Reading is up during this extended pandemic. Some people are exploring topics that speak of isolation, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Apparently, sales of both continue to rise. Some readers sought comfort in religious and philosophical themes. Herman Hesse’s 1922 classic Siddhartha has been popular – something about a man’s search for spiritual enlightenment after meeting the Buddha.Having spent much of my life in sports, I typically turn to books reinforcing the invaluable lessons that are earned through the blood and sweat of competition and the growth that comes from cherished teammates…themes I can only imagine are multiplied with comrades in arms.I hope you enjoy reading the Morenz Group top five books for 2022! Thank you to those who have suggested books to me. Please keep the recommendations coming.

Morenz Group’s Top Five Books for 2022

1. Twelve Mighty Orphans

Jim Dent’s book Twelve Might Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football is, indeed, inspiring. It’s about a school that operated over a century ago in Fort Worth, Texas, to educate the orphans of Texas Freemasons. Things were quiet at the school for awhile until coach Rusty Russell arrived on the scene. Starting without even a football at first and with ratty uniforms, he coached a team of orphans all the way to the state championship.The boys were outweighed by at least 30 pounds per man and were, therefore, referred to as the “Mites.”This is a story with unforgettable characters and really great football.

Said ABC Sports/ESPN’s Brent Musburger, “Take an orphanage, the Depression, and mix it with Texas high school football, and Jim Dent has authored another winner, this one about the ultimate underdog.”And CBS Sports’ Verne Lundquist said, “This just might be the best sports book ever written.” What was most inspiring to me about this story is the transformation the orphans went through. At the beginning of the book, they felt only fear and loneliness with no sense of belonging or pride in their affiliation with the other orphans and desperate to leave the orphanage. By the end of the book, they had developed an amazing bond with each other and a collective pride in being one of the “Home Guys” – and they didn’t want to leave. It’s this us-against-them mentally that not only helped them survive, but propelled them to achieve true greatness.

Great recommendation, Chris!

2. The Boys in the Boat
The full title of Daniel James Brown’s non-fiction novel is The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.As the reviewers say, “It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers, the University of Washington’s crew team was never expected to beat the elite teams of the East Coast and Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the rowing team for Adolf Hitler.”  Like Twelve Mighty Orphans, this is a Depression-era tale which draws from the journals and memories of the boys, especially Joe Rantz, who was without family or prospects but, through this journey, found a real place for himself in the world.

Rowing is physical beyond belief. For example, rowing a 2000-meter race, the Olympic standard, takes the same physical toll on the body as playing two basketball games back to back, but in six minutes.An Olympic oarsman will take in as much oxygen as a thoroughbred racehorse pound for pound.It’s an anaerobic exercise which makes the muscles and spine scream in pain, and that’s only part of what it takes to succeed in this sport.

Beyond this amazing toll on the individuals, I was struck by the almost spiritual component to rowing as a team, a wholeness which is something well beyond the sum of the parts.

3. Trillion-Dollar Coach
Authors Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg’s Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell chronicles how the former college football player and coach helped build some of the world’s most innovative companies, including Google and Apple, and in the process helped create over a trillion dollars in market value.Campbell mentored business visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Larry Page. In fact, this jock-turned-business guru coached dozens of leaders ranging from venture capitalists to educators. When he died in 2016, according to one review, he left behind “a legacy of growing companies, successful people, respect, friendship, and love …” The book is based on interviews with over 80 people who knew Campbell.

What stayed with me from the authors’ experienced perspectives is that coaching is critical to leadership. Campbell took responsibility for making others better without taking credit for their success when it inevitably came. He built trust first, and that laid the foundation for his mentees’ high performance.

Thanks for passing this on, Tim!

4. The Greatest Beer Run Ever
This book by John “Chick” Donahue and J.T. Malloy is about much more than beer.  “Chick” Donohue was an ex-Marine and a merchant seaman when he decided after a night of drinking with pals in a New York bar that he would track down his friends in Vietnam, in the midst of a war, and bring them a beer.Turns out, he did it and this is the remarkable true story of how.  After he lands in Qui Nhon, he starts to search for his friends but encounters many challenges along the way, including spending time in the Demilitarized Zone and in Saigon during the Tet Offensive.His mission is a success but, in the end, he’s left wondering why his friends were in this war at all.To me, this was a great story of friendship and service, with a unique lens on the challenges of the time.

Taylor, I loved this book!

5. The Gift of Fear
Gavin de Becker authored The Gift of Fear: Survival Signs That Protect Us from Violence, and the book has been translated into 18 languages.De Becker is one of the nation’s leading experts in the protection of public figures, whose work in the prediction and prevention of violence has earned him three Presidential appointments.His premise is that we can protect ourselves by learning to trust and act on our gut instincts once we have practiced proper situational awareness. The book covers street crime, domestic abuse, violence in the workplace and more and offers specific advice for getting out of dangerous situations by trusting and acting on your intuition, just like animals in the wild do.Importantly, however, he cautions against unnecessary suffering and worry. Rather, always try to explore and discover the root of your worries.

I appreciated the author’s concluding remarks reaffirming a guarded approach to handling fear. “If your immediate circumstance can’t be linked to pain or death, then it is not fear … it’s anxiety or worry. Worry is a fear of our own making and does us no good. Worry is also a poor substitute for love … instead it’s a sense of protection against future disappointment.” De Becker goes on to say that pain and fear are necessary in life. When you feel fear, you should listen, but when you don’t feel fear, be sure not to manufacture it.

Robert, thanks for leading me in this important exploration.

And to all of you, may your intuition take you to great places in 2022.

God Bless and Happy Holidays from Morenz Group!