Thursday, December 30, 2010

Twenty Books I Read in 2010 That Really Influenced My Thinking

1. Sarah Bakewell, How to Live Or A Life of Montaigne. This book is the best introduction in English to Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, the man who retired in 1570 to his Bordeaux estate to make wine and invent the modern essay. I had read the essays in college, but Bakewell inspired me to re-read them, which I am doing. Montaigne who lived during a time of almost constant civil war between the Protestants and Catholics is wise and has advice like question everything that works today.

2. Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Schulz really made me re-think how I view being wrong and failure. This book is hilarious, well written, but ultimately quite serious. To read a blog inspired by this book go to

3. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Both the biography of cancer and the training of an oncologist, this book is graceful, elegant, and well written. I am in awe.

4. David Blumenthal and James A. Morone, The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office. From FDR to George W. Bush, health care’s role in the office of the president and in American politics is dissected and analyzed. Reading this great book helps one keep the day-to-day ups and downs of health care reform in perspective. Partisan fighting and unfair attacks are nothing new when it comes to this divisive issue. Yes David Blumenthal is that guy who runs ONC under HHS.

5. John E. Wennberg, Tracking Medicine: A Researcher’s Quest to Understand Health Care. The founder of the Dartmouth Atlas and approach makes a sensible and compelling argument for shared decision-making as the only way to decrease per-capita cost and increase quality. Using University of California data, he also refutes the UCLA argument. (

6. Jeffrey J. Kripal, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. The J. Newton Rayzor Professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University not only tells the Esalen tale complete with characters like Hunter Thompson, Joan Baez, Fritz Perls and all the rest, but he more importantly cogently analyzes the influence of Eastern religions on America.

7. Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. The best book on change management that actually works. Must read in my humble opinion.

8. Sherry Turkle, Simulation and Its Discontents. Sherry Turkle is the university professor I wish I were. She is the one pundit on technology I really trust.

9. Dennis McCullough, MD, My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing Slow Medicine, the Compassionate Approach to Caring For Your Aging Loved Ones. McCullough is that wise primary care provider you wish you had as your doctor and as the doctor to your parents who live on the other side of the country. (

10. Carol S. Dweck, PhD. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Stanford professor whose research has changed my mind about how important mindsets are to the individual, the organization, and the nation. (

11. Charles Seife, Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception. The title says it all.

12. Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place. Anyone who has seen my office or desk or talked to Elizabeth Melby knows why I love this book. And let’s face it, it is true.

13. Ian F. McNeely with Lisa Wolverton, Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet. One of those brilliant big picture books that traces the institutions (library, monastery, university, republic of letters, disciplines, and the laboratory) that have nurtured, shaped, and changed human knowledge.

14. Faye Flam, The Score: How the Quest for Sex Has Shaped the Modern Man. Title says it all about this hilarious and true science book.

15. Daniel S. Greenberg, Tech Transfer: Science, Money, Love, and the Ivory Tower. It’s a novel, but after having been a medical school professor, I can tell you it rings true. A professor creates a rat that never sleeps, has a bowel movement, or urinates, and the US Army is very interested.

16. Tom Chatfield, Fun Inc.: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century. The serious look at the future of gaming that inspired the blog post (

17. Melvin L. Rogers, The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy. An important interpretation of America’s most important and influential philosopher, the main man for pragmatism.

18. H. Gilbert Welch, MD, MPH, Should I Be Tested for Cancer? May Not and Here’s Why. The title tells you why this is an important book.

19. David H. Freedman, Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us. (

20. Steve Hagen, How the World Can Be the Way It Is: An Inquiry for the Millennium into Science, Philosophy, and Perception. A science writer turned Buddhist monk really knows how to write about science and religion.

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