Allow me to take you into my thinking behind these five books. Much of it evolved from conversations with two close friends; a pediatrician who’s worried about keeping people healthy and a businessman worried about the economy. I had an epiphany: rather than suggest books for easy (mindless) summer reading, I decided to take you into the deep pastures of my mind and suggest books that have helped me keep things in perspective during these challenging times. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.
Incidentally, each of these books can also serve as a thoughtful gift to the right client – obviously you need to know your clients. Anyway, here we go…
1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel
I first read Man’s Search for Meaning over 40 years ago and I still have my original copy; dog-eared, full of highlights and notes. I’ve read it more times than I can remember, and am re-reading it now. In my mind, it’s a perfect book for today’s world. Victor Frankel was an Austrian Jew who studied neurology and psychiatry before being arrested by the Nazis in 1942 and spending three years in Auschwitz. He defied all the odds and survived, despite losing his parents, brother, and his wife, and became a world-renowned psychiatrist.
This little book, written in three parts, is a lesson in survival as Dr. Frankel takes you into his horror and his questions: “Why did some people survive and others perish?,” “What gave people the will to live?,” “What gives life meaning?,” and then introduces you to the basics of Logotherapy (a treatment he developed for his patients), and concludes with what his thoughts behind “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Although I think everyone should read and re-read this book, I recognize that it’s not for everyone. Nevertheless, it truly is an amazing book and would make a good gift to the right client.
2. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
My friend, the businessman mentioned above, recommended this book to me as it helped him settle down and stop worrying about the stock market every day. “Matt, I make my coffee and then read the stoic meditation of the day with the accompanying commentary of the authors. It’s done wonders for me – it puts things into perspective.”
Wow! I’ve been a big fan of stoic philosophers and have sent an untold number of the little book Epictetus The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness to friends and clients over the years. These meditations should be read, one a day, for thoughtfulness and reflection.
This is an easy read, and once again, not for everyone, but an excellent gift for someone who would enjoy starting each day with a fresh perspective.
3. Just Mercy by Byron Stevenson
This book was lent to me by my friend, the pediatrician, and I must confess, I procrastinated reading it until the George Floyd tragedy. Now it’s part of my daily reading. It’s a true story of how one of the author’s first cases as a young attorney was that of Walter McMillian, an African American who was sentenced to death in Alabama for a murder he didn’t commit.
You will be moved by the injustice and likely become upset, but maybe – in light of the challenges our country is currently facing – you will also gain a broader understanding of the problem and the challenges we face in developing a constructive path to a long-overdue solution.
This is a great book for anyone interested in a real-life version of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” that is written by a gifted attorney who is also a gifted writer.
4. The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
This is a brilliant book by one of my favorite authors who has the ability to take you into a slice of history as if you were there. You will find yourself transported into London from May of 1940 through May of 1941, 12 turbulent months where London was bombed unmercifully by Goerning’s Luftwaffe. You will experience Winston Churchill’s leadership during his first year as British Prime Minister as well as his idiosyncrasies.
Larson also provides personal insight into Churchill’s family, son, and daughters, as well as members of his administration, in particular his relationship with Lord Beaverbrook, his air minister.
From the citizens of London to Churchill himself, this book is a historic profile of courage written as a page-turning novel.
An excellent gift for anyone who has any interest in history, politics, and or leadership.
5. Marshall: Defender of the Republic by David L. Roll
This is a long-overdue biography of a man who was the force behind the Marshall Plan and often referred to as “America’s most distinguished soldier-statesman since George Washington. For people who are truly concerned about the future of our country, Roll has provided a captivating biography that highlights the qualities that contributed to General Marshall’s greatness; integrity, thoughtfulness, discipline, and selfless love of country.
Roll is a terrific writer and yes, at 700 plus pages this is the longest book on the list, but if you’re like me the entire book was engaging, with every page being a must-read.
This is another terrific book for anyone interested in history, politics, and leadership from an American timeline from World War One through the Korean War.
Stay healthy and please, amidst all the deep thinking I’m suggesting, give yourself permission to enjoy the summer.