Monday, July 26th, 2010...12:01 am

Summer Reading

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Earlier this year I hit a rough patch of reading crappy (at least to me), uninteresting books. Unsure if I should plow through it to the end or move on to the next book I usually end up procrastinating. This definitely sets me back in my ambitious quest to read every book that was ever written before I die. Even worse, I’ll go a few months without reading anything. This is a shame since I’m usually more relaxed and balanced when I’m reading regularly. I also have slacked this year on my attempt to write a little somethin-somethin (more so for myself than for the free world) on each book that I read on my extra secret Littybooks blog.

Lately, I’ve come out of my reading slump with a strong 4 for 4 performance this summer. Since I’ve enjoyed all of these books, I figured I would share a few recommendations.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan asks and answers more questions about the food that we eat than I, or even the Food Network, could ever imagine. Pollan tracks the food chain from mother nature to your dinner plate and I was surprised and fascinated by how it all happens. I especially enjoyed the in-depth account of how farming works and the modern day economics of our food system. I never before got the whole idea behind organic and local food movements but now I actually seek out more natural foods. He even explains the mystifying phenomenon of chickens (CC: Vant and Lisa). If you had a conversation with me in the month of June there’s a good chance it drifted to discussing this book as it totally consumed my thoughts for a few weeks. Luckily, the Omnivore’s Dilemma’s promise to change the way I think about the pleasure of eating only lasted a few weeks. I’m back to craving processed Chicken McNuggets.

I also enjoyed Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. I was obviously intrigued by this book as it combines two things, Israel and entrepreneurship, that greatly interest me. The author’s share analysis, research, case studies and anecdotes on how Israel’s culture, education, community networks and military training have led to a thriving, innovative technology sector that provides integral value to the global business world. Israel’s tech/entrepreneurial cluster is one of the most promising opportunities for the country to put itself in position to prosper and grow in future generations. Much of Israeli’s ability to create a business climate in which good ideas are nurtured and risk is palatable is traced back to the values, ideals and networks that Israeli’s learn in their mandatory military and reserve service. I actually would have liked if they spent more time detailing some of the other factors. What I enjoyed most was reading stories how Israel is becoming more valuable and integrated into the global community in an economic way that I believe is far more powerful than the political posturing, and media bickering that dominate the conversation these days.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers is the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-born contractor living in New Orleans who decides to tough out Hurricane Katrina (mostly for business reasons) rather than evacuate. The incredible dramatic events that follow touch on the tragedy of the Hurricane, intertwined with race and culture through the experiences of one man. Like in What is The What (about Sudan), Eggers is able to tell the story of a community through the events of one person and does it in a way that blends truth with fiction that makes it even more real than any news report I’ve watched about Katrina.

It only took me a few days to fly through The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine. I’ve been a big Michael Lewis fan since I read Liar’s Poker in college and have read just about all his other books. It’s nice to see him come back to Wall Street — he does so just the way he left it. A keen ability to sift through the bull shit, unimpressed by the shine and $$ of Wall Street, and really tell it like he sees it. In this book, Lewis uses three examples of contrarian finance guys who shorted the housing market within his larger explanation of the financial events that led to the housing meltdown. As always, Michael Lewis is brilliant in breaking down complex phenomena into laymen terms and gets down to the psychological nitty gritty of the characters that he details. I love how he gets into the heads of guys who were so unflappable and sure of themselves. They were convinced they were right and everybody else was crazy/wrong and endured the immense pressure until they were proven right. At my best, this is exactly how I want to think and act in my business actions.

I’m now reading The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. While it’s not exactly my cup of tea, it’s an extremely well-written story and is the selection for my office book club.

On deck I have How Zappos Delivers Happiness by CEO Tony Hsieh, Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (for another bookclub that I am in) and The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson. My rule of thumb with these breakout books is that if everybody seemingly loves it (including Lisa and my pops) then it must be good!

Looking for a good book website? Check out the AV Club blog by the good and funny folks at the Onion. There reviews are money and they are usually on point with the books they cover.

I would love to hear about what you are reading. Leave a comment or hit me up by email.

  • Jaquet

    Yo Littyhoops. I'm struggling through “Gotham” by Mike Wallace, the 3,000-page epic of the history of NYC. I'm only through the Revolutionary War and reading it on the Kindle. I'm actually curious to see how many of your Hoops Blog followers are on Kindle. Great for the back as lugging books in my bag was a pain, but definitely a different experience in reading that makes it tough to sit down to 2-3 hours of cranking on a book. Anyway, for anybody up to the challenge, Gotham has great tid bits I often throw out in conversations that make me look like a genius–like when the whiteman very first came to NYC, the native indians were regularly pulling 6-foot lobsters and 12-inch diameter oysters out of the bay. Also that British-controlled New England actually took over and ran then Dutch-controlled New Amsterdam and held it for months until Britain could install their own government and change the name to New York. Go Red Sox!

  • Litty

    This little city we call home is definitely no Sun Valley. I recommend you
    just watch Gangs of New York and wing it from there…