I enjoy discovering and reading new authors, especially those that aren’t well known. I also find reading from a variety of authors important. Each has their own life experiences and philosophies that permeate their works.
One of the “undiscovered” authors I enjoyed reading during 2015 and 2016 was Eliot Peper. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the trilogy, I really enjoyed his Uncommon Stock series. I made it a point to put one of his more recent releases, Cumulus, on my 2017 reading list.
It took a while, but I finally got around to reading it over this past summer.
When it comes to work, there are a few principles that are important to me. One is to always be learning new things. A second, closely related principle, is to continuously improve. As part of living out these tenets, I like to read books that I can apply to my business. Because time is precious, I look to trusted sources and watch what other CEOs are reading and recommending to add to my reading list. I learned about the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland through Matt Blumberg’s Return Path blog. He had great things to say about the book. Since I run a software development business, it was a no-brainer to make sure I read the book during 2017.
With most books, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get when you read them. Others can surprise you. I’d have to put Setting the Table by Danny Meyer in the latter category.
I received the recommendation from a customer I started working with last year, who I would now consider a good friend. When we started working on a project together, he suggested that I read the book. My first thought was, “a book by a guy who runs restaurants, how could it possibly apply to my technology business?”
Turns out, the book is very applicable to my business. In fact, anyone running a business that deals with customers, meaning every business owner, can benefit from the lessons and experiences Danny Meyer’s shares.
One of my reading themes is health and fitness. And why not? What we do and eat on a daily basis has a huge impact on our quality of life. It affects how we feel, energy levels, quality of sleep and more.
My latest read in this genre was recommended by my sister Tricia, who has become more aware of and interested in learning how food affects health. She suggested that I read It Starts With Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig.
Given how much I got out of Wheat Belly and Grain Brain, adding It Starts With Food to my reading list was a no brainer. I was interested in seeing what other nutrition tips and ideas I could pick up from another source.
I’m a fan of Hugh Howey. Ever since reading Wool, I’ve enjoyed picking up both his long form novels and short stories. He has a way of building an immersive world and making you feel a part of it. In addition to the Silo Series built off of Wool, Shift and Dust, he did the same in Sand and Beacon 23. To put it simply, he knows how to tell a story. Every year, I do my best to have at least one Howey book on my reading list. This year, it was The Hurricane.
The Hurricane is bit of a different book by Howey. It’s not steeped in science fiction, it’s not a series or trilogy, and it’s not a short story. It’s a stand alone novel that is targeted more towards the teen / young adult audience. Still, the story telling does not disappoint. It’s written in that typical Howey style where he immerses you in the environment and makes you feel like a part of the story.
It’s been over three years since I read One Second After by William Forstchen. In the book, the United States is struck by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a high altitude nuclear explosion. Forstchen details how such an event would cripple all the daily items we have come to depend on such as computers, phones, cars, and most importantly, the infrastructure that delivers electricity and clean, running water. Society rapidly devolves into chaos destroying the fabric of the United States from within. Sure, it’s a fictional book, but given today’s situation with North Korea, it’s not an outside the realm of possibility.
One Year After is the sequel that, as you can rightly guess from the title, picks up the story one year later. The small North Carolina towns of Black Mountain and Montreat are still in disarray but doing their best to return to some sense of normalcy. The United States as a whole is struggling to get back on its feet and slowly trying to rebuild itself, which leads to the main premise of the story – the conflict between the goals of the local communities and the federal government, both of which who are trying to rebuild.
I’m not a runner. My entire running career consists of my one and only 10K (which I completed in just under 50 minutes by the way). So it would seem odd that I would read a book about running.
On the other hand, friends are one of the recommendation sources for my reading list. In fact, out of all my sources, friends are my favorite, even more than my nemesis – the Amazon recommendation engine. The reason is pretty obvious. My friends and I share many of the same interests.
Therefore, it really isn’t much of a surprise that I ended up reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It was recommended to me by Steve Hudson, a good friend of mine who has been a good source of book recommendations. We’ve been sharing our experiences related to food, diet, and fitness. During one of our discussions, he suggested I read McDougall’s book. While he’s more of a runner than I am, he still felt that I would enjoy it.
As part of my new routine, I’ve been reading “learning” books in the morning. Many of these books reference other books from where they’ve derived their ideas, or used their concepts as a foundation to build upon. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t add a book to my reading list unless it is mentioned in more than a couple of books. One book that consistently appeared in many of the self improvement books I’ve read recently is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Naturally, it made it to my reading list and moved quickly to the top given the number of mentions.
To say Think and Grow Rich is a classic is an understatement. It was first printed in 1937, and it’s still relevant 80 years later. That makes it more than a classic. It makes it a timeless treasure.
An amazing thing happens when you start reading positive, inspirational, motivational readings and books. The infamous Amazon recommendation engine kicks in and starts recommending more. It should be no surprise then that an inspirational classic showed up in one of my Amazon recommendation emails – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I added it to my reading list at some point during the first half of 2016 and decided to make it a priority for 2017.
I enjoyed the story in the book, but that’s not its focus. The primary point is about following your dreams, or your “Personal Legend” as Coelho calls it. I found this post on Paulo Coelho’s blog which is an excellent summary of the 10 Powerful Life Lessons in the book, but here are the top three which I took away from it.
Back in early 2015, I watched the documentary series, “The Men Who Built America”. It was inspiring to watch how industrialists such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford transformed America during the late 19th and early 20th century. While it can be debated how much came at the expense of the lower and middle classes, the fact remains that their ideas and the businesses they created had a profound impact felt around the world.
On the whole, I am rather disappointed with the innovation in our current generation. Too much energy and money is spent chasing the latest “quick buck” ideas rather than exceptional breakthroughs. Fortunately, there are two clear exceptions in my opinion – Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
I enjoy following and learning about how they have pursued their passions and built companies around their visions. One of my favorite books from 2015 was “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. It was a fascinating tale of how Jeff Bezos conceived and built Amazon. When I saw that a similar book had been written about Elon Musk, I knew I had to read it.