is that fMRI brain scan data reveals that most decision-making is basically emotionally driven, intuitive, and super quick, i.e. under a second.

By Leonard Mlodinow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emotional as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You make hundreds of decisions every day, from what to eat for breakfast to how to influence people, and not one of them could be made without the essential component of emotion. It has long been held that thinking and feeling are separate and opposing forces in our behaviour. But as best-selling author Leonard Mlodinow tells us, extraordinary advances in psychology and neuroscience have proven that emotions are as critical to our well being as thinking.

How can you connect better with others? How can you improve your relationship to frustration, fear, and anxiety? What can you do to live…


Book cover of The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism

Dan Hill Why did I love this book?

Emotions and emotional intelligence (EQ) aren’t taught in business school, and are rarely evident in abundance in the corner offices of CEOs. And yet here’s one ready to admit to the errors of his earlier ways, and to have adjusted his leadership style at Best Buy accordingly. If it can happen in business, why not in politics, too, perhaps saving us from leaders who lack empathy.

By Hubert Joly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal Bestseller

Named a Financial Times top title

How to unleash "human magic" and achieve improbable results.

Hubert Joly, former CEO of Best Buy and orchestrator of the retailer's spectacular turnaround, unveils his personal playbook for achieving extraordinary outcomes by putting people and purpose at the heart of business.

Back in 2012, "Everyone thought we were going to die," says Joly. Eight years later, Best Buy was transformed as Joly and his team rebuilt the company into one of the nation's favorite employers, vastly increased customer satisfaction, and dramatically grew Best Buy's stock price. Joly and his…


Book cover of I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create Organizations Their People Never Want to Leave

Dan Hill Why did I love this book?

Trust is, indeed, the emotion of business but it’s also just a starting point. The endpoint is by contrast to be delayed as long as possible, as retaining workers is best achieved by making them feel appreciated and given respect and a fair degree of autonomy. Great leaders can follow this recipe whether in business, the non-profit sector, or beyond.

By Clint Pulver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Love It Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Give your employees something good to talk about.

Emmy Award-winning speaker Clint Pulver-aka the Undercover Millennial-shares insights gleaned from more than ten thousand undercover interviews with employees across the country, revealing the best methods for identifying talent, building a sense of ownership, and developing a successful workplace culture that employees will love. You'll also learn the number one driver of employee turnover (spoiler: it has everything to do with you!), what you can do to stop an exodus, and how to build a team that really works. Soon, you'll be recognizing possibilities where others see problems, and capturing the power…


Book cover of Ways of Seeing

Dan Hill Why did I love this book?

Most of us look without seeing (much). We miss the key details. They might be facial expressions, revealing whether somebody is friend or foe or what is really going on in a famous painting. Berger brings in history, politics, socio-economic issues, the whole nine yards to make viewing art not the sterile exercise that some might take it as. Written in an accessible style with lots of visuals, no wonder the BBC ran a series based on this book back in the day.

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Ways of Seeing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.""But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but word can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled."John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about…


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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