July 16, 2020
SUMMER READS FROM THE FULCRUM TEAM
We at Fulcrum hope you are able to find some downtime to enjoy time with family and recharge this summer. We’re all hoping the warmth and sunshine are finally here to stay for the summer and, while we can’t get out and about as we normally would, we look forward to lounging in a chair in the sunshine with a cold drink and a good book.
For those of you with similar plans, here are some reading suggestions from our team. Pour a glass of something refreshing, relax in a comfortable chair, and enjoy!
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condo Heroes Vol. 1 by Jin Yong and translated by Anna Holmwood
I grew up watching the Hong Kong TVB television series: The Legend of the Condor Heroes and Return of the Condor Heroes. Recently, I discovered that my beloved TV series were based on the Chinese wuxia (martial arts) book series published in late 1950s, and that there are two English translations of the works, with 2 more in the pipeline. A Hero Born showcases a young man learning martial arts under the tutelage of many martial arts masters, navigating truth and deception against the backdrop of territorial conflicts between the Song Dynasty of China, the Jin government of Manchuria and Genghis Kahn of Mongolia. This translation gives me more context to the story from what I remember of my childhood TV days.
Kathryn H. Fisher
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is not quite history, not quite fiction, and not quite historical fiction; it is much more powerful than all three. Cora, the main protagonist, flees through time on an actual underground railroad that stops in metaphorical towns, each representing at least one of the many horrors waiting for Black people in pre-Civil War America. There is a slave-catcher close on Cora’s heels – reminiscent of the Judge in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian – lending an even greater sense of urgency to Cora’s travels. Whitehead’s imagination has produced something in a genre of its own that is, as the Pulitzer committee noted, “…a melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
The author is working to build a world in which the vast majority of us will wake up inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day. Simon Sinek presents the idea that great leaders inspire others by putting the Why (the purpose) before the How (the process), or the What (the product).
His TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is one of the most widely viewed of all time.
One of the most meaningful quotes from the book is “When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they almost invariably end up “overthinking.” These rational decisions tend to take longer to make, says Restak, and can often be of lower quality. In contrast, decisions made with the limbic brain, gut decisions, tend to be faster, higher-quality decisions. This is one of the primary reasons why teachers tell students to go with their first instinct when taking a multiple-choice test, to trust their gut.”
I was drawn to this book from a professional perspective but after reading it is completely relatable to your personal life.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Stretched too thin with too many demands on my time, it was clear I needed some help! This book hit the mark. Controlling your calendar in a COVID environment is imperative and the author provides a framework for “getting the right things done.” His reference to a clean closet provides a visual which helped me revisit the framework as I reordered my personal and professional priorities. Filtering through the noise of our current environment and focusing on what is essential seems basic, but it’s difficult to turn down all the urgent calls for us to do more. If, like me, you have a problem with saying no, you need this book.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
Range is the latest book on performance science by award-winning author David Epstein. You probably know Epstein’s work even if you haven’t heard of him: he co-authored the Sports Illustrated story that revealed Alex Rodriguez had used steroids, and the 10,000-hour rule in his first book The Sports Gene was later popularized Malcolm Gladwell. In Range, Epstein argues that starting early and focusing on a narrow specialty may not be as rewarding as trying a variety of things and quitting the unfulfilling ones. Specialization triumphs in easy times, but when things get “wicked” (which is usually when it really matters), Epstein shows that it is much better to be a generalist than a specialist. And, you guessed it, it’s not just in sports: Having intellectual range and taking in lots of information triumphs over narrow, deep knowledge. Epstein shows that people who are extremely specialized and have a narrow focus perform worse as they accumulate more information, while people who have “science curiosity” are better able to avoid cognitive biases and have better judgment. When faced with information that doesn’t agree with our preconceived notions, it is curiosity, not knowledge, that enables us to adapt and advance. What a great lesson for athletes, parents, investors, and business leaders preparing for life after the “wickedness” of COVID-19!
The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy – by Stephanie Kelton
Stephanie Kelton provides a thought-provoking exploration of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and how it could dramatically change how countries manage their financial affairs such as taxes, national debt and social entitlements. MMT could be the answer to how we address growing wealth inequality, healthcare, climate change. This is a timely discussion considering the explosion of government debt from the Great Financial Crisis and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic.
Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson.
I loved reading this book because it allowed me to understand the undeniable influence your brain’s perception has on your ability to do things. What you learn is that perception and reality aren’t always the same thing in the world of sports.
Red Notice by Bill Browder
This non-fiction thriller recounts Bill Browder’s journey through high finance as a pioneer of foreign investing in Russia to a life of advocating for the protection of human rights in oppressive regimes. There was never a clear path on his journey, and each twist and turn in his story builds anxiety-inducing suspense that pushes you to keep reading and learn how he escapes the problem at hand – whether it be collapsing financial markets or Russian assassins. For me, Bill Browder’s story is inspirational because it displays that ingenuity can be leveraged to resolve dire situations and that as individuals we have the ability to make a meaningful change for the world.
My Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
David Lebovitz spent nearly twenty years working in the restaurant industry in San Francisco, working his way up the ladder from dishwasher to pastry chef at the famed Chez Panisse. He chucked it all to move to his favorite city, the one-and-only Paris. This book is a memoir of his transformation into a Parisian, told in an entertainingly personal style that is both witty and self-deprecating – not sparing himself in relating the many gaffes that any expat might make in a newly-adopted culture. He describes his various adventures in negotiating the challenges of the unwritten rules of French culture, business, and day-to-day life. Along the way, he shares recipes for the food that brought him to the City of Light. Lebovitz has a genius for supplying aspiring cooks enough information to even the playing field without being condescending or tedious – one might not always succeed with perfect results the first time, but nearly always the second time.
Grant by Ron Chernow
Having recently seen the History Channel’s miniseries “Grant,” I wanted to learn more about Ulysses S. Grant. The biography was written by Ron Chernow, who also authored the biography of Alexander Hamilton. With the chorus of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” running through my head, I’ve learned more about Grant and what he accomplished in advancing civil rights during Reconstruction.