Reading My Way Back to Health

In order to keep myself sane and intellectually engaged,  I’ve been reading my way back to health.  Over the past eight months, I’ve been out of my normal routine due to injury and health concerns.  Sadly, I often found myself too exhausted to write.  Fortunately, I was able to draw my reading list off The Greatest Books.  First, of all I like the site because it has a thoughtfully curated list of the best fiction and non-fiction works of all time.  Secondly, I love that you can track what you’ve read and what you want to read.

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I’ve read some amazing works from a myriad of different genres and authors across time.  Since I’ve read some wonderful works of fiction, I’d thought I’d share some of them with you.   Here’s the list of my favorites:

If you’ve never read Wilkie Collins, your missing out.  He’s a one of kind author, who narrates his stories from multiple viewpoints.  His plot development and character development are amazing.   Collins was a contemporary and good friend of Charlies Dickens.  He was also a huge influence to Edgar Allen Poe.  Once you read both these books, I think you’ll find that the great Agatha Christie was influenced by him as well.

When I first picked up Ana Karenina, I was a bit intimidated.  It is a thick book. As I got into it, I loved it.  Tolstoy doesn’t waste a word.   I was happy to find that Tolstoy didn’t incorporate essays with in the books or long tangents like those found in his contemporaries works.  Both Ana Karenina and Resurrection are beautiful stories.  In Anna Karenina, he tells the story of the titular characters life and the consequences of her choices.  It’s a tragic story told beautifully.  In Resurrection, he tells the story of man confronted by the impact his choices had on someone he loved.   In the end, he finds his redemption in a most obvious spot.  Truly, after finishing both novels, I feel compelled to travel to Saint Petersburg and the rest of Tolstoy’s Russia.

After finishing Nabokov’s Lolita,  I needed a literary pick me up and a shower.  That book will leave you feeling dirty…. I turned to Hesse’s Siddharta.. Hesse, of German-Swiss descent, bring a unique east meets west perspective.   This novel follows the spiritual journey of Siddharta.  His quest for enlightenment puts him in places and situations he never could have imagined.  It’s a beautiful book.

I loved Narcissus and Goldmund, which tells the tale of two best friends who are diametrically different, but still love each other.  While Goldmund leaves the monastery in search of the meaning of life.  His mentor and friend Narcissus stays in monastic life.  Throughout their lives they take different paths, but eventually their paths reunite.  It’s a beautiful tale of friendship and life.

It took me awhile to get into Steppenwolf, but eventually I was pulled into the world of Harry Haller.  Like the other two Hesse books, this one explores the duality of human nature.  This time in main character Harry Haller and not two separate characters like in Narcissus and Goldmund.   At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with any of these books by Hesse.

Since I was heading to Scandinavia this fall, I wanted to read something that was Scandinavian.  After much research and a couple of recommendations, I decided to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. While in Finland, I finally started reading the book and I couldn’t put it down.  I loved that I could imagine where they were in Gamle Stan in Stockholm since I was just there.

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It’s an awful tragedy that we lost Stieg Larsson before these books were publishes.  He turned in the manuscripts for the first three installments in the Millennium Series, but died shortly after.  His books are incredible.  There are few characters in literature as vivid, damaged and bad ass as Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander.

I’ve already read the first four books in the series and cannot wait to read the fifth.  Since Larsson’s premature death prevented him from finishing the Millennium series, David Lagercrantz took up the mantle.  I was worried that Lagercrantz’s take on Larsson’s characters would be unfaithful to the original.  Lagercratnz had huge shoes to fill, but he did it beautifully.  The continuity between the characters and stories between Larsson’s and Lagercrantz’s books is seamless. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it.  If you love Daniel Craig, like I do, you’ll love him in the movie version.

These are just a few of the books I’ve read since last summer that really resonated with me.  I’ve included links to Amazon for each of my recommended books.  I’m always looking for good book recommendations.  What’s your favorite book?  What books do you recommend?  

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Creative and Inspired

To be creative and inspired, one must be prepared to invest time in the cultivation of ideas.  There is no better way to cultivate one’s creativity than through reading. Norman Cousins, famed American political journalist once said; “A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”

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If you were to look at the habits of America’s most successful leaders, one commonality would be their passion for reading.  Reading  can help leaders improve their vocabulary, emotional intelligence, become a more adept communicator and inspire creativity. By and large their reading isn’t necessarily confined to business topics, but rather all types of literature.

I recently took over a new team in my corporate life. Therefore, one topic I have been reading a lot about is change management.  Change management done well results in great business outcomes from a KPI and employee engagement perspective.  Change management done poorly can undermine an entire business.

Here are some of my favorite reads on change management:

  1.  HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management
  2.  Leading Change, by John Kotter
  3.  Change Friendly Leadership, by Roger Dean Duncan
  4.  Changemaking: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change, By Richard Bevan
  5.  The Theory and Practice of Change Management: Third Edition, By John Hayes

Reading novels is crucial to unleashing your creativity and inspiration.  Here are some of my favorites.

  1.  Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  2.  The Alchemist, Pablo Coelho
  3.  The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  4.   The Decameron,  Giovanni Boccacio
  5.  A Separate Peace, John Knowles
  6.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  7.  Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes
  8.  1984, George Orwell
  9.  Animal Farm, George Orwell
  10.   Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

What are some of your favorite novels?  I’m always looking for something new to read, so please share your favorites in the comments.