The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
I had read the “book of the century” first in my college days, and re-read it again (as I lay sick in bed). The richness of Tolkien’s world and characters is amazingly inspirational. The first part of the book came to life on the big screen recently. But that is in no way a replacement for the book. The 1,000-page tome, which is actually three books, can be very intimidating at first. But as you start reading it, everything comes to life.
Such is Tolkien’s detailing that the “Middle-Earth” becomes reality. The joy of the book is that it allows each of us to create our own imaginary world, and get inhabit it with hobbits, wizards, dwarves and orcs. Besides the fantasy element in the book, it is also about how ordinary people can do extraordinary things – whatever the forces that may be ranged against.
A useful companion book (which I found recently) for the geography of the complex world Tolkien has created is “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” by Karen Fonstad. It consists of “hundreds of two-color maps and diagrams [which] survey the journeys of the principal characters day by day.”
Good To Great by Jim Collins
The first two sentences in this book by the co-author of “Built to Last” are: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”
Collins spent five years searching for the difference between good and great companies. The answers and, in fact, his theories on what makes the difference, may seem surprising at first. One of his theories is the “Hedgehog Concept”. Writes Collins:
Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels”, never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple – indeed almost simplistic – hedgehog ideas.
A Hedgehog concept is a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of the following three circles: what can you be the best in the world at (and equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at), what drives your economic engine, and what you are deeply passionate about.