Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A few of my favorite books…


I love to read. I’ve always loved to read. I remember reading Encyclopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys, Boy Scout merit badge pamphlets, encyclopedias, magazines, newspapers, yada yada. Usually I’m surrounded by people who love to read, even when I’m doing Army stuff.
I was a little shocked the other day when I was driving along with one of our radio operators and we were talking and I said, “Have you had a chance to read Rumsfeld’s book?”
To which he replied, “Oh I really never read any books. I don’t even read the newspaper.”
It actually took a moment for me to make a graceful recovery from that while the whole time thinking the guy was clearly far dumber than I had given him credit for.

So in honor of that, I wanted to list a few of my favorite books. I’ve tried several times to compile “Jon’s Reading List” but I never feel it is complete and it is always so many books as to be kind of useless.

book-of-mormon3The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ
Simply stated: read it; test it; it’s true and it will change your life.




Basic Economicsbasicecon
The problem with economic illiteracy, as with historical illiteracy, is HUGE. Without a basic grounding in these principles, the behaviors of people, markets and governments seem random. In this LARGE primer, Thomas Sowell does an amazing job of clarifying and explaining without tedium and without dumbing it all down. Reading this book requires an investment of time, yes, but it is an investment that will be repaid when you see through the headlines with new clarity on economic matters – and really, most matters are economic at their heart.

nothingNothing Like It In The World
I love reading history, so picking just one history book really made me think. I settled in on one of Stephen Ambrose’s probably lesser known books. It tells the story of the US transcontinental railroad from its earliest conception to the epic battle between the Union Pacific and Central Pacific. One of perhaps the most cogent points Ambrose makes when discussing the shady financial dealings whereby the railroad-men reaped huge profits from the construction. He sums it up by saying simply (and I’m paraphrasing), that yes, it happened, but all those warrants for land along the right-of-way would have been worthless had they not succeeded in building the railroad and that for all the money earned, the cost to the Federal government was remarkably low relative to the amazing benefits to the public good.
Bonus points if you read this as a follow on to Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage – which covers Lewis and Clark. It feels like a natural set.

adamsJohn Adams
David McCullough, despite his name being larger than his subject’s, provides a rich and well-told story of a life most excellently lived. The amazing blend of stalwart love of family and sense of duty and a sense of personal frustration. I felt sad for John Adams in that he was so attuned to any slight against him personally that he seems never to have appreciated his own value to the country he loved and helped create. And that leaves aside some of the painful and touching family moments. I believe there’s no way you can come away from this book without re-assessing your own life with fresh perspective.

inmatesThe Inmates Are Running The Asylum
Alan Cooper’s 2004 cry for sanity is a bit aged for a tech book, but it is still remarkable to read it and see how much we’ve learned – and the lessons that still seem to elude us. Consider that when this book came out, the iOS with its emphasis on smooth transitions between user tasks didn’t even exist.
Whether you are in the tech business or just a victim of it, this book is worth your time.

judeJude The Obscure
In Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy spins a tale that makes music by The Cure seem positively upbeat by comparison. If you can survive the trip through its pages, you are bound to feel a whole lot better about your own life. If nothing else, this story reminds the reader that every choice has a consequence, and you can’t pick the one without picking the other too.


pattonPatton On Leadership
A terrifying title, but an excellent book. It dissects some of the speeches and writings of a man who is arguably the finest combat general in the history of the United States and distills out the intent and application of these principles in a less deadly workplace.
And it has the added side-effect of looking very scary to co-workers when it is sitting on your shelf. Sun Tzu is passé! Patton is where it’s at. 

Well, there it is.
I could go on and on with Science, Politics, etc. but the point was a brief list.