I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.
– Twyla Tharp (in the tradition of motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones)
One of my goals for 2012 was to read more intentionally and more regularly. It was such a satisfying experience, discovering some wonderful books, that I think I’ll raise the bar in 2013, with a goal for two books a month. Of the ones I finished in the past year, here are a few standouts:
Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
I first picked up this book when I heard that Warren Buffet gives a copy to nearly everyone who comes into his office. Cialdini is known as a pioneer in the field of persuasion, and in this book he identifies six principles of persuasion, how to use them, and how to defend against them. If there is any place in your life where you would like other to say “yes,” you’ll find this book valuable.
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
The first reason to read Cleopatra is Stacy Schiff’s writing. Her sly asides had me laughing out loud throughout this rich and gorgeous book, and fantastic turns of phrase had me just about pestering my seatmates on planes – they were too good not to share. The second reason to pick up and savor this biography is that if you’re like me, you’ll learn more about the Roman Empire from the vantage point of the Egyptian queen than from most history books. Finally, Cleopatra as described by Schiff was a woman to learn from: intelligent, an excellent steward of inherited wealth and a skillful creator of new revenue, witty, and cultured – in fact, nothing like she has been portrayed by playwrights and poets in the centuries since her death.
Flourish by Martin Seligman
Seligman is considered a founder and leader of the study of positive psychology, that relatively new focus on what it means to be psychologically healthy. His first new book in a decade, this is the book Seligman says he has always wanted to write. In it he turns to the study of optimism, motivation, and character, looking for skills, strategies, and techniques that are proven to provide well-being.
In the overstuffed field of “self-help” books and articles, there is no shortage of dubious advice, wishful thinking, and oft-repeated error. Flourish is a book that should put those old bromides to pasture. It offers scientifically proven means to increase genuine well-being and support a meaningful and satisfying life.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild is Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the desert floor in Southern California to sheets of mountain ice in the Sierra Nevada and on to Oregon’s northern border at the Columbia River. The story-telling is so good — at no place in the wonderfully written book does a single syllable seem misplaced — that you can read it just for the deliciously detailed anecdotes of an improbable adventure by one audacious woman. But beneath the stories of how, when her mother died and her family disintegrated, she picked up an overloaded pack and staggered out into the wilderness, Strayed’s particular history becomes a universal meditation on how we can learn to bear the unbearable.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
This is one of the books that bears re-reading every decade. Though the name “stoic” has become focused on meanings suggesting someone who bears suffering without complaint, the stoic philosophers actually have more to say about how to avoid suffering.
Did you discover something wonderful in your reading the past year? Please share it by leaving a comment here.