I just finished The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Wow. It’s easy to see why it won the Pulitzer Prize.
I was born in Canada, and have lived in Arizona, the Midwest, Colorado, New Mexico, Northern California, the UK, the Northeast, and now the South. It is the South that has been the most perplexing. This book has helped me understand not only the South, but the rest of the country as well. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success. My most persistent memory of stand-up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking the line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analyzing, judging, worrying, and then deciding when and what to say next. Enjoyment while performing was rare—enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford. After the shows, however, I experienced long hours of elation or misery depending on how the show went, because doing comedy alone onstage is the ego’s last stand.
— Steve Martin, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Biography
Although I read Steve Martin’s excellent biography a few years ago I was reminded recently of these great thoughts in the opening paragraph. I would like to believe that I am charting a similar life course. It feels like I am in the refining years right now.
Here are the books that nourished my soul, satisfied my curiosity, and shaped my thinking in 2011.
Of the fourteen books in the stack,
- Twelve were non-fiction, two were fiction.
- Two were paperback
- Twelve were on the Kindle
- Two were audiobooks from Audible
- One was both Audible and Kindle
- One was both paperback and Kindle
2010 was a good year for reading. I read 14 great books (well actually, 13 great books and one that wasn’t so great). The year was filled with a wide variety of insights on coaching, executive development, and building strong organizations.
(A note: I don’t actually “read” non-fiction books. I devour them. I engage with a book as if it’s the backbone of a graduate-level independent-study course and I am preparing for an oral defense. I create a note in Evernote for each chapter. I highlight. I transcribe my highlights into Evernote. I make notes. I memorize. I capture the outline and the best ideas and I interweave them with my own ideas and reactions. I don’t just “read” books. I make them my own and integrate the models and the ideas into the services that I provide for clients. Books are good stuff.)
And now, for the 2010 book list . . . in the order of completion
While there were always plenty of books in the house growing up, I was never a voracious reader. Then, somewhere after college, I got the reading bug. I devoured books — fiction, non-fiction, classics, contemporary — I read them all. I had so much lost ground to make up for. There was one year in my late twenties in which I read fifty books! While I have yet to exceed that high water mark of almost a book a week I continued to read extensively for years.
That is, until Internet came along. My pace of reading dropped to a trickle in the last few years. Between 2004 and 2008 I read less than three books per year, and one year I read only one book. Ouch!
I am proud to report that in 2009 I got my reading mojo back. I read a dozen books this year. I don’t think it is a coincidence that 2009 was also the year that I got a Kindle (even though only half of the books I read were available in Kindle format). In the age of gadgets and electronics, the Kindle has made reading fun again. After almost a decade of wandering aimlessly in the Internet wasteland of too many RSS subscriptions I have rediscovered the depth and quality of well-written books.
Here are the books I read in 2009: