One of my favorite things about going dark for a week is that I get to consume a bunch of books. Since we’ve been back from Alaska, my reading pace has been slower than normal, so it was nice to have plenty of uninterrupted time to lay on a couch and read. I usually manage to read a book a day on vacation – this time I only gobbled down five. All but one was great.
I started off with The Cure. Every entrepreneur should read this book. I can’t remember who recommended it to me (someone at the Return Path board dinner?) – it’s the extraordinary personal and professional story of John Crowley, his wife Aileen, their three children (two of whom have Pompe disease), and John’s creation of Novazyme Pharmaceuticals – a company he created to cure Pompe disease in order to save his kids. While John steps firmly on (and possibly over) the lines of medical ethics, his singleminded focus helps make tremendous progress on this disease while creating a very successful company that was acquired by Genzyme for $137m within 18 months of being founded. An old friend – David Hendren – makes an unexpected visit in this book as the lead investor in Novazyme (David was the lawyer who represented Feld Technologies – my first company – when it was acquired by AmeriData.)
Hundred Dollar Baby: I need some mental floss next. Spenser (and Robert Parker) didn’t disappointment me (they never do.) If you are a Spenser fan, this is the latest – both Hawk and Susan play prominent roles.
Destined for Destiny: George W. Bush’s unauthorized autobiography was as disappointing to me as GWB’s performance as president. Scott Dikkers – the editor-in-chief of The Onion was the co-author – and I expected 90 minutes of hilarity. The first few chapters had me laughing, but the book stalled out and I ended up looking at the pictures and skimming. I guess that fits with the topic. Oh well. Unless you are a serious Bush-basher or Onion-lover, don’t bother.
High School Confidential: I love ethnography. My favorite course as a doctoral student was John van Mannen’s – we spent a lot of time understanding how to best do qualitative research using fieldwork. I’ve always fantasized about dropping out and getting “regular jobs” – I love reading books about people that have the courage to do this and then document it. Jeremy Iversen – at age 25 – spent a year as a high school senior in a school in the Los Angeles area. The book is superb – Iversen does a phenomenal job of having the other high school kids tell the story. The most remarkable thing to me was how similar things were to my high school experience (public high school in Richardson, Texas – J.J. Pearce in case you wondered.) While the language is a little different, the social dynamics, sex, teachers, drugs, parents, school administrators, and struggles seemed pretty equivalent.
The Immortal Game: Awesome book. I’ve always loved chess, although I’m an “ok beginner” and I’ve never spent the time necessary to study the game in order to get past “level 1.” Shenk does a superb job of explaining the history of chess, which mixing in a famous game (Adolf Anderssen vs. Lionel Kieseritzky – June 21, 1851, London – known as “The Immortal Game”) to highlight / teach chess and its notation. It’s an incredibly compelling approach to teaching the history of chess – I found myself unable to put the book down.
Overall it was an extremely bookalicious week.