Second Quarter 2015 – “Summer Reading”
Few things can compete with a good book in the summertime. Whether you’ve migrated to the world of digital ink or prefer something in hard cover or paperback, finding a good book is a treasure, and these next few months offer an extra-special invitation to sit outside and get lost in absorbing stories and characters. One book flying off shelves (and servers) right now is David McCullough’s “The Wright Brothers,” a fascinating account of the creation of the world’s first flying machine and the two men who played the most important roles in its conceptualization and realization. At its most basic, the story is a captivating account of the birth of human flight, told in part through letters exchanged among family members. However, like other great McCullough books, there’s more to the story than the straightforward narrative. “The Wright Brothers” is also a story of sacrifice, how true and enduring greatness comes through hard work, intense commitment, and unwavering perseverance in the face of continuous experimentation and failure. Viewed differently, it’s also a story about the benefits reaped from tight family bonds, and the creativity that can result from a family that supports each other and encourages both traditional and nontraditional forms of education.
But one of the book’s most interesting stories is that of the plight of the independent thinker, how rejecting conventional thinking can lead to pleasantly unconventional results. The book subtly calls into question the wisdom of experts who stand confident and staunch in opinion, leaving little or no room for the possibility that their forecasts may be off, that their solid foundation of evidence may in fact have a series of fatal spider cracks. It served as a valuable lesson for the early 20th century, and endures as a valuable lesson for current times as well, where forecasters of financial markets make confident predictions, only to be stymied by the reality of a world that belies predictability.