Feb 23 2009

Q1 Vacation Included Two Highly Relevant Books

I’m back in Boulder from my Q1 vacation with Amy.  We spent the first few days at our ski house in Keystone with the Wilson Quintet (Fred, Joanne, Jessica, Emily, and Josh).  We then went to Paradise Island in the Bahamas with our Boston friends Warren and Ilana Katz.  We had a great time chilling out, enjoying our friends, sleeping a lot, eating at Nobu (twice), reading, and being completely off the grid.

I read five books on vacation.  All of them were great; two were incredible and highly relevant.

The first was an economy themed book.  John Bogle’s Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life was one of the clearest books I’ve ever read about the difference between investment and speculation.  Bogle is the founder of The Vanguard Group and is a tireless advocate of the superiority of index funds over traditional actively-managed mutual funds.  I’ll follow up with a longer post on my view of the difference between investment and speculation; suffice it to say that I think America (and the world) needs a lot more investment and a lot less speculation.  Bogle also does a great job talking about what matters in life (yes – “enough” has several meanings in this book.)

The second was a foreign policy themed book.  I learned more about how to think about foreign policy in the context of the US government by reading Madeleine Albright’s Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership than I’ve learned cumulatively from all other sources I’ve been exposed to over the past decade.  She writes plainly, with a clarity of thought that I find unique to books like this.  Brilliant.

If you are a leader of any organization, you should read both of these books.  They will help you realign your principles with our current reality while giving you a clear context to consider what has gone wrong with the US economy and US foreign policy.  While you probably won’t agree with everything written, both books will cause you to pause and think, which I always find to be a good thing.

Lest you think it was a completely serious vacation, I can assure you that President Will Lee once again saves the world in Mounting Fears by Stuart Woods (and yes – the wordplay in the title is delicious)  and Nicholai Hel holds up well as the protagonist in Trevanian’s classic Shibumi, although it took me a while to get into it this time around (my fourth I think).

Finally, I started the week with Dean Karnazes 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! .  Karnazes is a remarkable athlete, human being, and story teller.  If you are a runner or endurance athlete, Dean never disappoints.