5 Short Reads to Expand Your Mind

I’ve read almost 30 books so far this year. Here are five that expanded my mind.

Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision-Making
A lot of books talk about the what and how in decision-making. This book also talks about the when, where, and who, with when being the driving question the book seeks to explore. Tempo has three elements: rhythm, emotion, and energy. Usually, we adapt to the tempo of our environment. It’s a lot harder to set the tempo or change it. Wholly original and utterly fascinating.

Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived
The fascinating and somewhat counter-intuitive tale of how being born more prematurely than others, a uniquely long and rich childhood full of play actually helped us increase the odds of survival. While this isn’t as good as Song of the Dodo in terms of science writing, it’s up there.

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
A great read. Like some introverts, sociopaths mimic the way other people behave so they can “hide in plain sight.” The book takes you into the mind of an intelligent sociopath and is hard to put down. Maybe not a book you want to read in public though, lest people get the wrong idea about you.

Zen in the Art of Archery
The author, Eugen Herrigel, spent time in Japan after World War II and wanted to better understand Zen Buddhism. This is impossible to understand through books and requires an activity. He picked archery and found a Zen master who reluctantly accepted him as a student. Herrigel, being a Westerner, sought rapid progress and linear improvement through technical mastery. This wasn’t enough and became self-defeating. To truly master an art it has to become an “artless art” where it grows out of unconsciousness. Thus archery became a path to greater understanding.

Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
A fascinating read about how warfare is evolving. Robb examines Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW), which is essentially loosely networked groups against states. 4GW is the first generation of non conventional wars. There are no pivotal moments on a battlefield that decide the war. Think along the lines of Al-Qaeda and Anonymous. 4GW is all about turning the strengths of States against them and causing asymmetric financial hardship. While I appreciate his approach and the systems thinking, Robb is still too conventional. I think his expertise on the subject creates a bit of a blind spot when it comes to warfare and the internet. Still, this is a must read.