This is the tenth year I've shared my summer reading with our readers. My reading, of course, goes on all year, but it is somehow different in summer. Knowing it will result in a column means the going is a bit slower; I take more time to appreciate and understand the author's intentions, skills and achievements--or lack thereof. Winter reading, for me, is what in school we used to call "pleasure reading." Here then are reviews of some of the books I read during this summer of 2002.
The first covers a hitherto-neglected aspect of President Ronald Reagan's career. It is Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism, by Peter Schweizer (Doubleday, $26, available Oct. 15). Schweizer is an old friend and is one of the foremost historians of the Reagan era. He begins his work, appropriately, with negative comments about Reagan by such intellectual giants as Clark Clifford. Schweizer traces in great detail Reagan's struggle against the communist infiltration and domination of Hollywood in the 1940s, as well as its effect on Reagan's presidency in the 1980s.
The monumental achievement of Reagan's lonely, lifelong struggle against communism was his final victory in the Cold War. And make no mistake, it was Reagan's victory. Schweizer's summation tells all: "Those virtues that Reagan so admired--courage and character--are what the nearly half-century battle against communism required most of him. Sometimes his strong views brought physical threats against his life and family. More often, they would prompt ridicule or denunciation of him as a dangerous ignoramus. In either case, Reagan unflinchingly pressed on, opposed by old friends,cabinet officers, and sometimes even members of his own family."
As Ronald Reagan said: "We must be guided not by fear, but by courage and moral clarity." This is precisely what we most need today. We are fortunate to have in President Bush a leader who knows and follows the same beck-oning light.
Another Cold War warrior, William F. Buckley Jr., has once again turned his exceptional, indeed Renaissance-like, skills to writing a novel about a pivotal historic event. Nuremberg: The Reckoning (Harcourt, $25) brings to life the complex tale of the victorious Allies' attempts to bring to justice the surviving perpetrators of the Nazi horror. Through his great skills of storytelling and character development, Buckley blends fictional characters and actual his-tory and makes the reader feel he is a participant.
Buckley has used this device before in his books on Joseph McCarthy; James Angleton, the CIA operative; and, oddly enough, Elvis Presley. Nuremberg is Buckley's 15th novel and is one of his best. It is so masterfully written that you are compelled to go back to some of the original source material to verify that such things really hap-pened.
Lady Margaret Thatcher's two-volume memoir was a huge bestseller in Europe and here. In it she wrote of her constant struggle against the conventional wisdom, her determination to change the world and her ultimate successes. She is one of the few people whose strong presence on the stage of history has changed and improved that history. Along with President Reagan, and perhaps one or two others, Lady Thatcher should be given credit for bringing the thrall of communism to an end and for restoring capitalism, freedom and democracy.
Margaret Thatcher's newest book, Statecraft (HarperCollins, $34.95), is about the future, and should be read for what it is: the wise counsel of a supremely successful stateswoman and Britain's greatest peacetime leader. Statecraft relays how the West won the Cold War and "created the basis for today's freedom and prosperity." To give permanency to these achievements, we must remain "vigilant and strong," and Lady Thatcher details how this can and must be done. Her ideas are rightly and persuasively argued--and lead the reader to the famous Thatcher conclusion: "There is no alternative." Those who object to such polemicism should recall how often Margaret Thatcher was right and be grateful for her unambiguous and unnuanced conclusions and advice. Hers is the kind of guidance we urgently need. And the more it is followed, the better off we will all be.
Double Lives: Stories of Extraordinary Achievement, by David Heenan (Davies-Black Publishing, $24.95), tells the story of ten remarkable people who, not satisfied with their own extraordinary "day jobs," carved out second vocations equally, if not more, fulfilling. Winston Churchill is Heenan's prime example. In addition to being a statesman, Churchill was an author, painter and orator--and excelled at all. Theodore Roosevelt was likewise a great statesman, but he was also a historian and scientist. Another example: pediatrician and poet Dr. William Carlos Wil-liams.
Heenan describes the common characteristics of these doubly (and sometimes triply) endowed people as appar-ently boundless energy, firm independence and a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. He himself exemplifies the multifaceted qualities he has found in his subjects: He is a university teacher, writer and trustee of the fabulous James Campbell Estate in Hawaii. Double Lives may make some readers envious, but it will stimulate others to do more every day.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
The British Prime Minister, the Chairman and the Astronaut
Corporate executive and business dean David Heenan knows about leading a double life: He has spent his career straddled between the business world and academia. This is the kind of life he profiles in Double Lives, a book which profiles ten exemplary individuals who explored other worlds while maintaining successful careers. Throughout Double Lives, Heenan describes how people like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Sony Chairman Norio Ohga, and astronaut Sally Ride were able to keep their side interests alive while exploring satisfying and often extraordinary careers in the limelight.
Double Lives works to "demonstrate that pursuing multiple interests contributes to happiness and personal fulfillment." According to Heenan, anybody can live a double life, not just the high-profile characters like the ones he has assembled in this book. He says imagination, drive, and a few tools along the way are all anyone needs to reach new levels of personal satisfaction.
To prove his idea that there are many ways to lead a double life, each of his examples is unique. But, he says, all of them chose one of three paths to another life. They are:
- Parallel paths: These are the paths that are followed by people who give separate but equal treatment to both lives. These dualists don't give up their day jobs although they are drawn to another activity. People who pursued parallel paths include Wallace Stevens, a renowned American poet who made a living as a vice president at an insurance company. Similarly, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Charles Ives kept his day job asan insurance salesman and executive. Although those who choose to follow parallel paths might sometimes hide their second lives with pseudonyms, they also understand the value of developing secondary interests.
- Convergent paths: Those on these tracks take part in activities that are mutually dependent and feed off each other. One example of a man who combines his two lives is Thomas Lynch, who is a small-town mortician who has written three collections of poems and two books of essays. His award-winning writing explores the relations between the "literary and mortuary arts." Lynch says, "Being a writer helps me be a better funeral director because it makes me think in language about what I do."
- Divergent paths: These routes are the roads taken by double lifers who eventually quit their day jobs. Michael Crichton is a perfect example of someone who graduated from Harvard as a medical physician, but abandoned the role for that of a prolific writer and film producer. Robin Cook is another example of a doctor who stopped practicing to become a popular writer. Heenan also provides a list of lawyers who have stopped practicing law to pursue writing on a larger scale. Each of these people chose a risky path to a new self, and he says that most of them are on a continuous quest for a personal makeover.
Keys to a Double Life
The reasons why people should develop double lives, according to Heenan, are numerous. They range from keeping burnout at bay and reducing stress to better mental health and marital stability. Explorers of double lives share a clear sense of what makes life enjoyable. Along with exhibiting tremendous drive and confidence to leave a conventional lifestyle and head into uncharted waters, those who seek double lives must be highly motivated and determined. Curiosity is a trait that serves these people well.
Along the way to understanding those who lead double lives, Heenan develops a list of 20 keys to a double life. The top ten are:
- Listen to your heart.
- Define success in your own terms.
- Aim high.
- Take one step at a time.
- Deliver daily.
- Learn from failure.
- Ignore the naysayers.
- Maintain a maverick mind-set.
- Focus, focus, focus.
- Avoid distractions.
Heenan writes from the heart, but backs up every one of his assertions with historical facts, quotes from those who have either lived or are living double lives, and numerous examples that solidify his theories. His historical and contemporary examples provide intriguing tales of alternative perspectives while offering inspiration for those who are looking for the encouragement to push them into the pursuit of their own dreams.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
While extolling the virtues of the people who turn their imaginations into action, he also offers some sound business advice. "Smart leaders create a corporate culture that unleashes, not stifles, human creativity," Heenan writes. He also writes that "a second life can enhance on-the-job performance." One of the "greatest rewards any organization gets from da Vincian personalities is their diverse perspectives and points of view," Heenan explains, adding that their fierce independence can be a vital check on executive hubris. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries