21 Book Recommendations for 2021

Happy Holidays from DCI

While 2020 delivered unexpected challenges, political and social turbulence, changing work environments, canceled travel plans and more time at home than ever before, it was also a year in which our team picked up more books and explored more topics than ever before. Our hope, as the new year unfolds before us, is that we will all find time to refresh, renew and continue to expand our minds with books rich in culture, adventure, mystery, playfulness and thought leadership. Since one of DCI’s core values is “Be a Knowledge Sponge,” we wanted to share just a small collection of the books that inspired and grounded our team this year.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you!



DCI Book Recommendations - The Culture Map by Erin Meyers


Brianna Vetrano

Manager, Paid Media & SEO


The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

Did you know that people from the US tend to preface negative feedback with three positive statements? Or that sending a recap email after a meeting is commonplace in the UK, but may not be well-received in France? If you interact with people from different cultural backgrounds for work, travel or otherwise, The Culture Map is a must-read. Combining graphs, anecdotes and research findings, this book offers invaluable insights into decision making, communication and relationship building around the world. Personally, reading about unnoticed traits from my own culture and how they compare to, and are perceived by, people from other countries was truly mind blowing. If you’re looking for an easy read with big impact, I highly recommend this book!




Stella Tsitsipatis

Account Director


The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

During a year of no travel, I was able to “go around the world” with Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss and learn what makes people happy or unhappy in various countries. It was intriguing to read about how our cultural differences and similarities, as well as the mindset of people from country-to-country, play a role in our happiness. In the midst of this global pandemic, this book also helped me to reflect not only on what factors affect the happiness of Americans but also what sparks joy and what is most important for me on a personal level.




Liz Groeschen

Senior Manager, Content & Social


Educated by Tara Westover

Educated is a memoir by the American author Tara Westover. With so many teachers in my life and my own pursuit of endlessly learning, I was told I would love this book. Westover recounts growing up in the outskirts of town in a survivalist family who doesn’t value traditional education. She pursues an education anyway and discusses how it expanded her worldview and subsequently impacted many relationships within her family. Having grown up in Kentucky and since moved around the world, I completely related to how her worldview changed thanks to her education and the many places her education took her. While at times heartbreaking, her story was inspiring and a perfect reminder that our education is not to be taken for granted.




Karyl Leigh Barnes

President, Tourism Practice


Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger

As the mom of a preschooler, I read a lot of books with beautiful illustrations and often poorly scripted storylines… Not the case with Little Red Sleigh! This soon to be holiday classic will perfectly delight children and yet it serves up an important reminder to grown-ups. If COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on your industry and dampened your professional aspirations, this book reinforces the old adage, bloom where you’re planted. With dynamic artwork, this tale is the perfect gift this holiday season for yourself, your tourism industry friends or the little ones you love.




Julie Curtin

President, Economic Development


The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin

I’ve always been inspired by Seth Godin and his practical approach to topics of business and creativity, and his 2020 book The Practice with its 219 pieces of micro-advice reminding us that creativity is for everyone; that leaders seek to make things better; that skill is not the same as talent; and that passion is a choice, was the perfect end-of-year read for me. As I prepare for 2021 as a business leader, a manager, a wife, a mom and someone with limited time but great thirst for inspiration, Seth (and his blog) is a good “go to” for me — and perhaps for you as well! Here is to the year ahead!




Andy Levine



Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

My older son gave me this book for Christmas last year and I devoured it in a weekend. Bad Blood details how Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout, created a company called Theranos that offered a revolutionary change to medical testing. All that was needed was a pinprick of a finger and a drop or two of blood to get a reliable blood test. The problem: the technology never worked. But for years Holmes and her team conned Silicon Valley, top public leaders (including President Obama) and the retail chains Safeway and Walgreens. There’s more drama here than the best John Grisham novel – and this isn’t fiction.




Lisa Landes

Senior Account Executive


Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

We all know a deep breath, just one, can go a long way. James Nestor dives into the art of breath, explaining the history of breathing techniques, and how humans are evolving incorrectly, causing sleep apnea, high levels of anxiety, depression and chronic snoring. This book is fascinating and perfect for anyone interested in, or practicing yoga, self-healing without the use of over the counter medications and scientific research. Every year, I download one book on my phone to read while backpacking, and this book was a perfect choice for 2020 for many reasons. The stresses brought on by the pandemic escaped me while enjoying the outdoors and working on what I can control, breath.




Justin Kochalka

Business Development


How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Through a seamless combination of personal anecdotes and deep psychological theories (two things I never thought could be intertwined), Jonah Lehrer dives into how decisions are made in his book How We Decide. Lehrer challenges the cultural notion that all good decisions need to be formed only by the rational side of our brain, and dives into the science behind decision-making. I never thought one of my favorite books would be one recommended by my father — a psychologist — but I now use much of the logic Lehrer provided to make decisions in different aspects of my life — as a spouse, colleague, son, and more. Happy Holidays and hope you enjoy this book as much as I do!




Erica Blann

Vice President, Talent Management & Development


Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s delicious New York Times bestselling novel Daisy Jones & The Six recounts the story of the rise and fall of a fictional ‘70s rock band and their captivating lead singer. The real reason why the band split at the height of their popularity is revealed in a whirlwind turn of events that almost reads like a music documentary. If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan, you will truly enjoy jumping into this book filled with ’70s rock nostalgia — it will bring you to a place where only great music can truly lift your spirits!




Dariel Curren

Executive Vice President


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

When I read Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, the saga of a bookstore owner and her young son who are forced to flee violent drug cartels taking over Acapulco, I didn’t know there was a heated debate brewing about whether Cummins had the credentials to write about the harrowing journey of Mexican immigrants trying to reach “el norte.” The book opened my eyes to the fact that there is not just one story about why countless people are desperate to cross the US border. As the LA Times reported, critics accused Cummins of “cultural appropriation, exploiting stereotypes and benefiting from white privilege,” but if the firestorm that erupted makes more people empathetic to the plight of immigrants, that’s good in my book.




Rachel Deloffre

Senior Account Director


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

As a historical fiction fan, I really enjoyed this beautifully written, captivating book that takes place in France and Germany during WWII. This can’t-put-it-down read is a reminder of some very dark times in history (it makes 2020 look like a breeze!), but is also a story of incredible resilience and kindness. The story follows two young characters whose lives intersect in surprising ways – a blind French girl who learns to navigate cities through scale models built by her father and an extraordinarily gifted German orphan boy. I’d especially recommend this book for any history buffs or city/travel enthusiasts – you’ll want to book a trip to Saint-Malo, France when we’re through this pandemic!




Kat Saunders

Senior Vice President


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I love to get lost in books to quiet my mind from the grind of my professional and personal life. This book took me on two very different journeys of twin sisters – one choosing to identify as white and one as Black. Their choices, the places they lived and their experiences were dramatically different. As I continue to explore areas of diversity, equity and inclusion with my colleagues and others in the placemaking space, reads like this bring journeys to life that I will never have the chance to fully understand.




Brooke Avery

Account Coordinator


Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

As a professional and athletic person myself, I was moved by Phil Knight’s memoir Shoe Dog. Knight’s experience founding Nike — from his failures to his triumphs — resonates with my personal journey, and the successes and failures I will continue to have in the future. Knight reminds us to grow from our downfalls and that together we can create something greater than anticipated if we listen to one another. These lessons feel timely, giving us hope that we will all preserve regardless of the barriers we encounter, and that with a “can-do” mentality and willingness to listen, we can adapt to and succeed in anything!




Raul Cavazos-Binder

Account Manager


Dune by Frank Herbert

“I must not fear, fear is the mind killer.” This quote is the most famous passage of Frank Herbert’s Dune, a sci-fi masterpiece that has been a fascination of mine in 2020. It’s a complex story that revolves around failing politics, religion, environmentalism, messiah complexes and revolution. But more so, Dune is an encapsulation of the human condition and all of its genius, all of its flaws, and the havoc that emerges from the two; themes that still resonate today, especially in 2020! If this meta explanation doesn’t do it for you, Dune also has giant man-eating worms, a fantastic group of string-pulling witches, human computers, and a nice drug called Spice. A true modern masterpiece. Everyone should read Dune at least once and brownie points if you read it before the movie comes out!




Daniella Middleton

Senior Vice President


Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

The Black Lives Matter movement this year forced many people to take a hard look at behaviors, beliefs and institutional systems about race that we hold. In this collection of essays, author Mikki Kendall pinpoints how American feminism has been anything but inclusive of Black women. If you believe in inclusive communities of all genders and races, you should read this book. And if you’re not someone who holds these beliefs, then you should definitely read this book. This book challenged me. For every case in which Kendall highlights problematic practices, she offers guidance for how we can all do better. In the end, don’t we all want to be and do better?



Rebecca Gehman

Director of Talent Attraction


Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

I get inspiration from real stories, and right now, I think escaping a bit from our own “world” is needed, which is why I loved this true-life novel about Lily Casey’s life during the Great Depression. Living on a desolate ranch breaking mustangs, the book follows Lily as she aspires to become a school teacher but is continually turned down because of her gender and lack of money to afford more education. She migrates across the US at every chapter of her life in search for new opportunities. In today’s difficult times, it reminds me that there are millions of people yearning for the same: a new place with new opportunity. From one Great Depression to today’s, it is still difficult for people to access opportunities. We have a great challenge in this industry to change that for the better.




Susan Brake

Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy


The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I’ve historically gravitated toward fantasy and sci-fi books even when they weren’t considered main stream. Don’t you remember a time when it WASN’T cool to be reading Tolkien, McCaffrey or Brooks? If you were mocked like me and are now looking for an epic fantasy book that rivals Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, then look no further. The Name of the Wind follows the story of Kvothe, a talented young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard of his world. The book is the first of three in the Kingkiller Chronicles. The Name of the Wind is our introduction to Kvothe and his world told through the eyes of our narrator. Enjoy and geek out with me afterwards!




Steve Duncan

SVP, Paid Media & Lead Generation


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I’m a non-fiction fan at heart and usually like to put my reading time to good use by reading insightful perspectives, but if there was ever a year to pause reality and embark on a distant adventure of the mind, 2020 was it. While we all hoped to be traveling again by now, that doesn’t mean we can’t live vicariously through literature, and The Alchemist is a classic fitting of the moment. Wanderlust, self-discovery, hope of a better future and an entertaining story…seems right as we head into a New Year.




Kayla Leska

Managing Director


Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Never could I imagine that one day I’d be taking “life advice” from award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. However, McConaughey’s new memoir, Greenlights, is filled with wisdom and inspiring stories about turning hardships into “greenlights” to success. Of course, along with life lessons the book offers a few good laughs – both things I needed and appreciated after an interesting 2020.




Robyn Domber

VP Research


Buffalo Hunting in Alabama by Don Erwin

As place marketers, how could we not include an action-packed thriller focused on site selection AND also serves as a primer on economic development? A highly entertaining read, the novel focuses on boomerang Ezra Drake as he recruited back to Alabama to help recruit mega-projects to the state. Even those who are not self-admitted economic development “nerds” will enjoy this fictional account of the high-stakes game of business recruitment and the colorful portrayal of Alabama culture and its people. A fun read that is also highly informative and sheds light on what really goes on behind these high-profile deals!


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