MDB Insight Blog

Summertime and the Reading Is…Non-Fiction

Summertime and the Reading Is…Non-Fiction

This #WednesdayswithMDBinsight post is for those who might enjoy some non-fiction offerings between summer novels. In between reading some great fiction, magazines, cookbooks and blog posts our team members have been diving into a diverse list of non-fiction titles. Here are some favourites…

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Author: David Goggins From the bookshelf of: Kai Liepins, Research Analyst 

Kai: “This is a book about overcoming adversity and achieving your goals by developing a strong mindset and being accountable to yourself. David’s achievements are incredible - an ultra marathon runner, the only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy Seal, Army Ranger and Air Force Tactical Control, set a world record for most chin-ups in 24 hours. When he joined the Navy seals he lost 100 pounds in 2 months to meet the entry requirements and had to take the brutal Navy Seal training three times before being admitted (the final time while training with a broken foot). An African American, Goggins faced considerable adversity and racism during his childhood and within the military yet managed to overcome them. He talks a lot about the issues that exist around race and his approach to overcoming them. A pager-turner and very inspiring, about adopting the right mentality to push through adversity and stand up for what you believe in no matter what”.

Rural Livability Workshop Report: How and why small towns and remote communities are working to become more livable for older adults and people of all ages.

Rural Livability Workshop ReportAuthor: AARP From the bookshelf of: Clark Hoskin, Senior Consultant

Clark: “This report really delves into demographics and reaffirms that rural America is not dead. It also moves quickly into field-tested strategies from across the U.S., with many take-aways and snapshots that a local EDO can use. The glossary in the back and source list for other reports and agencies is very helpful”.


Thinking, Fast and Slow

Author: Daniel Kahneman From the bookshelf of: Simon Webb, Research Analyst

Simon: “I picked this one up because it’s a great description of how psychology/neuroscience relates to economics, and how an understanding of the way individuals’ brains work when making decisions can translate into an understanding of things that happen at a societal level. A big part of his findings about the brain identified two kinds of thinking in all people – Type 1 where the brain makes a decision quickly and intuitively and Type 2 which is slower, more critical thinking involving more effort. There’s a whole bunch of things that influence which type of thinking a person uses in certain situations, and in turn the type of thinking that people use has a big influence on their decisions. Understanding decisions is huge for our work at MDB Insight, because it helps us understand everything from how a respondent will fill out a survey, to the factors that influence someone’s decisions to relocate to a community”.

The 1619 Project

Author: The New York Times Magazine From the bookshelf of: Lauren Millier, Executive Vice-President

The 1619 Project was launched on the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the United States. The magazine said at that time the series “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative”. When you dig into the current day implications you understand how racist and segregationist policies have shaped economies in so many cities and states. I worked in Detroit and areas of Michigan several years ago and I could never understand how the local situation could have become so bad. Understanding how neighbourhoods were redlined, how African Americans were denied access to traditional mortgages and the unequal access to employment is quite staggering.

Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero

Author: Emily V. Gordon From the bookshelf of: Chandra Halko, Office Manager

Chandra: “This was a gift from my psychologist sister-in-law who knew I would appreciate this nerdy take on self care and self appreciation. I think even in the best of times it’s good to remember we’re our own superhero, but especially in these crazy times we’re currently experiencing that’s even more true. We have to make an effort to be the best version of ourselves for the benefit of ourselves and others; a good motto for an Office Manager”.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin From the bookshelf of: Jordan Tidey, Senior Consultant

Jordan: “I chose this book because it relates to understanding project management and communication. This biography of Lincoln and his cabinet highlights Lincoln's superb ability to use the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of his cabinet through discussion and mainly storytelling. Lincoln had developed the ability to tell simple illustrative stories to make the point he was trying to get across, and this allowed him to fully articulate to the public but also his closest confidants.  In an era where speeches regularly took six or more hours, he was concise and understood, the Gettysburg address being likely the most famous example of his talents”.

Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the battle against world poverty

Author: Muhammad Yunus From the bookshelf of: Tehseen Rana, Research Analyst

Tehseen: “When I was in France last year, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Muhamad Yunus. I had heard about his work with Grameen bank and social business and decided to dig right into his story prior to the seminar. Banker to the Poor describes Yunus’ ideas surrounding money and how the world’s banking and financial systems could be revolutionized to eliminate poverty. What truly sets this book and its underlying story apart is that it defines a new paradigm in social economics. It redefines what poverty is, examines its true causes and proposes a practical and sustainable way to help eradicate it. As economic developers our work helps to increase the prosperity of local communities based on local priorities. It is interesting to read about sustainable development initiatives in less developed countries that have differing local priorities but the same goal of reaching a higher level of prosperity. Yunus’ newer book A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions is on my booklist. It builds on the principles of zero poverty found in Banker to the Poor and talks about employment and climate change, two very prevalent topics in our current world”.

Imagine: How Creativity Works

Author: Jonah Lehrer From the bookshelf of: Karen Smith, Senior Consultant

Karen: “I’m intrigued by the human mind and curious about how we think, invent and create, so this title easily caught my attention. And it didn’t disappoint. From the writing habits of Bob Dylan to the social networks of successful entrepreneurs, Lehrer lays out the science behind innovation and accomplishment in lay terms. His book is full of fascinating revelations and, for me, several surprises (for example, the link between creativity and the colour blue). Reading about the tools of our imagination was a romp and reinforced for me the importance of creative process. I came away with a new appreciation of just how varied that process can be, and some good tips to improve my own writing and creative pursuits”.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts

Author: Brené Brown From the bookshelf of: Natasha Gaudio Harrison

Natasha: “I’m a huge Brené Brown fan, and this book on leadership applies to our work in economic development in many areas. Her other books deal with her research on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Dare to Lead combines all of that into a solid read on being a brave leader and change maker. In economic development, we’re always challenging ourselves to think of innovative solutions to multifaceted problems – and we are always dealing with people. Emotional intelligence and strong leadership skills are so important in a profession like this”.

Speaking of Brené Brown…

From: Paul Blais, Executive Vice-President

“What have I been reading? A question that always makes me feel inadequate. Is it a sin not to be a reader of big texts? Is there a support group for professionals like me who don’t find thrill in sitting down for hours to explore profound and complex arguments? Let me know, but please keep it short.

I’ve just shown my vulnerability. Isn’t that what Brené Brown espouses in Dare to Lead? “Great leaders are not afraid to be vulnerable.” That’s the last book that I read. Well, partially. Just the good bits. So at least I can say that I learned something from that experience. Maybe that reading thing isn’t so bad. I did get engrossed in The Hunger Games trilogy back in ’10.

If I get two hours of free time, books are not my choice on how to spend my time. Instead, I want to cycle or kayak or play Ticket to Ride online or with my family. But that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. I love an old-fashioned newspaper and, when I get my hands on one, I could easily be in there for two hours.  In the absence of newsprint, every morning or evening I’m almost an hour reading online journalism. From CBC to Global to CNN to Fox News to NZHerald to The Guardian to BBC World, I’m trying to get a well-rounded picture of what’s going on in the globe. 

MDB Insight subscribes to a daily roundup of municipal government news in Canada and I’m in there for 20 minutes each morning trying to stay on top of cool things and disappointments that communities are encountering. Every day, I’m continually connecting to economic developers around the country by voice, text or email. I’m reading reports they suggest. So, I’m doing what I think I need to do to stay on top of economic development and be relevant for my clients.

Since COVID-19 grabbed us by the tail, I’ve gone on a 2-4 hour (12-25 km) walk each Saturday morning. I have used the time to catch up with people I miss, and I’ve also found a new love – podcasts! I love the work that our team has creating podcasts and that has led me to discover a world that I didn’t know existed. Here’s what has my ear - to catch up on the world (The Economist Radio), to appreciate how history dares to repeat itself (Utopia: Nice Try!), and when I want to listen to a great thinker who is not afraid to change his mind (ah, there’s the vulnerable thing again) (Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History). These are three podcasts that get me thinking in new and creative ways.

To learn more about the members of our team, go to 

Our Wednesdays with MDB Insight posts feature the thinkers and doers on our team sharing ideas and talking about what’s important to us as professionals. We have very diverse backgrounds and a range of interests to share with you. We hope you’re enjoying these posts and that you will join the conversation with us and let us know what’s on your mind mid-week.

Related Posts