So, here’s the request that came in an e-mail:
We are going on a cruise in September and I want to load my Kindle with three books. What are the three best books you would recommend for my reading? The request came from a very sharp, keen-minded, successful, independent business consultant. He attends one of our book synopsis events. This is my attempt to answer his question.
I am tempted to simply list some of my all time favorite reads (not necessarily the best books I’ve ever read, although they are close — but definitely books that I am very glad I have read), like: The Doorbell Rang, one of my favorite Nero Wolfe mysteries, by Rex Stout; and The Powers That Be and The Reckoning by the truly great David Halberstam; and Defining a Nation, edited by the same Halberstam.
And then there is this: what are the business books from the last few years (and even a little longer ago) that should be on your “I’ve definitely read that book” list? I would certainly include Good to Great by Jim Collins; something Gladwell (it’s tough to choose — probably Outliers); Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf and The Leadership Engine by Noel Tichy; almost anything, but definitely at least one thing, by Peter Drucker. Add to this The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley, and a major personal favorite, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.
But – I still have not answered the question. If I had but three books to load on my Kindle for a September cruise, what titles would I choose? Here’s a list of five; you will have to narrow it down to the three that most interest you.
Choice #1: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Diamond, a Pulitzer Prize winner with his earlier book Guns, Germs, and Steel, has written a tour de force in Collapse, sweeping us through the societies that collapsed, and providing warnings regarding the decisions societies make. An important book!
Choice #2: Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Laden, or, The Looming Tower: Al-Queda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. Of course, the Wright book is the heftier of the two; it won the Pulitzer, and provides an amazing education about the rise of Al-Queda, what went into their thinking, and especially their animosity toward the West. But there is a personal tone and a very personal take on life in the strict Muslim world of Saudi Arabia in Carmen Bin Laden’s book — the former wife of Yeslam, one of the brothers of Osama Bin Laden. It is a captivating read, and noticeably shorter than The Looming Tower. (You can tell, from this response, that I think we ought to seek to understand this “other” culture that is so foreign to our own).
Choice #3: OK, which two business books to put on the list? Not necessarily which books to read for enjoyment, but which books provide the most important and useful information? I list two choices. I would put The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life by Robert Cooper, because everyone would benefit from reading an occasional “let’s aim high, and take things higher” book. Unfortunately,this book is not available for the Kindle. (Yes, I checked on all the others). So, for this category of business book, I recommend The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. (I haven’t yet read the new Schwartz book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, which could be a better choice). And, for the other business book, I would have to go with The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, just because I think it deals with the complexity of this age and provides really valuable suggestions. (And, it gives every patient going in to surgery an important question to ask his or her surgeon: “do you use a checklist?”).
And you will notice that there are no novels on my list. I read about a novel a decade (except for my relatively frequent re-reading of the Nero Wolfe mysteries). But I have actually bought a novel – in the past week. It is: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I might actually read it – one of these days soon.
Two personal footnotes:
#1 – thanks, Tom, for providing a great idea for a blog post. I apologize for answering you in this fashion.
#2 — And, it would be interesting to have Bob Morris give his list of “only three” in response to this request? I’m pretty sure he would have different titles – all absolutely worth the investment of a Kindle purchase and a few hours of reading. So many books… so little time!
update: I definitely should have put The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis into the mix — as the book I would recommend to help you understand the financial meltdown of the last couple of years. So now I am up to six to choose from, to then narrow down to three. Sorry about that.
It’s Monday morning. Time for a Monday morning quote:
First thing Monday morning, do you wake up envisioning – “Another week of stress and strain at work” – or “Another chance to do more of the things I love”?
This is one of the many fine quotes from the book by Robert Cooper, The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about issues of time/energy management lately. Recently I wrote this post: Is Everybody Tired, or is it Just Me? — Energy and Time Management in the Midst of Challenging Times. And I sense that a whole lot of people are tired.
I teach a few classes at one of the Dallas County Community Colleges as a member of the adjunct faculty. I am meeting quite a few fellow faculty members who teach the maximum number of classes, and then they also teach in other colleges outside of the district. They run from one engagement to another, piecing together a living. Independents (like me) especially have this problem. And the constant shift; the fact that they do not “go” to work, but they go from task to task, from “job” to “job,” adds to the stress.
But it’s not just independents. The people with “normal” jobs are equally stressed. Have you seen the latest productivity numbers. America’s productivity is up, but so is unemployment. The same (actually fewer) people are churning out more and more work. Productivity is up because individuals are doing more and more. Here’s the report summary:
The Washington Post carries an AP story this morning reporting that productivity rose by an annual rate of more than 6 percent during the second quarter, while labor costs plummeted. As the story notes, productivity, or output per hour of labor, is often “a key ingredient for rising living standards,” but in recent months companies have been using the output gains to cut costs and bolster their bottom lines. A related Wall Street Journal story offers further explanation. “The net result” of businesses squeezing more work out of fewer employees, the Journal writes, is “rising unemployment, stagnant wages, sagging consumer confidence — and better-than-expected corporate profits.”
So, for this Monday morning, I present a list of suggestions, things to do to help with the stress. These come from the Cooper book, The Other 90%. And when I remember to do these, I can tell you that they help. Here’s the list:
• The seven elements of a “break”:
• Deepen and relax your breathing.
• Change your view and catch some light.
• Re-balance your posture and loosen up.
• Sip ice water.
• Enjoy a moment of humor.
• Add some inspiration.
• EAT SMART.
• Start the day right: without a bang…
• Awaken without a jarring alarm.
• Turn on the lights.
• Get at least five minutes of relaxed physical activity.
• Enjoy several bites of a great-tasting breakfast.
Very practical. And I have tried to incorporate a few of them. For example, I have changed my alarm to a soothing “harp” choice (from my iPhone. It really is less jarring). I do sip ice water (he recommends cold, ice water . I don’t know why – but it works). And I periodically click on one of Andrew Sullinvan’s “mental health breaks” links (not always humorous, but always a nice distraction). Here’s one. And for inspiration, I read constantly — including the blog posts by Bob Morris on this blog
So – on a Monday morning, think about how you can begin and spend your week with passion and energy.
• You can order the synopsis of my presentation of The Other 90%, at our companion web site, 15 Minute Business Books.