It’s cold outside and your brain is getting ready to throw itself into park and check out for the year. Your body is quickly following suit with the hibernation status in “on” mode. If you are like me, as work winds down and people are taking year-end breaks, then you may be gathering a list of books to read over the holidays.
It’s so nice to be indoors when the wind is howling and the snow is falling. At such times, there is nothing better than sitting by a crackling fire with a good book. As a technology professional, I have developed a system of reading quite a few books each year.
I divide up each year into a running series of “four-book clips.” I pick one two science books from any genre, one self-help book, and one fun book. Granted, some of the self-help books can bleed over into the science section. And while my fun book typically involves a detective, or is set in outer space (or otherwise grounded in sci-fi), I always look for things I might enjoy, not necessarily things I’m certain to like. Books don’t expand the mind if you are only reading things you like. Read things to grow your mind, not necessarily to pleasure it.
So now you have my system. Each year when the Christmas season approaches, I pick out a couple of “clips” of holiday reading to keep me occupied during the big break. Whenever I’m not writing articles like this one, I am reading, growing my mind, and seeing how I can apply what I read to what I will write next.
Without further ado, here are my picks for a couple of Nathan-style “clips” to help you finish out 2021 and ring in 2022.
Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit, is first up. Can you imagine a book totally on the history of walking? I have no idea how you could fill hundreds of pages on the subject, but Solnit does it with ease. There are many historical threads here, including that of anatomical evolution, where Solnit goes into the hips and upright motion, feet and ankle design.
She jumps to city design, where she details out how roads and parks are laid out for walking — not running, mind you. How treadmills are walking machines and labyrinths were meant for fun. She lays out the history of walking clubs, where the history of walking for protest and possible death was morphed into a cavalcade of social and political viewpoint marches.
She details out some new views on when homo-sapiens started to walk erect, millions of years ago and some argue that it was to display their sexual organs in front — fascinating stuff. I really enjoyed this book and Solnit creates a fascinating portrait of the range of possibilities presented by walking.
Grab this book and you will, for sure, be itching to take a walk by the end of it.
The Ages of the Investor: A Critical Look at Life-cycle Investing, by William J. Bernstein, is a “not for the faint of heart” investing book. Get this book, if you, like me, are an advanced trader and really want to detail out a common-sense approach to trading. The Ages of the Investor is the first installment in the four-volume “Investing for Adults” series. I have read the entire series.
Marketing for the book notes that, “Investing adults are familiar with Gene Fama, Zvi Bodie, Jack Bogle, and Burton Malkiel, and understand that a mean variance optimizer does not blend vegetables.” If you can parse that sentence, then pick up this book.
It’s all one market now and this book (and series) covers it like that.
Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen, by Steve Sims, is next. Probably one of the best reads I have had in 2021, this book is very inspirational. Want to make things happen yourself, or learn how successful people make things happen? Pick up a copy of this book.
The man who created The Bluefish, the internationally famous company that packages once-in-a-lifetime events for the rich and famous, reveals to the rest of us his trade secrets for making things happen. You might be surprise how much this wisdom can apply to you.
Steve Sims’ day job is to make the impossible possible. With his help and expertise, his clients’ fantasies and wildest dreams come true, whether it’s getting hitched in the Vatican, or having a personal meeting with Elon Musk.
He rarely reveals how he accomplishes the feats that make his clients so happy. But now for the first time, Steve shares practical tips, techniques, and strategies to help readers break down any obstacle and turn their dreams into reality. The core of his philosophy focuses on simple, yet effective ways to sharpen the mind and gain practical skills that can help you learn a new perspective and accomplish anything.
With colorful and enlightening stories of people driven to achieve the impossible, this book will inspire you to transform your life and aim for the unthinkable. You will love this read.
The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity ― and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race, by Daniel Z. Zimmerman and Michael E. Long, probably wins for book title of the year. Everything encapsulated in the title relates back to a single chemical: dopamine.
I found this book eye-opening and, for technology professionals, you will discover a lot of reasons why people act the way they do. This is a must-read over the break or sometime in 2022.
Marketing for The Molecule of More tantalizes readers by asking the following questions: Why are we obsessed with the things we want and bored when we get them? Why is addiction “perfectly logical” to an addict? Why does love change so quickly from passion to indifference? Why are some people diehard liberals and others hardcore conservatives? Why are we always hopeful for solutions even in the darkest times — and so good at figuring them out?
It’s all about dopamine. The Molecule of More explains how it work, and how that explains … so many other things. A fascinating read.
A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, by Nassir Ghaemi, is an amazing book. How would you like to understand why influential leaders act the way they do? I had long thought about the subject of this book before I read it and what’s covered here is exactly what I was looking for.
As a technology professional, I have preached about having soft skills — but what else does it take to be a leader? You will almost certainly not be expecting the linkages outlined here by accomplished psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi.
With a stunning motion picture adaptation recently in theaters, Dune, by Frank Herbert, is a timely read. Though I was formerly assigned to read this in more than one classroom, my teenaged attention span overpowered my will to turn the pages more than once. What a silly mistake that was.
Buzz about the movie adaptation finally spurred me to atone for my youthful indifference, and I don’t regret it at all. A friend explained to me how Herbert’s story is often read as an allegory about global oil exploitation, but even if I hadn’t had any framing in mind, I would have loved reading this book. Well worth your time.
Another exceptional classic is Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a pure and heartfelt read about a summer motorcycle trip taken by a father/son duo. As much as any self-help book you could ever read, this will make you think about self-reckoning and the meaning of life. This is a good bedtime read for any stressed technology professional.
Speaking of which, it behooves us all as technology professionals to be well-read, and one way of accomplishing that is hit up the classics. You know, the ones you were assigned in high school or college and never finished? (Like I was with Dune.) The ones you needed to do a book report on, except you chose a night out drinking beer instead?
I recently picked up James Joyce’s Ulysses, which was a tough read but stylistically blew my mind. I have since line up a several more for my warm fire nights, including, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. I’m hoping this will be an on-ramp to working my way through 100 classics … soon. It should take up my 2022 nicely.
Last but not least is The Drivers by Paul Hernacki. This book should top your list for a fun, wild ride through a dystopian world where AI has taken over. Hernacki’s writing feels smooth and effortless, a style that led to me finishing this book in a couple of days. I couldn’t put it down.
This is a must read for technology professionals, and it will certainly add to your pleasure that Hernacki is himself a technology professional. (Full disclosure: I know Paul personally. Even if I’d never met him, however, this book would be remarkable.)
As I prepare to retire for the evening, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the past year. The gift of reading any book, of diving into any topic — of just being here after the tumultuous year everyone has had — gives every book I read special meaning.
For you, dear reader, I truly hope that your year is bright, and that you get to read as many books as you want, and that every day is filled with the peace that only a really good book can bring. So expand your mind, travel to new worlds, learn a new skill, or just bliss out. No matter which it is, I wish you happy reading and a wonderful 2022!