I committed to reading two books every month in 2013, one “business” book and one non-business book. Here are this month’s selections:

The Frontiersmen by Allen W. Eckert. A history of the settling of the “western” frontier (Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana), told as the story of one man’s life from his birth in 1755 to his death (amazingly by natural causes) in 1836. That man was Simon Kenton, a hot-headed boy from Virginia, who, convinced he killed a man after a fight over a girl, took an assumed name and fled west. To the settlers fighting the indians, the American Revolutionary War was a news item, but the War of 1812 was part of the fabric of their lives. A fascinating group of historical figures become part of the scene and Simon’s life: his good friend Daniel Boone, the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, future Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor and General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. Simon’s son, Simon Kenton, Jr. even had his first rum with future pirate Jean Laffite after travelling to New Orleans to pursue his dream of going to sea.

The book’s narrative is amazing, with details down to the hour and the day. Remember, much of this is the story of the indians, who had no formal recorded history, and the settlers, most of whom were illiterate. *WARNING* this book is extremely graphic, with detailed grisly accounts of torture and death, including scalpings (and the survival thereof), gauntlets, mutilations and burning at the stake. Not for the squeamish.

One complaint – the book is very long, about 600 pages, but if you like history wrapped in a well-told story, The Frontiersmen is the book for you.★★★★

Small is the New Big by Seth Godin. Seth Godin is the internet and tech marketing uberguru.  The book is written as a series of rants briefly covering a huge number of topics. It reads like a bunch of blogs bound together in a book, which is fine by me. Godin has some great ideas, like redefining the word change to Zooming:

“‘Zooming'”, Godin explains, “is about stretching your limits without threatening your foundation. You already zoom every day: Whenever you buy a new CD or read a new issue of the newspaper, you don’t have to contend with all the emotions that we associate with ‘change’. You’re zooming – doing the same thing as usual, only different.”

Small is the New Big is a lively and a fun read. My only complaint is that much of the advice is technology- and internet-specific and hard to adapt to other industries. But still, great food for thought. ★★★