Archives For reading habits

“You complete me,” says a man to his book softly in a coffee shop.

Well, not exactly. Not one book (besides the Bible) really completes a person. There was a season of life when I only read history books because I loved the topic. In my early 30s, I came to a point where I was interested so much in the topic, and still am. But, I found myself not growing enough in other areas. It was linear growth and despite my love for history, it is not all that I am.

As I have grown older, I desire to be challenged in my imagination, to avoid the staleness of life, and occasional monotony of checking off the fact that I read a book. I want more out of the reading experience.

Enter the “Renaissance Reader” I aspire to be.

I’ve been on a quest to figure out the best mix of reading that helps shape me to be a better professional, person, and one who can praise God with more heart. 

“In an age of specialization people are proud to be able to do one thing well, but if that is all they know about, they are missing out on much else life has to offer… I like the idea of being a Renaissance hack. If tombstones were still in style, I would want to have the two words chiseled right under my name.” – Dennis Flanagan, editor of Scientific American

In the past few years, I have set out on a quest to figure out the right combination of books to help me grow into the “Renaissance Reader” I want to be.

In this time of exploration, I have found the combination of reading three types of books at a time.

My goal is to read three “P’s”:

  • Professional – What develops me in my profession
  • Personal – What develops me to have fun and dream as a reader
  • Praise – What helps make me stronger in my faith

Here are the latest three that I have been reading each day and are best shaping me.

Professional

As a leader of a very talented marketing team in publishing, I am often thrown dozen so business books to read. They have helped shape me professionally but none of them can I safely say have truly transformed me.

For the past few years, I have been scratching my head about how to be a more effective business leader. There are so many prodigious communication tools in today’s mass media market to make my head spin. Things simimageply don’t work the way they used to, which is hard for me because my chief strength is ‘context’ and I feel most at home reading history books with the inclination to draw inspiration from the past to form the future. Yet, the future is so uncertain. I am in a different stage of career where I lead over a dozen people, separated in different groups, and some with differing objectives.

I am forced think differently. Enter Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal. He draws lessons from his time adapting to the Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2004, he quickly realized that conventional military tactics were failing. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decentralized network that could move quickly, strike ruthlessly, then seemingly vanish into the local population. The allied forces had a huge advantage in numbers, equipment, and training—but none of that seemed to matter.

McChrystal was forced to change his team into a more flexible and cohesive information-sharing team to fight back.

Team of Teams has been a book to help clarify my role as a leader and manager in today’s complex environment. I am so thankful for the military and General Stanley McChrystal in how he had the courage to adapt to a new environment. We all can learn from the military.

Personal

Cover-Boys-in-the-Boat-LargeI love history and fiction so I try to read something in this area that fulfills that joy. My latest has been one of the most inspiring stories in publishing the past few years. My latest read is The Boys in the Boat. Who would have thought rowing was interesting, especially set in the 1930s? I am sure people felt the same way about Seabiscuit. I literally was clapping and cheering for these underdog boys from Washington state, overcoming immense odds during the depression to win the 1936 Olympic gold medal. The Boys in the Boat is one of the finest narratives written in the past few years.

The 1936 U.S. Olympic rowing team from the University of Washington. From left: Don Hume, Joseph Rantz, George E. Hunt, James B. McMillin, John G. White, Gordon B. Adam, Charles Day, and Roger Morris. At center front is coxswain Robert G. Moch. Photo courtesy of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW2234.

The 1936 U.S. Olympic rowing team from the University of Washington. From left: Don Hume, Joseph Rantz, George E. Hunt, James B. McMillin, John G. White, Gordon B. Adam, Charles Day, and Roger Morris. At center front is coxswain Robert G. Moch.
Photo courtesy of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW2234.

 

 

 

 

Praise

I aim to consistently read a Christian-themed book that challenges my faith to grow deeper.

urlThere are many books I would recommend to read before Lewis’ The Weight of Glory, primarily because it is a collection of essays and speeches given by Lewis. In college, I wrote a paper about Lewis’ influence and encouragement to fellow British citizens during World War II. Published years later, The Weight of Glory is evidence of his contributions to give hope and understanding for a world that seemed poised to end for Britain. Churchill and Roosevelt gave their radio fireside chats but Lewis, even as a layman, provided something even deeper. As you study Lewis further, I highly recommend reading this treasure. Put yourselves in the shoes of an average Briton during World War II and his words and God’s truth will come alive.

One of Lewis’ most famous lines is found in these pages, “Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.”

 

What connects it all? Reading the Bible everyday.

There is a story to be told that connects all of what we are meant to do and it is the word of God. I’ve heard it referred to at the greatest self-help book, ever. It is true. God’s Word is our greatest guide to shaping how we approach each day.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 HCSB

Reading is such a wonderful experience. But, it is meant to be shared so I encourage you whether in the Bible to use an online sharing platform like YouVersion, Wordsearch, or He/She Reads Truth. Or or as a reader, use Facebook Groups and Goodreads.com to share your review with others.

“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis.

What are you reading? Do you have a mix of books you enjoy reading to fulfill yourself?

 

My goal is to read about 30-40 books a year.

Since my wife and I have young children, reading is difficult to achieve in our stage of life. I remember being frustrated a couple of years ago about this and wanted to find a solution to feed my mind’s curiosity.

Then I discovered audiobooks. 

People learn in different ways. I have friends who can read 50 or 60 books a year without breaking a sweat. I wish I could get to that point as a reader but I’ve discovered that I absorb information better through from the spoken word of an audiobook.

Book with HeadphonesBefore there were books, there was the beauty of the spoken word.

For thousands of years, stories were passed down from word of mouth, primarily because literacy was reserved for the elite and books were difficult to reproduce. Human history tells us that we are designed as humans to listen to others tell stories and share with the next person.

The reading purist may think I’m a heretic but my goal here is to help people discover more books through the way they can get the most out of them. I still read about 15 to 25 books a year in addition to audiobooks and I believe balance in reading is important.

I listen to audiobooks in the car on my drive to work, on long road trips, and when I work out during the week. I have hours of time that would go wasted without audiobooks, which makes me very thankful for them.

I’ve listened to many audiobooks and to be honest some are recorded with poor quality or are read by a voice that I don’t like. In those times, I stop listening and move on to the next. It’s okay to ditch one if it doesn’t work for you.

But, there are some excellent ones to choose from.

Here are five great audiobooks

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (read by award-winning voice talent, Scott Brick)

I loved this because I was always. As the author Krakauer makes a point in his book about Pat Tillman, he seems like a Greek athlete and personality of old.

WAR by Sebastian Junger (read by the author)

I thought this book had an important story to understand, especially from the words read by author Sebastian Junger. Since he was embedded with an Army Ranger company in Afghanistan for over a year, his words would have more passion and meaning than another voice.

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James D. Bradley (read by the author)

You all probably know that I love history books and this is one read by author James Bradley is a harrowing tale of Navy flyboys during World War II in the Pacific. With his Wisconsin accent, Bradley shares harrowing stories of these men in one of the most tragic stories you’ve never heard of from World War II.

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Shelden (read by John Curless)

Although written by an American, it is read by an English voice talent, John Curless, who reads the book with an Edwardian pomposity. I love listening to books written about British people. Don’t we all?

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (read by the author)

There is a cadence to the voice of Malcolm Gladwell and his soft tone brings curiosity to the listener and releases the spirit of the author’s ideas. I think business books are great to listen to for the business traveler, who is traditionally on the run.

Notice how I did not mention fiction audiobooks. I have nothing against them except for idea that I believe fiction books are meant to stretch the imagination of the reader. Last year, I listened to a few and felt like the experience would be better by traditionally reading them. I can’t imagine listening to The Lord of the Rings, Huckleberry Finn, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Chronicles of Narnia for that reason. If you find some good ones to listen to, I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Questions consider before picking the right audiobook

  • How long do you have to listen to an audiobook?
  • Do you have a road trip coming up?
  • Do you have a long commute to work?
  • Do you work out multiple times a week?
  • Do you want to listen to the author or a professional reader? Would either make it a better listening experience?
  • Is a physical CD or digital version preferable for you?

Where to get audiobooks

Physically buy them at a store:  These are often the most expensive ($20-50)

Digital editions:  Choose from iTunes, Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, AudioBooks.com, or Audible.com ($10-$30)

Public Library: This is where I get 90% of my audiobooks because yes, they are FREE. I don’t mind owning an audiobook because I can always  check it out again.

Free audiobooks: You can download classic audiobooks Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Joseph Conrad, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Here are two great places to download classic books free. Librivox and Open Culture.

Caution: I don’t recommend listening to a comedy audiobook while working out. I literally dropped a dumbbell on my head when working out listening to Stephen Colbert read and act out America Again.

Do you like audiobooks? 
If so, which ones have you enjoyed most and why? 

Recently I was driving and was stuck behind someone with the bumper sticker that said,

Save the book!

My reaction was a sigh. An independent bookstore created these bumper stickers in order to fuel passion of their customers who are clinging to the idea of a ‘physical’ book. I understand their passion because they are seeing physical bookstores disappear faster than ever before. Like a an apocalyptic movie, people are running for the hills to survive clinging to these heavy bricks. Amusingly, most of the data I read points to the fact that there are more books being read than ever before.

So why are we afraid? Let’s examine how we find out about a book’s content.

I love independent bookstores. I love  a Barnes & Noble. I quite enjoy a Christian bookstore too. I love them each in different ways but I can easily drive or walk right past them because they don’t deliver a reason to buy there.

Why does that happen?

In my journey, it is because the store’s experience is not good enough to make me want to spend time there and purchase a book.

Here is the good news for those running for the hills. The physical book won’t go away. But that isn’t the point. We should be focused on a reading experience as opposed to whether it is an ‘electronic’ or ‘physical’ book. In publishing, we like to say that we are ‘format agnostic’ and would prefer people reading in whatever way they like. It is the content that matters so can we put the customer in a place where they have a powerful book discovery and reading experience to ultimately buy a book?

By the way, the independent bookstore that created those bumper stickers is one I buy a lot of physical books. I shop there because it provides a valuable experience to help me discover great new books that I would rarely have found online or through my personal network. It is there where I buy a them as presents for people. It is there where I can sit down comfortably and enjoy a quick chapter to test if I want to purchase it or recommend to another. They even offer a way online to buy an e-book through one of their e-book partners. I am also a firm believer that I shouldn’t have to support my independent bookstore as charity. They should give me an undeniable reason to choose their store to purchase a book compared to another. I also don’t mind spending a little more for that experience.

Books

Books don’t need saving. Books need just a better environment to experience and buy them in. It is simple and thankfully with the joy of reading, the ability to find new and interesting things to explore will emerge.

The  readers and writers of today will be found in many different environments compared to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Tolkien, or Rowling. Think about where you congregate to read books and share the great ideas that come from them. Are you in that bookstore, sitting on that airplane, in the classroom, or your local coffee shop? It is in those places where today’s books are discovered. It is also there where you will find the experience to embrace and a book can truly be saved.

What are you reading now and in what format? Did a “bookstore” experience help you to purchase that book?