People often ask me what books they should purchase for the men in their lives, and on occasion I get emails from my guy friends wondering what they should read. So, recently I asked an old friend whom I greatly respect, Mike Troiano, aka Trapper, what he enjoys. He shared with me an article he wrote for Medium a while ago where he gives readers some sound advice. Here is One Man’s Perspective.
Stop reading business books, and start reading history.
The stories behind great human achievements are more inspiring and more useful than the management fad du jour.
by Mike Troiano
Just finished The Great Bridge, the story of the design and building of the Brooklyn Bridge, by the Equally Great David McCullough. It’s a detailed and artfully told human story behind one of the great works of modern construction, built at a time of remarkable social and technological change.
McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is another recent favorite in the same vein, as were 1776, John Adams, Brave Companions, and all the rest. Other authors have produced wonderful books in recent years like Founding Brothers, about the often complex and surprising relationships among America’s “Founding Fathers;” In The Garden of Beasts, about the role of the American ambassador in Berlin during the lead-up to World War II; and Over The Edge of the World, detailing Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe.
It occurred to me listening to Hamilton with my kids in the car the other day that we’re in a kind of golden age of history right now, a time where deeply researched, sensitively informed, and beautifully crafted stories of human struggle and achievement are more numerous and readily available than ever before.
Reading a few pages of these books at night helps me pull out of the harness of my day. They provide some context for whatever I’m up against right now, and help me connect to people from not so long ago — in some cases truly great, in others just like you and me — who did amazing things in places not so far away.
There was a time when I read nothing but business books, as I know many of my fellow entrepreneurs prefer to do. Each had something to offer, to be sure, though usually not much more than a single new idea or two, and often surrounded by an under-satisfying mix of data, analysis, anecdote, and fluff.
But why do that? Don’t you spend enough time in that world during the day? Might it not be better to connect to something a little bigger, a little more significant, in the narrow window of time you have to yourself?
Give it a shot.
Michael Troiano is a venture capitalist who brings nearly 25 years of executive leadership and marketing experience to bear for entrepreneurs. He most recently served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Actifio, a global enterprise data-as-a-service provider he helped turn from an obscure virtualization technology into a venture capital “unicorn” valued at over $1.2 Billion. As CMO from 2012 to 2017, Mike helped grow revenue over 80% per year, creating the Copy Data Virtualization category while expanding the business into blue chip accounts across 37 countries.
He spent his early career at top worldwide ad agencies including McCann-Erickson and FCB, and was named the founding CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Interactive in 1995. He later served as the president of NASDAQ-listed systems integrator Primix, and as General Manager of mobile content pioneer m-Qube from inception through one of the largest Boston-based venture capital exits of 2006.
Here are a few more history book recommendations from Mike.
Brave Companions: Portraits in History by David McCullough
A collection of his best essays and speeches. All great, and read by the author in the studio book, which you should purchase immediately, and consume when you need to connect with something timeless.
A wonderful story, but the pleasure of this book is the time spent in the company of Mr. McCullough’s elegantly unpretentious prose, deployed in humble service to his deep and insightful mind. Wonderful.
In addition to David McCullough books and others about history, Mike also enjoys some of the same fiction books I love.
Here is what Mike thought about a few of my favorites.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Mike: Really enjoyed this. A poetic story of nature, relationships, and the ways we hurt and heal ourselves and others.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Mike: Deeply personal, intergenerational story. Sad, sincere, spare. Beautiful book.
A Gentlemen in Moscow by Amor Towles
Mike: I’ve never enjoyed reading any book, ever, as much as I enjoyed reading this one. The story, the language, the Count’s depth and charm…this is a masterpiece. The Lives of Others meets Grand Budapest Hotel meets Rattatouille. Can’t wait for the series, but it will never live up to the experience of reading this.
One Man’s Perspective will occur again periodically to keep us current on what men like to read. We will be hearing more from Mike and others in the future.