I know there is no shortage of Amazon gift cards floating around out there after the Christmas holidays. If you’re looking for ways to spend some of that Amazon cash, you might be interested in a list of some of my favorite books I read this past year. Even if these particular books don’t appear too interesting, maybe this post will inspire you to create your own reading list for 2015.
We spend a lot of time, as lawyers, reading. But most of our reading material can hardly be called literature (nor, for that matter, decent non-fiction). We pour over contracts, pleadings, judicial opinions and statutes. And as important as that material is to our work, it is not particularly edifying.
In search of some edification, I set out this past year to ramp up my extracurricular reading. In the next two posts, I will be sharing with you a list of my ten favorite books from 2014. In this post I’ll start with the top 5, and I will follow-up in a few days with the remaining list. That way you can space out your Amazon spending.
This is a rather odd assortment of books. And while I read many more books than this over the last 12 months, these are the ones I would put into the potentially “life-changing” category.
On The Shortness of Life (Lucius Anneas Seneca)–this 2000 year old treatise by the Roman stoic is an eloquent essay on why it matters that we treat time as if it is our most valuable of all resources. It’s an easy read (not something you can say about most 2000 year old works written in Latin). But you can’t rush through it. Fill your thermos with some good coffee, crawl up into that big chair on the back porch, and spend a couple of hours with this one.
Hauntings (James Hollis)–James Hollis is one of those authors whose material I read over and over. Just about everything he’s written has the ability to change your life, and reading it once is seldom enough. He is a Jungian analyst from Houston, Texas and a fairly prolific writer. This latest work deals with how unseen forces from the past (complexes, neuroses, parental influences, childhood wounds) haunt our present lives and why it’s important that we undertake the work to free ourselves from these ghosts of the past.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph (Ryan Holiday)–Ryan Holiday was my inspiration for becoming more intentional about my extra-curricular reading this year. Check out his blog and subscribe to his regular email posts of suggested readings. This work is an excellent treatment of the idea that the biggest challenges in our lives frequently turn out to be the things that make us more fully who we are and how those challenges offer us the opportunity to discover what’s best about us. It’s a particularly good book for us lawyers who find it tough to talk about failure and vulnerability.
Regeneration (Pat Barker)–With this being the centennial for World War I, I ended up doing quite a bit of reading on World War 1 this summer, and I have been intrigued with all of the ways it transformed our world. It is a fascinating war and in many important ways marked the transition from old world European culture to the modern age. If my list were longer, I’d also include a couple of good military histories–The Guns of August and A World Undone–on my list of 2014 favorites. But since I am limiting myself to one World War 1 book, I am including this work by Pat Barker. It is the first of a trilogy and a superb treatment of what it looks like when adherence to duty and honor becomes insanity.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works (Dan Harris)–I featured Dan Harris in one of my blog posts earlier this year. This book is an excellent introduction to meditation and mindfulness practices (though Harris would probably shy away from the word “mindfulness”). And it is particularly good for cynical lawyers who are skeptical of anything that sounds the slightest bit New Agey. Harris does an excellent job presenting ways in which meditation practices can rein in those insatiable, incessant voices in our heads that are the source of so much stress in our lives
These are the first 5. I’ll be posting the rest of the list shortly. In the meantime, share some of your favorite reads from this past year. There’s no such thing as too many suggestions for a reading list.