Favorite Things Summer 2023
Once or twice a year this newsletter abandons deep-thinking, strategy and business–for great content that is enriching, fun, engaging or simply beautiful.
Today I have a bit of everything! Podcasts, fiction, non-fiction and even an AI tool!
I hope something on this list adds a bit of wonder and pleasure to your summer!
The Turning: The Sisters Who Left
This is an incredible multi-part story of several women who joined the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa. There is more to the story than the selfless foot washer of the poor who we came to know during Mother Teresa’s lifetime. You will not want to stop listening!
The New Gurus (BBC)
We are all aware of the fads and of our friends or family who become so devoted to them. Whether diets, dating, fitness regimes or productivity hacks–they are all led by new “gurus” who command as much devotion as religious figures. Seen through the eyes of anthropology, are they any different?
Bad Bets: Nikola (WSJ)
This season of Bad Bets tells the tale of Trevor Milton and his company Nikola, which (still) promises a zero-emission truck. Like so many disruptive start-ups –it begins with a single founder and a relentless series of bold claims and demos. But pulling back the curtain is always disappointing.
The Beautiful Mess, John Cutler, former Product Evangelist at Amplitude writes this brilliant newsletter. He has a huge fanbase. I am late to the party –and maybe you are too? But I can’t get enough of his thinking on product, strategy and organizations.
Rethinking Wellness Christy Harrison became known through her first book, Anti-Diet, which gave rise to further outlets including a podcast. Her new book, The Wellness Trap, expands the conversation about our preoccupation with our bodies to take on not just the diet business, but the whole wellness industry. Her newsletter is both science and heart-based. She convenes other experts to uncover the ways that an industry is turning us into a population of gouged hypochondriacs–and how we can arm ourselves with the ability to critically assess wellness claims.
The Life of Crime. Martin Edwards
The history of detective fiction. Read it with a pen and paper so you can list all the books you discover through his detailed bibliology (not sure that’s a word –but trust me, this is a bibliology). This is NOT a dry read. You won’t want it to end.
Geography is Destiny: Briton and The World: A 10,000 Year History, Ian Morris
I am not nearly as knowledgeable about geography as I would like to be. Nor do I fully grasp the epochal geological (and therefore, geographic) changes our Earth has been through. But when you put those two domains together with the development of the nation we know as Great Britain –you have a riveting tale!
I Have Some Questions For You, Rebecca Makkai
This is, without question, a beach read. It’s a murder mystery coupled with a college story–all from the vantage point of a professional podcaster who was a student at the college when the murder took place. What’s more, the victim was her roommate. Wear sunscreen and set an alarm because time will pass quickly…
The Rachel Papers, Martin Amis
Martin Amis is my favorite –or at least in my top 5–of 20th century novelists. When he died earlier this year I was truly crestfallen over never getting to read another of his books for the first time. But then, I discovered that I had never read the one that launched his career, The Rachel Papers.
Although published in 1973, it feels like it is from an even earlier time. It is the story of a 20-year-old man-child during the year before university. He is ostensibly studying to make it into Oxford, but is primarily consumed with trying to win-over Rachel –his would-be girlfriend–and conquering his rival for her affections. It’s very entertaining –but also emphasizes how much the world has changed in the intervening 50 years. The protagonist (Charles) is sexist, egomaniacal, classist and generally unlikeable. None of that dampens the story.
I somehow ended up with an very under-valued first edition of the book. So instead of tearing through it (which could be easily done as it is quite short), I am reading it in slow motion, one or two pages at a time before exhaustedly dropping off to sleep. I’m afraid to take it out of my bedroom in case I hurt one of its mint-condition pages or cover. These days, that means it only gets about 90 seconds a day.
For those of you who simply MUST have your fix of work-related reading, here are a couple of the books I have found interesting of-late.
Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great , Jim Collins
Having never seen something advertised as a monograph, I would have read this even if it had been written in Lebanese–a language i would not even recognize. I thought monographs went out with Arthur Conan Doyle. Despite my less-than-grand motivation, I loved this. Jim Collins revisits the central mechanism he describes in Good to Great. The flywheel is an incredibly useful rubric for thinking about strategy and about reducing the friction in your enterprise’s creation of value. This short work is worth your time.
The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World, Dave Robson
The book explores the many ways that our states of mind change both our perceptions and our behaviors. From placebos to no-cebos, through hormones and more, Robson provides a primer on mindsets and how we can harness them through framing and reframing. Because of my own work, there was little new for me. But the examples are excellent, and his research provides clarity and evidence–as well as being an easy read.
An AI Tool
Audio Pen This is a tool for organizing your ramblings. I often have ideas. Ideas for articles, ideas for coaching, or ideas that have no apparent purpose—YET! You simply hit record, and AudioPen listens to your word wanderings. It then, seemingly through magic, creates something clear. It is so useful!
There is a fully functioning free version. So, play with it.
Hopefully, you spent the beginning of the week splashing in waves or wandering the twisted avenues of a new city. Try filling your next idle afternoon with something you find here—just in time to embark on the second half of summer!