World Book Day (April 23) has been officially celebrated around the world since 1995. But in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, this day takes on a whole new meaning. Over the last several weeks, people everywhere have been charging up e-readers and dusting off the neglected stack of books on their bedside tables. Why?

Because self-isolation and social distancing mean that many of us suddenly have more free time on our hands. Books are a great way to fill the time: to learn new skills, to entertain ourselves, and to travel and find human connection without leaving the house.

To celebrate the power of books—especially in times like these—we asked a few bookworms on the Chatfuel team to share what they've been reading lately in quarantine. Scroll on to explore four book recommendations from members of our team. Some are for business, some are for pleasure, but each one is more applicable than ever in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.

📚 Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen

Book recommendation by: Jelena, Key Account Manager at Chatfuel

One-line summary: Tips (based on science!) for reducing anxiety and improving the outcomes of difficult conversations in life

Great for: People with customer-facing jobs, but also anyone who wants to improve relationships and learn new techniques for conflict resolution

What made you pick up this book? 🔍

Because I'm a member of Chatfuel's User Happiness team. My job is to calmly lead customers through conversations that are helpful and effective, even when the topic may be difficult or frustrating.

But I noticed that this book is even more relevant now. We might as well rename 2020 "The Year of Difficult Conversations." Since the coronavirus became a pandemic, difficult conversations have become a part of daily life. Leaders have to break the news to citizens that restaurants, events, and other gatherings are off-limits indefinitely. Business owners have had to let employees know they're being furloughed or let go. Couples have had to tell wedding guests that their big day is postponed, airlines have had to tell travelers that their flights have been canceled, medical staff have had to inform patients that they've tested positive for a deadly virus. Learning the tools to make difficult conversations less painless is as timely as ever!

What's it about? 📝

This book is a New York Times bestseller based on findings from the Harvard Negotiation Project. Difficult conversations are a part of life. The authors of this book recognize that, and give readers a toolbox of techniques to help these conversations go more smoothly, cause less anxiety, and produce better results.

What were your key takeaways from this book? 💡

I learned about the three sub-conversations that happen below the surface of most any difficult chat, and how to make sure you don't allow them to negatively impact the interaction:

  1. the What Happened conversation, where we instinctively try to assign blame. Instead, it's better to reframe by forming a genuine curiosity about the other person's point of view.
  2. the Feelings conversation, where we act on the emotions we're feeling, like disappointment or anger. Instead, explore and explain why you're feeling this way, and try to understand the other person's emotional reactions too.
  3. the Identity conversation, where our self-image feels threatened because of our reaction to the situation. Instead, remember that these emotions aren't a judgment on your overall character.

I also learned about a technique called "telling a Third Story." It's when you zoom out and look at the situation as an impartial third-party observer would, so you can avoid judgment and just focus on the facts.

Any favorite quotes to share from this book? 💬

  • On being curious about the other person's point of view: “Instead of asking yourself, “How can they think that?!” Ask yourself, “I wonder what information they have that I don’t?” Instead of asking, “How can they be so irrational?” ask, “How might they see the world such that their view makes sense?” Certainty locks us out of their story; curiosity lets us in.”
  • On why we see things differently than others: “We assume the collision is because of how the other person is; they assume it’s because of how we are. But really the collision is a result of our stories simply being different, with neither of us realizing it. It’s as if Princess Leia were trying to talk to Huckleberry Finn. No wonder we end up arguing.”
  • On reframing difficult conversations: “…the most useful question is not “Who’s right?” but “Now that we really understand each other, what’s a good way to manage this problem?”"

📚 It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Book recommendation by: Lida, Product Designer at Chatfuel

One-line summary: Calm, uninterrupted work is more efficient for the company and healthier for the worker than the popular culture of hustle, multitasking, and being busy all the time

Great for: Entrepreneurs, employees—really anyone who works, especially those in the startup world

What made you pick up this book? 🔍

First, the cover caught my eye. It lists some pain points that a lot of employees share, and I think we all can relate to at least some of them: packed schedules, endless meetings, overflowing inbox, can't sleep, Sunday afternoon emails, all-nighters, chat's blowing up, etc. But they're all crossed out, and the title It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy At Work is scrawled underneath. Definitely attention-grabbing! I've had problems with setting boundaries with work myself, especially lately, so I was curious. I also had some friends recommend this book to me, so I figured I'd give it a try.

What's it about? 📝

This book was written by the co-founders of Basecamp, who practice what they preach in their own company. The two authors push back against the "hustle" culture of admiring and even requiring ourselves to be excessively busy and overloaded with work all the time. They point out the links between this mindset and burnout, anxiety, physical effects of stress, and actually lower productivity. "The answer to better productivity isn’t more hours. It’s less waste and fewer things that induce distraction and persistent stress." This book is basically about how to set up a workflow so that your work doesn't negatively impact your life.

What were your key takeaways from this book? 💡

It's helped me have a more conscious approach to what I do at work and what I spend my time on. Now, I'm not afraid to think about my needs, instead of channeling every drop of my energy into the company's needs. I learned to not try and do everything perfectly, but to do it well. This book also reminded me to apply this same mindset to my colleagues—to respect their time and not put unrealistic expectations on them either.

Any favorite quotes to share from this book? 💬

  • On the pervasive modern culture of chronic busyness: “What’s worse is that long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.”
  • On wasting less time in the planning stages: “If you want to know the truth about what you’ve built, you have to ship it. You can test, you can brainstorm, you can argue, you can survey, but only shipping will tell you whether you’re going to sink or swim.” and “Good decisions don’t so much need consensus as they need commitment.”
  • On a call for change: “It’s time for companies to stop asking their employees to breathlessly chase ever-higher, ever-more-artificial targets set by ego.”

📚 Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski

Book recommendation by: Bojana, Content Manager at Chatfuel

One-line summary: A look at the unique ways women experience stress and why, plus techniques to manage it—also known as "solving the stress cycle"

Great for: It's summed up best in the book's first line: "This is a book for any woman who has felt overwhelmed and exhausted by everything she had to do, and yet still worried she was not doing “enough.”"

What made you pick up this book? 🔍

We all experience stress in our lives. But this book caught my attention because it approaches the issue from the female perspective specifically. The authors talk about how hormonal responses to stress differ between men and women, and they address the role society plays in the sources of this stress. As a feminist and a woman who is extra stressed (given the state of the world right now!), I knew this book would resonate with me.

What's it about? 📝

It's basically a self-help book with actionable, data-backed strategies women can use to complete the stress cycle in their lives, and live better as a result. But it's not just that. It also gets into some sources of stress that are common among women, and explains how our modern cultural context contributes to those.

The authors make scientific data on this topic more accessible. They start the book by saying: "We'll figure out what wellness can look like in your actual real life, and we’ll confront the barriers that stand between you and your own well-being. We’ll put those barriers in context, like landmarks on a map, so we can find paths around and over and through them—or sometimes just blow them to smithereens."

What were your key takeaways from this book? 💡

The three steps to recover from and prevent burnout. The first two are identifying the sources of the stress: differentiation of stress and stressors, and deciding which stressors are in our control (and which aren't). But it was the third step that I found really interesting:

  • Treat stress as a cycle. Don't think of it as something that comes and goes naturally. Think of it as a cycle that has to be intentionally completed once it's been started. You have to take action to relieve your stress, instead of bottling it up or praying it goes away. Some of the strategies for reducing stress that are mentioned in the book: certain types of exercise, creative expression, and deep-breathing techniques.

Any favorite quotes to share from this book? 💬

  • On reframing our response to stress: “The moral of the story is: We thrive when we have a positive goal to move toward, not just a negative state we’re trying to move away from.”
  • On redefining stress and wellness: “To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.”
  • On combating perfectionism as a source of stress: “The quality of our lives is not measured by the amount of time we spend in a state of perfection.”

📚 Meditation: An In-Depth Guide by Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

Book recommendation by: Angela, Copywriter and Editor at Chatfuel

One-line summary: Learn everything you need to know about meditation from the experts.

Great for: Meditation newbies who are serious about starting a practice, and want detailed, actionable, yet inspiring guidance on their journey

Why did you choose this book? 🔍

Ah, 2020. It's a crazy time to be alive! That's why I've been trying to learn to meditate, to help me cope with the extra stress and anxiety of these times. I tried the apps and videos, but I kept ending up frustrated that I couldn't focus. I wanted an experienced meditator (not just a pre-recorded voice) to explain the big picture to me: how to start from scratch and go step by step, what to expect as I learn, and what kind of real benefits meditation can bring me. That's what this book is!

What's it about? 📝

Meditation in a nutshell! The authors go through everything any new meditator needs to know to get started. They start with logistics, like how to sit and how long to practice at a time. Then they introduce techniques to try, including body relaxation and mindfulness. They explain what they are, why they're helpful, how to do them, and what to do if you're struggling. They tell stories of how meditation has helped them and others, and why humans need meditation now more than ever. It's basically a one-stop-shop for beginning an enriching meditation practice.

What were your key takeaways from this book? 💡

  1. There's a deep stillness and peace in all of us. But it takes practice to learn to access it, because we're used to excessive thinking. This book gives you the tools to get in touch with that stillness; you just have to put in the time.
  2. Meditation can be healing. There's proof! One of the authors was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 24 and was given six months to live. That was in the 1970s—and he's still alive and well today. He shares how beginning an intensive meditation practice essentially saved his life. He backs up the story by sharing scientific research and other personal stories on mind-body healing.
  3. We need to be gentler with ourselves. This book teaches you to treat yourself with patience and compassion. If your mind strays while meditating, just gently bring it back without judgment. It's something I've started doing in my daily life too, especially given the stress we're all feeling right now. If I'm struggling to focus on a project, for instance, I'm learning to cut my human self some slack instead of judging myself for being imperfect.

Any favorite quotes to share from this book? 💬

  • On what meditation is, and is not: "Meditation is not about having blissful, peak experiences. It is about changing our relationship with our experiences and becoming less reactive, less goal-oriented, more present."
  • On being patient with a wandering mind: "So give your mind space. Avoid the temptation to attempt to squeeze your mind into submission, to confine and restrict it—that will just make it wilder! Use light concentration, gently correct it when it wanders, and patiently give it time and space."
  • On the thinking mind vs. calm awareness: "Thinking is frequently judgmental: it struggles to understand, solve, improve, or fix things. Awareness is the capacity to simply observe what is in this current moment."

Global pandemic got you stressed? Pick up a book.

Take a break from the coronavirus news and kick back with a good read this World Book Day! The simple act of reading can be calming, and it's a great way to #stayhome and do your part to flatten the curve, too.

We urge you to support your local bookstores by ordering from them online if possible. Or, reread some books you already have on hand. You might just find something new in them the second time around. You can also take advantage of free online sources likeur local library's ebook collection, Project Gutenberg, or Librivox (for audiobooks). Happy reading! ❤️

Read something awesome lately? Share your book recommendations with us on Twitter using #BookfuelClub! 📖 Want more recommendations? Check out the book suggestions from four other members of the Chatfuel team.