Recently, I've read six books that have impacted my thinking and spirit -- and feel aligned with my overall quest for Growth (along multiple dimensions).
Here's the list and why I'd recommend them:
On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor. This compact, 114 page exploration of the history and philosophy of kindness packs a punch. I especially found the authors' perspectives on Enlightenment-era debates by Hobbes vs Rousseau, Hume, Smith and others to be fascinating. The Freudian sections dragged on from my perspective and can be skipped. This fundamentally optimistic book is perfect for a flight -- especially if you're coming from or going to meetings in larger cities where not everyone outwardly and consistently projects kindness!
The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer. I loved this book. Like "On Kindness," it's a quick read (even shorter at 66 pages). You might even be tempted to finish it on the airport tarmac before your ascent. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for in riches via a call to the quiet life. Iyer, an acclaimed journalist and constant traveler, simply and beautifully describes the benefits of silence and aloneness. Whether via short retreats or quick walks, he encourages us to slow down at times in a way that feels refreshing, energizing and achievable.
The World's Great Thinkers: Man and Man, the Social Philosophers. Originally printed in 1947 and part of a four part set, I found this gem on my late father's book shelf. As a public school kid from Upstate NY, and a management undergrad major at a State university, I missed a classics education. If you're like me, or are looking for a brush-up, this wonderfully edited piece includes important slices of Aristotle, Plato, Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Emerson and others -- coupled with historically grounding editorial introductions. You may have to hunt a bit for the now out of print set but it's well worth the search.
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Like many, I originally discovered de Saint-Exupery as the author of "The Little Prince." What I didn't know was that he was one of the original French aviators. This National Book Award winner, recipient of the Grand Prix of the Academie Francaise, and National Geographic Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time is soaring and majestic. The translated prose captures the spirit of humanity via first-hand accounts of the dangers and gifts of early air travel. Riveting history and thought-provoking explorations abound.
Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux (forward by Ken Wilber). While I've yet to finish this overview on a new way to create business structures, I've deeply appreciated what I have read. In 2014, Laloux quietly published a book that has had rippling impact (see the Amazon reviews, for instance). In it, he looks at the evolution of organizational structures that parallel our evolution of consciousness. And he argues that we're at the forefront of a major shift that can be seen today in select organizations. Full of concrete case studies and examples, Laloux's work to build upon Wilber's theories is important for those of who study and lead organizations. This has become a book that I'm keeping close at hand as I challenge myself to fully digest its essence. The Foreword and first couple of chapters are already dog eared and reread in my copy!
Brain Maker by David Perlmutter. I was first introduced to Dr. Perlmutter via his exploration of the evolution of wheat, increase in inflammatory states, and link to brain diseases in the important book "Grain Brain." In his latest piece, Perlmutter explores how our gut microbes (our "microbiome") impact our health. Once again, his research seems sound, his writing is clear, and his topic important for our ability to lead and serve with health and vigor.
In closing, the above clearly aren't a typical set of business books for entrepreneurial executives. That's definitely by design. In my experience, the journey of business is one where our whole, authentic selves can be drawn in. These books have helped me discover and explore new boundaries, thinking and frameworks. I'm hopeful that they are enjoyable, challenging and enlightening for you as they have been for me.
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Steve Semelsberger is the Founder of Alder Growth Partners.