Progress Energy chief Bill Johnson's reading list this month includes a nearly 500-page epic on a modern-day physics battle.
“The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics,” by longtime physics professor Leonard Susskind, recounts a struggle that changed the world of physics.
“We are in the nuclear power business, so physics is a big part of what we do,” said Johnson, who heads the Raleigh utility with 11,000 employees and about 1.4 million customers in the Carolinas.
The former history teacher recently finished Michael Korda's “Ike: An American Hero,” one of several profiles he's read of Dwight Eisenhower. Last month, Johnson, 54 and a recent convert to running, also enjoyed “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by running devotee and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. “It's a story about how a disciplined and systematic lifestyle is productive for your other business.”
He chooses “mass market detective thrillers to amuse myself” and, for two years, has been working through Shakespeare's works. He began that undertaking after realizing he couldn't answer questions about Shakespeare while watching the “Jeopardy!” TV show.
“One of my goals is to get on ‘Jeopardy!' and stay on for a week.”
He reads four papers a day, starting with The News & Observer, then The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today. Early in the week, he works crosswords in pen, switching to pencil as they get tougher later in the week.
Johnson's iPod reveals an opera-loving Dead Head, with extensive Grateful Dead and opera choices.
He credits his mother with the best advice: Kindness is cheap.
“It gives you a world view that's very positive,” he said.