We are heading full speed into a hectic time of the year. For many of us, our work lives actually slow down a little. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, but the slowing-downers far outweigh the still-got-work-up-to-my-eyeballers.) But our personal lives become even more insane. I don’t know if you are like me but, in spite of the frenzy (or maybe because of it), I make it a point to carve out some time to get away from the insanity, get somewhere warm (maybe in front of a fire - yes, we use fireplaces in Phoenix; we think we’re cold even if you don’t think we are), and do some reading.
Since I’m always open to suggestions for good books to read, I will make the assumption that you are, too. Following are five books that I read this year which I greatly enjoyed and, with a little bit of stretch, actually have a little bit of something to say about how to be a little bit better internal auditor.
Walt and the Promise of Progress City by Sam Gennawey
Of course I’d have a Disney book in here, so why not start right out with it. For those of you who don’t know, EPCOT, as it presently exists, has absolutely nothing to do with Walt Disney’s original vision. On one level, this book explores what Walt originally envisioned for EPCOT, what he wanted to accomplish, and how he was planning on getting there. However, on another level it does so much more; it walks through the history of Walt’s innovations, it explores Walt’s research on how communities are developed, it shows how he took ideas most people thought were impossible and made them realities. And, maybe most importantly, the book shows how one man with a great vision and great ideas can make a difference. The book is inspiring, has mind-expanding ideas, and shows what can be accomplished.
Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson
(Here’s the warning that is required by the FCC: I got a free copy of this book for review. The “freeness” of the copy has nothing to do with what follows.) I am a fan of well-written essays/non-fiction short pieces. Robson’s book reminded me why I like them so much. In this collection he visits the strange, the disturbing, the humorous, and the obscure. There is a man trying to program a lifelike robot with his wife’s personality. There is a discussion with Insane Clown Posse. There is research around credit card companies’ approaches to bringing in more customers. There are meetings with the inhabitants of North Pole, Alaska where it is always Christmas. The stories (sometimes it is hard to remember that they are, indeed, non-fiction) are fascinating. But it is equally interesting to see how Ronson digs into the stories – how he interviews and gathers his information and brings it all together to provide a narrative that has something important to say.
The Statues that Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island by Terry Hunt
Gaining your first degree in archaeology will warp you deep into your life. Easter Island – an isolated island where prehistoric people seemed to use every ounce of their energy carving giant stone heads and dragging them to the sea to face into the center of the island. – has always fascinated me. If you have anywhere near a similar interest, then I will need little prodding to get you to read this book. However, for the rest of you, beyond your opportunity to learn about this small blot of land where humans survived in the most bizarre fashions, it is also interesting to watch how the author, apparently inadvertently, has turned traditional thinking on its head (no pun intended.) Hunt went into his research with the idea that he would be confirming much of the work that had already been completed. However, by refusing to blindly accept the information he was given, and by looking across other disciplines, he found that many of the conceptions that exist about the island’s history are, apparently, misconceptions.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
I've already mentioned this book in the past. Let me just say, everyone who writes for a living (yes, that means you) should read this book to help them write just that much better. Further deponent sayeth not.
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood – James Gleick
This is a big book. Sure it is big in that it is over 500 pages. But the really big thing about this book is that it is full of big ideas – about information, but also about communication. It starts with African drum languages and works through such things as the origin of the dictionary and Turing Machines and Babbage’s Difference Engine and Maxwell’s Demon and quantum mechanics and winds up (of course) with computers and social media and the obliteration of our understanding of the world. There is a lot in here. And I had to take occasional breaks – not because the reading was hard; rather that there was just so much here. This book will help you understand what you know about the way information is transmitted, and will make you realize you will never be able to get a grip on it
And, you know what? While we’re at it, here are some other books I read this year that I just thought were really good. No ties to audit, no stretching to say why it might make us better auditors, just some good books. Because, if you really want to make yourself a better professional, just read everything you can get your hands on.
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler: Noir at its best. The movie will not prepare you.
The Best American Non-Required Reading2011 edited by David Eggers: Any in this series are great, but this one was exceptionally good.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson: The more things change….
Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943 – 1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright by Steven Millhauser: There is no way to describe this strange little book
The Clash of Kings (Book 2 of The Game of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin: Yes, I’m only on book two…
So, read any good books lately?