CommonSense Blog

My Holiday Reading List – People Shaping Our World

By Bob Pearson | Jan 03, 2017

Each holiday season, I spend time reading 5-6 books, often around a theme.  This year, I focused on people who are shaping our world.  Here’s a brief summary of each book and the next book(s) I plan to read to continue this learning process in 2017.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – Phil describes the chaotic journey of building a world class company.  He doesn’t discuss modern day Nike, but rather how it went from an idea for a paper at Stanford to fulfilling a life-long passion.  Knight realizes from the beginning that building Blue Ribbon, then Nike, was really an integration of his personal and professional life.  Nike became an extension of his family.  It is a great example of how entrepreneurs persevere, no matter how tough it gets, and how important it is to stay focused on the vision at all times, since many people with short-term views of the world have the potential to derail the success of the organization that is being built.  If Knight listened to the short-termers, Nike would not exist.

Next Book – Bryan Cranston’s Memoir…want to see how an actor who became successful later in life stuck to his dream, as well.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create Hamilton, the musical, is impressive.  It made me realize how important the U.S. Constitution was, how uneasy many were with its creation and yet, how Hamilton stayed focused on building the first Treasury Department, the US Mint, the Federal Reserve, the first Navy and even The New York Post, among many other accomplishments.  Alexander Hamilton was not always well-liked.  He often was swimming against the views of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other notables, but he stayed focused on building a government that would withstand the ages.  In my view, one of the most entrepreneurial government leaders in U.S. History.

Next Book – Benjamin Franklin by Walter Issacson, John Adams by David McCullough and The War that Made America by Fred Anderson.  The latter is the prequel to the Declaration of Independence and the other two are foundational characters in the formation of the U.S., so this will round out what I learned by reading Alexander Hamilton.

The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright – I loved his prior book, Looming Towers, and learned a lot from reading about how Al-Qaeda has evolved and how the Islamic State has formed.  Although it often feels like this has all happened in years, these organizations have formed over decades, so to understand them better, it is worth going deep on their thinking and approach.

Next Book – The Qur’an by Bruce Lawrence and Understanding Iraq by William R. Polk.  My goal is to learn about the importance of the Islamic Faith (the many positive qualities of Islam) and to also better understand the region, country by country.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – this is a great introspective look at poverty in America, particularly in the Kentucky/Ohio area, where the author grew up.  In a year where politicians are throwing around venomous comments about people, I wish that all of us would take more time to look at the real lives of people who are having trouble getting ahead, wherever they may live.  Understanding the history and drivers of poverty are one step in the direction of identifying solutions (and rhetoric) that is more appropriate.

Next BookThe Bargain from the Bazaar: A Family’s Day of Reckoning in Lahore by Haroon Ullah.  Haroon is a friend who works in the U.S. State Department.  He has written several books.  In The Bargain, he provides a deeper look at one family’s trials and tribulations in Pakistan.  In my view, reading about families and actual examples helps to better understand policies that may be effective.

Broken But Unbowed by Governor Greg Abbott – the story of Gov. Abbott is inspirational in reading about his journey from becoming paralyzed via a falling tree in his 20’s to his now role as Governor of Texas.  Gov. Abbott is a constitutional expert and this book is devoted to his views on how the U.S. Constitution can be protected more effectively, including his direct interactions with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next Book – The Gene by Siddhartha Mukarjee.  Gov. Abbott goes deep on the Constitution.  Siddhartha goes deep on the importance of our human genome.  I love authors who focus intently on a topic.

And since these books are all non-fiction, I’m taking a break right now and finishing A Little Life, a Man Booker Award finalist by Hanya Yanagihara.  Great read about four friends and their journey through life together.

Let me know of the books you’re interested in.  Hope you all have a Happy and Healthy 2017.

Best, Bob

  • Susan Parker

    I found “Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City” to be extremely enlightening, and heart-wrenching. By sociologist/journalist Matthew Desmond, it describes the vicious cycle of poverty and impossible choices that eviction breeds. It certainly opened my mind.