Friday, July 16, 2010

the need to read

I recently returned from a four week vacation on the coast of Maine, where the orders of the day include a lot of reading - I prepare months finding the right books, deciding what to read and how much time to devote to my reading. Each year, my wife and I ship up a box of books that will occupy us for the time we are at our summer haven. This year, the box was lost in the mail...so we had to use local resources like the library, the used book stores, and our good friends at amazon.com. I ended up reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; more recently published books including both The Secret Life of Henrietta Lacks and An Organic Manifesto; Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses; Gibert Martin's 1000-page biography Winston Churchill: A Life; and the first two volumes of Marcel Proust's 6 volume epic novel In Search of Lost Time. It was a good vacation as it allowed me to read several tomes I had been putting off for awhile.

Returning from vacation put me back into the "read when I can find time" mode, which always has me reading several books at one time. As I looked at the stack of books on my present reading list, I was struck by the fact that I tend to read in areas in which I am presently involved. The following list will tell you more about what I am presently thinking about and doing:
  • Business Leadership: A Jossey-Bass Reader...preparing for teaching in The Concordia MBA
  • The Effective Executive in Action (Drucker)...attempting to change how I lead and manage the multiple programs and people in the College of Business
  • Afghanistan: A Military History (Tanner)...all of our Freshman are reading The Kite Runner as they come to campus this fall
  • Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Nussbaum)...CTX is going through a curriculum transformation and defining how a liberal arts education shapes our students
  • Mere Christianity (CS Lewis)...trying to understnad how the cardinal virtues shape leadership
  • Ulysses (James Joyce)...began this book toward the end of vacation and trying to finish it as this point

Someone coined the phrase "leaders are readers" (and the other truth that "not all readers are necessarily leaders"). I believe that's true as reading allows one to learn and to enter the world of others. I am a firm believer that great literature - especailly great fiction - allows the reader to more fully understand the human dilemma, and become more empathetic through the process. Reading great fiction is engrossing - and fully transports the reader to a different time and place...and yet, it is most often one's own time and place also. To read Proust is to look into one's own past...to read Tolstoy is to know that we too can experience the same issues and situations...to read Steinbeck is to catch a glimpse of how others survive the drama of life. Reading this type of literature is not easy - nor is it always relaxing - but it is rewarding. So...what are you reading right now?

2 comments:

gmoore said...

That's quite a varied list. It would seem that "Atlas Shrugged" is definitly an outlier in list - I'm curious why you chose that one?

Don Christian said...

several years ago I read The Fountainhead and enjoyed it tremendously. Atlas Shrugged is a great story (incredibly relevant to today) and is also a study of leadership. I would recommend both books to anyone (though they are both long reads)