MY READING TABLE
My desk and bedside stand are always piled high. I believe voracious learning is a key part of being an innovator. Here are a few books I am currently reading or have recently read.
Crazy As a Compliment by Linda Rottenberg (2014)
"If you aren't called crazy, I think you are not thinking big enough," says Linda Rottenberg who has built an organization to catalyze and support high growth businesses in 24 countries worldwide and counting. With over 70 million youth unemployed globally (William Reese thinks its 6-7X higher), high impact entrepreneurship in emerging markets probably holds the single best opportunity for dramatically improving economic prosperity and security, as well as ours. Almost 20 years ago Linda Rottenberg and a partner embarked on an idea - called crazy at the time -that grew entrepreneurs globally. In this book she chronicles this journey and the one of being a mother along the way. Now in over 24 countries the entrepreneurs endeavor with businesses that have created over 500K high quality jobs. Linda shares great wisdom and it is a must read for any entrepreneur.
The Terrorist's Son A Story by Choice by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles (2014)
"Everyone has a choice. Even if you are trained to hate, you can choose tolerance." I saw the TED talk that Zak gave in March and found it riveting and deeply thought provoking. We were all raised with values or witnessed actions that tear down someone or something of great value. Zak, the son of the man who assassinated Rabbi Kahane and helped plot the first bombing of the World Trade Center, reminds us we have a choice. Violence and evil are not inherited. They are learned. Either we can perpetuate anger and damage, which is often times done to us, or we can bear witness to a better, more just world. Whether you have a chance to read it (I just finished it and it can be done in an evening - I'm even a slow reader!) or just watch the video, it's worth doing either.
Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton (2014)
So much has been written about this book. I believe she really allowed us to go inside the White House and be with her in the Situation Room. Or sit next to her at a meeting with a complicated world leader. While not a tell-all book (why does that seem to be what the press/public crave most?), it reminds us that as individuals or nations, life comes down to hard choices. As importantly, it helps us think about America’s place and role in the world. I highly recommend this read. Too long? Skip around to the chapters and topics that most capture you. It is really worth reading.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (2014)
Ben Horowitz is a co-founder of a top venture capital fund in Silicon Valley along with co-founder, Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame. And as a seasoned entrepreneur, Horowitz provides a visceral voyage of the really hard things about high growth start-ups. Excellent.
The Death of A King by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz (2014)
Tavis Smiley shows us how it really rolls. Despite the tremendous courage and risk to get Voting Rights and the Civil Rights Acts passed, public transit and lunch counters integrated, the open housing movement launched, and getting awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King kept pushing for more justice. And his friends, the press, the politicians ramped up the criticism. For innovators this book will remind and inspire us to plunge forward with determination, humility, and boldness - especially when the world is wanting us to stop. I have kept this book on my desk for the last year. When I have a bad day, I just remember and honor what Martin did and the life he gave for a freer world.
The Road to Character by David Brooks (2015)
David Brooks always gives me lots to contemplate. The historic and literary references in his New York Times columns place today’s greatest dilemmas in a context that deepens our understanding and connects it to our spirit. In this book, he makes us ponder whether the race for more money and more celebrity will end in more happiness. But overall suggests it is the road to character that gets us there. He shows us examples in the lives of a handful of well known and unknown people. If you have no time to read the book, here is a one hour podcast.
Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee (2011)
Author, Lehmah Gbowee, starts her autobiography by saying that the young men were in front of the cameras dancing crazily with machine guns and boosting about killing people; the women in the background "fleeing, weeping, kneeling before our children's graves." Her story tells in palpable detail the courage the women of Liberia had to forge a peaceful path forward for their country in the face of relentless violence. There are three different ways to absorb the story of this aspiring and powerful Nobel Peace Prize winner. If you only have 17 minutes - watch this short movie by Errol Morris. Or watch the full length movie by Abby Disney - Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The visual images and interview footage helps you be there. Or read her book. Remember what one little girl said, "If Sister Leymah can do it, I can do it."
What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey (2014)
I was in Vancouver BC and spotted this on a table in an old fashion bookstore. It's based on her monthly columns and she has clearly taken a stack of them, with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, to tell us, read, and reflect on them in her new book. In the first half, you can hear and feel the updates she has made - some seemingly becoming truer for her as years and wisdom have piled up. And then there are the truths she knows for sure, but as with all of us, is still figuring them out. It is one of those books I like to have around when I am too tired to process foreign policy or economic books, but crave a thoughtful moment of quiet conversation with a wise soul.
Additional Reads & Recommended Programs
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty (2014)
I know most people who buy this book don’t actually read it. OK, so it’s a policy wonk book of the first order, but it's an incredibly important one for domestic policies as well as international development. This book is fascinating and highlights how Germany, France and Britain dealt with their debt, which has led to very different economic outcomes, today. I don’t agree with all his solutions, but really worth reading.
Not up for plowing through this dense but highly readable book?
Check out this great summary from The Guardian.
Inside Inside James Lipton (2007)
James Lipton is an terrific interviewer who gives us insight into creating a program that provides a deep look into the lives and inspirations of today’s masters of film and theater. The book needed more editing, but an interesting read nonetheless.
A Rap on Race by James Baldwin & Margaret Mead (1974)
In June 2014, at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival, Anna Devere Smith directed an amazing performance called, Talking About Race: Science, Politics & Art 1950-1970-2014. The show’s inspiration came from the transcripts of an extraordinary set of conversations between James Baldwin and Margaret Mead back in 1971. The lecture left me so riveted that I had to pick up the source material myself – the lasting impressions were insightful and captivating as our struggle to value one another continues.
The Book of Forgiving Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu (2014)
Over time, life doesn’t spare any of us the deep wounds that come along with our personal journeys and that inevitably, break open. The authors argue, however, that forgiveness is the single path to healing us and the world itself. This book encourages you to write along with the reading – it’s soulful, gut wrenching at times, but hugely healing.
The subject of race can be very touchy. As finance executive Mellody Hobson says, it's a "conversational third rail." But, she says, that's exactly why we need to start talking about it. In this engaging, persuasive talk, Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race — and particularly about diversity in hiring — makes for better businesses and a better society. Exceptional.