In “Reading List,” we ask ecommerce professionals to name some of their favorite recent books and blogs and tell us why they read them. For this installment, we corresponded with Steve Castro-Miller, president of Bold Software, a live-chat, click-to-call service provider.
Castro-Miller says, “I like to have a broad set of insights into human nature, helping me understand myself and the people in our company. That understanding is more important for my role than technical skills I might glean from a technical book or journal.”
Castro-Miller’s Recent Books
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
“Unbroken is the biography of Louis Zamperini, a world-class runner on the eve of World War II, who joins the Army Air Corps. It is a story of tough childhood, being shot down, spending 40-plus days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean, being a prisoner of war, being liberated, and finally reconciling his past. None of my trials look anything like his. Zamperini’s perseverance is inspiring for anyone who has to stick to a task or has to overcome consistent changes or setbacks.”
Fire Someone Today by Bob Pritchett
“The title is not a capricious call to a rash action. Pritchett provides a no-nonsense reminder of some key things to do in any business. It’s to the point, easy to read, and insightful. Great for any manager who is just a little stuck.”
The Winston Churchill Lectures by Rufus J. Fears
“The Teaching Company produces lecture on CDs from top college professors around the country. Rufus Fears’ lectures on Churchill are exceedingly well done. Churchill experienced the highs and lows leaders experience. He was also an exceptional and well-balanced man. I like this because I can load it up on my iPhone and listen while I’m traveling, in the car, or mowing the lawn.”
The Coldest Winter, America and the Korean War by David Halberstam
“This was Halberstam’s last book and one of his best. He is a master storyteller, and you will find the book a page turner — or the audio book one you cannot turn off. From it, readers learn the costs of being unprepared, the folly of self-service, the importance of self-sacrifice, the triumph of the right tools deployed the right way over brute force, and what happens when leaders shirk or accept responsibility.”
The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron by Howard Bryant
“As a kid in Atlanta when Hank hit the big one, I remember being glued to the radio that April evening as Milo Hamilton made the call. Howard Bryant’s biography helped me understand Aaron’s life as a black man in the South — in ways I could not have comprehended as a young white teen. It reminded me of the importance of reaching out to the marginalized — whether in community, work, or social settings — as well as the power of prejudice to have otherwise intelligent people overlook amazing talent. Finding and keeping the right talent is one of the most important parts of my job.”
Castro-Miller’s Favorite Blogs
“I’m not a huge blog fan as I find most of them too self-serving or repetitive. Having said that, I read some blogs situationally; the good ones I find educational. As an ecommerce merchant, I’ve had interest in blogs on pay-per-click strategies, sales tax and legal issues, and building a small company into a bigger one. I love email introductions into blogs. They push the ideas and headlines, and then I can go to the blog if the topic catches my fancy. Perry Marshall, a pay-per-click advertising expert, and Open View Ventures, a venture capital firm, do great jobs with this approach. I almost always find something in their emails that I end up reading.
“If you want to stay current on patents, I’ve found FOSS Patents a well-written blog. The blogger does a good job not only staying current on relevant cases, but also explaining why different things matter.
“While not blogs, I stay current on issues that affect our company — like political environment for sales and corporate tax — by reading news sites like The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, and Drudge Report. I probably get a reasonable cross-section of opinion to help me see issues from a consumer’s perspective on different angles.”