What I'm Reading

I'm often asked what I'm reading.  It's a good question to ask anyone, really - as an insight to what they're about, and as a way to learn.  I find the more I ask this question, the more I'm rewarded with new ideas, fresh thinking, and serendipitous discovery.

In addition to the list of books and papers below, I also curate an online magazine of web articles in the Flipboard platform.  This contains the most up-to-date list of articles I've read recently.

 

If you're an iPad or iPhone user of Flipboard, you can find my magazine titled "What I'm Reading - Jennifer Sepull".  The web-based version is at http://flip.it/cb61i

Here are a few books I've recently read and recommend:

Grit - Angela Duckworth

I found Grit to be a good read - I was able to skip through the sometimes repetitive Horatio Alger stories and really concentrate on Duckworth's main points.  She speaks confidently, and with conviction regarding the results of her studies and their applicability to all walks of life. 

Shoe Dog - Phil Knight

Just Do It.  Really - a great read, for anyone but especially those in a competitive, growth-focused pursuit.  This is a detailed and personal memoir, and it's also a history lesson for those of us with a personal interest in the Nike company.  If anyone has the Grit that Angela Duckworth outlines, it's Phil Knight.  What a creative, driven genius - who pays a personal price for greatness and achievement.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k - Mark Mason

Provocatively titled, this book is really a slap in the face that I (and many I know) need on occasion.  It's written in an in-your-face style that perfectly accompanies the messages - set aside excuses, get up and take an active role in living your life.

Thank You for Being Late - Thomas Friedman

Technology's advancements, Globalization, and Climate Change.  If you've watched any Sunday-morning interviews lately, you can't forget the three phrases Thomas Friedman has been constantly repeating.  In this book, he does a great job of explaining those forces, and describing how the accelerated pace of change in each of them (and together) is defining the twenty-first century.  Compelling read.

The Road to Character - David Brooks

The New York Times Book Review put it pretty well - "In the age of the selfie, Brooks wishes to exhort us back to a semiclassical sense of self-restraint, self-erasure, and self-suspicion.”  I enjoyed the discussions of "resume virtues' versus "eulogy virtues", and find myself recommitting to a life that tries to marry those two concepts.

Powering Up! - Anne Doyle

This book was given to me by a friend and business colleague whom I greatly respect and admire.  The adversity she has overcome - and the person she has become - inspires me, and I often find myself wanting to be more like her.  It's her opionion, as is this book's author, that influential women have a responsibility to bring along the next generation of powerful women, and this book is a call for that leadership.

 

I appreciate the book's messages and lessons for us all, and hope to embody some of these messages in my daily efforts.

See Jane Win - Sylvia Rimm

I had read this book several years ago, and was reminded of its power over the holidays.  A close family member, an 18 year-old young woman, was reading the book and describing the way in which she was affected by its content.  

 

The book is marketed as a source for parents to learn ways to encourage their daughters - to develop strategies for developing as strong, competent women with a voice.  Beyond that, it's a way for leaders to form the messages they deliver to young women.

 

The lessons contained in the book regarding encouraging young women closely parallel the messages I try to provide to the next generation of leaders with whom I am fortunate to mentor.  I encourage a review for all my leadership-oriented colleagues.

Converge - Bob Lord and Ray Velez

Written by the CEO and CTO of Razorfish, this book represents a fantastic vision of merging the technical with the creative.  With terrific messages for both the CMO and CIO, Converge is all about addressing opportunities in interesting ways.  I espeicially enjoy how the book addresses "typical" messages from both IT and Marketing, and combines them in a way that both can understand.  Agile Development is alongside Experience Marketing and Media Management, and all are given equal weight in addressing the opportunities in front of all businesses.

The Second Machine Age - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

I encountered this book as a pre-read to a recent CIO Strategy Exchange meeting.  Erik Brynjolfsson came and presented to our group, and we discussed the concepts he and his co-author explored.  An extremely interesting premise - that mankind is entering a Ssecond machine age", where much of the human labor will soon be provided by machine.  Whether you agree with the premise, or their timeline for their predicted changes, it's a fascinating exercise for the mind - especially in a time where income inequality, and the gap between the 1% and the 99% is taking such a prominent position in the national dialogue.

The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown

Ostensibly about the University of Washington's 8-man rowing crew competing for a gold medal at the 1936 olympics, this book is really about perserverance and beating the odds.This book was another gift from Kimberly-Clark's CEO, Tom Falk, at the end of the year.  

 

I started to read the book over the holidays, and was re-energized to pick it up again after a conversation with Mark Buthman.  Mark is the CFO at K-C, and we recently traveled together for a two-week tour of some of our Asian facilities.  Mark was just finishing the book, and we had some excellent converstations on its lessons.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook - Gary Vaynerchuck

Tom Falk, K-C’s Chairman and CEO, gave me this book for the Holidays. He suggested I learn from the lessons that Vaynerchuk presents, in my efforts to advance K-C’s digital marketing efforts. I like the way he lays out the examples of hits and misses in this area, and his central premise is on-target. It’s a very “timely” book, in that it is likely to be out-of-date shortly, given the speed of transformation in the areas covered by the book.

A Short Guide to a Long Life - David Agus, MD

A “celebrity MD”, Agus was an advisor to Steve Jobs and others. His current book is a great way to categorize and examine our everyday habits. As a strong proponent of Kenneth Cooper-style “preventative versus responsive” medical therapy, I enjoyed the reinforcement of some of my current habits, and I am making some key changes based on the recommendations in this book.

Business Adventures - John Brooks

A classic, first published in 1959, this book was another gift from Kimberly-Clark's CEO, Tom Falk.  Tom explained that he often re-visits this book, and the lessons contained within for inspiration and reminders. Brooks was a contributor to the New Yorker magazine, and his stories are as interesting today as when they were first written.  This was my first reading of the book, and I found plenty of examples of today's corporate world in these stories - case studies turned into rich narratives.  For me, a good reminder of why corporations are as they are, and how key events can unfold as pivotal moments for the organizations and those who lead them.

Breakthrough Branding - Catherine Kaputa

This is a 2012 book I have revisited recently, in a review of the basics. Though there are interesting “brainstormers” at the end of each sub-chapter in the book, I found the benefit of revisiting this book to be in reestablishing categories of marketing effort, as a way for me to measure my efforts, results, and commitments of time.

Stilletto Network - Pamela Ryckman

A gift from a friend, this book is a great reminder of the advances women have made in the marketplace, and the room still to grow.  The stories are fresh and real, and the characters are familiar to those of us in power positions in our organizations, and inspirational to those who aspire to these roles.

Conversation - Theodore Zeldin

A mix between a plea to the reader and the musings of an academic, Conversation is a continuation of a series of talks Zeldin conducted on the BBC. His assertion is that conversation is a “lost art”, and he envisions a future where discussion is once again at the forefront of our social situation.

People: A Leader's Guide - Gran/Martichenko/Miller/Pearce

My leadership coach at the time wanted me to read this book as a preparation for our regular conversations on leadership in a lean organization. It’s a good background read to build a common framework for discussion on this topic.

Analytics: A Blueprint for Value - IBM Institute for Business Value - ibm.com

IBM’s IBV releases frequent, focused studies on various topics. I enjoy the differentiation between leaders and laggards, and their use of technology in addressing the topic. There are many quotable facts here, for internal and/or external presentations or conversations.

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