Here’s the annual summer reading list. So, don a Hawaiian shirt, rub in some sun screen, and fire up the e-reader.
First off, love. Read “You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce,” from Dana Adam Shapiro, which is a series of interviews with the once-married, now-divorced. A common regret expressed: We should have been more candid with one another at the start, best expressed by the poet Galway Kinnell: “ let our scars fall in love.”
And speaking of candor, read Tracy McMillan’s “Why You’re Not Married . . . Yet: The Straight Talk You Need to Get the Relationship You Deserve.” Trust me, do not be faked out by the title. McMillan is a well regarded screen writer. Her advice is both overarching (change the story you tell yourself about yourself and the change you want will come) to the intensely practical (cut a “ must have” list for what is wanted in a partner from 20 to three and make one a “yes” to the question “is he kind?”). While the book is directed to women, its sage advice applies to men as well.
Looking for love poetry, check out Kanta Bosniak’s “Love Poems,” a Rumi- infused collection: “ Your touch burns away the veil/the illusion of separation dissolves/Beloved, there is only you.”
Let’s go from love to business with “The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World,” from Frans Johansson, who urges us to leverage change and circumstance by taking action in pursuit of our goals. Why? Because when we do so we expose ourselves to the complex, ever-changing and random forces alive in the world. It is only then that the possibility of good things starts to happen. (Come to think of it, this is a lot like dating.)
The Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, deliver yet again in their new book, “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work,” with great advice on opening up options for clients by eschewing either/or thinking and embracing opportunity-cost thinking — if the decision maker selects a course of action (filing a lawsuit), ask what will she forego (how else could we use the money we will spend in litigation)? The answer generates a third option. Keep repeating, get more options, and then, and only then, will the decision maker be making a smart decision.
Effective communication techniques have never been explained as well as Shari Harley does in “How To Say Anything To Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work.” Didn’t think you could talk to an employee about his body odor? Read the book and you’ll know how from taking responsibility (telling the employee that you noticed the problem, as opposed to unnamed “ others”) to empathetic sharing (“As awkward as it is, I would rather you hear it from me, than from someone else.”). Trying to change an unchangeable culture? Robert Maurer’s book, “The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at a Time,” sets the reader on the road to change by explaining that seemingly inconsequential steps will aggregate over time into a giant leap. Seeking to inculcate professionalism and ethics among newly minted employees? Introduce them to “ The Young Professional’s Survival Guide: From Cab Fares to Moral Snares” by C.K. Gunsalus, where she teaches all of us how to save our souls while keeping our jobs.
Want to know more about the Civil War following last month’s 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg? Here are three great books.
To appreciate Lincoln’s political genius read “Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year,” by David Von Drehle. To understand the battle of Gettysburg, check out “ Gettysburg: The Final Fury,” by Bruce Catton, who packs a lot into 128 pages. Or, for a more detailed work, read Allen C. Guelzo’s “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion.” And to feel the horror of a battle, read “Cain at Gettysburg,” from Ralph Peters, a novel right up there with “ Red Badge of Courage” and “ All Quiet on The Western Front.” It’s peppered with vivid descriptions like that of Gen. Longstreet before he gives the order for Pickett’s Charge: “his eyes are dreadful, those of a preacher abandoned to Satan’s mercy.”
If you are looking for something on the spiritual side, read “The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person,” Harold S. Kushner’s lucid take on an often obtuse book of the Bible. His big idea: God permits bad things to happen, and looks to us to be collaborators with Him to build a world of justice and decency. Jean-Yves Leloup’s translation of two Gnostic gospels, “ The Gospel of Thomas: The Gnostic Wisdom of Jesus” and “ The Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” are full of profound insights. For lawyers, there is an arresting passage from Christ in the Magdalene gospel: “ impose no law/other than that which I have witnessed.” As Leloup explains, “to love . . . is not to be a slave of the law; it is to go beyond the law by fulfilling it.”
For a masterful novel that cuts to the quick of who we are, read “The Last Policeman: A Novel,” by Ben H. Winters. The world will soon be destroyed by an asteroid. People are taking their own lives. A young detective is assigned to investigate a suicide, but he believes it to be murder. His colleagues tell him not to bother. Is justice less needed if we all will soon perish in a cataclysm?
Finally, make this a summer (and fall and winter and spring) for Shakespeare. Pick up a play in the “No Fear” series, each with the original text accompanied by a modern translation. Give the gift of Shakespeare to your children (and yourself) by reading “ How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare,” from playwright Ken Ludwig. Ludwig ends his book with how Shakespeare ended his literary career, with the farewell soliloquy from “ The Tempest,” spoken by Prospero (my middle name). “We are such stuff/as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded by a sleep.” Ludwig’s take: Shakespeare’s last words could have been full of anger and fist shaking at the idea of passing on. But Shakespeare picked a different exit, as Ludwig writes: “[A] farewell taken with understanding and a sense of fulfillment. Our lives are filled with trials and joys, frustrations and challenges, defeats and triumphs. And ultimately we fade, like dreams, rounded with a final, grateful sleep.” A lesson to keep in mind for our children and ourselves.
Have a good summer.