I actually started Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl last year and just got around to finishing it. This book can be found on many must-read lists, and I wanted to be sure to read this one after reading The Choice, which was probably the best book I read last year (and an especially humbling read during the pandemic).
Frankl talks about his time in Nazi concentration camps and his exploration into what truly drives humans, which isn't pleasure, but meaning. Most people will be inspired by reading this book, it certainly stands the test of time.
Deep Work by Cal Newport was a quick read and a nice reminder about what type of work will continue to be more and more valuable in the 21st century. The book lays out strategies for achieving deep work, and I was surprised to realize as I was reading how often I don't notice my preference for swapping out deep, thoughtful work with shallow activities.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It allows you to master complicated information, produce better work and ultimately feel more fulfilled.
I see more and more remote-first companies making a case that deep work and ultimate productivity can be achieved best outside of an office (or especially not in an open office plan). This is a good company read or for anyone who's looking to gain better results and more progress in less time in their life and career.
I picked up Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now by Evan Osnos as I admittedly didn't know much about President Biden and wanted to learn more. I appreciated Osnos' writing style and that he did a pretty good job revealing many sides of Biden. What I liked most about this book was that it helped me understand how Biden got to where he is, I liked having the background. I also now have a better understanding of what Biden will do as President. It was worth the quick read.
I've spent the last 3-4 months reading about 3 books on and off and not finishing any of them. When Barack Obama's book A Promised Land released in November, I grabbed it and finally finished a book to wrap up 2020.
I loved this book and am so glad I took the time to read it (it was long, for me at least). This is the first volume of I think a two-part memoir by the former President. It was a beautifully written account of Obama's journey from his beginning interests in politics through his first term as President.
Obama is reflective and introspective, offering an intimate, 'day-in-the-life' view of the Presidency. His story is accessible, inspiring, funny and informative and is a great historical recount of his time in office and I look forward to reading part two.
I heard a lot of positive chatter about I'm Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown and I wasn't disappointed. Brown wrote a beautiful memoir that offers a powerful perspective on race and sheds light on racial injustice and inequality. I went through all the emotions while reading this one, I couldn't put it down, I'm so thankful Brown wrote this.
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, was fully revised and updated in 2017. The Prologue alone was worth the price of this book, it was full of insights, history and facts that were pretty eye opening. The book had a lot of great information, it took me some time to get through but I'm glad I read it.
I bought Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi almost 3 years ago and read about half of it before I got distracted and began another book. Kendi's name popped up again (his latest book is How To Be An Antiracist) after the outrage that's ensuing over several recent unjustified lynchings of black people and I got a renewed interest to dive back into this book.
I'm glad I finished this. It's very well researched and a well written look at the construction of racism in America. There are many more practices and policies that have and continue to hinder actual racial progress than I ever knew. This was eye opening and a very thorough look into the history of racism and how things have progressed to the present. It's long and due to all the amazing research and effort Kendi put into this it was a little tough to get through, but in the end, worth it.
After I read Leadership in Turbulent Times I was interested in reading about some of U.S. history after Franklin Roosevelt, so picked up Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World by William Lee Miller.
This was well written and an interesting look at both the positive and the faults of two presidents, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. I appreciated how Miller dissected many events and aspects of these two men, provided various viewpoints and didn't just glorify each of them but dove into the negative and gave some counterarguments.
The two were born six years apart and Eisenhower followed Truman in office. They were the first presidents faced with the power of nuclear weapons. Miller dove into topics such as bombs, wars, racism and assessed the success of each of these two-term presidencies.
Before reading this I didn't know much about these two presidents, so I learned a lot and liked how Miller not only made the text easy to read, but also broke down the topics so that you got a full 360 view. Some parts were hard for me to get through since I don't read a lot of history, but I'm glad I made it through this one.
I just finished Mike McHargue's latest book You're A Miracle (And A Pain In The Ass). I learned about Mike McHargue, or Science Mike, from Pete Holme's podcast. The only reason I grabbed this quick read was because I was interested in learning more about Science Mike. For some reason, his troubled past intrigues me. I also like his style and how he breaks down complex subjects into digestible chunks that actually make sense.
This book was part memoir, part science in layman's terms, part self-help book. The book had some good nuggets in it and McHargue used his own story to help get to the core of what he was trying to say. I'm probably not the core audience for this book, but because I know who McHargue is I was interested and read the whole thing and mostly enjoyed it. Throughout the book I sometimes felt a little disconnected with the main point McHargue was trying to make (or was it that he wasn't trying to make a specific point at all?)
There were some interesting scientific studies and data in here, that help to comprehend why we do the things we do and how we can move toward self acceptance and positive change.
Ryan Holiday suggested Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin as a timely read during this pandemic. It was interesting to read about the leadership of past presidents during unprecedented times. Goodwin was also able to put together a historical book that was actually interesting to read (dare I say gripping) and relatively easy to get through.
Goodwin examined the early years, rise to presidency and the exercise of leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
I really enjoyed learning more about how these presidents handled some dire situations in America's past. For Lincoln it was the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation; Teddy Roosevelt and the Coal Strike of 1902; Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression; and Johnson and the Civil Rights Movement, specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights act of 1965.
Goodwin combines biographical details with historical context and adds in keen insights about leadership throughout the book. I thought it was interesting how she included President Johnson in the book. She explicitly pointed out how Johnson's time in office and as a leader was overshadowed by the catastrophe that was the Vietnam War and the mistakes that were made by the President and administration. However, she feels as though his work on pushing through the Civil and Voting Rights acts was worth detailing, as without Johnson's political, persuasion and leadership skills, Civil Rights legislation might have remained stuck in Congress for many more years.
It was also interesting reading about the years leading up to Johnson's death in the epilogue, part of which she spent by Johnson's side.
This really was an amazing book about history, what true leadership can look like, overcoming adversity, and how America has survived some of its hardest times.
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