My experience is the best leaders always have a book they are reading. Reading is essential to lifelong learning, which is essential to our growth.
What role do books play in your life? In your learning? My guess is that for many, we just don’t have enough time. Making time to read books is important. I usually have several books in my study that I am working through. On long trips I enjoy audiobooks. I have friends who like audiobooks best. The audio version of my book Decoding the Workplace has been and continues to be the most popular format.
How do you nurture book reading in those who do not enjoy reading? As leaders, we lead by example. We talk about books we are reading, we share stories, we talk about how books have affected our lives. I'm often asked what book influenced me the most as a manager and consultant. Easy to answer: Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, and Practices. I came across this book as a young manager when I was first building consulting capabilities in my teams. I have returned to it for knowledge, wisdom, and ideas throughout my careers.
In 2022 the most enjoyable book I read was Surrender by Bono, lead singer for the Irish rock band U2. I am a big U2 fan but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. With my background in psychology and management, I was also surprised how much one could learn about life and business from this memoir. As Bono makes clear, he has learned that life is about relationships. As I have often taught, business is about relationships. An immensely satisfying read.
Have you ever thought about changing the direction of your professional life, leaving the corporate world, leaving your current job for something yet to be found. In 2021-2022 two friends of mine and their dog did just that. In a VW van in which they lived, they visited 49 states in the USA. I thought about them as I read Paul Millerd’s The Pathless Path: Imagining a New Story for Work and Life. It is a good memoir about how he stepped off the "successful" path he was on and onto a new path with unknowns and uncertainty. Very thought-provoking.
Another highlight was reading the play Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard, my favorite playwright. It follows the lives of a Jewish family in Vienna from 1899 to 1955. Brilliantly written, insightful, tragic, yet with humor, I look forward to seeing Leopoldstadt performed on stage.
Last I will mention what I consider to be the most important yet unheard of book of 2022, Science of Life After Death by Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Marianna de Abreu Costa, and Humberto Schubert Coelho. This thin 80 page scholarly (and expensive) book is part of the Springer Briefs in Psychology series and should be in all university, college, and public libraries. You may say, “Surely you jest, John. The science of life after death?” Actually, I do not. As stated by the authors, “Around 150 years of survival research has produced a body of evidence that is larger and stronger than most people are aware of or have even imagined being possible to attain.” This volume sums up much of that research. Highly recommend.
As we begin 2023, here are a few of the books I am reading or that are on my reading list:
- Tom Stoppard: A Life by Hermione Lee
- Mothman Apologia by Robert Wood Lynn
- Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sanction
- Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny, 1769-1805; Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age, 1805-1810; Napoleon: The Decline and Fall of an Empire, 1811-1821; three volumes by Michael Broers
- Classic Science Fiction Stories edited by Adam Roberts
- Visions of Innocence: Spiritual and Inspirational Experiences of Childhood by Edward Hoffman
- The Way of Splendor: Jewish Mysticism and Modern Psychology by Edward Hoffman
- A Song for Everyone: The Story of Creedence Clearwater Revival by John Lingman
- Encountering Mystery: Religious Experience in a Secular Age by Dale Allison, Jr.
- If I Live To Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians by Neenah Ellis
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them," Mark Twain.
Or as the comedian Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
What are you reading?
Bono. (2022). Surrender: 40 songs, one story. Knopf.
Millerd, P. (2022). The pathless path: Imagining a new story for work and life. Paul Millerd, Publisher.
Moreira-Almeida, A., de Abreu Costo, M., Coelho, H. S. (2022). Science of life after death. Springer.
Stoppard, T. (2020). Leopoldstadt. Grove.
Image, my photo.
© John Ballard, PhD, 2023. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Now also available as an audiobook and paperback.