Monday, June 13th, 2011...7:46 am

What I’m Reading…

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I’ve read a bunch of books this year. Some good, some hood. I’ll share a few recommendations below if you email me some good reads. I have a few weeks of travel ahead of me (both for work and vacation) and plan on leveraging the written word to get me through it.

I just finished The Hope by Herman Wouk. The historical fiction account of the birth of Israel chronicles the 1948 War of Independence through the Six-Day War in 1967. Historical novels are entertaining reads that help humanize history and put major events into better context. But it also feels like I’m kind of cheating on academic history in favor of dramatized love stories of sensational courage and tremendous valor. There’s a follow up to The Hope called The Glory that I’m debating reading this week. This is the first Herman Wouk book that I’ve read. He’s a pretty interesting dude who is still going strong as a writer even at the current age of 95. FYI, other historical fiction writers that I enjoy include Leon Uris and James Michner.

I’ve also recently discovered the contemporary author Joshua Ferris. I first read the Unnamed, a peculiar novel about the main character’s struggle with an unknown disease. I’m not sure why I enjoyed the book so much. It was weird. But I liked the writing and the characters. I’m now reading Then We Came To The End. This is Ferris first and best selling novel. He dissects the world in which we work by depicting the people and events of a Chicago advertising agency. I often think about my “work life” and “work personality” so the Ferris book, written with brilliant irony and humor, hits a Home Run.

Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion and Purpose is by the Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh. In it, he shares his corporate philosophy and culture and his keys to building a successful company (which he brilliantly accomplished at Zappos). It’s a refreshing take on leadership and the potential of how awesome business should be. The message has motivated me to think more about my own business values and priorities.

I was intrigued to read The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a contrarian author and academic who partly predicted the financial collapse in 2008. The Black Swan examines what we don’t know (which is much more than what we think we do know) and how unpredictable events have massive impact. If it sounds complicated that’s because it is. Nassim exposes the consensus as a lousy way to predict the future and generally runs counter to traditional history. He puts forth an idea of Extremistan which trumps the false predictions of Mediocristan. I’m not sure I understand it myself. I slogged through most of the book before giving up near the end.

4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris is a mind-blower and maybe even a life changer. Ferris turns his own body into one big experiment and shares his secrets to health, strength, weight-loss and just about every other physical activity (including sex). Some of it seems like pure hogwash but it’s intriguing stuff and so much of his lessons just seem practical. Ferris operates somewhere between biology, physical therapy, medicine and vanity and insanity. The truth is that is where most of us are at as well. I actually read the book in early January and credit it for improving my diet, heath and exercise habits this year. There’s a reason why it’s a best seller.

The 188th Crybaby Brigade (thanks to Kras and Klien) by Joel Chasnoff is a fun read about a skinny Chicago kid who decides to join the Israeli army. It’s a memoir, which means emotional, fuzzy memories dominate true facts in a way that makes the reader have more fun. Chasnoff is now a comedian and it almost seems like he joined the army just so he could write this book years later.

I’ve also read the following books this year.

I only have a few books on my roadmap, none of which I’m all that excited about.

Send me your suggestions. If it sounds interesting I’ll read it. Then I’ll buy you a coffee or beer and we can discuss the book. I look forward to that.

Also, I wish I still kept up my Littyhoops book blog. More than anything I wanted to keep an account of all the books I’ll read throughout my life. If you have any ideas how I can motivate myself to get started again, well, please do share.