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June 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 4| Page 12
FRONTLINES

Reading Minds

Summer Reading

The summer solstice is nearly here, ushering in the season of vacations, which for many of us brings extra reading time. So in this issue, our Reading Minds suggest their favorite books for fun and pleasure. Take a look at this medley of alluring recommendations from Anne Castle, Dean Donald Polden, Nancy Sher Cohen and David Maister before you head to the beach. Even if you are not traveling, these books will take your mind to new places.

Anne Castle RECOMMENDS:

The Aubrey-Maturin Series

The seafaring stories of Patrick O’Brian, from Master and Commander (No. 1, Williams Collins Sons, 1970) through Blue at the Mizzen (No. 20, W.W. Norton, 1999), provide a delightful escape into the early 19th century, its politics, mores, wars and discoveries. We sail the world with Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey and naval physician (and government agent) Stephen Maturin, surveying the treacherous shoals of the admiralty office and the arts of courtship and marriage, as well as the charted and uncharted courses of the seven seas.

While there’s nothing like a tense and trickery-filled naval battle for excitement, the flavor of these historical novels lies more in their finely observed, flawed but endearing characters, the subtle humor, and the view of the world from a 200-year distance.

I intersperse the O’Brian books with others, giving myself a new one every few months as a little treat. You can navigate through unfamiliar terms like “spar-laden cat,” “futtock plates” and “broaching to,” getting the general sense that there’s something nautical going on or, for those who need to know, there’s an ingeniously named companion glossary, A Sea of Words, by Dean King (Holt, 2000). Having recently finished No. 17, The Wine-Dark Sea, I’m not anxious for this voyage to end.

Anne Castle is a partner with the Rocky Mountain regional law firm Holland & Hart and practices water law. She was formerly the Chair of the firm’s management committee and its natural resources department.


Nancy Sher Cohen RECOMMENDS:

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

Bill Bryson’s sweet, touching memoir of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Broadway, 2006) takes me back to my own childhood in Kansas City, where the best pies were at Toddle House, the soup was Campbell’s and the bread was just plain white. In today’s world where we struggle to find community, Bryson evokes a time when daily life revolved around family, friends and a good color television. Witty and funny, this quick read will make you appreciate the simple happiness of an uncomplicated life.

Nancy Sher Cohen is the Managing Shareholder of the Los Angeles office of Heller Ehrman. She specializes in insurance recovery on behalf of policyholders, class actions and toxic tort defense work.


Donald Polden RECOMMENDS:

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

Michael Lewis has produced a string of interesting and thought-provoking books on topics involving cultural icons, finance and societal norms. His insights into the work and play of bond traders (Liar’s Poker) and the building of a major league baseball team (Moneyball) established him as a thoughtful observer of contemporary movements. In The Blind Side (W.W. Norton, 2007), Lewis brings us the powerfully interesting story of a naïve African-American high school football player from an impoverished, dysfunctional inner-city family in Memphis, Tennessee. The protagonist, Michael Oher, who has tremendous, undeveloped talents as a football tackle, is adopted by a prominent white family.

Lewis compellingly spins the story of how the family assists this raw talent in developing his athletic skills and his academic abilities—and how he succeeds. It’s an exciting read and a true, factual account of a young man adjusting to the challenges of life as a high-profile athletic talent in a football-crazy part of the country. Along the way we learn about the importance, in professional football, of the left tackle who protects the quarterback’s blind side. I enjoyed this book because it blends some interesting insights into football strategy with a sensitive story about a wealthy family that decides to help improve the life skills and prospects of a vulnerable young student. A good read!

Donald Polden is Dean and Professor of Law at Santa Clara University. He was the dean at the University of Memphis School of Law from 1993 to 2003.


David Maister RECOMMENDS:

Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties

One of the books I read (and reread) for relaxation and fun is Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties by Ian MacDonald (2nd Edition, Pimlico, 2005). It’s a serious track-by-track discussion of everything the Beatles recorded and released, written for mature adults and not just the obsessed fan (although, of course, I am both). I’m not a musician, and this book helps the lay reader understand what John, Paul, George and Ringo (and George Martin) did to create their amazing records. Dipping into the book will make you want to rush to put on a set of good headphones and really listen to what MacDonald points out. After 40 years, I thought I knew these recordings forwards, backwards and sideways—but I really didn’t. This is a great read both for old fans and younger generations seeking to see what the fuss was all about.

David Maister has consulted to professional firms around the world for more than 25 years on a broad spectrum of strategic and managerial issues. Author of six best-selling books on managing professional businesses, he is a former Harvard Business School professor.

*********************************************************************** Reading Minds invites sage professionals to recommend favorite books on a chosen topic. If you are looking for books on a particular topic, or have a book you’d like to share, contact Stephanie West Allen, stephanie@idealawg.com.

About the Column Editor

Reading Minds editor Stephanie West Allen, JD is a writer, speaker and mediator who presents seminars on harnessing brain power for improved networking, business development and conflict resolution. Her blogs are at idealawg.net and BrainsOnPurpose.com.

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