Newsmaker – Reflections On A Republic’s Threatened Defense

Well, it happened again...I have to find space on my reading list by taking off a book to make room for a book that needs to go on it. My own rule is that to keep the list on one piece of paper (front and back), if I want to add a title to the [...]

By | March 30th, 2016|featured reading|0 Comments

How Much Willpower Do You Have?

Roy Baumeister (professor of social psychology at Florida State) and John Tierney (long time science correspondent for the New York Times) call Willpower the greatest human strength in the book's very subtitle. A bold statement, and a challenge to hook both the professional who wants more willpower or the one who thinks he [...]

By | December 4th, 2015|featured reading|0 Comments

Long Lost Gem Refound

Everyone finds them on occasion -- those long lost or never known gems of books that offer profound common sense that we all know we should use, try to use, or actually do use every day.  While reading through Maria Popova's outstanding web site, I was so intrigued by her review of William [...]

By | October 7th, 2015|featured reading|0 Comments

Island of the Lost

Island of the Lost By Joan Druett Every now and again, a person ought to be reminded that there have gone before us men and women in far worse circumstances than those we face and who not only survived, but brought others with them through hardship. But we should also learn that hardships are genuinely…hard, and that while some survive to fight another day, many others fall apart and fail. Island of the Lost details such a story which seemingly only providence can provide. […]

By | July 23rd, 2015|featured reading|2 Comments

A Voyage Long and Strange / Nixonland

A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz Nixonland by Rick Pearlstein Who Writes The Narratives Of What We Believe? Have you ever wondered how it is that we come to accept certain versions of history and what we believe about ourselves and those we associate with? I’m not talking about historical or moral relativism. I’m talking about how we come to accept certain narratives about our own history that are not necessarily or even remotely true. History is more shaped to a narrative than just existing as fact. Winston Churchill is known, among his many fames, for stating that history is written by the victors. Yet, I contend that history is not necessarily what happened, but what certain historians posit happened based on the evidence they are able to uncover. The deeper the historian delves into the context of the time and places the discovered facts into the context, can we understand not just what happened in history, but hopefully why as well.  It is a delicate balance the historian must make in not reading too much into the context. But none of that matters when additions are made to the known facts or critical elements are left out of the narrative. Natalie Zemon Davis, who wrote one of the most important works on history and how we know what we know in her seminal work, The Return Of Martin Guerre, probably went too far in attributing to her heroine in the book feelings and thoughts that are not supported by the evidence and likely were influenced by Davis’s own modern sociology. […]

By | February 3rd, 2015|featured reading|0 Comments

The Making of Tomorrow / Men of Responsibility

The Making of Tomorrow by Raoul de Roussy de Sales Men of Responsibility by Dirk U. Stikker One of the truths of sociology and business is that we tend to think that what happens today will happen tomorrow and that what we see today somehow happened yesterday and the day before stretching back infinitely.  But we know that isn’t true for most things we see.  Such is international relations. The world we live in today was purposely and deliberately shaped by men of vision during World War II and in its aftermath. We know that through history lessons and vague talk about the Marshall Plan, but who really knows the details of how certain key decisions came about and the deliberations behind them? […]

By | December 3rd, 2014|featured reading|0 Comments

Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card “Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember — the enemy’s gate is down. If you step through your own door like you’re out for a stroll, you’re a big target and you deserve to get hit. With more than a flasher.” Ender Wiggins paused and looked over the group. Most were just watching him nervously. A few understanding.  A few sullen and resisting.” So begins a short story published in the August 1977 edition of Analog magazine.  It was the story of a six year old boy taken from his family and sent to the Battle School orbiting Jupiter to train with other children for a coming battle with an alien race on its way to attack Earth and destroy humanity. […]

By | November 1st, 2014|featured reading|0 Comments

The Age of Battles

The Age of Battles by Russell F. Weigley One of the most oft-heard comments about history is that those who fail to learn from it are bound to repeat it.  I would say that is true only if people actually learned anything from history. Therein lies the hardest part.  How do you learn from it and what do we individually take as relevant to our present context in which we make leadership decisions, both personal and corporate? […]

By | October 3rd, 2014|featured reading|0 Comments

How Do We Know What We Know?

The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis How do we know what we know about history?  At some point all of us ought to have wondered how we know what we know about what happened in the past. I first wondered about this concept one day back in 2005 while listening to a story on NPR in which the interviewee, a university professor, repeated, almost off the cuff, the oft heard statement that in the middle ages life expectancy was somewhere in the mid 30 year range. I had recently read a Psalm that said the lifespan of a man was 70 years, 80 if he is strong. It occurred to me that the biblical account sounded pretty close to our modern life expectancy. Which was correct? And what happened in the more than 2,500 year interim to make people accept the modern short-life-span narrative? That day I started looking through the historical literature to figure out how we know what we know about history and life expectancy. It turns out that when controlling for infant mortality, even in the midst of war, life expectancies were astonishingly consistent throughout the centuries. We know that from contemporary records of the day, records far more numerous than we allow ourselves to imagine today. In most of Europe, peoples’ births, weddings and deaths were recorded by their local parish. Yet today we can’t imagine that people kept detailed records because we have built up fictional narratives about what our predecessors must have been like rather than reading the actual accounts. […]

By | September 3rd, 2014|featured reading|1 Comment

Hope is Not a Plan

Hope is Not a Plan edited by Thomas Mowle Upon returning from Baghdad in December of 2004, Tom Ruby stayed in touch with several of his colleagues from the Coalition staff, both civilian and military.  They collaborated on a project to bring the inside story of the workings of the staff from inside the Green Zone.  […]

By | August 3rd, 2014|featured reading|2 Comments

The Pope and the CEO

The Pope and the CEO by Andreas Widmer Former Swiss Guard and now internationally known CEO, Andreas Widmer discusses lessons he learned directly from Pope John Paul II while serving in Pope’s personal guard. […]

By | July 3rd, 2014|featured reading|0 Comments

Stone’s Fall

Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears The real life murder of an Oxford professor in 1663 and its surrounding circumstances doesn’t sound like one of those plots that people immediately think of as the basis for a great novel. But Iain Pears’s Instance at the Fingerpost was a classic that hooked people from all walks of life. The same events, the same murder, as seen through the eyes of four different people, with details of the era making you wonder how people lived back then take the reader on a journey he will never forget. His readers then bought and read his other books, from his art theft detective stories based in Rome, to his Dream of Scipio which spans 2 millennia in the south of France. His writing genuinely brings forth the feel of whatever location he describes in his stories. […]

By | June 3rd, 2014|featured reading|0 Comments

The Difference

The Difference by Scott Page Lots of people have heard about the concept of the Wisdom of Crowds. When I read the book of that name by James Surowiecki in 2004, it kinda threw me for a loop. All throughout my professional career up to that point, I had worked under the assumption that expertise was all important. After all, why would anyone ask a non-expert anything about any subject to which the person doesn’t have a clue?  On the surface it seems dumb. Lots of smart commentators have said over time that the stupid unwashed masses are just that, stupid and unwashed and ought not to be listened to.  But after reading Surowiecki, I started thinking more about and taking into account the inputs of average people who were not experts in a particular field when it came time for planning in military and business operations.  But Surowiecki’s book was often attacked by those very “smart guy experts” that Surowiecki said ought to be avoided. They said his book was a Gladwell-like collection of anecdotes and not a research program with empirical results. […]

By | May 3rd, 2014|featured reading|0 Comments