The first three books are a jumping off point for everything you need to know and research. Though starting with anything on this list, or in the Study/Articles section that interests you, would be a good start as well.
Colvin, Geoff. Talent is Overrated. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.
For my money the single best reference on the nuanced overarching idea of talent, how we wrongly perceive it, and how these implications inform teaching and learning. Unlike Outliers Colvin describes the things that you need to do to be successful. He also points to research you can review on your own. It is scholarly, but also it is an entertaining read.
Baumeister, Roy F., and John Tierney. Willpower. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.
These researchers have done some amazing work on what happens in the brain with regard to self-control and how it is trained. They also cite other relevant research and weave together a compelling take on how discipline is learned. Another scholarly entertaining read. This, TIO, and Mindset are the fundamental must-reads of this list.
Dweck, Carol. Mindset. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.
Professor Dweck has spent over three decades researching the psychology of learning. Since learning is different than what most people think it is things like failure and mistakes seem to indicate a lack of ability to them. In an attempt to appear competent they cover this by not participating in learning. It is, of course, more complex than that and her work is fascinating. You will recognize it all around you and likely, as did I, in yourself to some extent.
Coyle, Daniel. The Little Book of Talent. New York: Bantam; Random House, 2012. Print.
An owner’s manual containing specific things great coaches and teachers use to maximize skill development. I am amazed that an investigative journalist could figure this out so well. I thought one would have to do thousands of hours of teaching. This is an invaluable resource.
Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code. New York: Bantam Dell; Random House, 2009. Print.
Mr. Coyle elucidates an exciting theory at the time (2009), and proposes that all human improvement can be traced to a single biological process. This process is myelination. Myelin is an insulating sheath around axons in the brain. The more insulation the faster the nerve impulse travels. Thus faster cognition, motor skills, etc. Since 2009 important research has been published showing evidence that the underpinning process Mr. Coyle writes about is indeed accurate. As you read it keep in mind that starting in 2011 it has been shown scientifically that sending an impulse through an axon does cause an oligodendrocyte to produce myelin.
Shenk, David. The Genius in All of Us. New York: Anchor Books; Random House, 2010. Print.
Another take on the same theme. He identifies a new paradigm for nature vs. nurture (nature times nurture) and explains how much of what we think about genetics is not correct. This is partly an introduction to epigenetics which is a very active field now.
Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
How hard is self-control really? It can be developed into a habit. This is a well-researched, practical and interesting look into how our brains ingrain and act on habits and what we can do about them for ourselves, and in teaching others.
Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers. New York: Little, Brown and Company; Hatchette Book Group, 2008. Print.
Gladwell uses good storytelling to show how the environment we create influences success and that it is not innately limited. It is probably the most interesting read, but the least scientific, and he does not explain how the process works. I describe it as Entertainment Tonight to Colvin’s 60 Minutes. In any case it is a worthwhile read. The information on Canadian hockey players and how that speaks to the talent myth is worth the price alone.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Good Business Leadership: Flow, and the Making of Meaning. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced ‘Csikszentmihalyi’) first described the concept of flow in the late 1990’s. This is the state experienced when time melts away as you are working on a task. You’ve worked hard, done a lot, but it feels like hours have passed in moments. In Good Business, one of his several books on flow, he describes the concept on its own and relates to business structures. In any case the application of flow in any group setting has benefit and this book is quite illuminating. Don’t dismiss it upon first read, it took a while for this to sink in, but when it did it had a profound effect.
McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct. New York: Avery; Penguin, 2012. Print.
A great companion to the Baumeister/Tierny book. Suggests exercises you can try for a week at a time and looks at some of the issues from a different angle.
K Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, Robert R. Hoffman, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. New York: Cambridge, 2006. Print.
Ericsson has established himself and his team as the leading research authority on skill acquisition and expertise over the last 30 years. This is not a book per se but a collection of peer reviewed studies on all aspects of performance development including how it is done in specific fields, how motivation works, the specific process of skill acquisition (deliberate practice) and more. It is not a light read, very clinical, and at 900+ pages I myself have not read it all. I have read much of it and its organization makes it easy to pick which studies one wishes to read.
Doidge, Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Viking; Penguin, 2007. Print.
A wonderful introduction to the history, from perceived quackery to foundational neuroscience, of brain plasticity. The field is progressing rapidly and there are some things in this 2007 book that we now know more about, but the author is transparent when he is hypothesizing and has the idea right if not the process sometimes. The insight about the nucleus basalis is worth it alone, and there is much more. People in general really seem to enjoy this book. It does have a general appeal.