Monday, 23 April 2012

Sharing Complex Book Ideas in Map Format –Biographies

Last month we published an interview with Jim Mather where Jim discussed his top business books. It proved to be a popular topic, so this month, Jim is explaining which book tops his list in biographies.

How do you choose which biographies to read?

Generally, I read biographies of people I admire or people, whose lives and experience indicates that I could learn from them.

I recognise that sounds a bit worthy and boring - but the fact is if these factors are not present it is hard for me to keep my interest alive and read through to the end of the book: for they usually all have sad endings: the hero dies.

What are your top ten biographies?

  • Davic MacCullough, John Adams
  • Jospeph Elli, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
  • Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton
  • Martin Luther King Jr, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr
  • Mahatma Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
  • Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins: A Biography and De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow
  • Andy McSmith, John Smith: A Life, 1938-1994
  • Ricardo Semler, Maverick
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
  • Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

What is your top book out of this and why?
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

And the reason is that the book does something that doesn't always happen with biographies: it gives other supporting players proper credit for shaping events and shows the subject of the biography in a wider context.

Including facing many problems that we ourselves face in managing relationships, other people and competing "truths".

What is the most important thing you have learnt from this book?
It underpins my firmly held belief that there is no such thing as the single, lone hero who makes everything right - but rather that any success needs many people working closely together with common goals, goodwill, trust, collaboration and mature means of handling inevitable conflicts.

Why should we read it?
It reinforces the point that diversity and different people of different opinions are more likely to help create something that is innovative and resilient – than a pack of group-thinking yes men or women.

Have you read any of these biographies? What would be your top book in this category?

Purchase Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln on Amazon

Visit the MindGenius website

Jim Mather served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament from 2003 until 2011. In 2007, he was appointed Minister for Enterprise, Energy & Tourism: a role he served until he stepped down from front line politics last year. He started his career as a Chartered Accountant before moving to IBM in IT Sales & Marketing roles. Following IBM, Jim, and his fellow directors, successfully built and sold “Computers for Business”, a Scottish based reseller of leading computer brands. Last October Jim joined MindGenius’ sister company Gael Ltd as Chairman, and he is also a visiting Professor at The University of Strathclyde. 


Zack Main said...

Jim, interesting article. I am often inspired by biographies, learning from those who have tread the path before me. My current favorite is probably the Isaacson biography on Steve Jobs, a truly inspiring figure to me and many others I'm sure.

Jeanne said...

Very interesting. I was very surprised to see that I have read a nimbler of the books on the list. As a Lincoln bibliophile, I have to agree; Goodwin's book was outstanding. There is so much inspiration to be had when Lincoln's ability to compromise by bringing a diverse group together is studied. He truly was an impressive individual.

Jim Mather said...

Thanks for the comments. I am delighted to hear from a fellow reader of the Goodwin book, to know that there are like-minded people out there, and to get the chance to echo the view that Lincoln was the consummate builder of networks and alliances.

It also allows me to believe that some of his conciliation skills and sense of humanity were, in part, learned from a Scottish source, see:”

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