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Non-summer camp books are just as important as those specific to our industry. When it comes to leadership, there’s no shortcut to success. But reading to get advice from others who’ve ‘been there’ can be a big help. There are dozens of ways to become a leader and dozens of different things that impact a person’s ability to lead.

This is especially true in the summer camp environment. While you might come in as a camp counselor during your first season at a camp, it took years to build the skills to step into that position.

With that in mind, here are eight non-summer camp books you can read to hone your skills and head back into this season ready to do your best work:

1. Start With Why – by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is a well-known business writer, and this book is famous in business circles. His TED Talk is one of the most viewed presentations on that famed speaking circuit. Start With Why outlines one of the essential truths in business or life: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. This is an important statement on passion, and it’s a critical consideration for people working in the summer camp environment.

If you don’t love what you do, your campers and co-workers are going to catch on. You’re going to be less than sufficient, and you’re going to burn out. Passion is the true foundation of success.

In Start With Why, Sinek delves into questions about success, including why some people are more innovative and influential than others. He also lays out how interested parties can learn how to build more of those traits in themselves. Most importantly, Sinek looks at how the world’s best leaders inspire greatness and action in others. A critical read for anyone in a leadership position, this should be the first stop on your booklist this summer.

If you like this book, you can also check out Sinek’s other non-summer camp books, Leaders eat Last and Together is Better.

2. Authentic Diversity – by Michelle Silverthorn

A favorite among CampMinder staff, Silverthorn’s best seller is a must-read. If real allyship and workplace equity are your goals, we can’t say enough good things about this book.

Authentic Diversity offers action steps and stories, and this combination works to highlight the importance of real inclusion at any workplace, including on your leadership team. It’s one of our favorite non-summer camp books.

3. Essentialism – by Greg McKeown

Any leadership position comes with dozens of things to get done. Leadership at Camp is no different. Sometimes this influx can be overwhelming. What’s critical and what’s not? What takes precedence when there are seemingly hundreds of things on the to-do list? How does one avoid overwhelm when the “to do” list keeps growing?

This book dives into tips and tactics leaders of all types can use to manage their time more efficiently, lead from the heart, and create meaningful change in their respective environments.

Don’t worry; this isn’t your run-of-the-mill self-help book that covers productivity or self-improvement. Instead, Essentialism is a systematic layout for people who want to discern what’s critical and what’s not in their daily lives.  McKeown argues that focusing on “less” is the only way to get more from our everyday lives.

4. The Art of Gathering – by Priya Parker

In this great read by Priya Parker, we learn about the importance of being intentional about how we plan and run events of all kinds. The book takes readers through events of all kinds, including an Arab-Israeli summer camp, and dives into approaches that give attendees meaningful experiences.

We love the real-world application of Parker’s advice, and there are so many ways that camp leaders can leverage her suggestions during summer and during the off-season as well.

5. Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder – by Richard Louv

last child in the woods non-summer camp books

Kids come to summer camp for many reasons. But there is a common thread for many campers:  they’re coming to get a dose of nature. Wild spaces are becoming rare, and increasing numbers of children are growing up without playing in the woods, making up their games, or wandering, unchecked, in packs.

Based on years of meticulous research, lived anecdotes, and established science, Louv uses this book to take a much closer look at how society has changed in recent decades, and the factors that have combined to distance modern kids from nature. The book also evaluates the changes that distancing has made to children’s social and physical lives, and issues some explicit warnings about what will happen to our society if we continue allowing our children to grow up without ever getting their hands dirty.

Chock-full of shocking realities and hopeful solutions, Last Child in the Woods examines the importance of nature on the developing personality. It also looks at how the disappearance of it can have far-reaching risks and challenges. This book is a critical read for anyone who believes that children should not grow up indoors, and wants to do something about it.

6. Dare to Lead – by Brené Brown

Brown has quite the following and has shared her expertise in Netflix specials, podcasts, and more. What makes her advice in this book so great is that she takes traditional framings of leadership and turns them on their head. Her goal is to teach readers that you can lead no matter your title, if you take specific approaches.

What she calls ‘daring leadership’ moves away from a culture of scarcity, and focuses instead on empathy, connection, and courage. For camp leaders, much of this advice puts a name to what you already do, but we love the way she applies research to these approaches.

7. Into the Wild – by Jon Krakauer

A foundational piece of the outdoor writing canon, Into the Wild is a different biography than anything else out there. A literary epic about a life of adventure, no fear, and no compromise, this book teaches everyone about standing out. It’s also a valuable lesson in standing up for the things you believe in. Love it or hate it, you’ll walk away changed.

8. Raise Your Child’s Social IQ: Stepping Stones to People Skills for Kids – by Cathi Cohen

A practical guide written for parents, this book offers a customized program that helps adults teach children to navigate life. The book covers experiences like teasing, creating bonds with other kids, learning to read social cues, building social self-esteem, expressing emotions, and more.

Ideal for anyone who has an interest in childhood development, this book can be a valuable tool in any camp counselor’s arsenal.

Better Leadership Starts Here

person sitting on a bench reading non-summer camp books

Working as a camp counselor means providing dynamic, hands-on experiences for kids and, in many ways, shaping the way they live, play, and think. This is a huge responsibility, to be sure, and it requires that you rise to the occasion. These eight books will help you do just that. By giving camp directors and staff the tools they need to be as efficient, compassionate and organized as possible, these books will help you reach your full potential and serve the kids you work with that much better.

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