RECOMMENDED READING 2019
Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think — With a title like that, I never would have picked up this book if a friend didn’t directly put it in my lap. A better title would have been Self-Awareness: Tiny Insights, Big Payoffs. While we feel like we know ourselves really well, we can always learn more. These tiny insights produce a remarkable payoff. Self-awareness is the master key that unlocks many doors and this book will show you how to better understand yourself.
The Five Love Languages — Another book continuing our exploration of relationships and how we connect with the ones that matter to us most. While I’m skeptical, the idea behind the book is simple and worth thinking about. We fit into one of 5 categories for the way we like to be loved. Often this is how we express love to our partners. Rarely, however, do they have the same love profile as we do. By learning to love them in a way that they value we can improve our relationships. While I believe things are more complicated, it’s a great conversation starter to explore with your partner. So do the quiz (which you can find online,) open a bottle of wine, and reconnect with each other.
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error — A re-read for me but an important one. Schulz is lucid and explores “why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken.” Our beliefs and perceptions influence us in more ways than we realize.
The Uninhabitable Earth — I don’t know a lot about climate change, but I’m interested in learning more in this big gnarly topic. Wallace-Wells offers a potential portrait of what could happen, using science to show us how our lives will almost inevitably change. He also explores possibilities for what living in this new world could do to politics, our economy, our health, etc. While outcomes are impossible to know with any precision, the path seems clear.
The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000BC – AD 2000 — The premise of this book is that to understand The Great Wall is to understand China. The author does an excellent job tracing the history of the structure and relating it to the political and cultural changes concurrently happening in country. Eye-opening and relevant beyond the history it chronicles, it teaches a lot about the fluidity of culture, and the realities and limits of borders.
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward — I had a very strong reaction to this book. I can’t quite tell if it was the positioning of the book itself in terms of gender, if it hit too close to home because I’m an entrepreneur, or perhaps because I’m a single parent and thus have do all of the emotional labor (invisible work) myself. Or maybe it was due to something I haven’t surfaced yet, I’m still mulling it over. I do think the concept of invisible work is real. And in heterosexual relationships women tend to do more of this than men. That’s worth talking to your partner about to make sure whatever your situation is that it works for both of you, (and resentment isn’t silently building). I also thinks this plays out in the workforce where some people do more invisible work than others but we (probably correctly) think of it differently in the workforce than at home. I guess in the end I do all of this stuff anyways so I never really think about it. I just call it life and being Fed Up isn’t an option. This book is not for everyone.
Retail Disruptors: The Spectacular Rise and Impact of the Hard Discounters — This is another book that’s not for everyone but it’s one of the best business books I’ve read in a while. It’s a great read for anyone looking to better understand the retail industry and how it’s evolving.
The Mask of Command — Through the lens of Alexander The Great, the Duke of Wellington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Adolf Hitler, this exceptional book that asks us to consider concepts like leadership, military leadership, and why people follow leaders. Keegan is an exceptional military historian.
Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most — I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection recently on how my conversations go astray and how my unspoken thoughts and feelings derail my best intentions in conversations. Difficult conversations was an eye opener for me, offering a foundation for improving all of my conversations. The most impactful thing for me, which is still a work in progress, is moving away from blame and looking to contribution. A great read with practical insights that you can apply to all of the relationships in your life.
Music as Alchemy — Have you ever wondered how music gets created? That emergent property that is so much more than the sum of its parts? In this book the author dives deep into the experiences of 6 famous orchestras and their conductors to provide incredible insight into how a piece of music is realized. There are many lessons in here for teamwork in general, and the kind of mindset that you need to produce something remarkable.
The Upside of Stress — Highly enjoyable and very informative. This book offers a counter-intuitive look at why stress is good for you and how you can develop the capacity to get better at handling stress. Even if you’re not stressed it will help you develop the skills to change how your friends and family look at stress. The ability to not only embrace stress but learn from it is a powerful combination.
Pride and Prejudice — I thought I’d start the year off with a classic and what better one to start with than a reminder from Jane Austen about the folly of judging things based on first impressions. When I read this book as a teenager in first year English, I gave up out of boredom and watched the movie instead. I will never forget getting a “D” on my final English paper, with the only comments from my professor “Sounds like you watched the movie and didn’t read the book.” Re-reading the book as an adult is a vastly different experience. Not only is the romance more apparent but you start to see that the friendships, gossip, and snobberies of provincial middle-class life exist all around you.
What Smart Students Know — The first thing I did after recording a 4-hour interview with Adam Robinson (part 1 and 2) was order a book he casually mentioned in our conversation that he wrote about learning. Intelligence is often a series of learnable mental disciplines that few people have taught us. You can discover these secrets yourself through trial and error or you can listen to a trusted guide. While Adam covers a lot of this book in our conversation at various point, this book was nonetheless an indispensable addition to my ongoing research on how we learn, where we go astray, and what we can do about it.