The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande. Metropolitan, 2009.
This book is an expansion of Gawande’s interesting New Yorker article. It’s an exploration of how the relatively simple idea of a checklist can be used to ensure that complicated things get done well. What works for pilots also works well for surgery. I thought the article was enough to get the idea, but the book was an interesting read for more depth.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond. Penguin, 2005.
What makes a society fail? Diamond looks at a variety of societies, current and past, to explore this, with a framework of several factors, but especially focusing most on ecological ones.
When discussing modern societies (e.g., Montana, New Guinea), Diamond is able to speak from personal experience and from interviews. He highlights how people build up a certain conception of their society, and how hard that makes change. He also discusses the effects of absentee owners, corporate influence, and more.
Diamond covers a variety of older societies too, in varying levels of detail, including Greenland, Easter Island, the Anasazi, and others. I found Greenland interesting because he was able to contrast the experience of the Norse Greenlanders and the Intuit, and Easter Island because he gives a plausible explanation for “the mystery.”
The writing draws on archaeology, biology, sociology, and more. By starting and ending with modern scenarios, it drew me in well: here’s where we are in Montana, here’s what happened to a variety of past societies, here are current issues. If you like a broad survey, that shows implications for today, you’ll like this book.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman. Pantheon, 1987/1992.
Maus I – My Father Bleeds History
Maus II – And Here My Troubles Began
This is a graphic novel – the first one I became aware of, though there were certainly predecessors. It tells two stories: The inner story is the story of the author’s father living as a Jew in Czechoslovakia and Germany during the Nazi era. It tells of his life in the early Nazi years and how he survived the concentration camps. The second story wraps the first, and is the story of the father’s current life and the author’s relationship to his father.
The story is compelling; the art is first-rate, with little touches of humor (Jews are mice, many non-Jews are pigs, Nazis are cats).
Transformation: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness,
Robert A. Johnson, HarperOne, 1993.
Johnson uses three myths to talk about masculinity: Don Quixote represents simple consciousness, living in the inner mythical world; Hamlet represents “modern existential life”; and Faust represents man moving to enlightenment. There’s a sub-theme of the idea of 3 moving to 4 representing a move to complete consciousness. It’s a thin volume (105 pages), but interesting material as usual for Johnson.
Want a taste of Jungian psychology but don’t want to spend $100+ and wait 3 months for The Red Book? Robert A. Johnson gives a quick taste of a Jungian approach.
He: Understanding Masculine Psychology, by Robert A. Johnson. Harper, 1989.
“He” tells the story of the search for the Holy Grail as a myth of the masculine side of psychology. Johnson decodes the myth as the story of how “modern” man faces alienation in going from childhood to adulthood. We suffer, we sense there’s something transcendent, but we have no cure.
We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, Robert A. Johnson. HarperOne, 1985.
In “We”, Robert A. Johnson develops a Jungian interpretation of the myth of Tristan and Iseult to look at the idea of romantic love. This myth is a criss-crossing story of forced love, betrayal, and recovery, exploring “being in love” vs. “loving.”