The themes for this year’s summer reading are around reflections on the shortness of life, how we treat the elderly and how we’re unprepared for the later stages in life. A young South African comedian with an entrepreneurial spirit who used his ingenuity and the power of language to overcome the oppression. The power of practice to develop your craft and creating your passion instead of simply trying to find it.

Born A Crime

by Trevor Noah

Wow, what a life thus far. Trevor Noah, shares stories of his childhood growing up in South Africa during the tail-end of apartheid. Being born, half black, half white, he was Born a Crime under the racist laws of apartheid.

The lessons on the journey finding one’s identity and cultivating craftiness and ingenuity through numerous hustles from a young age to survive were very relatable and inspiring. You can do a lot with a little, but you need a little to start with. You can teach a man to fish, but if he doesn’t have a fishing road, he can’t fish, Noah beautifully communicated reflecting on the huge gaps between rich and poor in his country. Because of his mixed race, he was classed as “colored”, which made him an outcast, but slight privileges he would find. What connected him with many people was that he learned to speak many different languages. “Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”

Born a Crime has so much richness and depth to it. It was funny, wise, outrageous. crafty and fearless. Much of Noah’s story, was shared with the story of his mother, Patricia. In this story, they both grow together, like partners, it’s a coming of age them against the world.

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”
Trevor Noah

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Reading ‘Extreme Ownership’ has had a big influence on how I think about leadership. The core message around leadership is that the leader is always responsible. The book details U.S Naval SEALs Jocko Willing and Leif Babin’s challenges leading SEAL teams during the war in Iraq and the mindset and principles that enabled their team to go through some of the deadliest environments and carry out their missions. Great life and business read. It dissects the traits and character of a strong leader.

“Discipline equals freedom.”
Jocko Willink

Ender’s Shadow (Ender’s Shadow, #1)

by Orson Scott Card

A well-crafted parallel story to Ender’s Game which follows’s the story from the perspective of Bean, the small child who seemed to fade into the background wherever he was, but whose mind enabled him to masterly control a situation like a puppet master. Bean turns out to be smarter than Ender, who himself is brilliant and is perceived as humanity’s savior but uses his power entirely from self-preservation as he goes through Battle School and figures out the truth behind it all even before Ender. It was thrilling to hear Bean’s back story growing up in the streets, near the brink of death and always finding a way throw no matter the situation. I would recommend this be read after Ender’s Game, and both can still hold their own weight.

“The Buggers have finally, finally learned that we humans value each and every individual human life… But they’ve learned this lesson just in time for it to be hopelessly wrong—for we humans do, when the cause is sufficient, spend our own lives. We throw ourselves onto the grenade to save our buddies in the foxhole. We rise out of the trenches and charge the entrenched enemy and die like maggots under a blowtorch. We strap bombs on our bodies and blow ourselves up in the midst of our enemies. We are, when the cause is sufficient, insane.”
Orson Scott Card

The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life

by Thomas M. Sterner

The amount of wisdom packed into this small book blew my mind.  In the practicing mind, the author emphasizes the importance of process over product and results. Most of the anxiety we experience in life, and failure to finish what we start comes from this feeling that there is a point of perfection in everything we do. Early life is all about trial-and-error practice, but modern life’s technological speed, habitual multitasking, and promises of instant gratification have made us lose touch with consistent hard work and trust in the process. By focusing on “process, not product,” you’ll learn to live in each moment, where you’ll find calmness and equanimity. Some of the most powerful traits you can get from being more process-oriented are becoming a more patient and disciplined individual.

“Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practice are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas in your life and promotes proper perspective on all of life’s difficulties.”
Thomas M. Sterner

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal is a powerful, eye-opening and empathetically written book about how we struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone. We aren’t being properly equipped and prepared to handle end of life decides for ourselves or loved ones. Medical Science has progressed tremendously to expand our lifespan, but the quality of our lives still diminish dramatically; keeping the body alive and destroying other things in the process. The book talks about alternative methods of care and how we can better manage life and think about living and dying on our own terms.

“A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.”
Atul Gawande

On the Shortness of Life

by Seneca

Timeliness wisdom. Life is long if you know how to use it. That is the statement which underlines the essence of these series of letters written by the Roman Philosopher Seneca to his friends and mother. It felt like a was listening to a mentor and friend and the Stoic concepts in this book have impacted my life. This is a character and values building book and will help you appreciate life more.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” Seneca


Also published on Medium.