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what my favorite books/authors says about me

As a change of pace, I thought I’d share something personal. I love reading. Since I believe that what we love reading reveals a lot about us, here are four authors I adore:

Jhumpa Lahiri
Lahiri won a Pulitzer Prize for her first book, a collection of short-stories entitled, The Interpreter of Maladies.

Though it’s her follow-up, The Namesake, that’s my favorite, . It’s about an Indian American growing up in Boston and his feelings of being torn between worlds.

The book’s insight into what it’s like to grow up feeling like an “outsider” at times was powerfully resonant. I’ve pushed this book on people like it’s my job, and will probably do the same in a few months when the movie’s released.

About a year back, Lahiri also wrote an amazing piece in Newsweek entitled, My Two Lives. She writes about her experiences growing up in America and feeling neither “Indian” nor “American.” Of feeling pulled in both directions, but falling short at both. Without question, it’s the most resonant one-page story I’ve ever read. If I love reading Michael Lewis for the wisdom I seemingly pick up afterwards, I read Lahiri because it contains the rarest of things: identification. I identify with her and her characters and feel understood. That’s powerful.

Michael Lewis
Best known for Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, and most recently, The Blindside.

My favorite Lewis book is Losers, an account of the 1996 Republican Presidential primaries. In great prose, he gently highlights the absurdity of modern politics. His other books are equally brilliant and insightful—but Losers is the most under-appreciated of the bunch.

Lewis is a master at taking organizations and institutions (MLB, NCAA/NFL, Wall Street, elections, etc) and building fascinating human stories around them. Most valuable to me, is that I’ll often find wisdom in his words. I’ve used Lewis’ anecdotes or “wisdom” countless times in interviews and conversations over the years.

Malcolm Gladwell
Everyone knows Gladwell as the author of Blink and The Tipping Point, but that’s the least interesting part.

Gladwell is at his best in his The New Yorker articles. My previous post was on his article about the difference between puzzles and mysteries– a fascinating distinction. Here he gets us fascinated with ketchup.

Gladwell finds insight in the elegant complexity of the world. He lays these “under the surface” truths out there—typically with astounding results. He is brain candy and blogs at gladwell.com.

Po Bronson
What Should I Do With My Life was a mega-bestseller, and probably given to every high school graduate by their parents for the past few years.

The book showcases the best of Po: his ability to find the insights, frailties and strengths that make us human. He weaves magnificent vignettes of 10-20 pages that flow so well they blow you away. Of especially personal interest to me, are his great books about the Silicon Valley. When I read What Should I Do With My Life a few years back, it was as I was grappling w/the very question. It gave me no answers, but that’s why I loved it. There is no easy answer to the question: Only the struggle. Bronson shared the stories of others struggle w/the question. If you haven’t yet read the book, but find yourself asking that question every now and then, it’s certainly worth a read.

2/17/13 – Interesting how diminished Gladwell has become in my eyes over the past five years. I might be following the herd though, since that neatly mirrors his descent with the general intelligentsia. While I still like his writing and find his insights thought-provoking, I do detect a certain glibness and over-reach. Anyway, I still approve of my choices from -5 years. Well, except for Gladwell. Like not love.

3 replies on “what my favorite books/authors says about me”

[…] Now that I’ve called you idiots, here’s my (hopefully less idiotic) proposal. There’s still time do this. Send me a message and we’ll get to work. (I’ll even apologize for calling you idiots). 1) Jhumpa Lahiri, the author of The Namesake, is a serious writer. Pulitzer Prize winner and all the trimmings. How are you using her? I have no idea and I don’t think anyone else does either. How about you get her to blog for the movie and actually promote it. She could do anything from blogging from the character’s POV about incidents from the book, or even extending forward into the present day. Engage past readers who already care about the characters to build excitement. Or she could blog about the themes and topics covered in the book. I know I’d love to read (and likely link to) more from her in the vain of her “My Two Lives” Newsweek article from a year ago. 2) Video clips. You’ve got a passionate and engaged user base of readers who have already read and loved the book. Releasing snippets of video on the website, YouTube or whatever keeps this top of mind and gets people to send this around. This is pretty simple stuff that the producers of the comic companies have nailed—whet the appetites of a rabid fan base to encourage word of mouth and buoy a big opening weekend. Instead you’re doing the opposite: neglecting them. 3) Make the official website interactive. Create a discussion board/forum where people can share their real-life stories of ‘two worlds. one journey’, the tagline of the movie. I know my mother has a story. If you create a community where people are actually engaging, it is only natural these stories will travel and you’ll be drawing new visitors to the site who have never read the book. More importantly, these real-life stories have a powerful undercurrent that will go far beyond the original audience of just South-Asian Americans. The story of an immigrant’s journey shares enormous parallels and passions regardless of the country. If you don’t think this will broaden your base of interested viewers—you’re crazy! And if interest is low in the community, sponsor a contest where the authors of the top 5 stories (determined by reader vote) win a trip to the premier. […]