Six Books from Past Decades to Help Navigate the 2020s
Jason Criss Howk
1 January 2020
While awaiting the football games today I have pulled out 6 books from my shelves that I am going to re-read this year to help me think about how to focus on the next decade.
These books impact different parts of my current careers: education, foreign affairs, non-profit leadership, guidance counselor to students, writer and editor. They were useful to me in previous decades to help me realize that the questions I was asking about the future, have all been asked before. They offer lessons, for those who are honest enough to admit, they could use some wisdom.
Wisdom from the 1930s
Education of a Wandering Man
In this book of non-fiction, the great American western novelist explains how a life spent traveling the world working in the 1930s taught him more than any college ever could. I read it right before I graduated from High School and found it helped me shape how I would study during my 5 year stint as an infantry paratrooper.
This can help people think about how to absorb the knowledge around them everyday. It kept me on a path of reading and reflecting. He includes a list of the books and plays he read over 5 years in the back of the text. I had forgotten why I have always kept a list of the books in my library and marked the ones I have read with a green dot on the spine.
Wisdom from a master diplomat who shined bright in the 1980s
George P. Shultz
Ideas and Action
Who doesn’t want a book with a tiger on the front that covers negotiations, leadership, and civil and human rights?
This thin volume should be read annually, especially by senior leaders and diplomats of all stripes.
Timeless lessons such as keeping your promises, not boasting about your side’s success in a negotiated deal, and finding a way to help the other negotiator find a victory in every meeting are worthy of study.
There is a reason Shultz found bipartisan support for his ideas and admiration of his legacy.
Wisdom from WWI to Korea
George C. Marshall
The Words of George C. Marshall
Keeping with thin works packed with great ideas, I am always referring back to this one. I buy copies of it by the box load from the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington VA. They are great gifts for youngsters and oldsters.
There is a Marshall idea in here for every occasion, that he gleaned from his time as a planner for the Great War, the Planner in Chief of the Second World War, SecDef, and SecState.
The book covers character, leadership, HUMILITY, efficiency, team building, morale, duty, democracy, public opinion, the press, and international cooperation among other topics.
Lessons from American leaders from the 1930s to the 1990s
Liberalism and Its Challengers
A great and fast paced read about the presidents and other leaders that shaped the American political system and institutions from the depression until the roaring 1980s.
Hamby does a great job weaving the accomplishments and failures of multiple key leaders as they argued and compromised to make America more fair, free, and kind to those down on their luck.
I like his writing style and the obscure bits of history he notes, that are often left out of high school and college curriculum. A fair history of the US that shows how changes occur, and how roadblocks are cleared, or built.
Wisdom from the pioneers that saw danger in isolationism
Can We Be Neutral (1936)
The questions asked in this book, a project by the Council on Foreign Relations, are timeless.
I don’t recommend it because I think they are right, but because every generation needs to ask and answer these questions about American foreign policy.
Does the US have a responsibility to keep wars from occurring overseas, to stop them when they start, or to at least not hinder peace building?
We are not on a planet by ourselves, are our oceans wide enough to defend us? If the world falls into chaos, does that not hurt our trade and safety?
Wisdom from a 1920s to 1950s journalist and novelist
By-line: Ernest Hemingway
Most people have read Hemingway’s novels, but I thoroughly enjoy reading his work as a reporter and correspondent for newspapers and magazines.
This collection of articles and dispatches offers a story for every reader. These are his short works, written often from abroad, for the Toronto Star, Esquire, NANA Dispatch, Vogue, PM, Colliers, and Look.
They cover topics like the rise of Mussolini, the refugees from the Armenian genocide, trout fishing in Europe, marlin ocean migration patterns, the rise of Hitler, the Spanish civil war, Japan-China-Russia relations, the re-opening of Paris, and of course some hunting thoughts.
His essay and commentary ‘notes on the next war’ for Esquire in 1935 echoes many of the current isolationist arguments being batted around today. His ideas would change with the rise of the Nazi and Japanese empire and the knowledge of their evil intentions.
Hopefully one of these books can help you think through the next decade and future ones. As Louis L’amour said in his book:
“Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity, and hopefully in value.”
(I found that quote scrawled on a piece of paper tucked in my copy of his book, written in my 17 year old hand writing.)
Handmade quilt by my better half in the photo background not for sale.
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