Archives For reading

“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?

 

I credit my mother and grandmother for giving me such a great love for books when I was young. I didn’t get into reading for pleasure fully until after college when it was evident that no one was forcing me to read something anymore. I was free and read primarily history books, which are my first love. As I have grown in reading, I have realized that I need to expand my reading lists to become a better reader and thinker.

I was always amused in the movie You’ve Got Mail, when Tom Hank’s character Joe Fox is asked to read Pride and Prejudice while Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly reads his favorite, The Godfather. Despite their best attempts, they still were able to read each other’s books and discuss them together. If they didn’t ask each other to get out of their comfort zone, they would otherwise not be able to discover and be challenged by a new read.

I divide my reading lists up in the following genres:

Fiction, Classic Literature, History & Biography, and Motivational/Faith.

This past vacation, here are four books that I thoroughly enjoyed and have stirred me in one way or another.

FICTION

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Mel Brooks’ son Max Brooks did a tremendous job with this book. I listened to the audiobook because I thought it would be fun to hear the first-hand stories out loud and loved it. I have not seen the movie yet but this was worth the read. A good fiction book helps your imagination develop and take you to a place to dream. It also is what my father in law refers to as “chewing gum for the mind.” Although this is an apocalyptic thriller, for me it accomplishes a lot for my imagination, is entertaining, and well-worth the read.

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.”

worldwarz

CLASSIC LITERATURE

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

I remember as a high school student loving The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s masterpiece that earned him a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize. Now as an adult, my fascination for Hemingway has only grown and I’m committed to reading through his classic works. I am enamored by World War I and his semi-autobiographical take on love and war was both beautiful and tragic. I’d encourage you to read through a classic from your youth as you will rediscover why it remains on a best-sellers list even 80 years later.

“Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.”

farewell to arms

HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel

My mother recommended this book as I am interested in World War II History. If you don’t usually enjoy history books, anyone who appreciates the value of fine art will appreciate this book. I am not necessarily an art history lover but I was intrigued by the reason our allied governments established this group to help save and restore some of the greatest artwork in history and protect it from Nazi Germany in their retreat during 1944 and 1945.

“There are fights that you may lose without losing your honor; what makes you lose your honor is not to fight.” -Jaques Jaujard

monuments men

MOTIVATION/FAITH

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

I like reading a book that helps me to become a better person, a better parent, or develop a stronger faith. My wife had ordered a pair of TOMS Shoes recently and they sent their founder, Blake Mycoskie’s book about the story of TOMS, his entrepreneurial ideas, and why giving matters in a for-profit business. As a businessperson and entrepreneur at heart, I loved the book and the company’s story of “one for one”, that for each sale of a pair of shoes, they give another pair to a child in need around the world. We get behind good stories and that is what Blake and TOMS is all about. We follow greatness when it is about giving and helping to make a better world. I read the book in that way as well as trying to excavate the nuggets of wisdom from his story. I highly recommend this for any person young and old with an entrepreneurial spirit and willing to make a difference in other people’s lives.

“The easier it is for someone to understand who you are and what you stand for, the easier it will be for that person to spread the word to others.”

startsomething

Next and Currently Reading: Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power as well as The Love Dare of Parents

For your next book, take Blake Mycoskie’s advice and start something that matters.

What are you reading and why?