I was going to start writing about how to keep a reader interested in your book. How to make sure that page one is interesting enough for them to turn to page two, etc. But instead I thought it’d be more fun to flip the coin over and look at the places most readers usually check out… And then encourage the bookmakers of the world to address them with each aspect of their books.
Two of the top 10 greatest speeches ever given by U.S. presidents were given within three days of each other. Eisenhower and Kennedy were politically, generationally, ideologically, and culturally opposed and yet they understood the magnitude of the day, the seriousness of the foe in communism, and the need to preserve one of America’s greatest strengths: the peaceful transition of power.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, focuses on helping anyone who works for any company succeed wherever they are. From getting promoted to dealing with terrible bosses to managing people to merging two companies together—Welch covers the gamut. He speaks and leads with specificity, which is refreshing in a land filled with used up generalities.
I read mostly non-fiction. Over the years I’ve tried reading and retaining on my iPad (which mostly sits and gets dusty these days). I’ve listened to audiobooks, which I enjoy very much, but audiobook retention seems to be a hopeless case as well. These non-500 year old technologies are great for serial reading, but less great for actually remembering and referencing the content.
It was the early 2000’s—before the Beijing Olympics, but after the great migration from the country to the cities had begun. Gifford’s journey, more than any other modern road trip book I’ve read, encapsulates a very specific window of a country’s history. China was rising, but how fast? Could it sustain itself? Did it want to?
The amount of energy, time, sweat, stress, prayer, and research that goes into writing a book will often go a long way toward helping its author craft a great talk. Writing a book and giving a talk are different skillsets, to be sure, but they both require clarity, a willing audience, and creative delivery.
After reading the first few paragraphs, I immediately understood this book’s appeal. Here’s a normal guy who, against all reasonable odds and the norms of his community, went to college and then graduated from Yale Law School—effectively jumping at least two rungs on the social capital ladder before he was 30.
Stanley McChrystal was in the U.S. Army for thirty-four years. He was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq, trying to defeat Al Qaeda. No small task. His goal was to defeat an agile, de-centralized enemy with all the hulking resources of a bureaucratic, top-down military machine.
Authors of great books know it takes a certain amount of smarts on the reader’s end to be picking up a book in the first place. The great ones don’t start at the very beginning of time—explaining all the background details in order—for no reason. It needs to be less “classroom lecture” and more “guided historical monument tour.”