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.