By John Nicola, Chairman and CEO
While many of us traditionally spend the Holidays gathered with family and friends, I recognize we might be unable to celebrate as usual this year. Undeniably, Covid has required most of us to adapt to a new environment that amongst other things requires us to be more isolated than we would like.
With that in mind, I’d like to recommend some books for those who like to read or listen for the Holiday Season. A few months ago, I downloaded the Audible app (part of Amazon) and since then have listened to several books instead of reading them. Of course, it takes longer (The Splendid and the Vile was over 35 hours) but the time passes very quickly if you listen to while taking long brisk walks in invigorating environments, such as parks, seawalls and trails, etc. I have found it to be a great combination of stimulation for the mind and body.
2020 Holiday Book Recommendations
The Splendid and The Vile (by Erik Larson)
I remember my mother telling me about how life was in London during the blitz. She lived and worked there during the War. Larson’s book is about a one-year period of time from the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1941 in England. The book is about Churchill and those closest to him both personally and politically. Britain was being pummeled incessantly by the Luftwaffe, but the country never actually looked as though it would surrender (although there were several times when Churchill was convinced that Germany’s invasion was days away). The story is personal and dramatic. Especially enjoyable in the audio format where the narrator seamlessly transitions from English to American accents.
Never Split the Difference (by Chris Voss)
Chris Voss is a former FBI Hostage negotiator who now runs a company that specializes in the art of negotiation. His bio states that: Chris has taught business negotiation in the MBA program as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He has taught business negotiation at Harvard University, guest lectured at The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, The IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland and The Goethe School of Business in Frankfurt, Germany.
Needless to say, extremely qualified. The book will surprise many people who assume that top negotiators are tough, demanding and hard to argue with. In fact, according to Voss the most difficult thing about being a top negotiator is learning how to listen intently. He says this can be exhausting but absolutely necessary to be effective. Patience and perseverance also play a large role.
If you want to be better at negotiations (whether in business with your children or friends) this is the book to listen to.
Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 (by Jim Collins and William Lazier)
I will admit to being a huge Jim Collins fan. I have read all his books and was fortunate to have been part of a three-day retreat at his Boulder, Colorado lab in 2018. His first book was written with his mentor William Lazier in 1992. Lazier passed away in 2005 later but has always been a great influence on Collins.
Jim decided to rewrite their book for 2020 by adding new chapters that are relevant today but keeping the original message about what it takes to be an effective entrepreneur/ leader today. I listened to this book rather than read it and that makes a difference. Jim narrates his new sections and has a professional handle the original material. It is a very effective way to communicate the overall principles they believe in. Anyone trying to build or run any type of enterprise (including non-profits) and anyone interested in learning what great leaders have in common will get much out of this book.
The Heist – A Michael Caine audiobook
Some of us are old enough to remember that the original version of the movie The Italian Job was done in the late ’60s and starred Sir Michael Caine as Charlie Croker. In this podcast, Caine tells six separate stories about some of the largest and most creative robberies of all time including the largest bank burglary in US history. All these stories are true and have plots that are as intricate as any great fiction thriller.
The Order (by Daniel Silva)
In case you were wondering if I ever read fiction let me assure you, I do. Gabriel Allon the Israeli spymaster is the hero of a series of books going back to 2000 and written by Daniel Silva. There have been twenty of them and I must admit to reading 15 of them over the years. They are fast-paced, well written and have great plots with many twists. In this book, Allon is investigating on behalf of the Vatican the suspicious death of the Pope who was also his friend. At the same time, he is also the head of Mossad and as such has complex relationships with the CIA, MI-6 and of course the Russian Foreign Intelligence Survey. If you choose to read this book, you’ll want to read the other Gabriel Allon stories.
A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens)
Most of us have watched numerous versions of this story as a movie (I think Alastair Sim’s 1951 black and white performance is by far the best). However how many of us have read the actual book by Dickens. He was quite young when he wrote the book and was going through a bit of a dry patch in his writing before he could put pen to paper on this classic in 1843. We all remember well the opening lines of the book, “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Arguably, however, it is the last line we all remember the most, “and so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Everyone!”
This book has a timeless message of hope, renewal and the importance of sharing. Perhaps our current Covid dilemma is a perfect environment to recall the spirit embodied in this great piece of writing.
What lies ahead is both hopeful and uncertain, with the recent news about several vaccines, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a sense of renewed optimism as we look to a new year. There are numerous adjectives we could find to describe 2020. Easy would not be one of them. We’ve been through a lot this year and we have a ways to go yet with respect to Covid and the challenges it presents. Books like these provide us with something completely different than our current reality. Whether you listen to or read these books I believe you will find them both enlightening and enjoyable.