Reading has always been central to my professional development because thoughtful reading introduces diverse perspectives, new ideas, and novel frameworks. Reading also builds habits of mind that strengthen our ability to think critically and abstractly. Additionally, the novel ideas and plot twists we encounter improve our ability to act under uncertainty by making us more comfortable with ambiguity and surprise. All these traits help build strong communicators, effective problem solvers, and well-rounded leaders.
I believe the benefits of reading are not confined to a single genre. Non-fiction introduces new ideas, frameworks, and perspectives; fiction strengthens creativity and empathy. History allows us to learn from the experiences of others; following current events makes us informed citizens. Studying a range of topics broadens our world view; investigating a specific topic in depth exposes nuance and conflicting opinions. Philosophy develops critical reasoning skills; poetry helps us interpret emotion.
The one overarching insight I offer is that how you read is more important than what you read. I encourage you to read frequently on a variety of topics told from a diverse collection of perspectives. Don’t just passively absorb what you read; scrutinize, critique, and improve upon the ideas and arguments you encounter. Share these ideas with others and engage in meaningful debate.
With those comments in mind, below is a collection of works that have significantly impacted my professional development. I’ll continue to share recommendations from my library in future C-notes, and I encourage you to do the same with your fellow Guardians.
I challenge each of you to not just read as a personal pursuit but also bring others with you. Take a moment and ask a peer what they’re reading. Just like a good book, you never know where the conversation will go or what exciting ideas you may discover.
19 Stars: A Study in Military Character and Leadership
The Age of Heretics: A history of the radical thinkers who reinvented corporate management
Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis
The Killer Angels: A novel of the Civil War
Longitude: The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time
Moon Shot: The inside story of America's Apollo moon landings
Thousands of interesting scientific facts I forgot seconds after closing the book
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Thinking in Time: The uses of history for decision makers