John Bennett/ July 6, 2020/ Change, Development/ 1 comments

I am a bibliophile. But it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I actually fell in love with reading. I’m not quite sure what happened to prompt the shift. Perhaps it was the first time I remember a friend and me reading and talking about the same book. Or, perhaps it was my 11th grade English teacher inspiring me to learn about writing. What I do know is that from an early age (elementary school) I struggled to read — I wasn’t good at it — and I didn’t enjoy it. However, I still loved books. I would convince my parents to purchase books that were available through the mail-order program through Weekly Reader (Wow! I’m dating myself – if you don’t know what that is, look it up). So, I started collecting books. That passion for books continues and as I look around my office, I realize I’ve collected a few thousand books. Books, reading, and learning are my passion.

As I look around at the books I have, or think about those that I’ve read or want to read, I’m reflecting on what makes a good book for me. Here are some things that have surfaced:

  • Am I curious about the topic? I’m particularly interested in biographies, social issues, cooking, leadership, and psychology, and behavioral sciences. Sometimes the issues my clients or students are facing prompt me to explore a topic. So, as you can guess, I’m not much of a fiction reader. 
  • Is the book recommended by someone I respect? Many of my friends are also avid readers, so they like to discuss and recommend books. In conversations, one of my go-to questions is always “What are you reading, and why?”.
  • Is it widely read? I look at the New York TimeBestseller ListWall Street Journal, Gates Notes, and Oprah’s Book Club to give me an indication. 
  • What is cited and referenced by other authors? I always look for the key concepts and sources used by authors of books I read and find interesting. I’ll mark these and look for the references cited in books, then add them to my reading list.
  • Do I want to mark passages for later reference? I know I’m enjoying and valuing a book when I start marking pages, taking notes, and thinking about how I can apply what I’m reading. 

So, what I have recently read that I recommend?

I had the honor of reading pre-publication drafts of two books that are scheduled for release in coming months that I highly recommend. Be on the lookout for these two excellent books:

  • Pierce Howard’s Getting to God(s)—Polytheism and the Pursuit of the Ideal. Pierce is a friend and has been a colleague for many years. He is a Renaissance person with a variety of interests and an incredible thirst for knowledge and experiences. His latest book draws on his personal journey of sense-making and offers a powerful framework for establishing priorities and aligning personal and professional dreams and actions.  
  • Carson Tate’s Own It. Love It. Make It Work: How to Turn Any Job Into Your Dream Job. Carson was a graduate student of mine. She works with leaders to help them have the impact they want to have in their personal and professional lives. This is her second book. She draws on her experiences working with leaders to outline a framework to address identifying purpose and dreams, then providing practical tools to foster reflection and action planning.

More books I’ve recently read and recommend are:

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s 2019 audiobook Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know. He shifted my thinking about my mental models and how they impact my preferences, biases, and actions. Plus, I found some of the examples related to the CIA and police both fascinating and challenging. As an audiobook, it includes archival audio-files and quotations from actors. So, the stories come alive.
  • Bob Johansen’s 2020 book Full Spectrum Thinking: How to Escape Boxes in a Post-Categorical Future. There is so much to like about this book. A colleague recommended this book and now, I pass the recommendation on to others. I’ll use it to help shift my thinking from categories and “boxes” to full-spectrum thinking (“the ability to seek patterns and clarity across gradients of possibility—outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories—while resisting false certainty”. Not only did this book get marked-up, but I also found about a dozen more books referenced that I want to read. 
  • Karen Page’s 2017 book Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative ChefsA few years ago, I read another book by Page. This is a terrific resource related to cooking. It is also a terrific resource about developing from novice to master in the kitchen or whatever your profession or hobby might be. I plan on using it as a reference book as well as a guide for developing my comfort with cooking and helping me innovate and learn to be creative in the kitchen.
  • Kathy Reichs’s 2003 novel Bare Bones. (Yes, a novel!) Reichs is a local Charlotte author who tells about crime investigations through the eyes of a forensic anthropologist. The book appealed to me because of the intriguing story, crime investigation, and forensics. In addition, she is an academic who has blended her academic background and professional practice in novel writing. What a great example of an integrated whole. 
  • Michael Ruhlman’s 2000 book The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at The Culinary Institute of AmericaRuhlman tells the story of highly accomplished chefs taking the 10-day long test to earn Master Chef. I’m intrigued by the struggles to accomplish a standard that very few chefs achieve. In addition, he tells the stories of two specific chefs including [my hero] Thomas Keller’s challenges and successes with creating The French Laundry in CA.

On my current (near-term) reading list

What are you reading? What attracts you to those books? I hope you will share your thoughts and recommendations below.

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© 2020, John L. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman is a very engaging read if you might be interested in the views of a quirky 20th century physicist who played his part in The Manhattan Project in the 1940’s and became a thought leader who helped surface the concept of nanotechnology as well as commented on other fields of study and society in general. You won’t understand it all, but it comes in reasonably sized bites of his written works and speeches, always infused with his very dry humor and wonderful style. All these things (like computers!) we value these days started with someone back when: he was someone back when.

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