Quarantine Reading List: PMP Edition

I can’t reiterate enough how proud I am of people out here banding together via technology while social distancing separates us. I think it is an amazing thing the way our world has found new ways to reach out and touch each other during trying times. I personally am annihilating yard work, I’ve signed up for a social distancing team competition with my local gym, and I’m crushing reading. Which is the impetus for this post. I have some things in the works right now in response to COVID 19 (another note, the increase in content creating in the world is a data point I would love to see some material on, creators are creating). In the mean time I want to share some reading lists with the world so that they can double down strengthening the mind and hardening the body.

Below are two reading lists. First is what I am reading and hoping to finish during the quarantine. I’ve set an audacious goal of 4 books. One of which I am 200 pages into and is 800 pages. Of the books I am planning to read I will provide a brief overview and caveat with the fact that I make no promises. These books could be awful. So although I am recommending them, I am giving fair warning that I have not yet taken the time to soak them in. However, most of them are books I have taken from Bill Gates’s winter reading list. So if ole Bill is reading them, it won’t kill you to give it a try. The second list is 4 books I recommend purchasing right now. They’re awesome, I’ve read them, and I have provided a review on them as well.

List 1: What I’m looking to Tackle

These Truths by Jill Lepore

 It takes an ambitious historian to write a single volume history of the United States: Enter Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer. These Truths sets out first to remind people how the United States got its start. The “truths,” as Thomas Jefferson called them, were political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. But Lepore also notes that history is a form of inquiry, something to be questioned, discussed, disputed. Has this country lived up to These Truths? she asks. The answer, as you might expect, is yes and no (though more yes than no). And the book itself is engrossing and even-handed, examining our contradictions—like a land of liberty supporting slavery—and singling out important historical figures, some well-known—like Benjamin Franklin—as well as others who were key voices in their time, but have since been left on history’s curb—like Mary Lease, leading voice of the People’s Party. As the book traces wars, policy decisions, and national debates, one can’t help but feel that the arguments we are seeing today have been carried out all throughout our history. When the final chapter (America, Disrupted) brings us to Obama, and then Trump, the narrative has lost no steam—rather, it has coalesced into a national story approaching coherence, something resembling the Founding Fathers’ more perfect union, though never actually perfect. –Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review

Chris Shluep, Amazon Book Review

Dark Horse by Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas

Through their research at Harvard, the authors examine the characteristics and histories of individuals who forged unique paths to professional and personal success. Bucking the standardized ladders of achievement, these individuals harness their passions, motives and strategies to attain fulfillment in very varied walks of life.

This is a “must read” for parents, educators and any individual looking to “take the path less traveled”

Anne Marie Rabke – Amazon Review

Growth by Vaclav Smil

It amazes me how prolifically Smil writes (and reads!) on a quite wide variety of topics. His main expertise is energy, and this book on growth patterns is of course largely related to this topic. It is a great resource for finding links to current and past work on growth phenomena of a very wide variety, however the book itself is unfortunately not very synthetic. Smil describes hundreds of patterns, but does not take a step back and discuss “meta-patterns”, and does not offer that much in terms of take-home lessons. If you are looking for something encyclopedic, this is a good book; if you are looking for synthesis, not the best resource.

Mitchus.kindle – Amazon Book Reviewer

Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Given the 24-hour news cycle to which we have grown accustomed, it’s difficult to navigate life and think that everything is peachy. But Steven Pinker has set out, first in The Better Angels of Our Nature, and now in Enlightenment Now, to illustrate that there has never been a better time to be a human being. In his new book, Pinker points out that the slow creep of progress is not as newsworthy as, say, an earthquake or an explosion. So it’s clear why we don’t always have the sense that things are getting better. But the Enlightenment—with its dedication to science, reason, humanism, and progress—has led people to live longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives. And Pinker uses charts, data, history, and a firm dedication to his cause to empirically prove that we are living in better times. It makes sense to be skeptical of a scientist arguing that that science is the answer. And his optimism won’t always jibe with your personal experience or judgement. But there’s lots to chew on here—and it’s so easy to obsess on the intrusions and negatives of technology and “advancement” that this book can serve as a kind of antidote. 

Chris Schluep, The Amazon Book Review

List 2: Highly Recommended by PMP

Factfullness by Hans Rosling

It won’t be long until the data in this book is no longer relevant. Apparently Steven Pinker author of Enlightenment Now used a majority of the data that Rosling collected for his own book. This is the book I give away most and that I recommend first to everyone. At a time when many of us are feeding into the fear mongering of the media, Rosling’s book puts an optimistic calm on things. He shows that we aren’t on our way to hell in a hand basket. If anything, he proves that now, is the greatest time to ever be born. Yet, he still tactfully points out the factors we need to focus on as a people. I’ve recently determined that life is more about finding things to remove from my focus to work on what truly matters. This book is a great place to start in order to identify what we don’t need to worry about as a people and where we get most things wrong.

Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker

I have long been the biggest sleep critic you could ever meet. The Hip Hop Preacher Eric Church has a speech where he quotes Beyonce saying, “Sleep is for those people that are broke.” A life in the military, paired with an A-type personality, and a fervent desire to make the most of my time on this earth have all forced me to despise sleep. This book changed all that. Much to the dismay of my wife I know find myself aggressively protecting the 7-9 hour sleep window that Dr. Walker recommends we adhere to. I could spend the time trying to tell you all of the reasons why I now a card carrying member of Dr. Walker’s sleep revolution; except I wouldn’t do it the justice that he does. All I can say is I am deathly afraid of Alzheimers disease, and Dr. Walker has shown me that a surefire way to lose the capability of the mind is to deprive it of much needed sleep.

Gates Of Fire by Steven Pressfield

I think that the story of the brave 300 who fought and died at Thermopylae has been somewhat played out by pop-culture. I also believe that most of the modern world does not like to read historical fiction the way we once did. Many people stay away from fiction period due to the advent of streaming services, and podcasts. Who would waste time reading a book these days. Well you haven’t read the heart pumping novel written about the Brave 300 by Steven Pressfield. I many times find myself considering Dienekes’ example of good officership in the way I choose to lead in life. He and all of the characters of the book serve as amazing role models we all can learn from.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Some people are Gladwell enthusiasts and some are not. I am a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and I think he does an amazing job in this book of sharing concepts we all need to take a second glance at. This book is no different. Any great controversy has always been preceded by some individual jumping up and down shouting, “THIS WILL BE A PROBLEM.” Gladwell shares the stories of these people who existed prior to the Jerry Sandusky conviction, The Bernie Madoff Scheme, and a host of other iconic events. He points out why we should have listened to certain people, while tactfully pointing out why so many of us chose not to. I loved everything about this book except the ending. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great book to learn from and I ask that you read it objectively and form you own opinions while still learning from such an impressive individual.

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About the Author

John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.

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