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Thinking Fast Means Going Slow. Take a Moment with a Book.

Like most everyone these days, I am working virtually, which has me online and connected to both my work and the news, all day, every day, all the time. I learned a long while ago that fasting, or more specifically, news fasting — no online papers, no cable TV, and no NPR, whether just for a few minutes or sometimes a few hours — is essential for mind and heart.

This fasting should be simple, and it means finding your joy, even for a fleeting moment, as often as you can. As my favorite poet, the late Mary Oliver, said in “Don’t Hesitate”:

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left…… It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins…. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

One of my joys is finding balance in a decent book. So, these past two weeks, I’ve been counseling CEOs and entrepreneurs, and also reading business books, some from authors who will join us this October for the fourth-annual Authors & Innovators community event.

For starters, I just finished and thoroughly enjoyed an advance copy of Girl Decoded, the upcoming book by the enormously talented Rana el Kaliouby, single mom, Ph.D, Muslim woman scientist in an overwhelmingly male field — and founder of an artificial-intelligence startup spun off from the MIT Media Lab. This engaging book is part personal memoir, part clarion call for applying emotion recognition technology to virtually every technology field, including mental health and autism. In a world of text, email and code, el Kaliouby teaches us that words convey less than 10 percent of the true meaning of a message and new communication technologies will need to account for emotion, facial expressions and vocal intonations to capture real and true meaning.  With video meetings becoming the norm these past few weeks, this book reminds us that the human always must come before the artificial.

I also heartily recommend Lift, the new book by MITRE Corp. engineer and author Dan Ward.  It’s an incredibly thoughtful and entertaining history of innovation from the unique perspective of flying machines and airplanes.  Ward starts with the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk over a hundred years ago and traces their success to the many unique and persistent innovators who came before them, made mistakes, and paved the way for modern aircraft design and technology.  Ward is an upbeat and spirited writer and his perspective on considered “experimenting” versus random “risk taking” is a refreshing and important take for today’s entrepreneurs.

History readers also should consider Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America, the new book by author, historian, and Harvard Fellow Candacy Taylor. It’s a riveting chronicle of the Green Book, the travel guide published for black motorists from 1936-1967. Taylor takes the reader back in time to the Jim Crow years and through the civil rights movement when a simple road trip for a black motorist was a demonstrable act of courage in many parts of the country. The many pictures Taylor includes convey as much as her compelling text. Traveling builds community. When you finish Taylor’s book, you’ll have a better understanding why it matters and the work that lies ahead—for all of us.

These are challenging and stressful times. To get through them, you’ll need strength and the constant renewal that comes from rest and reflection. No better way and no better time to find all that, and more, in a good and thoughtful book.

Read on the Boston Business Journal here.

Authors & Innovators is an occasional column by Larry Gennari, a transactional lawyer, law professor, and chief curator of Authors & Innovators, an annual business book and ideas festival.

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