It feels like the full force of summer has finally arrived and with it my thoughts are turning to all the things that go with summer: golf, beaches, farmer markets and summer festivals. And, maybe, hopefully, time to read a new thought-provoking book.
I haven’t chosen a book for this summer yet and am open to suggestions. In the meantime, here’s some of the books that really make me think.
Scale illuminates the simplicity behind the apparent complexities of living organisms, cities and companies. Taking a 10,000 ft (or higher) view, West demonstrates how living organisms live and grow according key “governing ratios” (my words) that are essentially the same for a whale, a mouse, a tree. Just as interesting are the “governing ratios” of cities, how they scale and their virtual immortality. West’s analysis of the life cycle of companies feels somewhat limited but the concepts are worth further investigation. There’s some advanced math here, but the fundamental relationships and ideas are understandable and compelling.
The Ajax Dilemma
By Paul Woodruff
Proof, once again, of Homer’s Iliad’s ability to inspire and instruct. Using the story of the conflict between Trojan War allies Ajax and Odysseus over who should be awarded Achilles’ armor, Woodruff raises questions about rewarding and recognizing performance while sustaining morale. Should the reward go to the leader who executes his job day-in and day-out (Ajax)? Or the strategist with a brilliant idea (Odysseus)? What about team vs. individual performance? Are these either-or questions? Is there a difference between what is fair and what is just? What role does wisdom, compassion and respect play in developing reward and recognition programs?
Author: Niccolo Machiavelli
Timeliness advice across the centuries. About politics, Machiavelli was a realist – not an idealist. This got him a bad rap by those who held politics to be god’s work, but Machiavelli understood human nature and how things got done. This is what he brings to The Prince: clear-eyed insights into the strategies and tactics of gaining influence, power and control. Written for the new ruler of the city-state of Florence, a center of commerce during the Renaissance, much of Machiavelli’s advice in The Prince remains applicable to the business world today.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
By Robert M. Pirsig
Of all the books I’ve read, “Motorcycle Zen” continues to influence my perspectives and makes me think. Using a cross-country motorcycle trip as a metaphor for a journey of reflection and thought, Pirsig asks what is the true meaning of quality. How does quality relate to objective and subjective truths? Can they be integrated to create a wholistic philosophy? Read the book yourself and see how it influences your perceptions.
Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen
Yes, this is a story about social class, manners and romance. But it’s also a story about self-reflection and growth. Over the course of the novel, as the main characters Darcy and Elizabeth each examine why they are attracted to and repelled by the other, both come to recognize their own faults and work to correct them. Thereby, they open their hearts to create a stronger understanding and connection with the other. Who knew, relationship therapy from the 1810s?
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