B o o k s
Here are links to my books, some published and in print, some out of print but out there.
The Promise That Changes Everything will be out October 29th. You can preorder it now if you want.
(I’ll add excerpts from the unpublished books soon.)
The Promise That Changes Everything: I Won’t Interrupt You
Penguin Random House
29 October, 2020
‘This is different. Thinking for yourself is different. The conditions are different. The results are different. The attention that produces them is different.’
That’s what I wanted to say after 30 years of experience and research. This is different.
I wondered why, after after all this time and four books on the subject, this key point was still a new idea, a shocking thing, a wonderful thing? I wasn’t sure. I’m still not. I guess that the more radical an idea is – the more it uproots – the more fiercely it is unseen. Regardless, I knew that ‘this is different’ was what I wanted to say.
I wanted to write about it. Maybe an essay. Maybe an article. Christopher said, ‘It’s your next book’. I wasn’t so sure.
I fantasised that the piece would be only that one sentence, over and over and over: This is different.
Then Pengin Life invited me to write the next Time To Think book, this one for a wider audience. And including a look at polarisation. How joyous.
To get started, I spent three months searching for the single thing inside the ‘difference’ that made these conditions for thinking so powerful. What exactly, simply, irresistibly, singularly is going on when people are thinking for themselves as breathtakingly as I had seen over these years? I and others had written easily
a million words about it. But in one word, what was it? What one thing was different?
Eventually I saw it, something I had been teaching in a different context for many years. It is a promise. ‘I won’t interrupt you.’ It is the promise, the promise, of no interruption, not just the serendipitous occasion of it.
And why precisely, I wondered for another month, is that promise the key to the difference? Because it changes everything. It changes the quality of our thinking, the quality of all our relationships (including with ourselves), the quality of meetings, of every conversation (including imminently polarising ones), the
quality of teaching and learning, of debating and governing, of healing and dying. Everything.
A thinking environment is different. Its results are different. And that promise is why.
This new book is my grateful response to Penguin’s invitation.
The Promise That Changes Everything: I won’t interrupt you.
I hope you enjoy it.
Time To Think: Listening To Ignite The Human Mind
Cassell,Octopus Publishing Group
Fourteenth printing, 1999 - 2019
Christopher and I spent his sabbatical in dreamy San Francisco. And I wrote this book there. We had a gorgeous time in an apartment looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge. Anyone could have written a best seller with that view. Deborah Taylor, my editor at Cassell wanted the next ‘thinking environment’ book. I wanted that, too. It would capture our almost non-stop insights that had come from working with men and women over those six years, especially in Fortune 500’s and other scary, conforming places.
Now twenty two consecutive years in print, this book some say is timeless. I hope not. Someday I hope it will seem antiquated, a call for a way of being in the world that has become just the way life is.
But for now, it is fiercely radical.
Book Review on Amazon
"A colleague told me about this book and I bought it to read up on the concept. Like all great theories it's so straightforward and obvious you wonder how you could have not realised it before. But since reading about thinking environments I've practiced some of the techniques in conversations with family and at meetings and have found they really make a difference in opening up the conversation. I've also done one structured 'thinking partner' session with my colleague to find the solution to a problem each of us had. We allocated half an hour each and followed the six steps of the 'thinking partner' technique. It was very powerful in releasing all sorts of ideas and more was achieved in that half hour than by weeks of puzzling over the issue. Would highly recommend."
More Time To Think: The Power of Independent Thinking
Cassell, Octopus Publishing Group
Third printing, 2009 - 2018
And then there was more. And More. What we had learned about thinking environments in the ten years since Time To Think was astonishing. I didn’t predict it.
Nature is like that, though. Its depths are likely unplumbable and certainly unpredictable. And I see these conditions for independent thinking as a kind of natural order, one that is forbidden nearly the minute we are born, but is imminently retrievable. I’d say that that is what we are doing with the ‘thinking environment’ – retrieving Nature’s knowledge about independent thinking. Its simplicity belies its complexity, so it keeps showing up with spotlights where we had not been looking. And as with each of these new ‘findings’, the trove grows.
So Rob Brown was right: More Time To Think was the right title.
Book review on Amazon
"Nancy Kline's writing style is very accessible so this book is a real pleasure to read. Her Time to Think principles are extremely powerful in bringing about change in individuals or groups. This is one of the most important books for coaches to read."
Living with Time To Think:The Goddaughter Letters
Cassell, Octopus Publishing Group
What do you do when your godchildren ask you questions you can’t answer? What would you do, for example, with these from my three goddaughters?
Given that we all die, how do we find meaning in living?
When I get to be a woman, how can I have a good life?
How can we be happy today?
I said to Hattie, aged 12, in reply to the first question, ‘I’ll have to think about it but I’d love to know what you think.’ She said, ‘Nancy, you are my godmother, and you’re supposed to know about stuff like that’. We giggled. I said I would get back to her.
I did, six years later. In the form of a collection of letters to her to celebrate her first year at university.
With Meghan, asking when she was 10 years old, and Kimberley aged 5, I replied with a similarly celebratory collection of letters each, years later.
Eventually others who read them said they would make a compelling three-part book, and we four agreed. My agent, Sheila Crowley, noticed that all three collections exhort the girls to do their own thinking and that the book was naturally next in the ‘Time To Think series’.
We called it: Living With Time To Think: The Goddaughter Letters.
I cherish these young women and their fine minds.
I think you will, too.
Book Review on Amazon
"This book is a joy.
Each chapter in Nancy Kline’s new book is similar to enjoying an exquisite meal. There are so many insightful thoughts and observations that stopped me in my tracks to consider the implications of a phrase, a sentence or a whole paragraph. This is not a book to rush but to return to frequently to savour yet another provocation written in Nancy’s inimitable style of being light, compelling and with warmth and humour.
As with all her work, Nancy models the principles of the Thinking Environment and leadership that powerfully yet softly prompt a complete rethink of the familiar issues of our time. This book is for everyone, goddaughters and godsons, women and men.
I didn’t want it to end."
Women and Power: how far can we go?
This book was a pioneer. It was the first about the ‘thinking environment’. When I wrote it, the question, ‘What does it take for people to think for themselves?’ had been the sole focus of my work for only seven years. I was working almost exclusively with women then. Gradually, we were noticing that the best of both gender cultures would lie at the heart of fine leadership. And that would require the ten components of a thinking environment to become the dominant leadership culture.
I wanted to communicate these findings. The BBC wanted to publish it. So Women and Power was born.
The three other books discussed above followed over the subsequent 27 years of research with people of every age and with organisations of every description.
If you can find this book (it is out there floating around!), I hope you will enjoy these earliest understandings of the thinking environment and their attempt to shape the kind of leadership so many of us want.
I apologise for the hairdo on the cover. What were we thinking in 1993?
At Least a Hundred Principles of Love
Christopher Spence & Nancy Kline
For three years Christopher and I had been thinking about love, both its expression in our relationship, and as a force in the world. During one of our fortnights together, (in year 3 of what became a 7-year transatlantic courtship, now a 30-year marriage!) on an apple farm near Canterbury, we wrote down what we thought was important about love. They were ‘principles’, 101 of them. Christopher suggested we call the collection, ‘At Least a Hundred Principles of Love’. Just in case more showed up. That was prescient.
We also noticed that the principles fell into three clusters which became sections: ‘Loving Ourselves’, ‘Loving Each Other’ and ‘Loving the World’. We added an introduction that was a little manifesto about making the world better.
Not sure who might ever read this lovely thing, we told colleagues and friends about it, and Sage-Hunt printed it. We also distributed it in our workshops.
Before we knew it, we had gone through 20,000 copies. People were giving them as wedding presents, bereavement presents, birthday, Bar Mitzvah, and anniversary presents. They were placing them strategically in their offices, their waiting rooms, their sitting rooms, by their beds, and in their loos. They even were required reading for an American university course. Something was going on.
In 1993 the London Lighthouse published it as a booklet, raising funds for that flagship HIV and AIDS project, Christopher’s creation.
It is now out of print but pops up here and there online. Maybe you will find it.
Don’t worry. It’s not sentimental. Hallmark will never pick it up, thank goodness. Much too disturbing.
Enjoying the Arts: Dance
Richards Rosen Press, NY
This is the first book I wrote by myself (except for that Nancy Drew look-alike when I was eight). Like the book with Peter Kline four years earlier (see blurb above), it was ‘specialist’. That’s book-speak for don’t count on lots of readers, or any. I mean, how many people were ever going to want to read about eight choreographers’ famous creations as seen through the lens of ‘nothing is ever still’?
But Richards Rosen did, bless them, and the book took its place next to Physical Movement on the shelves of libraries and schools, thrilling me. Privately I hoped it would inspire at least one young person to become a dancer.
I loved writing it. For one thing, I got to go to New York to research it. In magnificent libraries I watched (on microfiche!) the choreographers I idolised. I analysed, frame by frame, the nature and meaning of their movement. Not even a hundred words for ‘happy’ could capture those days for me. Sadly, the internet has all but wiped out adventures like that, the head-down hours in deep stacks of real libraries, cranking a projector with one hand, taking notes with the other, in awe.
Anyway, I hope you can locate this book more easily than the first one, and take some pleasure in its gentle look at the fiery talent of these iconic shapers of Modern Dance. They still lift me.
Physical Movement for the Theater
Nancy Kline (Meadors) & Peter Kline
Richards Rosen Press, NY
This was my first published book. I wrote it with Peter Kline. Peter was my first boss, Head of the English and Drama Departments of a new Quaker school. I was a new teacher, of English and Modern Dance. We were teaching drama students what they needed to know about physical movement in order to act well.
At the end of the year Peter thought we knew enough to write a book about it all. His publisher, Richards Rosen (New York), thought so, too. And Peter believed in me. So we wrote it. Hal Isen illustrated it (with photographs, one of which is of my legs from the knees down demonstrating Relevé). And soon the book found its way into, well, lots of libraries and schools. Not a thrilling story, I know, but for me a life-changer. I was no longer a kid writer trying to be Carolyn Keene.
Super niche as it is, you still can find the book in Abe Books and other committed preserver websites. Regardless, I had to mention it. It was really exciting at the time.
Have You Figured Out Your Mother Yet?
You would have loved my mother. Everybody did. She may have died 36 years ago, but you wouldn’t know it. Her elegance, discernment, eloquence, delivery of confidence for us all, her distance-defying perspective, her laughter, her love affair with words – I draw on them everyday. So either in some mystical way she is here, or she penetrated the hearts she touched so indelibly, she might as well be.
I wanted to capture all of this somehow, to draw her, to say who she was through my little girl eyes, to express her essence that runs through my veins. A child of Oklahoma ranching territory, an introvert with an irresistible welcome, a woman of her times and a seer into mine, she was both elusive and rooted.
I decided to settle down with what I knew of her, and stop striving for the full truth. There is no such thing anyway. And as she herself said, “Don’t ever let facts get in the way of a good story.”
So I had such a good time writing about her. She made me laugh. And cry. And think. She always did.
On This Slow Walk: Because Loving is the Point
I am a twin. Or I was. This book is about that: death and loss that only twins understand.
Twins form together. They move from one cell to 30 trillion, together. They know life first with each other. They know togetherness before they breathe. But at birth they leave, one without the other. And at death. Nothing in the forming prepares them for these abandonments. The residue – irrepressible search for unattainable presence, dread of imminent endings of joy, protection of other at any cost – no salve can touch. Equally no teaching about love can match.
This book, written two years after Bill’s death, is a walk. A walk at Bill’s slow pace as his days became fewer and my facing that became harder. His walk was a work of art. I watched a soul find its way home. And I remained.
You may judge that I idealised him. No doubt I did. We knew each other first when we were perfect. And the first context of anything is the abiding context. Certainly life scarred him, as it does us all. But his core was love. That I could not idealise.
I learned life from him. And I learned death. I learned how important it is for humans to accompany each other while we do both. Dying, like living, is a thing we do.
Bill did it with grace. And I recovered. Twins eventually do.
How much have children absorbed of adult life by the time they are six? What would they say about it if they could?
This little girl and boy ‘appeared’ in my thoughts one day, chatting away. Enchanting me. So I wrote down their conversations, their Little Stories.
What they know about innate ‘thinking environments’ and humanness and intricate overlapping complexities is disarming, sweet, turn-your-life-around stuff.
They taught me a lot. Mostly that we should be careful around our children They are listening.
Should I be excited?
Bill Godwin and Nancy Kline
2011 - 2019+
The minute I heard that the Higgs Boson particle had been discovered, I wrote to Bill Godwin, scientist and philosopher, and asked: “Should I be excited about this?”
Yes!! he said.
That began a correspondence, a rich exchange of thinking, about science and philosophy that is ongoing after more than eight years. In 2016 we added social science and politics to the mix, partly because who could avoid it in this crazy polarised era, desperate for reasoned discourse?
This all emerged from a from-nowhere bursting into my heart of an irrepressible desire, fierce need, to start reading science, science beautifully written. I was not a student of science. I had only ever taken one biology course, labless. But I Ioved finding out things. Mother claimed that she has to explaining gravity to me when I was four. Why does the water go down the drain? Baths were fun in that way. But I had nothing to go on when this urge emerged and I found myself in cafés gobbling up Lewis Thomas, Richard Feynman, Nick Lane, and Humberto Maturana and and. I couldn’t understand it all shot by a long, but I loved it.
Then came the Higgs….
I have learned masses from Bill (including about mass itself), but perhaps the most continuously valuable learning has been about the joy of being wrong. It’s not that it exactly outstrips the joy of be right, such as ‘right’ ever is. But it doesn’t take much to love being right. It does take a lot to love finding flaws, especially in one’s own thinking.
Bill truly loves that. It is, after all, as he has taught me, the only way we step forward into the impossible and emerge with something promising. It also is the essence of one of life’s moments most to be nurtured: the ‘that’s funny’ moment Isaac Asimov coined famously. When all seems tied up neatly, theory established, corroborations pouring in, someone notices something weird. ‘That’s funny.’ And they peek again and see again the inconsistency, rapidly felling the prior pieces so confidently stacked and confirmed. ‘That’s funny’ takes courage, and a quieting of the ego, and the thrill of figuring out where this error, this overlooked or misinterpreted thing, will lead.
That thrill is at the heart of this exchange with Bill. Also here are his vast knowledge and experience and ongoing voracious reading and learning and his dialogue with other formidable scientists and thinkers.
And I get to ask the questions. And learn. And splash around in the sheer joy of it all.
I decided many more people should have access to this thinking fest. So I offer these letters, with his permission, with the hunch that the explorations here may be fun and fascinating for you, too.