I had started reading a little more last year while looking for a new job after my AAF layoff. It didn’t hurt that I was spending a lot of time in the pool, so floating and reading became a pretty relaxing habit, especially if I was feeling discouraged by the job hunt.

And up until Summer 2019, shamefully enough, I hadn’t even joined my local library system, despite having a couple friends who were avid users. We planned a trip to France last August and I wanted to brush up on my basic French skills from junior high & high school, so I hit the library and started renting some language books and CD learning tools to supplement my daily Duolingo efforts.

Sidebar: My French still sucks, but I somehow was able to muddle through enough, with a little help from Google Translate too, for two-plus weeks in Normandy. Reims (the Champagne region), Bretagne & Paris. Given that much of that trip was spent in small rural towns and visiting cidre orchards, I quickly developed a basic script to explain that my husband was an American cider journalist and would translate at various tasting stops, so that was good enough, since “mon mari ne parle pas français” – but he’s on deck for a future Germany trip. FWIW, I got the other key tourism conversations down, namely ordering food and wine, and I quickly figured out how to make dinner reservations over the phone. To be honest, I really should have kept up with the French learning post-trip, but I didn’t. I’ll have to get back to it at some point.

In any event, up until this year, I hadn’t even connected my Kindle to the library system, so like an idiot, I was still buying books or sharing my husband’s library, which wasn’t bad, as he’d amassed a good number of management and leadership books. Then I wised up and started borrowing digital copies. I figure if I really love any, I’ll buy a permanent copy.

So while it wasn’t necessarily a New Year’s Resolution per se, I’ve been pretty regularly knocking out multiple books per month, in part because I’m a fast reader, and also because the 21-day max loan period helps force me to read on deadline. And COVID19 has helped that with quarantine reading as well. I’ve even dabbled with more audiobook listening as I work on other projects, such as painting rooms and gardening.

In any event, more often than not, I opt to read non-fiction, sometimes it’s a mix of light reading by celebrity comedians so it’s beach or pool-friendly, but over the last few years my reading has been leadership and management dominated, and admittedly, I’m way behind on reading many of the gold standards of the last 5 to 10 plus years.

Once in awhile, I’ll read a novel, but by far my favorite type of books are memoirs from Hollywood actors, writers and directors, and highly editorialized but still non-fiction, behind-the-scenes accounts of media and internet empires, the consumer brands you know and love, with true stories so wild they are more far-fetched than any episode of Silicon Valley. So they are a guilty pleasure if you will, but I love understanding the context around so many industries most of us only see from the outside.

Past reads in this category include Desperate Networks, Shoe Dog, and Disrupted by Dan Lyons (writer on Silicon Valley). A note about that last one, I read it in part because of my experience in the tech world, I’m fairly familiar with many of the characters in real life, having dealt with them as sponsors / speakers at conferences I’ve produced, so there’s some innate curiosity to see what’s really happened behind the curtain.

Similarly, I read Lost & Founder by Rand Fishkin, someone I’ve known pretty well for nearly 20 years, through the lens of someone who knew many of the players and specifics about some scenarios detailed within the industry.

Favorite Reads Thus Far in 2020:

Ok, so I’m maybe the last person on the planet to read a Brene Brown book; but it did not disappoint, and watching her Netflix special really helped me read it in her voice.

FWIW, I’m also the type of person who CANNOT read a book before watching the movie version; my best example of defending this to others is Gone Girl – the movie ending would have been totally spoiled for me if I had read the book first. And The Martian was a far more enjoyable read to me after seeing the movie and then picturing Matt Damon as I read all of the scenes not included in the film.

I’ll also say, I’ve started and gave up on THREE Simon Sinek books. I just cannot get into his writing style. Plus, I just felt, probably after attempting the most recent books he’s published, that it’s regurgitation without much new perspective or fresh insights.

Given my short lived experience in pro football, and general interest in the business side of sports, Big Game was a fun and fascinating read, with the caveat that I’d love the opportunity to make my own character judgments if there’s ever a chance to work with some of the personalities detailed in that account.

And is there any better guilty pleasure than binging Bar Rescue episodes? Given my past bartending experience and current work in the bar / restaurant and wine industry, I always have felt drawn to this show.

Sure, Jon Taffer’s big personality on that show has always been an extreme version made for TV, but it’s always been clear he is a person of integrity and his heart is always in the right place. So the humility and experience he brings within his book was an entertaining and insightful, easy read with helpful takeaways.

His recounting of his own work in hospitality, implementing creative solutions and the turnarounds he’s helped make over the years is a master class in leadership and successful business management in many ways, particularly because the restaurant industry is notoriously one of the most difficult to succeed in.

Categories: Reading