Recommended Books from OTA Staff and Instructors - List Two!

In honor of books, the written word and you, here is a second list of “must reads” brought to you by the OTA staff and instructors; books that inspire, stimulate, educate, books that stir and motivate, books that you can use for self-improvement in life or in the workplace, books you could read again and again.

Happy Reading!

Joanne Ngo- Social Media Manager

Image result for the richest man in babylon  

A quick and simple read that puts modern financial problems into an ancient story

Roger Best- Instructor

Both of these books are about people who were driven to follow their dreams and improve the world.  It's fascinating how childhood influences shaped their values and provided the foundation that allowed them to do what they did. I think both books inspire us to keep taking that next step.

Chris Ekstedt- Customer Service Agent 

This story about Louis Zamperini is perfect. He’s lived four lifetimes in 1 and did this with a rebellious attitude and a strong mindset. He’s survived WWII, starvation, being stranded on a raft with hungry sharks and a deflating raft, abuse, torture, alcoholism. ETC ETC ETC. And, through religion, he saved himself from the nightmares and effects of all of that abuse.

Don’t watch the movie, instead read this book.

The payoff: if this normal man can do it.. why not me? Very empowering.

Ken Torgerson- Director of Learning Experience Design

You can’t find another author who writes with the learner in mind more than Kathy Sierra. It’s one of the shortest, most impactful books I could recommend. I was especially struck how she synthesizes so many important ingredients of learning into a simple formula, and how she focuses all of our attention on people, not products. Frankly, that fact would be enough to recommend the book, but I was delighted that there were a few ideas, surprising ones, that I hadn’t thought of before.

Kathy explains that in order to help people be badass in their abilities, we have to help them cross the suck threshold, the threshold in which the pain of being a beginning learner changes to a feeling of accomplishment because they can actually do something they couldn’t before. She provides research-backed approaches to help people get better AND help them keep wanting to.

One of my favorite sections is on reducing cognitive leaks. “Willpower and cognitive processing draw from the same pool of resources.” This means that the more we drain our cognitive resources, the less willpower we have. Becoming an expert isn’t easy. It requires cognition. So, we have to make sure that their use of cognitive resources are mainly on the things that will truly help them become better, and not on the things that won’t, or else we will quickly drain their ability to learn AND their willpower at the same time.

Gina Monetti- Education Program Specialist

This book about a family that hid Jews in WWII Holland and were arrested and sent to concentration camps for it may not directly apply to work, but it does apply to life in general and has had the single biggest impact on my life, outlook, philosophy, and spirituality, besides the Bible:

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

This book impacted my life at the young age of 11 when I first read it by teaching me that there is no pit so deep or dark that the love of God won’t still be there for you. It also taught me about loving my enemies and all others, how to be thankful in any situation, that we will have what we need to go through whatever we will have to go through.

Jon Arginteanu- Instructor


The book that helped me most as a trader is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  Kahneman is the Nobel laureate in Economics in 2012.  The book discusses the behavioral psychology of thought process and decision making.   It is the best book about trading I have found, and it is not about trading!  In many ways it is an academic description of Core Strategy.  It is truly worth the effort and the audio book at Audible is fantastic.

Will Miller- Learning Experience Designer

Just about everything written by the Heath brothers is worth a recommendation, but Switch in particular has become my favorite, mostly because it discusses how to help people change. The metaphor of the elephant, rider, and the path representing one’s emotional and logical sides on the path of change has been particularly useful to me in designing learning holistically and in understanding better my role as a leader.

The key misconceptions we can have about people who are not changing, or learning are summed up brilliantly in these quotes that align with the three-part framework provided.

Direct the Rider: What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Give the rider clear directions.

Motivate the Elephant: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Engage people’s emotion so the rider doesn’t have to try so hard to keep the elephant moving ahead.

Shape the Path: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. Shape the environment in ways to make change more likely.

This book not only does a wonderful job of revealing the power of visual thinking, it gives practical rules and tools for developing the skill. Visual thinking opens the door to an approach to solving problems and communicating ideas that harnesses everyone’s innate ability to look, see, imagine, and show.  As a learning experience designer, visually thinking through the content I desire to teach allows me to better sequence the content, identify relationships between content areas, find hidden approaches to instruction that might have not been evident beforehand, and communicate/teach complex ideas with simple drawings. 

The best takeaways from the book are Roam’s practical rules and visual codex for visually thinking through and presenting ideas. There are also a couple quotes that are worth the price of admission:

“There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it. And there is no more powerful way to see hidden solutions than to pick up a pen and draw out the pieces of our problem.”

“We don't show insight-inspiring pictures because it saves a thousand words; we show it because it elicits the thousand words that make the greatest difference.”

Mike McMahon- Content Developer

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein – taught me tolerance of others and exposed me to the objective world of science fiction where we could stand aloof and look down on the actions of the earthlings.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Milliman – Helped me form my “Ch’i” and focus my powers for good. To be a stand up guy and never let my ethics be distorted by money or fame.

Dave Sundstrom- Senior Director of Content Development

My all-time favorite. Innovation is highly valued by most companies (OTA included) and I think this book does a great job explaining why it’s so difficult for companies to stay innovative and how to overcome that challenge. Getting new products and services to market is fun and exciting but also difficult and this book has shaped the way I think about these opportunities.

What is one important take-away (or two if you feel so inclined) you got from this book?

Happy customers make innovation hard for management.

Cecilia Long- iSupport Representative

I am throwing in my hat on this one. So, this is not a cliché from me for sure. The book that has impacted me the most through every area of my life has been The Bible-- yes as in "Holy Bible" ha-ha. To this day, it impacts and challenges me on how I think, behave and respond to God, myself, to others, my children, husband, co-workers, loved ones. It reveals my areas of weaknesses, inspires and gives me hope in many ways.