This page will be dedicated to capturing a short synopsis of the books I have recently finished and my personal recommendation (or not) on said books. This is nothing more than one man’s opinions and attempts to capture the history of my book reading. In some odd way I hope it applies a bit more pressure to enjoy reading more than I have in the past (note several past failed New Year’s resolutions on this topic).
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Started on January 22 and completed on May 9th. This one took me a while, partly because I was enjoying it and took my time reading it and partly because it was a long darn book. Fascinating era (1910-1930s) with lots of references to the nuance of the era. A meandering story of the struggles of a family that continued to root back to hope. Two thumbs up for this classic.
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims. This book was shared with me by a friend and co-worker and it didn’t disappoint. Some of it was obvious and reassuring and other parts where helpful and educational. Great perspective on the over-parenting of our generation and even better insight to how to handle the growth of our children in this digital age. I was surprised by how useful the author’s perspective on college seeking was. Definitely a worthwhile weekend read. Two thumbs up.
Primal Endurance by Mark Sisson. My latest focus for exercise and health. Not too strong of a departure from the Whole Life Challenge from the past few years but also mixes an exercise philosophy built to help sustain exercise late into life while maintaining a focus on achieving race/performance goals. Eat primally, avoiding too many carbs (brown goop/processed foods) and added/refined sugars while focusing on fruits, vegetables and proteins. This plus slower paced exercise mixed with sprinting and lifting things to keep a body lean and in shape without overuse. So far it is just what the doctor ordered. Two thumbs up if you are willing to make the shifts.
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. Started on December 28 and finished on January 16th. This was a fantastically written memoir by a 31 year old former soldier in the US Army and law graduate from Yale. So many parallels to some of my extended family. I have a soft spot for helping communities in need and often quickly jump to the most obvious places on our planet (e.g. India, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, etc.). This book reminds me that we have these same difficult community issues right here in our own country. Rural America can be found in all 50 states with neglect, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and hopelessness that is never-ending. It makes me want to start a business, employ rural America and see if we can stem the tide of hopelessness one family in one community at a time. This book is an absolutely perfect read for this point in our country’s rich history. Two Thumbs Up!
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. Started on Nov 22nd and finished on December 28th. This book was very well written, not very long, had a great, albeit VERY DIFFICULT to read at times, story. You’ll definitely need a comedy after reading this one. The author connected. The story angered. The book was great. Two thumbs up.
Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett and TJ Murphy – Started on Nov 1 – finished on Nov 19th. Technical book about common running injuries and the way to avoid or recover. Lots of good tips, some ones that didn’t seem so good and overall good reminders that running is about more than running. Preventative care is a big part of being able to run consistently for the long haul. I recommend this book in hardcover as a manual for any high mileage runner. Two thumbs up.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – Started on October 6 – finished on November 22, 2016. Fantastic, dramatic and harrowing story of two sisters and their dad during WWII in the French countryside and Paris. This was an excellent book, one that I found myself slowing down as I got closer to the end for I didn’t want it to be over so soon. Read. This. Book. Two thumbs up!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – started on September 16 and finished on October 4th, 2016. Every kids older than age 10 should have to read this book as mandatory reading. Great focus on caring, kindness, compassion and bullying that can come out when people are faced with the unfamiliar. This book was excellent and difficult to put down. Read it, then make your kids and their friends read it. I’m proud that my kids introduced this one to me and that their school introduced it to them. Cool. Two thumbs firmly up.
The Unseen World by Liz Moore – Started July 29 and finished on September 9, 2016. Fantastic story that spends a good amount of time on the topic of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Two tough topics wrapped around an intriguing story of a man’s life that unfolds in the eyes of his adopted daughter. Excellent – worthy of your time. Two thumbs up.
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock – Started June 19 – Finished July 26. I may need to scale back my business book focus…Pretty good book. Some of the chapters are creative and show why Google is such a beloved company to work for. Others emphasize tired corporate processes that offer more overhead and less value than something more creative. Probably right for Google, but don’t seem to move the bar much for smaller companies. One thumb up.
The Great Game of Business: Unlocking the Power and Profitability of Open-Book Management by Jack Stack – started June 19, 2016 and finished July 19, 2016. Great business book on the power of managing to metrics, just a few of them and incentivizing the company resources to align their actions to these metrics. Not rocket science but does emphasize transparency, simplicity, financial statement literacy throughout the entire company and working towards a common goal. Very good book. Two thumbs up.
Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff – Started May 29 and finished June 5. This book saddened me more about Blackberry than I was already prior to reading it. Intelligence, arrogance and being out of touch with customers is a dangerous combination. One thumb up, well, because it was about Blackberry.
Scaling Up by Verne Harnish – Started April 22 and finished May 15th, 2016. Great sections on culture, cash flow and meetings. Don’t be fooled. This is a textbook and comes off like one. Lots of great chapters, especially the one on Cash Flow. Two Thumbs up for a business book.
The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – started May 8th and finished May 15th, 2016. Super-quick read with very vivid writing. I enjoyed the consistencies of this book and the inconsistencies of what you think of when you think of a poor family living without much except for strong moral values and work ethic. The minds of youth in this setting where written with such skill. I really enjoyed this book, maybe because of the simplicity of the story? Cindy’s streak remains intact. Two thumbs up.
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – started March 8th and finished on May 1st, 2016. A winding story taking place in Great Britain about an unlikely pairing, support, love and grit. There are some very funny parts to this book and the story keeps you interested throughout the character’s journey. There are many journeys in this book and a flow that makes reading it fun. I especially like the narrative changes from chapter to chapter. Worthy as most Cindy recommendations are. Two thumbs up!
Heft by Liz Moore – started February 17, 2016 (returning from St. John’s and finished on March 2, 2016. Excellent novel about a large shut-in man and his connection to a boy with little life luck and his mom. Fascinating read written from the dual point of view of both the obese man and the boy. Loved it – a book that leaves you thinking. Two thumbs up!
Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone – started February 12, 2016 (while in St. John’s) and finished February 17, 2016. I somehow downloaded this book for free and then proceeded NOT to read it for almost two years. Biz Stone was one of the founders of Twitter amongst other Silicon Valley tech startups. This book covers how he built up Twitter and what he learned along the way. Not the best written book you’ll read, but if you ever are thinking about starting your own thing this is a pretty good quick education. One thumb up.
The Home coming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield – started Jan 6, 2016 and finished on February 9, 2016. Great novel set in the mid 1900s in rural America. The story is about a good man’s struggle to find his place and evil man’s inability to deserve to have a place. Great read. Two thumbs up.
Small Giants by Bo Burlingham – started Dec 15, 2015 – finished January 2, 2016. Continuing the padding of my reading streak with a queue of non-fiction books I’ve been saving up for quite some time. Also recommended by a good friend and only a few chapters into the book and I relate so much to the mission of these companies who refuse to grow for growth sake. These companies do not exist solely to profit, cut costs, work people to the bone but rather to do great things for customers, employees and owners alike. Win. Win. Win. Good book on how companies strive to not be huge or public and still accomplish greatness. Worthy of the read.
Traction by Gino Wickman – Started Nov 19, 2015, finished Dec 14, 2015. Recommended by several good friends who have moved through starting their own businesses. Thought I’d take a quick peek to see what all of the fuss is about. I’ll report back. I’m back. This was great. I took notes. Future business owners take heed – this is a must read. Rhymes, like my book reviews are always free. Two thumbs up.
Quitter by Jon Acuff – Started Nov 10 – finished Nov 17th. Warning: I’m about to rip off a streak of non-fiction reading like I haven’t done in quite some time. This book popped up in an article I was reading. Most of the details in it were pretty obvious. Interesting path this guy took to his dream job. Super-quick read. One thumb up – you need to be thinking about your job options to read this one.
Ordinary Grace by William Ken Krueger – Started September 29 and finished on November 9th. My favorite book this year. Such a cool story with twists, turns, nostalgia, mystery, some sadness and at the same time, oddly uplifting. Read this one – two thumbs up.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – Started August 16th and finished on September 25th. Cindy recommended another winner! A super-fun book with a fascinating premise: a man without the ability to form natural human connections. He knows it and he sets out to overcome this by looking for his wife using a detailed questionnaire. The characters are hysterical as is most of the stuff Don says and does, though he doesn’t know it. I laughed a lot during the book. You will too…if you read it. Two thumbs up.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – Started July 20 and finished on August 14th. Recommended to me while hiking last year by my good friend Tom, this book didn’t disappoint. A fantastic story about a quirky character with fun insights about what working at Microsoft is like along the way. This author does a magical job with the story which at times is interwoven enough to make you concentrate. Read it. Two thumbs up.
Paper Towns by John Green – Started July 1 and finished July 18th. With the movie about to release, I always feel a pressure to quickly read the book. This is an irrational behavior but one that pushes me to read more so I guess it can’t be that bad. More to come on the book. So far the first chapter is a page-turner and has me wanting to read more soon.
The Book of the Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez – Started June 3rd and completed on June 25th. Great novel about life as Americans who immigrated to the US and the story that ensures when several of these families come together in a beloved new country. The most fascinating part of this book is the recognition that not all experiences and/or journey’s to reach ones dreams are the same, nor are they always achieved. I definitely find myself wanting to share in more of experiences of folks who took the frightening leap to move to a new country without a great deal of comforts. Courageous people. Two thumbs up. Thanks for the reco Cindy – you rarely let me down on a recommendation. Next Book: “Paper Towns” by John Green.
One Second After by William Forstchen – Started March 1 and completed on May 31. Prepare to get freaked out, put together a “bug-out” bag and wonder what life in the 1800s would be like. This book starts in the minutes after an electromagnetic pulse is emitted from nukes detonated over the US. Scary stuff. I’ve said a few prayers since reading it that something like this never happens on earth. Nonetheless, a compelling read if you can get past the not great writing. Two thumbs up from me. Thanks for the reco TK. Next book? Unknown right now.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Started January 7 and finished February 21. Here’s the premise: the mother of a quadriplegic son is hiring a caregiver. The story picks up there. Sounds boring, right? It isn’t. The view of this lifestyle alone is fascinating, the story that esues from here is what makes this a good read. Two thumbs up!
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie – Started October 19, 2014 and finished December 23, 2014. This book should be required annual, maybe monthly, reading for me. Simple strategies to employ to daily challenges to help focus on what REALLY matters. Carnegie’s advice is clearly timeless…so much so that this book can be read for free given the copyright restrictions have expired. Google it. Read it. Learn from it. I did. 2 thumbs up. Next book? Goodreads, I’m coming your way!
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper – Started October 4 and finished October 16, 2014. Fantastic book! It has been a long time since I laughed out loud while reading a book. I did so many times while reading this book. Definitely not a book for the kids (adult content throughout) but the way this author writes and the details the author spends time on during the book are classic Type A, over analytical in nature. I could relate extremely well to the digressions taken throughout this book – not I said digressions, not transgressions. Great, fun read that makes me say something I rarely say when talking about books – I can’t wait to see the movie. 5 stars, 2 thumbs up. Next book? No idea.
When You Were Older by Catherine Ryan Hyde – Started August 10, 2014 and finished September 18th. This is a great book. Maybe not as great as “When I Found You” by the same author, but still very very good. Touches on many difficult topics but covers the difficulty we felt this country go through after the 9/11 Terrorism Disaster. This author writes in such a smooth readable way and topic familiarity makes this a fast easy read. I enjoyed it. 4 stars, 2 thumbs up.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – Started August 27, 2014 and finished September 3, 2014. Honestly, I picked this book from a buddy’s bookshelf before a hike because it was the smallest paperback he had and I was bookless for 7 days in the woods while hiking. Went in skeptical and came out very much enjoying it. The oddity of his writing made it fun and the true nature of crazy as portrayed made it almost seem believable/normal. The best part, and I think the reason people read it over and over again, was for the dichotomy or juxtaposition of most of the stances of the main character in the book. Hard to see them all the first time reading. So it goes. Two thumbs up.
When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde – Started June 24, 2014 and finished on July 23, 2014. Another recommendation from Cindy. She’s batting 1.000 this year on book recommendations to me (unless I count that Hosseini book as one of hers, but I take some of the blame there) and this one didn’t hurt that average. A tear-jerker at times but a book with such simplicity focused on honesty, patience and giving. Can’t say enough about this book – really underscores the impact humans can have on other humans. Makes me want to work harder being the best human I can be to others. Read this book. I liked it so much I’m jumping right into another book by Mrs. Hyde. Two thumbs up!
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute – Started June 13, 2014 and Finished June 23, 2014. Another recommendation from Cindy – this book didn’t disappoint. I read the first half wondering if I had potentially picked up the wrong book. Painful, difficult topic, gut-wrenching and then it made a turn for the better. The 2nd half of the book flies by and you just want more and more of what the writer is giving. Fantastic characters with a fun story to read – one that makes you want to do something to make a difference in the world. Two Thumbs up.
Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo – Started May 1st and Finished June 12th, 2014. Recommended by John Green (author of “The Fault in our Stars”) this book did not disappoint. Very heavy subject about life growing up as a child in the slums of Mumbai, India. Difficult to read at times, but the power was in the immense difficult to relate to the reality of the situation of these characters. Having visited many cities in India, this book was vivid and exacting but this made it no less difficult to read and wonder how did I get so lucky to be born where I was born. Fascinating book worthy of a read. Two thumbs up!
Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn – Started February 16 – Finished February 27, 2014. Simple read with simple tips on simpler habits. Similar to “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” this book breaks down complexity to something simpler. Easy read with a few good tips to bring into day-to-day work and even non-work life. Not the best book ever but not a waste of time either for those that like a good reminder of KISS (keep it simple, stupid). I gave it a solid thumb up.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Started Nov 30 – Finished Feb 15, 2014. I’ve decided while he’s a good writer, Hosseini’s book subjects are just too difficult to read and enjoy. This one was no different. Similar story flow to past books by him. No thumbs up from me, spend your time reading something more fun.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – Started October 10, 2013 – Finished November 17, 2013. While I was a bit skeptical starting this as my wife deemed it sad and depressing and about a hugely difficult and personal topic, cancer, the further I got into the book the more I enjoyed it. Then I saw one of the Vlogs that John Green creates on YouTube with his brother (?) called VLogBrothers (check this out – very entertaining 4 minutes) and I found hearing how he speaks helped me understand more about the cadence in which he writes. Oddly this helped me find more humor in this book about such a serious topic than I did in the first half of the book. As I continued into the book I felt myself really liking the 2 main characters more with every page and then “getting them” and the causes they stood for throughout the book. The end of the book, while fairly predictable, was an ending I could read over and over again and not fully pick up on the subtleties of that which was being written about. Specifically, the desire to make it a positive to not leave a “scar” on the earth. Powerful. Cool. Not understood by most on the Earth I roam. Anyways – read this book. Two big thumbs high in the air. Now I will proceed to read “Cutting for Stone” – sorry Mr. Verghese..
Defending Jacob by William Landay – Started September 8 – Finished September 22. I believe the speed in which I read books correlates directly with the enjoyment I got from the book. As a result, I found this book very readable and enjoyable. A great psychological thriller/courtroom drama with some nice twists and turns along the way. This book flowed well, had decent (not great) character development and a strong plot that made you want to know what was going to happen next. I found the characters fairly difficult to relate to which was a slight drawback but also couldn’t help walking in the shoes of the main characters and really feeling bad for their situation (couldn’t imagine being in a situation like that and not going off the deep end…). Overall a good book worth reading. Two thumbs up.
Talk Less, Say More by Connie Dieken – Started May 15 – Finished June 1. Not the best book I have ever read but did have a few nuggets. I’ll share here and save you the read as the title tells you most of what you need to know. Spend less time talking over people and more time intently listening to what they are saying. 3 key areas of focus: 1) Connect – stay in the moment with people and frontload your message, 2) Convey – Manage the message you are conveying by keeping it simple, concise and remember people remember what they see more than what they hear, and 3) Convince – manage the actions you want people to take from your message by being resolute and decisive. There. If you have read this you get the gist. Go forth and prosper. One Thumb up.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know – Started March 16 – Finished May 15. This book scared me. A lot. The stuff Dr. Meeker writes about is not something any father wants to read about. But to know how to defend your daughter from the evils that lurk as she is growing up it is helpful to know what these evils are. This book is a bit over the top and definitely slightly slanted to the right but something every father of a daughters should be forced to read. So much good information. Small things like making her dates walk to the door to get her and making them drop her by the door. I’ll likely be a gun owner by then. 😉 Two thumbs up.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Started January 15 and finished on March 16, 2013. Great read. Suspenseful. Anger-filled. Not for the kids but a fun book. This book is written in dual perspectives – from the husband’s view and from the wife’s view. These perspectives alternate by chapter and it is fascinating to see each perspective change as the book develops. An easy read, perfect for summer-time light enjoyment. I give it 2 big thumbs up. I very much enjoyed it!
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger – Started November 1 and finished January 2, 2013. A highly entertaining thriller about adoption and what parents choose to tell you and not. This book was very readable with quick chapters and a clean storyline but with detail and intricacies that always amaze me when authors show this ability. Another great summer read. Two thumbs up.
WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Started on 9/2/2012 and completed on 10/31/2012. Two thumbs up which is saying something considering my love for hiking books does not typically run too deep. This book didn’t start off as my favorite. The topic was tough to stomach and Cheryl Strayed quite frankly was a train wreck. Actually a wrecked train. But as the book progressed my respect for her increased with her effort. I’m still never a fan of “yellow blazing” which she did quite a bit of while hiking the PCT. Some out of need (weather/snow-related) and some out of choice or option. But her struggle with hiking touched a nerve even for me and I LOVE to hike. The pattern of struggle, questioning why you do this, then enjoyment of it and struggle with it ending and life returns was very relatable and follows the pattern of every hike I’ve ever been on from 30+ days to 3 days. Read this book – you’ll enjoy it.
The Great Gatsby – By F. Scott Fitzgerald – Started on 5/6/2012 and completed on 6/5/2012. A classic “old boy”. Great writing and fun to read. I’m somewhat I’m embarrased about not having read this until my 40th year. Fun to go back to the ages of Bowler Hats and proper english. A quick read if you, like me, missed this one growing up. Enjoyed it. 2 Thumbs Up.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption – Started on 2/25/2012 and finished on 5/3/2012. Fantastic. Incredible! Horrific but incredible. There were several points where I felt like I’d put this book down as the stuff he went through was unimaginable. If you are reading this book, don’t put it down as eventually you get to the redemption part (per the title – no spoiler here).
Read it. This is on the list of books I’d like my kids to read one day so they appreciate and understand what heros the veterans of our past wars are. 2 Thumbs Up!
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath – Started on 1/6/2012 and finished on 2/24/2012. I enjoyed this book. Basically about 3 things: 1) Directing the Rider (riders are rational and followers) by finding “bright spots”, scripting the critical moves and pointing to the destination. 2) Motivating the Elephant (elephants are emotion-driven) by connecting to a feeling, shrinking the change and growing your people. 3) Shaping the Path by tweaking the environment, building habits and rallying the herd. This book has some practical life application but is really about ways to influence making larger change happen. I give it 2 thumbs up if this type of thing interests you. I need to pace it up with my reading if I plan to get to my goal of 16 books by year end.
Room by Emma Donoghue – started on 11/11/2011 and finished on 12/31/2011 (technically on 1/1/2012 but I’m counting it on the 2011 count). Great read. The first 60% (love the Kindle!) was incredible and then it slowed a bit after that but still finished great. Written from the POV of the 5-6 year old boy which I would think would be very difficult to do well. This author did it well. The nuance of a sheltered child’s view was fascinating. So many questions arise from this situation. Read this. Two big thumbs up. Next book???
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – started on 10/04/2011 and finished on 11/11/2011. This one will be a quick read. So far, about 20% in and it is hysterical. The writing style is one of those rare styles that reads off of the page as I-have-to-try-not-too-laugh-out-loud-too-often-on-the-train funny. I remember Jason S. telling me about this book in Hawaii in 2008 (?) and how funny it was…How has it taken me this long to get to it? I’m back. Great and fun read. Enjoyed it start to finish. 2 thumbs up.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – started on 07/29/2011 and finished on 09/30/2011. I couldn’t get through his first book, “The Corrections”, but on good advice from an avid reader I live with (not Will this time), I started this book. About 42% through it so far and I am enjoying it. Good characters, somewhat zany story with a good mix of comedy and drama so far. Ok, I’m back. Overall a good book but what I am finding after a few more years of active reading is I really don’t have much of a tolerance to follow a book past the 500 page mark. This story seemed to drag on past the 75% mark (did I mention how much I LOVE the Kindle?) and really could have used one, maybe 2 less plot distractions. Liked the population control subtext and definitely admire this author just think he could pull back and tighten it up a bit. Worthy of reading and unlike “The Corrections” I was able to get through this one. 1 Thumb Up.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – started on 06/16/2011 and finished on 7/29/2011. I sooo want to like this author. I hike so therefore I am supposed to think “A Walk in the Woods” is the funniest book ever. Instead I judge those who do as hikers that I wouldn’t likely want to hike with. Strong judgment I know. I apologize to those in which I have offended. This book had me…I turned a corner. The author absolutely had me won over and then the book didn’t end at Chapter 20. Had it, I would LOVE Bill Bryson. It didn’t. Instead it droned on for another 12 or 13 chapters literally about nearly nothing I will ever remember. Neanderthals, Apes, and the like. Make it stop. I didn’t. I read on. I won’t get those days of my reading life back. You won’t either. Be warned. 0 Thumbs Up if you intend to read past chapter 20. 2 thumbs up if you have the guts to stop at 20 and call it done.
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan – started on 06/15/2011 and finished on 06/15/2011. This guy just makes good food sense. Plus, you can’t say much bad about a book with one sentence and at times, one word chapters. Total words in on of the chapters: 1. The accusation of this book getting my reading numbers for my reading resolution (18 books in a year) up is warranted. But the content is great. He doesn’t say quit eating. He doesn’t say quit eating meat. He doesn’t say the food industry is evil, or at least directly. But he says stuff that just makes too much sense. Read it – you won’t be disappointed. Even if you are, you lost at most 1 day of your reading life. Two thumbs up.
Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life – by Steve Martin – started on 06/06/2011 and finished on 06/15/2011. Wow – the non-fiction streak continues but this time a little bit on the lighter side. Steve Martin is one interesting dude. This book talks about his life and doesn’t get too deep into the recent years but spends more time in the early years. He writes with sincerity and the book has an unassuming tone to it. Frankly, it is what made me enjoy it as much as I did as the content, topic and replay of much of his life highlighted some of the rough spots vs. the glamour. Worth the read – just don’t expect it to cover his recent stint with Bluegrass music. Two thumbs up.
All the Devils Are Here – by Bethany McLean – started on 4/15/2011 and finished on 06/06/2011. Ok, I’m officially hooked on business books where the story depicts massive errors in judgment resulting in the near collapse of very mature economies and personal hardships by those mired within the middle and lower ranks of the company while their executive leaders get off without so much as a slap on the hand. This will be the last for a while. Must. Break. Cycle. Wow. 7 weeks to complete. Not cool. While a great history book that all college and MBA students should be required to read. It just seemed to go on and on and on. Worth the read if you are not familiar with the sad story of greed, laziness and the lack of accountability that nearly wrecked the world’s strongest economy.
Decoded by Jay-Z – started on 3/31/2011 and finished on 04/13/2011. Oprah told me to read this and also told me it was one of her favorite things. So, I’m reading it. Not one of my favorite things but surprisingly entertaining and thoughtful. Back after I take the 29% completion to 100%…[100% done] An interesting perspective. At times I found it an insightful view into a world I don’t live in, but other times it felt too much like Jay-Z was bragging about things that, in my opinion, did not warrant pride. I kept wanting the book to come to some grand epiphany where he came to realize the world was a place he could leave an Oprah-like mark on (2nd Oprah reference I know…) but it never materialized. One thumb up.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – started on 3/17/2011 (happy birthday Mom) and finished on 3/30/2011. I am remembering what I thought when I finished the last book I read by this same author…he tends to support his critical points with examples from perception versus science. Only 22% into this book and I am already wanting more data and facts that are provided in the written word within this book. Doesn’t mean they aren’t there – just not as detailed as I would like. Overall an entertaining book with decent stories. Not sure I am fully excited by the theory and after a while several of the stories ran together. One thumb up.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – started on 3/4/2011 and finished on 3/15/2011. As a part of the overall trilogy this was my least favorite of the three books. This should take nothing away from the fact that I HIGHLY enjoyed the trilogy and found the author’s reading very exciting and entertaining. This book could have gone so many different directions and it really picked the path that was the most predictable and least exciting. After showing the inability to take such paths in the first 2 books I suppose this too was as shocking as some of the twists and turns that I became accustomed to in the first books. One thumb up for the book but still two thumbs up for the trilogy.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink – started on 2/4/2011 and finished on 02/21/2011. An interesting read. One of those books that is making its way around our work environment (I am typically skeptical with books that come to me this way) and overall worth the read. Main theme is the gap between proven science of motivation and how companies incent/motivate their employees. This is one of those books that I actually took notes on while reading. Good application of content to both work and life (even child-raising as it relates to the focus of our educational process). Two thumbs up.
Crash of the Titans – Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America by Greg Farrell – started on 1/21/2011 and finished on 02/12/2011. I get how this book wouldn’t be for everyone. Being employed by Bank of America I find it insanely fascinating and a bit sad. And now that I have finished it you could add hard to read at times. It does emphasize the importance of compensation that aligns very directly to corporate objectives which clearly many of our country’s banks and wall street firms may not be doing. The book also emphasized to me the level ego plays into corporate growth via acquisitions. The good news? I truly believe many more people in this land, especially those with high ethics-driven values, can be successful corporate leaders. If you are a corporate employee 2 thumbs up. If not, there’s likely less interest here.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – started on 1/3/2011 and finished on 1/21/2011. Another great book in this trilogy! Not as action-packed as #1 but it made up for it was a series of twists and turns throughout – right up to the very finish. 2 thumbs up – I am holding off jumping right into #3 to drag out the enjoyment a bit.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – started on 1/10/2011 and finished on 1/17/2011. I knew I’d love it. I did. Having watched the Last Lecture in it’s entirety on YouTube this guy is nothing short of inspirational. The book just expands on some of the key thoughts he has in the lecture. My kids are roughly the age he was when he (spoiler alert) passed from terminal pancreatic cancer and it makes me grateful for each breath I breathe. Makes me wish I wouldn’t forget how precious life is…ever. But I do. This book will be required regular reading for me as it does a great job bringing me back to my center. Read it and then tell lots of people to do the same. Two thumbs firmly in the air above my head.
The Big Short – Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis – started on 12/17/2010 and finished on 12/31/2010. I am
42% 100% of the way through this book (the Kindle rocks!) and find the story of the country’s near financial collapse and the events that helped trigger it incredibly fascinating. I can easily recommend this book to those interested in seeing how a few very smart people can outwit legions of highly paid professionals. Certainly a testimony to the fact that the highest paid aren’t always the smartest. Crazy to me that we can move from selling bad loans to people who may or may not have known better (that’s a different book) and move to incenting banks to sell more of these bad loans so they can be packaged into worse investment vehicles that are based on the premise that there’s no way all of the bad loans would default at once. Smartest guys in this room were the ones who knew otherwise. One solid thumb up (only because this book likely has a limit to those interested in the topic).
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – started on 11/29/2010 and finished on 12/17/2010. Incredible. Action-packed. Suspense-filled. Imaginative. This book was very difficult to put down. The only thing harder has been waiting to start the 2nd book “Catching Fire.” In a year of decent books, this one was by far my favorite (yep, Cindy you can officially say “I told you so”). Two thumbs up.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson – started on 9/30/2010 finished on 11/28/2010. 4 chapters in and it seems every bit as good as the first 2 so far…2 months later I can confirm that was every bit as good as the prior two, maybe even the best one. Prior to reading the Epilogue I may have had a different opinion. Like a good epilogue often does it put a nice bow on this book. Mr. Larsson has a penchant for using more words than less. Cindy also pointed out to me that since he passed away before these were officially published the editing may have been lighter than for normal situations. There was certainly plenty of detail at times. Too bad this guy is no longer on earth – he wrote 3 good books. Two thumbs up.
Born to Run – A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall – started on 8/15/2010 finished on 9/29/2010. I LOVED this book! Amazing story of ultra running and the culture of the Tarahumari Tribe (a tribe who runs down their food). I am not sure what Pinole is but I’m pretty sure if I ever go out for a run further than a marathon I’m going to need some. If you enjoy running this is a must read! TWO THUMBS UP!
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See – started on 8/7/2010 finished on 8/28/2010. Crazy interesting story and plot about a culture I never even knew existed. Footbinding, arranged marriages, sons vs. daughters, etc. Definitely 2 thumbs up and worth the read.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (#5) by J. K. Rowling – started on 8/11/2010 finished on x/xx/2010. 9 chapters into this one so far and it is a big step up from #4. Enjoying it and will report back once completed.
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson – started on 7/15/2010 finished on 8/4/2010. Very entertaining although not quite as good as the first one in my opinion. I like the writing and the action as well as the fun and kooky characters. Looking forward to reading #3. 2 thumbs up.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#4) by J. K. Rowling – started on 6/15/2010 finished on 8/10/2010. Liked it but not as much as 1, 2 or 3. Very long and at times a bit draggy. Still fun to read with Will when he slows down enough to allow me to catch on days when he reads ahead. 2 thumbs up – it’s not like you would read the first 3 and skip this one anyways…
The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria – started on 7/6/2010 finished on 7/18/2010. Only a few chapters in and already impressed with the thought-filled viewpoints of this author. This book isn’t bashing America by any means but rather pointing out the growing economies and the benefits and drawbacks of these high growth countries on the globe. Great section on India that I found highly accurate and relevant based on my travels a few days later. This book made me realize how different the world and our place in the world may be over the next few decades. 2 thumbs up if you are up for a serious read.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner from Azkaban by J.K. Rowling – started on 2/2/2010 finished on 6/16/2010. Will and I are making our way through the Harry Potter series together at a clip of a chapter a night (roughly). It only took 4 months to get through the 3rd book – clearly not reading every night. Great bonding time and a good chance to get through the series. This one was good but not as good as #1 and #2 in my opinion. We are on to #4 now which, at 700+ pages might take quite some time to get through. Not my favorite of the Potter series but still very good. Seemed to drag and make some twists and turns that weren’t exactly worth of the ink. Will is also ripping through this faster than I can keep up with work travel, a few later nights here and there, etc. 1 thumb up – it’s not like you would skip it if you are trying to get through all 7.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – started on 6/12/2010 finished on 7/5/2010. I really enjoyed this book despite the length. Quick to the action and kept full interest from the first few pages. This book was a highly engaging page turner and one that I found myself looking for during short periods of downtime on the weekend, not just during my commute. Read it – it won’t disappoint. Thanks Sullivans for the borrowed read! 2 Thumbs up.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – started on 6/1/2010 finished on 6/12/2010. Great book that everyone should read. Little changes can have big effects. A small number of people can have a large influence over pop culture, trends, etc. Great explanation of the importance of Connectors, people who bring others together, Mavens, people who pass along knowledge and salespeople, those who like to influence and their relevant place in our history and society. Mainly he writes using clear examples to build his viewpoint. Maybe he’s a connector. No, maybe a Maven? You get the drill. Read it. 2 thumbs up even if it was a bit dry in spots.
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich – started on 5/16/2010 finished on 5/31/2010. Good quick read. Our working poor is a sad thing to think about in context of this great country. This book and author does a nice job bringing the topic to life. Read this to learn more. A solid thumb up.
On The Road by Jack Kerouac – started 4/15/2010 – finished on 5/16/2010. Long-time on my list of books I felt I had to read. Many, many top recommendations on this book from my friends. On every top 10 list you have ever heard of for books you must read. I thought it was ok. I know, how could I come away thinking this after the lifetime of accolades? It is worth reading. Just not the caliber of “The Book Thief”. 1 thumb up. I know better than to listen to the hype – I think it mutes my reaction.
Cities on the Plain by Cormac McCarthy – started on 3/8/2010 – finished on 4/15/2010. Back to my old standby: Mr. McCarthy. Third book in the trilogy. I think I liked it the best. He’s such a great writer. Phenomenal imagery. He always has some parts that are tough to read. This one was no exception. But I am always wanting to drag out finishing them as well. I recommend this trilogy.
Atonement by Ian McEwan – started on 1/25/2010 – finished on 3/04/2010. Note the gap between books here. I have The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen to thank for that. 100 pages of my life I will never get back. If anyone wants to give me the Cliff’s notes version of the other 450 pages I’ll take it in 20 words or less. That guy was too verbose and talked about too little. Ever heard of the phrase “Word Budget” Mr. Franzen? Anyways, back to Atonement. Halfway in and it is sad getting sadder…could be trouble as I tear up reading it on the train…more to come. Finished this book. Good book. Not great. Liked the ending but didn’t care for the reset that occurred in Part II. One thumb up.
The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life by Amby Burfoot – started on 1/3/2010 – finished on 1/10/2010. Couple of early thoughts: a) could this guy have a better name for a runner? Maybe Ambling Barefoot if he was a barefoot runner? Maybe Mark S. Miles? b) I received this book as a gift from a good running buddy (you know who you are) that called the author and had the copy personally signed. Too cool. Without reading it I know I am giving it 2 Thumbs up already. This guy won the 1968 Boston Marathon but still writes about his disappointment not making the Olympic team. Running humbles you. Still, following the Age=Wisdom theory of man this guy is pretty wise. I liked it. Read it. Let me know if you want to borrow my signed copy.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon – started on 12/6/2009 – finished on 12/10/2009. Very funny book with an insightful view into the mind of an autistic child. I haven’t come across anyone who hasn’t already read this book so this review may be for my benefit only. If you are the only other person on the planet to not have read it then I highly suggest you do. 2 Thumbs up.
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris – started on 10/15/2009 – finished on 12/3/2009. Only 100 pages into this book and have had to stop multiple times on the train/plane, put it down, bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud and then regain my composure. I know one lady I used to work with at Wachovia completely thought I was losing it as I had to repeat the aforementioned routine multiple time in one passage. I can strongly endorse this book with only 100 pages read. The book held up after the 1st 100 pages but mixed in a heavy does of sadness…not the kind you feel when a beloved pet dies but that kind that you don’t want to know exists but can’t stop thinking about when you hear about it. This book should be required reading for all of those who have spent any time in the 3 walls of a cube or have enjoyed that bitter, acidic coffee served up in corporate breakrooms around the world. 2 Thumbs up.
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy – started on 8/16/2009 – finished on 10/8/2009. Wow. This guys just continues to write great books with great characters. The stories he writes are hard to understand where he comes up with the ideas for them. They are so dark and yet some simple in setting and development. Anyone with no context to the setting (like me) easily understands the trials and difficulties experienced while riding horseback across the New Mexico/Texas/Arizona/Mexico border. Cool stuff and yet tough to stomach at times. Read it – two solid thumbs high in the air here!
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre – started on 8/15/2009 – finished on 9/4/2009. Good cold war era mystery/thriller. The writing required focus at times but the story was excellent all throughout. A big thumb up and I look forward to reading more by this author.
All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy – started on 7/18/2009 – finished on 8/14/2009. Great book. I can’t find a Cormac McCarthy book I don’t like. This one is the 1st in the Border Trilogy and spends most of the time time with 2 cowboy/ranchers who cross into Mexico and find all kinds of horrible things along their way. Great story of determination that is written with trueness to locale and era. 2 big thumbs up!
When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin (a la Chasing Fireflies) – started on 6/25/2009 – finished on 7/09/2009. More to come here – so far a close second to Chasing Fireflies in order of enjoyment by this author. Good book overall that makes you think and connect with more than I typically do on a typical day. 1 thumb up.
Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger – started on 6/6/2009 – finished on 6/16/2009. Quick and fascinating read about the mega-machine that is our food industry. The table of contents is ordered by the list of Twinkie ingredients and in great detail walks through what each ingredient is, how it comes to exist, where we get it from and whether it is necessary, good for you, or bad for you. At times waaaaayyy too much detail but certainly interesting. Explosive ingredients. Rocks play a big part of a Twinkie. The relationship of color and taste. Don’t worry, this book won’t make you give up any significant foods as a result of reading it. Two thumbs up.
Magic Time by Doug Marlette – started on 5/15/2009 – finished on 6/5/2009. Cindy really liked this book. Not certain I liked it as much as she did but nonetheless an enjoyable read. Religious overtones here too – I seem to be stuck on books lately with this theme. I enjoyed the insight into a volatile time in our country’s history more than I did the spiritual overtones here. The book definitely picks up toward the end but takes a while to get there. One thumb up.
Levi’s Will by W. Dale Cramer – started on 4/20/2009 – finished on 5/13/2009 Very good book with a very good theme. Some good insight on the Amish lifestyle to boot. Cindy and I talked a great deal about this book – I think I learned a great deal about spirituality, integrity and judgment from this book. I recommend it highly. Two thumbs up.
Nature Girl by Carl Hiassen – started on 4/5/2009 – finished on 4/20/2009…Another Classic Hiassen book. Crazy characters. Everglades. Crazy characters. Twists. Crazy characters. Not likely as good as the others I have read but still a highly entertaining “junk read”. One thumb up.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – started on 3/5/2009 – finished on 4/3/2009…So far so good. Funny although I find myself having to concentrate harder than I like to ensure I get the humor. When I get past the verbosity of the writer and actually pick up on the humorous it is laugh out loud funny. Outlandish at times. That was my first half review. The second half was more of the same but I found myself getting annoyed at the humor and lead character’s outlandishness. Decent book but a far cry from my favorite. One thumb up.
Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin – started on 2/20/2009 – finished on 3/04/2009…Great, great read. In fact, a must-read for any father of a son. This book is very well written with a great storyline and fascinating characters. I found out halfway through that the writer is a bit of a faith-based writer which always makes me a bit cautious. Wrongly so – I put this book very high on the list of my favorite books. Read it. 2 thumbs up.
Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes – started on 1/17 – finished on 1/28/2009..Not rational. Insane. Bad-ass. Why? Could I do it? Unbelievable. Machine. All of these words and many more thoughts are provoked while reading this book. As one who loves to run I am fascinated by what makes someone run truly ridiculous distances. It is probably all relative but running 200 miles just to see if you could do it? Running a 100 mile race with many tens of thousands of feet of elevation change and +100 degree temperatures? 135 mile race across Death Valley? An amazing but likely not balanced individual. Fascinating read. 1 Thumb Up.
All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi – started on 12/28 – finished on 1/16/2008…Informative book with lots of good advice for regular people. Much of this book was directed at the big spender and debt holders of America but still has some rational advice and a sensible, simplistic approach to financial management. Very quick read worth investing a few days. 1 thumb up.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman – started on 12/9 – finished on TBD…I like this guy and I have enjoyed and typically agree with his other books and his column in the NY Times. This is no different except I find it terribly depressing to read. It might be the economy coupled with the doom and gloom of the topic but I am forcing my way through it hoping for the “and here’s how to fix this big problem” part. I sense it is there but not hugely realistic in our ability to execute against it. Nonetheless this is a great contrast to the fun reading I was doing prior to this book. More to come…
Skinny Dip – by Carl Hiassen – started on 11/18 – finished on 12/8…This guy is a fun writer. I liked this book a good deal but 2nd to “Stormy Weather” in my opinion. I am definitely looking forward to reading more books by this guy as they are heavily entertaining and the drama-filled twists are fun to follow. 2 thumbs up.
50/50 – The Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — And How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance – Dean Karnazes – started on 11/1 – finished on 11/17… Good book but not as informative as I was hoping. Still helps further confirm my belief that this guy is super-human and filled with some crazy. 2 thumbs up as it confirms my spot in the world as a “chump” compared to this guy.
The Road – by Cormac McCarthy – started on 11/10 – finished on 11/10… Recommended to me by my running buddy John, this book blew my mind. Not exactly a fun book, but definitely a great one, especially if you have a son. I highly recommend – it is a super-easy read, the content isn’t always, but the story and presentation of the story amazed me. 2 thumbs up for sure.
The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama – started on 10/5 – finished on 11/3… Must read for any half interested political type. This guy is smart no matter what side of the aisle you align too. Read it and feel better about the upcoming 4 years than you likely have about the past 8. 2 thumbs up.
Stormy Weather – Carl Hiassen – started on 10/2 – finished on 10/20… Recommended by the Sullivans and subsequently by many other friends, this book was a fun, quick and stimulating read. This author loads the book with many real references to South Florida which made it even more fun for me to read. Looking for a good junk book, this is the one. 2 Thumbs up.
Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq – Stephen Kinzer – started on 8/15 – finished on TBD… My running buddy Jason recommended this one and it was an interesting read regarding the rise of the US as a global power and the correlation to our military exploits in the last century. Worthy read as it chronicals the near-history well although the author was not my favorite writer. 1 Thumb up for history buffs.
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time – Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin – started on 7/11 – finished on 8/13… Again another situation where Cindy says “read it” so I am reading it. This book was excellent. One of those books that left me wondering why I am not doing more to make a difference in the world. This guy is truly making an epic difference. Two thumbs up – read it!
Eat. Pray. Love. One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia – by Elizabeth Gilbert – started on 5/25 – finished on 7/8… My pre-read analysis says: “Girl book. Stay away.” Couple of guys I know and respect read it and liked it. I read it, although I must say I was a bit embarrashed with doing so in public places (e.g. trains/planes) and I can’t say I am proud of this fact. The Italy part – nice but not changing my life. The India part – starting to really enjoy the book but still have a hard time with thinking I can meditate. Different from saying I should be doing more meditation with is no doubt the case. The Indonesia section was excellent. Took the book from a one and a half thumbs up to a two thumbs up. Great stuff about being present, choosing happiness, and simplification. I am still a bit embarrassed about being embarrassed by this book.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – started on 5/1 – finished on 5/24… Cindy says “read it” so I read it. So far it is a bit of a circus. 😉 Ok. Now I have read it. I liked it. Lots of themes here: Circus, assisted living, old age, love, friendship, and many brawls. I recommend this. Fast read – only 15 train trips and a plane ride. Good writing – never lost interest or felt the urge to skip ahead. Makes me want to document my life a bit more accurately in case I ever want to document my life in a novel or otherwise. Ok – I am over that thought but it did pass my mind. Read it. Two thumbs up.
The Places In Between – by Rory Stewart – started on 3/22 and finished on 4/27. Ok – this guy is nuts. He decides to hike across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul. In the winter. Just months after the Taliban were deposed in 2002. Ridiculous idea. Why not walk into a bon fire? Fascinating book. He writes without boasting and provides a neat perspective into rural Afghanistan. Rural isn’t even close to the right word here. Primitive. Pre-historic? Anyways – if you like some adventure and a nutty story about the author’s trip check this out. I give it a solid thumbs up – would have given it two but I can’t understand why one would do such a thing…
The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak – started on 2/16 finished on 3/19. Excellent read written from a vantage point like no other. The book gives you a view into WWII and Nazi Germany from the eyes of a protestant elementary school girl but is written from the view someone else has on this time and the characters. Fascinating, fairly sad, and yet a highly enjoyable book. DEFINITELY recommend with two thumbs up.
The Tortilla Curtain – by T.C. Boyle (read 2/10-2/13) – excellent book about a man and the impact immigration has on his life. This guy struggles to do the right thing while being challenged with many unexpected incidents. At a time when immigration reform is a hot issue in our country this book is relevant and thought-provoking. It also brought forth thoughts of Karma and the potential life-changing impacts it may have had on the characters in this book. Read this – 2 strong thumbs up.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – by David Sedaris (read 2/6-2/10) – very, very funny book although at times oddly sad. This is the guy from NPR – sometimes doing stories on “Morning Edition”, other times on “This American Life” (podcast this as it is a must listen) and he’s as funny in the book as he is on the air. The book is essentially 12-13 short stories with little connectivity other than being about his rocky road life to his current stature as a well-known radio personality and author. This is a quick and easy read and for that plus the humor I give it 2 thumbs high in the air.
John Muir: Magnificent Tramp – by Rod Miller (read 2/1 – 2/5) – nice book highlighting the life of John Muir and his influence over our protected and national park lands in the United States. It also chronicles his influence over several key political figures near the turn of the 20th century. Decent read but I get the impression there are better books on John Muir out there. 1 thumb up.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – by Khaled Hosseini (read 1/18 – 1/20) – I read this book in less than 3 days – simply couldn’t put it down. Kids calling me to play outside and I would have to tear myself from the book. Missed the 2008 NFL divisional championship games because of this book. Mr. Hosseini writes in such a manner that makes you want to read the next page even when the content was tough to take. At times it was very tough to take and even harder to understand how some of these things happen in the world we live in today. All this said, the book was fantastic. Read it – 2 thumbs up.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier – by Ismael Beah (read 1/8 – 1/14) – Ok this book is quite depressing but amazing at the same time. Mr. Beah writes in a style that is a long way from expert, but it takes away none from the unbelievable story. This book will make you cherish each and every freedom we enjoy and the childhoods we have the luxury of living as children unlike many from a variety of countries in Africa. Read it but line up something light afterwards – 1 thumb fully up and 1 partially up.
Cannery Row – by John Steinbeck (read 1/2 – 1/8)- funny book that reads as a series of connected tales. The characters are very well-developed and each has their own touch of humor. I am no pro with the classics nor their writers but this guy Steinbeck is fun to read as well as funny. I give this 2 opposable thumbs up. My buddy Tom set me up with this book and Tortilla Flat and I recommend both.