2017 began with a week in the backcountry of British Columbia earning my turns and appreciating the simplicity of a ski skin track, good conversation and warm food.
Although I knew that my family and I would be moving to Washington, D.C. later in the year, my head was filled with ideas on Ski Towns and the Ski Industry. I spent some time bouncing around the updated Venture Deals book by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, a fantastic read and good book for the office bookshelf. I also really enjoyed reading Ski, Inc by Chris Diamond and gave a few copies to friends. Ski industry history is full of stories about the intersection of business, the love of skiing and environmentalism.
As the year continued on, like many people, I was still trying to get my head around the election. I had seen the Trump/Pence signs in a few places in Ohio, but never in Colorado or anywhere else I had traveled (mostly cities and CO ski towns). I loved reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance because it made me think hard about the thought-bubbles and divides we have in our country. Of all the books I read this year, I recommended or referenced this one the most in casual conversation.
June in Colorado means it’s Bluegrass Festival time, so I picked up a few “beach reads”. Shattered: Inside Hilary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Giant of the Senate by Al Franken were both easy, lighthearted reads that I enjoyed while listening to music in the sunshine of Telluride.
As my family packed up our house and headed to Washington, D.C. for our year-long adventure, I wanted to understand more about Washington. I have never worked with or around Think Tanks or Lobbyists and grew interested in understanding on a deeper level how these firms play into politics and policy decisions. The Fifth Estate by James McGann took me a bit to get through, more like a project I was tackling versus a hangout on the couch read. I took notes, built twitter lists and went down serious research rabbit holes while reading this one.
One of the best parts of working at the United States Digital Service is spending time in the Executive Office Building, learning from the White House staff and working hard to build software within the walls of an Agency, which for me is HHS. The USDS has a Chief of Staff and I’ve always been interested in this role which led me to The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple. Each chapter describes a different Chief of Staff or Presidency so it’s easy to pickup and put down. I learned a lot about Cheney, the hub-n-spoke model some Presidents like Carter used and a few other players and key moments in history. It was fun reading about Denis McDonough and healthcare.gov as it was the genesis for the USDS.
As many Product Managers working in healthcare do, I am always reading at least one healthcare policy book. Ezekiel Emanuel was deeply involved in the ACA work and his other healthcare books are also excellent. Prescription for the Future: The Twelve Transformational Practices of Highly Effective Medical Organizations by Ezekiel Emanuel is full of examples, ideas and charts to help you understand innovations of healthcare policy such as ACOs.
In the fall, I enjoyed books that tugged at the heart strings. One of the cool things about D.C is the access to authors and book signings thanks to independent bookstores like Politics & Prose. I had a chance to listen to and meet Mitch Album, Ted Koppel, Chris Matthews, Al Franken, Atul Gawande and others this year.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanith is a shorter read that makes you appreciate each day that you live life as a healthy person. My wife and I read this one together and it prompted thoughtful discussions about life and cancer.
Promise Me Dad by Joe Biden had me in tears a few times. Like many Americans, I love Joe Biden and enjoyed reading about his day-to-day at the White House and stories of time spent comforting families.
My year ended with Bobby Kennedy, a Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews. I’m a Hardball fan and have grown to really like Chris Matthews over the past year. I didn’t know very much about Bobby Kennedy and loved this book. I would read a chapter and then watch a black and white YouTube video of a speech the chapter referenced such as Bobby delivering the Ripple of Hope speech in South Africa. I learned a ton about American history and had some fascinating conversations with family members that remember Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and other moments of his time in politics like it was yesterday. I highly recommend this one.
Reading lists are a fun way to reflect on the year that was. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings. I just picked up my first fiction read in a few years, maybe that’s a sign that I need a mental escape to begin the year 😉