Summer Reading Roundup — Business, Novels, Tech, Politics, and Happiness

I’m a bookslut. I undress my bookshelf with my eyes and imagine myself buried in their black, smooth lines of text.

I haven’t done as much reading this summer as usual, due to extensive travel and writing, but here are some titles I’ve downed over the past couple months:

Business:

  • The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomar. Some pretty good tips. What I like about Gitomer’s approach is that he doesn’t try to break down sales into 25 different "types" of sale, each requiring a different tactic. He returns to the basics: have enthusiasm, kick your own ass, be funny, be different, and so forth. I’m not sure it’s worth buying the book — his web site and others can probably deliver the same point.
  • The Definite Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease. I’m a big believer in non-verbal communication. I wish I were better at it. This book really helped me understand all the physical cues we send and analyzed such details as the handshake in tremendous detail.
    • In a photo be on the left hand side — it’s the power position. Nixon, Clinton, most politicians have mastered this.
    • Smile — nothing is more universal.
    • Hands loosely held behind back is a good, open position. Stand with hands behind back when waiting to meet someone in a lobby.
    • Imitate — I do this unconsciously a lot. I cross my legs if other person crosses legs, etc.
    • Sitting directly across a square table is a charged environment. Try to sit next to a person.

Novels:

Politics / Current Affairs:

  • America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy by Francis Fukuyama. This is an excellent overview of the intellectual roots of neoconservatism. I highly recommend people with an interest in foreign affairs and American politics read this book. Here are eight pages of notes I typed up from the book.
  • Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress edited by Lawrence Harrison. This collection of essays, while repetitive, makes a strong point: the customs of certain cultures can contribute to its progress or failures, and we shouldn’t say all habits are equally good if some hold its citizens back.
  • Public Opinion by Walter Lippman. This is a classic. Lippman discusses the often inadequate means by which public opinion is formed and its effect on a democracy.
  • See No Evil by Robert Baer. This is the book that inspired the movie Syriana. It’s a first-hand account of a CIA agent who worked in the Middle East. You will finish the book being pissed off at the Clinton administration for how they handled the war on terror, but any inside look at the CIA can be gripping and fun.
  • Holidays in Hell by P.J. O’Rourke. PJ travels around the world to the worst places and asks, "What’s funny about this?" It’s a hilarious read if you don’t take him too seriously and don’t get offended. Here are some excerpts.

Web / Technology:

  • Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World by Jack Goldsmith. Oxford Press sent me a review copy. I found it a good, short book that makes one fundamental point: Contrary to popular belief, national governments are relevant in the 21st century and instead of borders vanishing in global business, multinationals like Yahoo are having to adapt to meet local laws. This is a somewhat disturbing, but convincing, work.

Other:

  • Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert. This is chock full of nuggets and required reading for people pursuing happiness. I listened to this as audiobook — Gilbert is a great voice. His thesis is that we can’t accurately predict our emotional states in the future. He covers many themes I’ve talked about on this blog such as self-delusion, cooking the facts to fit our preferred life narrative, and so forth.

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