Photo above taken by Soona for McLernon & Co.

Let me set the scene – as I write this I’m sitting at Tattered Cover, a local Denver bookstore. It’s 9:22am on Saturday, May 4, shortly after opening time. I’m listening to two elderly gentlemen discuss the books they are reading – they are particularly enthralled about a fiction book about a man who loves his little dog and it’s leading them discuss their own little dogs and the love they have for them.

 

It’s heaven in here.

April was a great month for me for reading – this content club helped resurge a deeply buried passion for reading that I haven’t been able to access since childhood. (I was known to finish 3-4 books a week during the summer when I was younger and competing fiercely for “most books read” awards at the local public library.) One book spurred the desire to read another, and then another, and then another. I found the yearning I used to feel to be absolutely lost in a book and chased it – hard.

 

As I read this month, I shared what I was reading on Instagram, and many of you read along with me. The direct messages we’ve shared about the topics, the engaging and friendly arguments, the companionship of knowing someone else was thinking about brought me so much joy, and I hope it did for you too.

 

This inspired me to start a private group, a virtual book club, if you will, where we can all discuss the content together.

 

My goal is not to grow a large group with this platform, but instead grow a small group of engaged people who are consuming thought-provoking content on a consistent basis. If that sounds like you, please join us!

 

I started this content club last month to encourage myself to fall back in love with reading and critical thinking, and if it’s been a little while for you, I encourage you to pick it back up, too. It’s brought me an overwhelming sense of joy and I love how my imagination is coming back to me.

 

Please, please join me in falling in love with reading again. As adults it’s so important that we don’t let the weightyness of the world take this simple joy from us.

 

Full disclosure note about my links: I am attempting to use Amazon Affiliate links for the books- I figure if I’m linking to their site I may as well try to get a little credit for it! I say attempting because I am somewhat new to this personally and I’m not 100% convinced I have it set up right. Hopefully I do!

 

SO let’s get into it. Here’s the content I consumed in April, 2019:

 

1. Educated, a Memoir by Tara Westover – Non-Fiction
This book, which I consumed via Audible, started off my April with a bang – this non-fiction memoir reads like a wild fictitious story and I found myself loudly saying “whaaaat” dozens of times throughout the book.

The very short synopsis is: this is the story of a woman who grew up in mountainous, rural Idaho with a family whose survivalist father did not believe in education or medicine – and that’s just the start. Without even a birth certificate until she was about 8, Tara defied all odds (and dozens of nearly fatal injuries) and went on to get her doctorate degree. It’s an absolutely wild story that got me thinking about education, religion, family values, psychology and therapy.

I called my mom after I finished the book, teeming with gratitude for how she raised me with love for education and for reading. After this book I will NEVER take my education for granted, and I recognize my privilege and luck to have been raised in a family that values education.

This book is an absolute page turner and you’ll fly through it once you pick it up.

 

2. Radical Candor by Kim Scott – Non-Fiction

WHY DID NO ONE RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ME TWO YEARS AGO?! Seriously this book just had the strongest impact on my career that a book has ever had, and if you are growing in your leadership and management skills, this is a must read – today.

Kim Scott, a wildly successful leader and manager at Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley startups writes about how to “Be a kick ass boss without losing your humanity”. She explains how giving direct feedback shows your team how much you care, and gives very specific instructions on how to do it, and how not to do it. This book is the management book that EVERY leader needs, and I can now look back at my management failures over the last two years and see how I could have improved them.

My biggest takeaway challenged my thought of ‘ambition’ in the rock star vs superstar employee concept – Kim writes:

“A leader at Apple had a good way to think about different types of ambition that people on her team had so that she could be thoughtful about what roles to put people in. To keep a team cohesive, you need both rockstars and superstars, she explained. Rock stars are solid as a rock. Think the Rock of Gibraltar, not Bruce Springsteen. The rock stars love their work. They have found their groove. They don’t want the next job if it will take them away from their craft. Not all artists want to won a gallery; in fact, most don’t. If you honor and reward the rock stars, they’ll become the people you rely on. If you promote them into roles they don’t want or aren’t suited for, however, you’ll lose them – or even worse, wind up firing them. Superstars, on the other hand, need to be challenged and given new opportunities to grow constantly.”

WOAH. (Think the mind blown emoji!) I could write a whole blog post about this book. Instead, I just think you should go buy the damn book and finish it today.

A specific note about my feelings after finishing this book: I am trying so hard to be a great leader, a great boss, and I haven’t always gotten it right. This book allowed me to do a hard self audit, reflect, and forgive myself to move into the boss and leader I want to be. I am so grateful for that.

 

3. Tuition or Dinner? Nearly Half of College Students Surveyed in a New Report Are Going Hungry – A news article, 10 minute read

I’m challenging myself to think critically – and hard – about the growing wage gap in our country and this article challenged me to recognize my privilege; I’ve never had to go hungry, and never had to choose food vs education.

“In New York, the nonprofit found that among City University of New York (CUNY) students, 48 percent had been food insecure in the past 30 days.

Kassandra Montes, a senior at Lehman College, is one of them. She unexpectedly had to take out a $5,000 loan this year in order to graduate, she said. Living in a Harlem homeless shelter as she attends classes, Ms. Montes also works two part-time jobs and budgets only $15 per week for food. She uses the campus food pantry to get most of her groceries and usually skips breakfast in order to make sure that her 4-year-old son is eating regularly.

“I feel like I’m slowly sinking as I’m trying to grow,” she said.”

 

4. A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – A Youtube video, 8 minutes

Did you know that Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico took out as many American lives as 9/11? I didn’t.

From a purely social media and content strategy standpoint, this is an extremely well-developed piece of content. The artistry that went into this is incredible, and the storytelling is strong. I know so many people who won’t want to watch this because of their opinions on AOC, but it’s educational, not polarizing and doesn’t attack anyone.

My opinion: We pulled together after World War 2 to get our country out of despair, and like AOC, I believe we can do that again. We have 12 years left to make radical change for our climate before we have to change the way we live. I still have a lot to research on the Green Deal, but it’s worth more critical thought.

 

5. Michelin restaurants and fabulous wines: Inside the secret team dinners that have built the Spurs’ dynasty – ESPN Article, 20 minute read

This article was fascinating – recently I’ve been studying leadership and sports and I was moved by this article. Greg Popovich is a leader I look up to, and I love how he educates his team over dinner. Those of you who know me personally know that one of my favorite things in the world is a long dinner (3-4 hours) over wine with brilliant conversation.

Below are just a few quotes from the article – now re-reading this as I look for the quotes, I’m mentally planning our next McLernon & Co. team dinner.

“Dinners help us have a better understanding of each individual person, which brings us closer to each other — and, on the court, understand each other better.”

former Spurs (and current Raptors) guard Danny Green

Says one former player: “I was friends with every single teammate I ever had in my [time] with the Spurs. That might sound far-fetched, but it’s true. And those team meals were one of the biggest reasons why. To take the time to slow down and truly dine with someone in this day and age — I’m talking a two- or three-hour dinner — you naturally connect on a different level than just on the court or in the locker room. It seems like a pretty obvious way to build team chemistry, but the tricky part is getting everyone to buy in and actually want to go. You combine amazing restaurants with an interesting group of teammates from a bunch of different countries and the result is some of the best memories I have from my career.”

“I honestly thought he was just this really hard-nosed, bust-your-ass coach, and that’s how he got them to do it,” Mina says. But now, watching Popovich with his players in the dining room, Mina realizes “how gentle he was, and how it was about educating in a much different way.”

“Says Michael Minnillo, general manager of The French Laundry: “He’s always teaching.”

 

6. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – Non-Fiction

I listened to this on Audiobook and was horrified by the story. Elizabeth Holmes, a Silicon Valley startup founder is the master of trickery and the whole story is  a good reminder that unethical leaders and influencers are out there. This book deep dives into every detail and is fact based, written by the journalist John Carreyrou. If you don’t have time to read the full book, the story is also available via a HBO film.

 

7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- Fiction

Excited by the way that ‘Educated’ sucked me into the story, I picked up this fiction book (via Audiobook) to resurge my imagination. This was my first *true* fiction book I consumed in almost three years! When I talk to people about reading, they almost always blurt out something like “well I mostly read non-fiction, you know, deep things” as if to discredit the value of fictional books.

I call bullshit. This “dessert book” helped get my mind twirling (though I will admit the book was hard to get into until it was about 40% in, then it got GOOD) and I found myself tasting some of the language and vocabulary on my tongue. The value that this book gave to me wasn’t a specific lesson or business concept – it allowed me to escape into a different world from my own and think about things from the main character’s perspective.

The story follows The Marsh Girl from childhood to adulthood and explores many hours spent alone, and how to reconnect with society after relying on no one but herself for so very long. It explores romance, self-reliance, abandonment and the ending is deliciously interesting.

 

8. Once Upon a River by Dianne Setterfield – Fiction

Ok, I’m hooked. Once I had a taste of fiction from Where the Crawdads Sing, my addiction for reading and letting my imagination run was back in full force. This book, which I listened to on Audiobook, was my next hit. Set in England on a riverbank, the story follows the appearance of a mystery girl. While the town can’t quite figure out who she is, they hope and pine over who they need her to be.

I followed the myriad of characters through their personal development and heartbreak until the very end, when the author took great care to tie up all loose ends into a wonderful package that had my brain chewing over the different storylines.

 

9. Someone Great – A Netflix Original Movie

This ‘rah-rah girl power, leave your long term relationship to be a badass chasing your career movie’ SPOKE to me. It’s fluffy and fun, but a good movie to watch at home with wine on a Friday night. The cast was refreshingly diverse, the music was great and the writing truly showed what it’s like to be a late 20’s, early 30’s woman in a big city in 2019. We follow the main character played by Gina Rodriguez, as she leaves a long term relationship to pursue a career across the country. The heartbreak she goes through was very much like my own over the last year (I left a 5 year relationship a year ago) and it felt good to see how far I’ve come. If you need a boost, this original movie is perfect for one.

 

Whew! What a month!

5 full-length novels and multiple pieces of other content – honestly, I’m PROUD of myself.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? If you want to discuss any of the content above, or other content that has had your brain spinning, join our Facebook Group here, and let’s discuss. I’ll also share what I’m consuming in May in that group, so you can read and consume along with me if you like!

Full disclosure note about my links: I am attempting to use Amazon Affiliate links for the books- I figure if I’m linking to their site I may as well try to get a little credit for it! I say attempting because I am somewhat new to this personally and I’m not 100% convinced I have it set up right. Hopefully I do!