And with that, there will be no “classic” spring break getaway to some tropical resort town like Cancun, Cabo, South Padre, or Surfer’s Paradise. No margarita-fuelled beach parties or late morning sleep-ins, there’s still work to do. After all, it’s the term that won’t die here in Dallas. There are projects due in the first week back.
Nonetheless, the lack of lectures means more free hours in the day, and a chance to decompress and catch up on some reading. The book pile has been stacking up yet again, and it’s time to whittle it down somewhat before classes restart in a week. The challenge is to get through the following five books in that timeframe. It won’t be easy, but that’s why they call them challenges…
I’m already halfway through this one, so there’s a bit of a head start. That said, it is a dense and thorough exploration of human history from the earliest archaeological excavations in Africa all the way through to the present day. It was a landmark work when it was released for its completeness and its powerful refutation of the idea of inherent racial superiority as the driving factor behind the technological development of Eurasian civilizations. So far it hasn’t disappointed, moving smoothly between discussing topics as wide ranging as the factors driving animal domestication in Persia and M&A strategy in modern Papuan tribes.
I’m lucky enough to own a signed copy, after meeting legendary Dallas businessman Carl Sewell earlier this year at SMU (another great advantage of the Cox MBA program). His work on how to build and maintain customer loyalty comes from his decades of experience in the automobile business (where the margins are made not on selling cars, but on after-sales servicing). It will be interesting to see how his insights can be applied to the arts, where customer loyalty is more important than ever.
It wouldn’t be the MA/MBA spring break without prereadings due for classes that haven’t started yet. This one is the primary textbook for my course “The Practice of International Business”, so it will help to get up to speed with the subject before the class starts. That and there’s an optional reading list that the professor has set of about 100 books, so getting this one out of the way might give me a chance to get into some of those too (thankfully, “Guns, Germs, and Steel” is already on it, so that’s one ticked off).
Another book on customer loyalty, this time coming from the perspective of Web 2.0 services, and how services can be designed to build habits in people (for better or for worse). It’s another one that I’ve already started reading, and so far it has been pretty straightforward and understandable. But as a friend once told me, "common sense is not necessarily common practice".
Finally, a book that while not strictly fiction, is not a technical work either. It’ll be a reward for getting through the first four. I’m an addict of the Penguin Classics publishing line (especially the antique editions of the 50’s and 60’s), and this week they released a series of “Little Black Classics”, short extracts from great international writers priced at a couple of dollars each (which will no doubt become addictive). This one’s a selection of autobiographical short stories from the author of “Rashōmon”. I’m looking forward to it.
Stretch goals seem to be all the rage these days, so let’s add one. A close friend of mine is a huge fan of this author’s work, and I’ve been remiss in not having read his works before, given he is mentioned in the same breath as contemporary authors like Thomas Pynchon and William Gibson (whose latest works are also on the reading list). If I can get through the first five, I’ll take a crack at this one, an exploration of America in the 1980's that blurs the line between the surreal and the real.
In any case, it’s time to get reading. There are already new books on the way to read during the next term, so that pile needs to decrease fast. The kettle is boiled, the coffee is brewing, the rain is falling outside, and the books are waiting.