We all wish we had more time in the day and months in year to do what we really love. For me, that is reading. As a father of four young children (all age seven and under), my reading is mostly confined to newspaper and magazine articles these days.
However, I was able to read four exceptional books in 2018. These books – listed below – reflect my passion to learn more about business, leadership and history.
If you’ve read these books, I’d love your thoughts on them. If you’re not familiar with them, perhaps they can make it to your reading list for 2019!
“The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs”
Written by New York Times best-selling author and leadership expert John Maxwell, this book was given to me as a gift from one of my best friends, Kevin Polakovich. Kevin owns a very successful mortgage business in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is a respected leader. Kevin gave me this book in early 2018 when I was challenged trying to get my business – and myself – to the next level. I like this book because it’s not a stuffy academic textbook on leadership. It’s easy to read and full of real-life, relatable examples with tons of practical tips.
“What we need to hear the most is usually what we want to hear the least. If you receive instructive criticism, try not to be defensive and look for the grain of truth to make the necessary changes.”
“Good to Great to Gone: The 60 Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City”
This is essentially a follow up to the blockbuster book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins. It is an amazing story of meteoric growth and success: In just over two decades, Circuit City went from $91 million in sales to $10.6 billion! Yet, after reaching its zenith of $10 billion in sales in 2000, within 9 years the company was gone. The book explains how companies can easily lose its focus. It also shows how important it is for leaders at all levels to have a shared vision for success.
“Develop a clear and well-articulated set of policies for dealing with customers, suppliers and employees. For any organization to succeed, it is essential that each and every employee internalize the company’s goals and values. Employees should also be held accountable and incentivized to pursue these goals and values every day.”
Ron Chernow is the most thorough and engaging biographer I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I loved “Hamilton” and “Washington: A Life.” So when I heard “Grant” had hit the bookshelves, I had to get it. True to form, every sentence drips with intellect. Chernow has an uncanny way of making you feel as if you are there, part of important conversations and moments. Against great odds, Grant became the leading figure who ended the Civil War, a champion for previously enslaved African Americans and served his country with honor as president.
“Grant’s self-confidence, his willingness to act on his own judgments and take responsibility spread courage through the ranks. He was a superb communicator, making sure officers in one place knew what was happening elsewhere…A certified failure in civilian life, Grant had entered the war with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Grant had been the mainspring of the Union effort, imposing order and giving cohesion to far flung armies.”
“Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.”
Candace Millard’s account of Winston Churchill’s exploits during the Boer War was an excellent read. With this in mind, I wanted to see how she’d take on the amazing life and tragic death of James A. Garfield. Born to squalor in an Ohio log house, Garfield rose to become a Civil War hero, a college president, a nine-term U.S. Congressman and our country’s 20th president. Assassinated just a few months into his presidency in September of 1881, you’re left wondering how different – and better – America might have been if Garfield and his forward-thinking policies had been enacted.
“Garfield understood as well as any man what the Civil War had accomplished, and what it had left undone. When he was still a very young man, he had hidden a runaway slave…In Congress he fought for equal rights for freed slaves…and he delivered a passionate speech for black suffrage. Is freedom ‘the bare privilege of not being chained?’ he asked. ‘If this is all, then freedom is a bitter mockery, a cruel delusion, and it may well be questioned whether slavery were not better. Let us not commit ourselves to the absurd and senseless dogma that the color of the skin be the basis of suffrage, the talisman of liberty.’”
What are your thoughts?
Do you have any great book suggestions for 2019?