I never quite know the number of books I read in a year simply because I never track. I’m not sure how those of you that do manage to do it, either your memories are much better than mine or you write them down as you read them.
What I do know however, are the books that stand out from the pack in terms of what you learned from them. And this year, I’ve read a handful of those. My best three?
1. Provocations x Søren Kierkegaard.
If you don’t know Kierkegaard, he’s a Dutch existentialist, philosopher and Christian who wrote many books on diverse issues, including quite a number of theological matters. His book Provocations is a powerful treatment of several concepts or aspects of the Christian faith, as a way of explaining their implications and importance to the life of a true follower of Christ. He savagely attacks the comfy banalities and outright lies of organized Christianity and in many ways shows exactly how radical and transformational the true Gospel of Christ is. This book altered and enhanced my spiritual life ‘bigly’. It’s become a great reference for me and I can’t wait to cycle through other subjects so I can come back to another Christian book by the Kierk.
2. Rwanda Inc. x Patricia Crisafulli & Andrea Redmond
I’ve been incredibly impressed with Rwanda over the years as the leadership of President Paul Kagame has really been exceptional. I heard the man speak at a HBS conference earlier this year and also spoke to a number of ordinary Rwandans so I know the changes are real. So the narrative in this book didn’t come as a complete surprise. What the book did for me was highlight in clear, specific ways how Rwanda is turning itself into the tiny giant of the continent. A lot of the changes we yearn for in Nigeria are happening already in Rwanda. Reduction of provinces from 12 to 5 for more coherent administration? Check. Massive investment in Agriculture and ICT? Check. Zero tolerance, even negative social stigma for corruption? Check. I could go on and on. Nigeria has way more advantages than they do so if we could have half the transformation they do we’ll stun ourselves. The natural skeptic in me though, thinks the authors might be a little too taken by Kagame to be completely objective but until I visit the country I cannot say that conclusively. They may just be right. But if it was propaganda, the fact that I’ve added Kigali to my places to visit list means it was an effective one. Absolutely recommend.
3. Deep Work x Cal Newport
The premise of Deep Work is that we are less happy, less productive and ultimately less connected to meaning in our lives when we work and live the way the modern era wants us to: constantly connected, emailing, social networking, taking calls and generally being constant and endless multitaskers. It tries to detail a better way: focused, concentrated and completely undistracted in order to be at our optimal at work and fully attentive in our relationships.
The book delves into the meaning craftsmen derive from their tangible work due to its demands on their mental faculties and how we can reproduce that in our knowledge work. It also encourages us to learn how to disconnect totally when we’re not working.
Under all that is the belief that to learn, produce and work at a genius level is increasingly in demand while paradoxically shallow work makes that harder to do. So if you want to work and produce at that level, you must learn to go deep. It’s an excellent idea and one I’m already thinking of ways to implement which is something I love in any book–one that makes me act.
So there you have it. Three most intetesting books I’ve read so far. What are yours?