Five Books I’m Reading

There’s this meme that goes around the internet periodically that talks about how how most people never read a book after college.  Every time I see it, I am shocked and decide it can’t be true.  Or that the research that decided this had some sort of weird definition of book:  Must be dead tree, fiction, and by an author of particular nationality or note or something.  Because I can’t imagine ever *not* reading books.  And thanks to my e-reader (I use a kindle – use what you want) , I’m always in the middle of a bunch of books, sometimes rereading, sometimes gobbling up for the first time.

I’ve read that that Amazon does analysis of Kindle readers, determining how many people make it all the way to the end of each book.  And while I have that problem sometimes, most often, if I start something, I’ll finish it.  And probably reread it a couple of times too….

So what books are top of the carousel on my Kindle right now?

  1. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:   I almost wish I had a study group for this one.  After reading Ryan Holiday’s Ego is the Enemy, I realized that I had to read this one in the original, not others’ takes on it.  So I’m plowing through a translation.  Some days I only read a couple of paragraphs and ponder the emptiness of fame and the need to act according to my nature.  But this has had  a profound impact on my worldview and has prompted several moments of extreme gratitude  and understanding, even as it challenges me to be present and act according to my nature, no matter how others around me are, and to accept all things as happening while I observe and think and act, rather than feeling that things are out to get me, and only me.  At the same time, I ponder the differences in society between a Roman emperor and a random person two millennia later, and the impact of culture and societal structure on philosophy.  It seems easier to be stoic if you’re an emperor, and it rings a bit disingenuous to tell others to accept their lot as it is, when your own circumstances benefit from that.
  2. The Anatomy of Peace  And Leadership and Self-Deception:  The mind is a tricky thing to combat, and these books, focusing on the way of being and how we see and interact with others have also shaped my attitude.  I now check myself to see whether I’m “in the box” for people as I interact with them, and whether we’re locked into a loop where we each collude to bring out bad behavior in the other.  The mind is a very tricky thing….
  3. Happiness By Design:  As I define my life work again, and determine what this decade of my life will be themed, it helps to set up my life to support happiness.  Yet another book with ties to Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, which I adore, this book focuses on doing what makes a person happy and structuring a life so that the proper balance of Purpose and Pleasure for an individual makes happiness happen naturally.  In some ways, the equivalent of your mother’s, “You are the company you keep,” it’s also about working with how our brains are wired to achieve happiness and purpose.  My rate in this one has slowed down a bit – we’ll see how long it takes to finish it.
  4. Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry:   I swear I had a class with Schein while at MIT.  Anyway, this book reminds me to ask questions more and tell less, because telling is more condescending and true asking, where you don’t know the answer in advance, builds relationships.  Something I need more practice at, and I’m hoping this book gives me both the momentum and more tips for my toolbox.  We’ll see – just started it late last week and I’m already a third of the way through.
  5. Melville’s Moby Dick:  Somehow, I had never read this.  I tried to read it a few years ago and only got halfway through.  This time, I’m farther along and contemplating the nature of leadership and madness and obsession and the relationship between this big, wild planet and the insignificance that is man on a wide ocean.  Plus, the language, the writing is just so much more sophisticated than the junky fiction that forms a backbeat to what I read in a rush while waiting for kids’ activities to complete I’ve been reading both historical fiction and non-fiction about Britain in the Medieval period, none of it as well written as Melville’s tome. If you want to understand leadership, I’d go with the now-less-politically-correct Killer Angels, with its analysis of leadership on both sides of the battle of Gettysburg.  But Moby Dick has its moments too, even if those moments are interspersed with non-fiction details about whales….
    Hmmm, I seem to be on a leadership kick at the moment, and a focus on life priorities and choices.  There’s a theme there….