March 2015 Reading

Today’s post is my monthly reading wrap-up. Here are my thoughts on the books I read in March. Enjoy.

1. The Dragon’s Path

Get The Dragon’s Path on Amazon.

This book was actually a surprise for me since it was included at the end of Leviathan Wakes. And a good surprise, too, since this is the type of story that’s right up my alley. It has a bit of magic, bit of sword play, and a bit of intrigue, all set in a medieval time frame.

Part way through I was beginning to sense George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones, and when I did a bit of research on the author, I learned he worked for Martin for a while so the similarities made sense.

I don’t want to imply that this is a copycat of Game of Thrones. It’s a great story that stands on its own and if you’re in for a story set in a similar time/world then you should get this. I highly recommend it.

2. Switch

Get Switch on Amazon.

Are you like me, wanting to lose weight but you love chocolate chip cookies? I mean, you love them so much that your four-year-old calls you the cookie monster?

Are you responsible for some change in your company but don’t really have the power to make that change? Maybe you’re in charge but the entrenched ethics/patterns are totally contrary to the change that needs to be made?

This is the book for you.

Chip and Dan Heath explore how many organizations have been able to get the Rider (the thinking brain) and the Elephant (the feeling brain) to each adopt change and work together. You’ll see this dual-brain thinking explored in other Heath books like Thinking, Fast and Slow.

In Switch, Chip and Dan assert that our Rider will generally be led by the Elephant. With great effort it can overpower the Elephant for a short time (like when I swear off cookies) but eventually the much more powerful Elephant will win as the Rider gets tired.

Switch doesn’t claim to give you all the answers to make effective change at your organization; however, it does provide lots of great stories and examples of change in other organizations, with practical application you can use to initiate changes in your organization.

One of the best takeaways from this book is to make change easy. Don’t institute a big, overarching change policy. Instead, give clear, concise, easy-to-carry-out directions. If you’re looking to cut short-term costs because you have no money maybe that direction is, “We’ll always choose the cheapest option even if the long-term cost is more.”

With that direction all purchasers have clear instructions to follow when making any purchasing decision.

There are many more great takeaways in Switch and I highly recommend you read it.

3. Caliban’s War (Expanse 2)

Get Caliban’s War on Amazon.

In the second edition of the Expanse series we start about 8 months after the first book. The universe has mostly settled down (meaning there is no shooting war going on), but things are tense.

Jim Holden is catching pirates for the OPA and really not acting like himself. We also meet a Marine who barely survives a run-in with a ‘super’ soldier that turns out to be a protomolecule soldier/weapon.

As we dig deeper we see the protomolecule growing and taking apart ships around Venus, and a young girl who has been abducted must be rescued before becoming the victim of an experiment with the protomolecule.

I’ll stop here so I don’t spoil any of the story. There are a number of new characters — all pretty awesome — with many characters making me laugh out loud as they deal with huge space battles, the coffee not working and corridor fighting.

I’m definitely getting the next book in this series.

4. Didn’t See it Coming

Get Didn’t See it Coming on Amazon.

Didn’t See it Coming is written by a former ‘big marketing’ person, the type of person who tried to sell you Mr. Clean in a different scent for each season, because who on earth would want their house smelling like winter in the middle of summer? Yup, he was a bastion of vapid consumption — but no more.

In this book Marc Stoiber talks honestly about how he became jaded by the tactics big brands were using and escaped from the marketing game. He shows us some companies that breathe sustainability (like Patagonia) and culture, which he feels will be the leading traits that people look for in brands moving forward.

Overall, the book was…okay. There are some blatant factual errors, like the ‘fact’ that Patagonia doesn’t advertise. All it took was for me to open my copy of Backpacker Magazine and flip a few pages in to find a Patagonia ad. Now I do love Patagonia (had one of their jackets for 15 years) but the truth is, they do advertise regularly.

The opening part of the book felt like a tirade on the environment and our care of it. Now I don’t disagree with any of the core arguments, but it just felt a bit like that crazy uncle on his soapbox, complete with hair and spittle flying. That’s the type of person I generally avoid (even as I do lots of work to save our rivers in British Columbia from micro hydro).

So would I recommend the book? Not really. There are some decent sound bites (well quotes, since it’s a book) but you could get them from any number of other sources that probably have a more coherent thread through their material.

5. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Get Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon.

After I talked about reading Blink I had a number of people recommend this book as a ‘much better’ version of Blink, with more stats.

I’ll give them one thing, it has more stats for sure.

The author, Daniel Kahneman, is one of the people responsible for the research on which Blink and Switch are based. I read through Switch after I started this book and recognized a number of the citations in Switch as studies in Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Is it a better book? That would depend on what you like reading. I think that Blink and Switch are going to get more attention from non-research people (which would be the general public). Thinking, Fast and Slow throws lots of numbers at you which are hard to grasp until you’ve gone over them a few times.

It’s certainly a much harder read than either Switch or Blink. I’m also not sure that you’d get much more in the way of personal development by reading Thinking, Fast and Slow than you would reading either of the other two books.

If you like reading research stuff, then this is a great book. If you think the numbers may bore you, then skip this.

6. Soul Keeping

Get Soul Keeping on Amazon.

It’s been a while since I read a ‘Christian’ book, since most of my reading is focused on business and fiction. I needed this venture back into working on my faith/relationship with God.

Soul Keeping is centered around the life of Dallas Willard and what the author, John Ortberg, learned over his decades-long relationship with Dallas.

I had 2 big takeaways from this book. The first is the quote below.

I am so wrapped up in the hurt I have received that I do not notice the hurt I inflict.

We often focus so much on our ‘rights’ that we step on the rights of others, justifying our actions with a need to protect our rights. I have friends that are divorced now and their whole married relationship was focused not on what was best for them as a couple, but their ‘rights’ as individuals.

With little work put into the relationship it’s no wonder they couldn’t make it work. They never tried.

How focused on yourself are you? I know that I far too often fall into focusing on the hurts that come my way without looking at how I’m treating people.

The second big takeaway was the life of calm lived by Dallas Willard. Not that he sat around and did nothing, but that even while busy he wasn’t hurried. He focused his full attention on the task at hand without trying to run to the next task in his head.

We could all use a reminder to stay focused on what’s going on right now without thinking about everything else that ‘could’ be done. Email can wait. The project won’t get finished any faster if you try to think about it when you should be doing something else.

I’d like to do better at living a life of focus.

7. One Bed, One Bank Account

Get One Bed, One Bank Account on Amazon.

I’ve talked before about how important money is to not only your business, but your relationships. This is a great book that gives you some very clear guidelines and conversation starters so you can have better conversations about money.

Did you read anything in March you’d recommend?