In My Hands Today…

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love – Dani Shapiro

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets—secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in—a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

In My Hands Today…

The Ribbons Are for Fearlessness: My Journey from Norway to Portugal beneath the Midnight Sun – Catrina Davies

Fuzzy-haired, neurotic, cello-playing Catrina is devastated when her lover, Jack, leaves her to go surfing on the other side of the world. Trapped in a dead-end job and torn by his departure, Catrina dreams of running away. But how do you run away when you’re flat broke?

Luckily, her friend Andrew comes up with a plan: they’ll get an old van, turn it into a camper, and busk their way from Norway to Portugal, via the midnight sun. Andrew is one of her oldest friends and they share many of the same passions and interests, including music.

When Andrew is killed in a tragic accident, Catrina decides to go it alone, encountering one disaster after another. She sleeps in her van, gets lost, and struggles to find the confidence to play her cello in front of her growing audience, but meets complete strangers who offer her advice, encouragement, and support along the way. Her experiences on the road gradually teach her the real meaning of love, courage, and above all else, the importance of following her dreams.

In My Hands Today…

Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue in a Doomed World – Taras Grescoe

On the eve of WWII, the foreign-controlled port of Shanghai was the rendezvous for the twentieth century’s most outlandish adventurers, all under the watchful eye of the fabulously wealthy Sir Victor Sassoon.

Emily “Mickey” Hahn was a legendary New Yorker journalist whose vivid writing played a crucial role in opening Western eyes to the realities of life in China.

At the height of the Depression, Hahn arrived in Shanghai after a disappointing affair with an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter, convinced she will never love again. After checking in to Sassoon’s glamorous Cathay Hotel, Hahn is absorbed into the social swirl of the expats drawn to pre-war China, among them Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Harold Acton, and a colourful gangster named Morris “Two-Gun” Cohen. But when she meets Zau Sinmay, a Chinese poet from an illustrious family, she discovers the real Shanghai through his eyes: the city of rich colonials, triple agents, opium-smokers, displaced Chinese peasants, and increasingly desperate White Russian and Jewish refugees—a place her innate curiosity will lead her to explore first hand. Danger lurks on the horizon, though, as the brutal Japanese occupation destroys the seductive world of pre-war Shanghai, paving the way for Mao Tse-tung’s Communists rise to power.

In My Hands Today…

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
Are you often busy but not productive?
Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the EssentialistThe Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

By forcing us to apply a more selective criterion for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.

In My Hands Today…

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – Seth Godin

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.

Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger. But more importantly, they’re enabling countless new tribes to be born—groups of ten or ten thousand or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming. And so the key question: Who is going to lead us?

The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals—people just like you who have passion about something. The explosion in tribes means that anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at her fingertips.

If you think leadership is for other people, think again—leaders come in surprising packages. Consider Joel Spolsky and his international tribe of scary-smart software engineers. Or Gary Vaynerhuck, a wine expert with a devoted following of enthusiasts. Chris Sharma leads a tribe of rock climbers up impossible cliff faces, while Mich Mathews, a VP at Microsoft, runs her internal tribe of marketers from her cube in Seattle. All they have in common is the desire to change things, the ability to connect a tribe, and the willingness to lead.

If you ignore this opportunity, you risk turning into a “sheepwalker”—someone who fights to protect the status quo at all costs, never asking if obedience is doing you (or your organization) any good. Sheepwalkers don’t do very well these days.

Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities in leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers. . . . It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you think.