My Reading List

While on my sabbatical I did a lot of reading. Some targeted at the sabbatical proper, some leisure reading, and some that fell somewhere in between.

These are the two that when I described my sabbatical to some friends were the ones that I took the time to call out as having had special impact.

The Charge


The Charge probably came the closest to a structure that I could identify with for my attempt at self discovery. Of particular value were his thought exercises at the end of each chapter which I frequently used as jumping off points for my own processes. Many books present formulas – take these X steps and you’ll find your answer. That’s not how I work, and I didn’t follow Brendon’s formula either. Rather I cherry-pick from whatever I’m reading that which resonates with me and take it from there. The Charge probably had the most cherries.

The Artist’s Way

This came out of left field; “The Artist’s Way”
is a book specifically
aimed at getting blocked artists unblocked and doing their
art once again. Anyone who’s written any significant
amount of software will agree that there can be true
artistry involved – rare perhaps, but absolutely possible
– and it’s something that I’ve believed for a long time.
This book did two things for me: first, it allowed me, or
reminded me, to apply that artistry mindset to what I do
today, which in turn allows me to value it, and create it,
in a completely different light. Second is that it
introduced me to a couple of practices that I’m finding
surprisingly very valuable; the most valuable being what
the book calls “morning pages” – a daily writing exercise;
as I said writing is one of the best ways I have to work
through my thoughts. Much of the book actually doesn’t
apply – many of the problems it addresses are problems I
simply don’t have (for which I am grateful). However putting
myself in that artist’s mindset was by itself very
valuable. To build on the cherry-picking metaphor, The
Artist’s Way didn’t have as many cherries, but they were


Here’s a rundown of some of the rest of books I spent time with, in no particular order.

Rational Optimist
Basically an anthropological argument about why humanity has always been getting better, and how our outlook is and should continually be positive. NOT necessarily at the individual level, which is kind of what I was expecting, but the outlook for humanity continues to be rationally optimistic. I found this book interesting and generally supportive of my outlook on life.
Risky is the New Safe
My reactions to some of the material here have run the range from “that makes sense” to “what is he thinking?”. While I definitely have some issues with some of it, it made me think, which is what I look for. Randy’s Blog is also highly recommended as a place for more thought provoking ideas, and yes the occasional “what is he thinking?”.
Start With Why
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” This was an important book in my sabbatical, and in fact was instrumental in kicking it off. His TED Talk is a great place to start.
The War of Art
“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” This is a book that I plan to re-read periodically as it deals well with motivation, getting started and avoiding blocks. It’s not terribly long, but it is very powerful.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
This book came along just before my sabbatical as the result of a TED Talk that I stumbled across. More than anything else is validates and values the introvert. As I consider myself an introvert I found this book more than anything else, empowering.
The Alchemist
AlephThese two books, both by Paulo Coelho, can best be described as parables. Both are tales of journeys of discovery – one metaphorical, and the other quite literal and personal. Since I felt that in many ways I, too, was on a journey (still am, for that matter), they were a great break from the self-help space that I’d been spending so much time in. I’d classify them more in the self-discovery space.
Get Out Of Neutral
How Will You Measure Your LifeInteresting reading, but with a definite slant towards jobs, careers, business and then family & children.
The Identity CodeThis is actually a good, overall approach to figuring out who you are. It helped me to verbalize my “gift” and put it into terms that made sense.
What Color Is Your Parachute?This is normally (and correctly) thought of as a job-hunting book, particularly for those just out of school, but also for those changing jobs or careers. I got this specifically for Chapter 13, the Self-Inventory.
The ProphetA book that gets referenced and mentioned and quoted so often in so many places that I just had to break down and read the whole thing.
Breaking the Habit of Being YourselfI’m currently reading this book, and almost gave up on it as the author begins by making a literal equivalence between quantum theory and our ability to make personal change. That out of the way subsequent sections of the book appear to be more useful. In progress.
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock HolmesMindfulness by another name. Smile In progress.
Sherlock Holmes CollectionAs I was beginning the preceding book it dawned on me that actually reading Sherlock Holmes would be interesting. In progress.

And a special mention: the Tiny Buddha website, and in particular some of their books which make for ongoing thoughtful reading and contemplation.