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The Last Ten Books I Have Read

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The Goal
Here's a novel idea: take a cutting edge economic concept called The Theory of Constraints and write a novel about it. It's just crazy enough that it works. A manager turns his factory around, saves his marriage and home life and throws out a bunch of management dogma in the process. It's a quick read and the fact that it's written as a novel makes it far more interesting than a typical b-school textbook. Virtually any process that creates a product could benefit from Eliyahu Goldratt's ideas.

The E-Myth Revisited
The gem of this week's school reading. What causes most small businesses to fail and how to fix it. It was eerie seeing how much some of my past businesses were reflected in the stories. This is one of those books that I will end up giving to friends.

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment
I have read this book twice now. Once when I was trying out some of the books on the Personal MBA recommended readings and again now at Acton. George Leonard uses examples from Aikido, sports and other arenas to illustrate the path of mastery. It's a remarkably clear headed and visionary approach to how to improve performance by becoming better learners. In fact, this was the book that inspired me to pursue the Acton program.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
A superbly researched, well written and thought provoking book.

A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age
Right brainers, take heart.

Health Care Meltdown: Confronting the Myths and Fixing Our Failing System
At last, someone with passion willing to talk about the issue of healthcare in the US. Bob Lebow, an Idaho physician caring for the un and underinsured in a small town, explains how we got the mess we have today in the US healthcare system and he systematically debunks the myths and propaganda that have been swirling around in the American psyche. We spend the most per person for healthcare of any country in the world, have some of the poorest outcomes compared to other industrialized nations and we have a system of rationing today, with over 40 million people unable to access healthcare easily. Over half of the bankruptcies in the US are related to illness. These facts are a sentinel of the depth and breadth of this crisis.

Please Don't Come Back from the Moon
The men leave town, leave behind their sons and the world lurches ahead. A story that gives you hope, breaks your heart and makes you feel like you already lived parts of it, a dim memory somewhere in the fog of your teens and twenties. After I finished it, I stared at my sleeping son and mused on why some dads go to the moon and hoped I wouldn't.

Weird Ideas That Work
Stanford professor and scholar Robert Sutton lays out some provocative material with Weird Ideas That Work. Drawing on examples from the high tech and design world in particular, Sutton describes how innovative companies position themselves in seemingly counterintuitive ways to keep coming up with new ideas. It is not all a walk in the park, however. Truly innovative companies have to still expect a high number of failures, stalled projects, personality clashes and all sorts of associated mishaps related to new approaches. However, by learning to pull the plug quicker on stalled projects, knowing when to leave your employees alone and to .fail faster,. savvy managers can use the heat that comes from all that friction to their advantage.

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook
The perfect gift for the obsessive compulsive on your list, The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook lists strategies for dealing with mountain lions (open your jacket to make yourself appear larger), barroom brawls (your forehead absorbs blows most effectively), break in to cars (use a bent coat hanger) and so on. Who knows if you will remember all of this stuff in a panic situation, but if you are constantly imagining the worst thing that could happen, this is the book for you. I read it in bits and pieces for about 6 months and always found my anxiety level heightened afterward. Just what do I do about killer bees, again?

Drug Lord, the Life and Death of a Mexican Kingpin
I wanted this book because I thought it would be great light reading. A tale of Mexican smugglers on the border with the US, replete with shootouts, double dealing, fabulous wealth and an assortment of good guys and bad guys. Mostly, Drug Lord delivered. Pablo Acosta was the descendent of generations of smugglers, opportunists who took advantage of the changing tastes of the US for entrepreneurial gain. At the height of his success, he was thought to be responsible for tons of cocaine from Colombia entering the US. He had wealth unheard of for his peasant background in the little village of Ojinaga, Mexico. In this respect, his story is almost a Wild West cliché, with gunfights in the streets, drinking, womanizing and incredible popularity with the rural people he lived with. He gave tremendous sums of cash and good to the needy and impoverished, had songs written about him and an entire network of villagers who were his eyes and ears, tipping him off to any threats.

What moved this book from light fare to a concise view of the war played out on so many fronts along the US/Mexican border, was the vast government system that essentially protected some drug dealers and their turf. Government soldiers arrested or killed competing dealers or sometimes burned growing fields as a photo-op for the US media, but only after the valuable parts of the plants had been harvested and sold. Almost no one in the Mexican government came off as even reasonably honest. The commander of the police task force that killed Pablo in a daring raid was later found to be in the employ of other drug smugglers and today lives in San Antonio, Texas as an informant for the DEA. Once again, nothing in Mexico is as it seems, and the book paints much of the drug economy as supported by many in the government as revenge for the US theft of half of Mexico's land in the 19th century. One president of Mexico once said: "Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States." That statement seems to sum up the mood of those who are the tentacles of the drug trade in Mexico.

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