Reading offers one of the easiest ways for leaders to expand their horizons at any time of year. But summer especially holds the promise of settling down with a stack of new books (or a loaded e-reader) away from the daily routine.
You might prefer the latest books on leadership or about your industry. But choosing books outside your field offers the opportunity to gain a new perspective and make connections between unrelated disciplines. Who knows how you might integrate that information at work? Think Steve Jobs. His reading included Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and The Autobiography of a Yogi which he re-read every year.
As for me, I’m happiest reading books that are well-written, thought-provoking or simply a fun read.
Here’s what made my summer reading list for the beach, a mountaintop or a hammock in 2013:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I had avoided reading this best-seller about the author’s solo hiking adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for months. Could any book live up to all the hype surrounding its publication? Eventually curiosity overcame the fear of disappointment. Thank goodness! Wild is a bold, brave account of Strayed’s walk on the wild side of grief after her mother died when Strayed was 23 years old. With no backpacking experience, she decides to hike the PCT from the Mohave Desert to Washington State, confronting her demons along the way. Great writing, an incredible adventure with a powerful lesson of fortitude and resiliency on the path to healing.
North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey by Shannon Huffman Polson
A beautifully written account of a daughter’s decision to complete the Arctic journey begun by her father and step-mother after their deaths in a rare bear attack. The author intersperses notes of her journey with diary entries from her parents’ trip. Her performance of Mozart’s Requiem honors a father’s legacy while expressing what a river guide shares with Polson: “When tragedy comes into your life, the most beautiful thing you can do is keep moving forward.”
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl wasn’t on my shortlist of summer reads. But after receiving it as a birthday present, I became intrigued with the thriller. The plot revolves around a wife’s disappearance as told by her husband. Their marriage has been teetering at the time she goes missing to add an element of suspense. Does the husband have anything to do with her disappearance? Smart writing, fast-paced. I’m only 100 pages in, but I can hardly put it down.
Standing at Water’s Edge: Moving Past Fear, Blocks, and Pitfalls to Discover the Power of Creative Immersion by Anne Paris, PhD
I’m drawn to books that explore the creative process and psychologist Anne Paris introduces a unique model in Standing at the Water’s Edge. In her book, Paris describes the ebb and flow of creative immersion, from blocks and fears, to hopes and project completion. Her belief that connection with others is vital for creative success distinguishes her work from others in the field. Relevant for business leaders, engineers and entrepreneurs as well as traditional artists.
The Curve of Time: The Classic Memoir of a Woman and Her Children Who Explored the Coastal Waters of the Pacific Northwest by M. Wylie Blanchet
Summer invites discovery and exploration, often through travel. For author M. Wylie Blanchett summers meant packing her 5 children and dog aboard a twenty-five foot boat to travel the coast of British Columbia after her husband died. As Timothy Eagen points out in his Introduction, much of what Wylie and her family experienced in their explorations is gone, which makes Wylie’s memoir that more compelling. For anyone looking for a tale of adventure written by a woman ahead of her time.
Throw in my perennial favorites – To Kill a Mockingbird, Gift from the Sea and any volume of Mary Oliver’s poetry collection – and my summer reading is complete.
What’s on your summer reading list?