My spring and summer book and podcast consumption so far:
The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman – Good insight into how a small, outlier religion took over the Roman Empire in just four centuries.
The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle – Really good. The subtitle is “The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups”. The book is filled with great examples of organizations and teams that have crafted the kinds of culture that set them apart. The chapter on the San Antonio Spurs and Coach Popovich especially keeps coming to mind. I’m afraid the vast majority of organizations either make no effort to prioritize culture (which really just means prioritizing people), or they think they do but do it in a forced, inauthentic way, more as a means to an end rather than a meaningful end in itself.
The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot – A very deep dive into Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations by the foremost scholar on the subject.
Mastery by Robert Greene – I’m rereading this for a book club with the students I work with. It’s worthwhile just for the many vignettes of the lives and work of past masters.
11/22/63 by Stephen King – This is the first Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. It’s a wonderfully done time-travel story that completely pulled me in. It’s about a guy who goes back in time intending to prevent the JFK assassination, but it’s the side stories that make this so compelling.
Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle — A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Autuan, and The Farthest Shore – I do like an occasional fantasy novel, and these books were influential for an entire generation of writers. You can see where J.K. Rowling got some of her key ideas.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Light, fun, imaginative, and not as dark as I’d expected.
Next up: Circe by Madeline Miller
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – I learned a lot, but this is one where the actual book would have made more sense than the audiobook. So much of this book relies on seeing da Vinci’s creations. Isaacson goes into great detail on the nuances of his art, and it’s hard to fully appreciate it without seeing the art that’s included in the book
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen – Bruce reads this himself, and that takes this one up a notch. He made his name in rock and roll as a writer of songs rather than on his voice or his musicianship. And this book is poetic in many parts. It’s beautifully written. He also stood out as a compelling on-stage presence, a true star as a charismatic, high-energy frontman. That all comes across in this telling of his story.
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe – This is Wolfe’s classic account of the beginnings of the U.S. space program. It’s a rollicking, hugely entertaining story told with a winking flair that really captures the courageous and often reckless vibe of those first astronauts. The actor Dennis Quaid reads this, or, more accurately, performs this, and shows the right stuff, himself, in delivering a compelling and fun story.
Rocket Men by Robert Kurson – I was on a NASA kick. This one is all about Apollo 8, which was a bold effort to get American astronauts to the moon before the Russians. This one mission flipped the space race and set up Apollo 11. Apollo 11 gets all the glory, but Apollo 8 is a much more dramatic story.
Next up, Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – Episodes are few and far between because Carlin clearly puts so much research and planning into each one. His latest series on imperial Japan is off to a great start. So, so good.
Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History – Gladwell is killing it now that he’s started podcasting. This is a great format for his passionate and clever storytelling.
My reading routine is like this: First thing in the morning I sit down with a cup of tea and focus for around a half-hour on something heavier—non-fiction like Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, Ehrman’s book on Christianity, and the Hadot book on Marcus Aurelius, for example.
At lunch I read something a bit lighter and often related to work, like Coyle’s book on organizational culture.
At night and on weekends I opt for fiction.
The audiobooks and podcasts fill my drive time and walks and yard work.
Books are important to me. Reading has shaped my life like few other activities. It’s too easy now to “read” the drivel that scrolls across our screens and think we’re accomplishing something. I have to make books a priority in my life and build routines around them to make sure reading time doesn’t got lost to the frivolous and empty distractions of 21st century life.