Good Books


I was flipping through The Art of Fielding the other day (which is super-great, and just out in paperback). It’s about a few seasons in the life of a small-college baseball team and its unlikely star, Henry Skrimshander.

I was struck by how accurately and beautifully author Chad Harbach depicts the way a person grows their skills: the mix of obsession and focus and crazy love, the immeasurable power of deep repetition, how people really think and act as they work together to develop their talents.

For instance:

Baseball was an art, but to excel at it you had to become a machine. It didn’t matter how beautifully you performed SOMETIMES, what you did on your best day, how many spectacular plays you made. You weren’t a painter or a writer–you didn’t work in private and discard your mistakes, and it wasn’t just your masterpieces that counted.

Or this:

He already knew he could coach. All you had to do was look at each of your players and ask yourself: What story does this guy wish someone would tell him about himself? And then you told the guy that story.

You get the idea. The point is that The Art of Fielding takes us deep inside the process of growing talent in the same way that Moby Dick takes us deep inside the process of 19th-century whaling.

The other point is that, a lot of other books do the same. I think it’d be interesting, and maybe useful, to see if we could compile a running list — call it the “Talent Code Book Club.” The books could be fiction or nonfiction, about music or business or chess or painting; they could be written from a coach or teacher’s point of view or that of a kid — it doesn’t matter, so long as it takes us inside and leaves us with some fresh insights about what it means to try to get better.

A few that come to mind:

What other books — or even movies — should be on this list? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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23 Responses to “Good Books”

  1. kalyan says:

    Nice post,after all books are a mans best friends …

    1)Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    2)Lance Armstrong Biography
    3)coach carter (movie)
    4)The Power of a habit

    there are many others ,these are the one’ that flashed immediately .

  2. andrew says:

    I’d say “the Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin,
    and “Mastery” by George Leonard. I’m sure there’s more but those are off the top of my head.

  3. Ray says:

    Movies – “Chariots of Fire” immediately comes to mind.

  4. Aaron says:

    I will also suggest The Art of Learning and Mastery. Especially the latter.

  5. Nik says:

    The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey

  6. Paul says:

    My Favourites
    Dragon-The Bruce Lee Story
    Coach Carter.
    Tennis-Winning Ugly Brad Gilbert

  7. Candice says:

    Glad to see The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin is already there.
    Two other favorites of mine from teacher’s perspective is is Marval Collins Way – Marval Collins and Civia Tamarkin and You have’t taught until they’ve learnt – Swen Nater & Ronal Gallimore.
    Born to Run – Christopher McDougall is beautiful and poetic in it’s recognition of what it takes to be an unbelievable distance runner.
    Great by Choice – Jim Collins for business.
    Mindset – Carol S. Dweck is a must as it really does break-down the mindset needed to approach mistakes, learning and life if you’re going to develop talent.
    Two other books that for me have helped guide me closer to my goal of self-mastery. Which I sort of think of as the talent of being human. Is the Art of Possibility – Rosmund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander and takes us inside the world of music and people. Benjamin is a conductor. Another one is Switch – Chip & Dan Heath. So excited to see other’s suggestions. Movies that I think of immediately are Mr Holland’s Opus and The Greatest Game Ever Played (a 2005 biographical sports film based on the early life of golf champion Francis Ouimet.).

  8. Candice says:

    How could I forget… Teach like your hairs on Fire – Ralf Esquith.

  9. Ashley says:

    Love this topic too and agree about The art of fielding, having just finished it I thought many times about deliberate practice etc. A few books that I enjoyed relating to this are

    The gift of speed by Steven Carroll. Being an aussie this book about a young boys obsession with cricket and the visiting west Indian cricket is beautiful.
    Better by Atul Gwande a surgeons notes on performance.
    Dream golf by Stephen Goodwin. The making of Brandon dunes. A man and his teams obsession with completing a masterpiece.

    Looking for more books to read always, please provide other possibilities.

    Cheers ashley

  10. Axel says:

    Movie – Bobbie Ficher against the world

  11. Angel says:

    Outliers (malcom gladwell)
    Rafa. My Story (John Carlin)
    Wooden. A lifetime OF observations and reflections on and off The court. (John Wooden and Steve Jamison)

  12. Bounce – Matthew Syed
    8 To Be Great – Richard St John
    Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

  13. Rod Roth says:

    My offering would be Jim Collins’ Great by Choice. Nine years of research went into finding the common elements of seven different companies from seven different industries who thrived despite great uncertainty, chaos and luck–some good, some bad for their peer companies but not for them. The principles they had in common work superbly for both organizations and individuals.

  14. Lucas says:

    The Servant, by James C. Hunter, is a gem on leadership. It should be part of any collection.

  15. Rob S. says:

    Two to Start…

    The Music Lesson By: Victor Wooten
    Imagine: How Creativity Works By: Jonah Lehrer

  16. Tyler says:

    The Way of Baseball by Shawn Green

  17. sroelit says:

    Flow by Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi
    The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk
    (It’s also fascinating to see books like Leonard’s Mastery and Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull on the list . . . isn’t it funny how something as simple as a book list can engender feelings of community)

  18. S Osborne says:

    I think that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Education of a Bodybuilder. The first half is basically an autobiography that details his mind set as he pursued his dream of being the best built man in the world. Very inspiring and insightful in my opinion.

  19. D Robinson says:

    “Season of Life: a football star, a boy, a journey to manhood” by Jeffrey Marx.

  20. JK Campbell says:

    Just watch “Jiro dreams of sushi” and it was a great movie on dedication to perfection

  21. Doug says:

    Happiness Advantage
    Talent Code

  22. S Osborne says:

    Also ‘No Regrets’, the autobiography of Apolo Ohno. One of my favourite bios I’ve ever read. Details his plans for upcoming events, training and mindset.

  23. April Arnold says:

    Teambuilding – Rinus Michels (credited for creating the Dutch soccer philosophy of Total Football; dubbed coach of the century by FIFA in 1999)

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