Summer 2012 Reading List
Posted by andreasw on Jul 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm
One of the great pleasures of each summer is being able to enjoy a bit of time on vacation or at the beach to explore the latest and greatest books that have come out. Here are the books on my list this summer:
To Change the World by James Davidson Hunter -I think he’s asking all the right questions. After already having the book on my radar, I met one of his collaborators at the Acton Academy and now I can’t wait to read it. His book explores one of my favorite ideas, that culture drives what happens in our world today, and that culture can be changed and influenced. I would think this book would be a good matchup with Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.” Hunter’s website provides a helpful outline of each chapter here.
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – I’m an avid reader of Guillebeau’s blog and can’t resist reading his ideas in this book. He’s one of the few people I know who’s traveled more than I have – he’s up to 185 countries… that’s in a category all by itself! He’s a huge source of inspiration and knowledge for entrepreneurs. His is not the world of VC startups with stock options and exit strategies. His is the world of freedom and responsibility. The world of people who start their own microbusiness without investment, without employees, and without an exact plan. He’s a proponent of understanding your market and leveraging new media for smart outreach. It’s about people who want to live a balanced life, who want to optimize freedom and responsibility. If you aren’t following his blog already, I highly encourage you to check it out, The Art of Non-Conformity.
In Defense of The Free Market by Fr. Robert Sirico – I recommend Father Sirico’s work simply because he’s brilliant. I’ve known Father for about 8 years now and have become quite involved at his Acton Institute, as an affiliated Research Fellow of Entrepreneurship. Each year I try to attend Acton University and teach a couple of courses. It’s the best meeting I attend– if you haven’t gone, this is a ‘can’t miss event’ for anyone interested in the intellectual foundations of a free society. Father Sirico is also the author of The Call of the Entrepreneur, which has had a profound impact on me. Much of my thinking on entrepreneurship and the economy are based on his books and discussions with him. It’s simply amazing that people like him exist. He’s a true scholar priest.
Good Returns by George Schwartz – I’m very interested in the topic, given my efforts with The Carpenter’s Fund, and Schwartz is the master of this domain in the USA. From what I understand, his funds perform consistently above the rest (18% every year in the past tough three years), so I can’t resist wanting to learn from the master himself. I’m also impressed that Michael Novak is on the board of the Ave Maria Fund, so they’re certainly attracting the best thinkers on the intellectual side. I ‘m a big believer in values-based investment because values and virtue in business lead to success in the long term. Schwartz and Sir John Templeton, whom I admire greatly, have similar ideas about investing. Check out this article that was recently published in Barron’s, profiling Schwartz and his business partner.
America’s Spiritual Capital by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch – Malloch’s last book on the same topic, Spiritual Enterprise, was a must read. He’s had a great string of books on topics like Thrift and Generosity, which I also find irresistibly interesting. Check them out here. In Mike Fairbanks’ seven forms of capital (which is my preferred framework for looking at the economy and business), the highest form of capital is Culture. What Ted Malloch’s Spiritual Capital discusses may be the highest form of cultural capital. We would do well as a nation and as a business to heed Ted’s advice on how to identify and rebuild this critical ingredient in prosperity.
White Man Walking by Ward Brehm – Brehm’s story resonates with me. Once I started reading, I was unable to put it down: In the book, a local writes about the author, “…In Africa, white men don’t walk. The missionaries, the doctors, the donors, when they come, they come in vehicles. They always drive. Ward is different… [He] walked with us across some of the most difficult terrain… No white man had ever done this before… A white man is walking… to this day, people are… talking about… the white man who walked…. He is no longer viewed as a donor. He walked, and in the process, he became one of us.” That little anecdote pretty much seals it for me and is filled with meaning on so many levels. It verbalizes what’s wrong with the development industry: we try to “fix the poor over there” rather than actually working with them and integrating them into our networks of productivity and exchange. They don’t need pity, they need solidarity.
Compass by James B. Stenson – He is the #1 parenting guide I know, and I want to read his book at least once a year. If you have kids, you have to read this book (and hopefully many more by this brilliant author). He’s been a headmaster for 30 years at some of the most successful private schools. During that time he regularly interviewed the parents of those he considered the most balanced kids he had in school. After retiring, he decided to analyze what he found. This book is full of the patterns, best practices and insights he learned from these successful parents. Check out his website here. Also, here’s a great radio interview he gave about a year ago.
The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely -All you have to do is watch his famous TED talk and you’ll be hooked:
Dan sets out to find the answer to a few simple but profound questions:
-Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
-How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
-Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
-Does religion improve our honesty?
A simple research finding should pique our interest: researchers found that compared to participants without power, powerful participants were stricter in judging others’ moral transgressions but more lenient in judging their own: “Power increases hypocrisy, meaning that the powerful show a greater discrepancy between what they practice and what they preach.” That is just irresistible to read.
Kindness by Lawrence G. Lovasik – I’m trying to apply what he has to say about kindness and spread the message. I bet you’ve never even heard his name – neither had I. He’s an American priest of the Society of the Divine Word who has written quite extensively. You can learn more about him here. My wife brought this book home one day and I browsed through it because of the interesting title. I’ve long been interested in the question of whether one needs to be a, (how shall I put it…) difficult person to succeed in business. Think of the likes of Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Donald Trump, etc – perhaps it is fair to say that they are not known for being pleasant. But I’ve worked with many successful entrepreneurs and CEOs who are kind and pleasant to around. So which is the anomaly? And if it’s possible to be kind and successful (which I believe to be the case) then what are the best practices on that path? I bet that Father Lovasik has some good pointers in this book.
At the Heart of the Gospel by Christopher West – West is a great interpreter of JPII’s Theology of the Body and this latest book is his masterpiece. It is no secret that I love JPII, but in all earnestness I believe that his Theology of the Body is the key to living out Christianity today. I consider what JPII did very much like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and so many other saints did for their time: to inculturate Christianity into their particular time in history. To help contemporary Christians make sense of Jesus’ teachings in light of major cultural and historical trends. What Christopher West does is help us “digest” what JPII wrote. He breaks it down into pieces and illustrates it for the reader. I’ve already started to read it and love it – one of my favorite quotes so far? “The language of Christianity is the Body.”
The Moral Molecule by Paul Zak. I met and came to very much respect Paul Zak at a Liberty Fund Colloquium on investing a couple of years ago. That’s where I was first introduced to the field of neuroscience as applied to economics and other behavior, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Paul in particular explains the most complex issues in ways and in a language that everyone (even me) can understand. What he does particularly well is convey concepts through stories. He did that well at his London TED talk last year, check it out here, and he does it well in this new book. The brilliant story begins when he was a gas station attendant as a teen, and its unexpected ending had me hooked to read the rest of the book. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed – one never is by Paul.