Last March I posted The Reading Roundup. I got a lot of comments and suggestions from readers, and so I’d like to make this a regular feature, perhaps once a quarter, provided I’ve actually read enough.
So, here is a list of some books I’ve enjoyed since the last Roundup, though a few which I forgot to include in the last list. As I did with the first Round Up, I’m including here where and how I came across the book. And, still, all non-fiction. Not sure what that means. Except that there’s an awful lot of good non-fiction out there.
- The Next 100 Years. A Forecast for the 21st Century. George Friedman. I really enjoyed this. Found it at the PDX airport Powell’s books, my first stop always after checking in. Friedman makes it very clear- geography is political destiny. Presidents come and go, political movements, parties, elections, even economic crises, but whether or not you have a coastline, and whether or not you can feed your own country or have to import raw goods and materials, has more to do with shaping politics than anything else.
- The Checklist Manifesto. How to Get Things Right. Atul Gawande. I’ve been onto Gawande for a few years, and this particular one was highly recommended by my friend, Pierre Morin. Pure inspiration. After reading this, I made and sent out checklists for a variety of projects I’m working on. Drove everyone nuts.
- Nurture Shock. New Thinking About Children. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. I had been reading a lot about learning theory and motivation. I think this came via Amazon’s recommendation software. Or maybe I read a review. Lots of good research, lots to think about. Something could have been better. I’m not sure what. Each chapter presented a different area of research: sleep, praise, race, lying, intelligence testing, self-control, etc. Each one fascinating, but I think it would have been better if the findings were somehow linked, more focus on the larger picture, and not just on the individual research.
- The Art of Learning. An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. Josh Waitzkin. Brilliant. Fun. Engaging and warm. Someone posted a youtube of Josh on their Facebook page and after watching, I ordered the book. Waitzkin’s story is a great one, and he tells it in a very personable and intimate way. It’s unusual to be brought into the world of superior performance and excellence in such a genuine way. And his insights into learning and the psychology of performing under pressure are valuable for everyone not just star performers.
- The River of Doubt. Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. Again, I picked this one up at the Powell’s PDX airport branch. This is a very little known story, and it was riveting. The Amazon, even today, remains some of the most remote wilderness in the world. Roosevelt’s explorations of an uncharted tributary of the Amazon reads like an Indiana Jones movie. Except it’s all true. And this was after his Presidency.
- Playing the Enemy. Nelson Mandela and The Game that Made a Nation. This is the book upon which the screenplay for Invictus was made. Shar Edmunds handed this to me in Brisbane last November. I devoured it in one gulp. And then a few weeks later was shocked to see a trailer for a movie identical to the book but with a different name. The book was written by a journalist, and goes into greater detail of the obstacles than the movie. But like the movie, it’s suspenseful; even though we know the outcome, it’s still a nail biter.
- How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. I’m halfway through this. I think I found this one reading through literature on performance evaluation. I love it when a book is on a dry-as-dust topic and yet mesmerizing. I’m fascinated by how our attitudes towards measurement produce the belief that things that matter can’t be measured. Hubbard really shows the thinking problem underlying the belief that things can’t be measured.
- Rework. I’m a huge fan of 37Signals, and enjoy reading Signal vs Noise, the company blog. Their earlier book, Getting Real, on Software development, is not just about software, but a really refreshing approach to work, creativity and innovation.
- Game Change. Obama and the Clintons, McCain, Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. Haven’t read it yet, but it’s been highly recommended. Most recently by Kate Jobe.
- Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Andrea Scharf, who gets through books at the rate of knots, and then ever so kindly deposits them at our doorstep, read this about a year or so ago. I haven’t read it yet, but am intrigued. It reminds me of my doctoral courses on patterns of language change, an area I did not go on to specialize in, but one that I loved.
- Two recommendations by a colleague from Poland, Robert, working with children and motivation. I haven’t read these, but add them here in the hopes that more readers will share their recommendations: Alfie Cohn: Punished by Rewards, or the first one, No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Alfie is radically anti-Skinnerian/behaviorist and he shows immense loads of data and research indicating how punishment and rewards are not only short-term quasi-effective but even counterproductive and de-motivating in the long run.
- Befriending Conflict. Joe Goodbread. Joe just published this book on conflict, based on a series of trainings he had developed. I love what he does here – presents the attitudes and inner work necessary to make working with conflict, well, fun. He’s got a great style, engaging stories, conversational tone, even as he’s dealing with difficult topics.
Looking forward to hearing what you’ve been reading.