Opinions vary as to when summer starts. Meteorologically, it starts on June 21. Others believe summer starts on May 1, or when school lets out. And then there are the people in northern regions, who believe in two seasons: Winter and the Fourth of July. That said, to plenty of people, summer starts on Memorial Day weekend, which is why we’re publishing our annual Summer Reading List now.
Perhaps it’s a high-tech/high-touch thing, but in this era of Kindles and so on, it seems trendier than ever to claim—truthfully or not—that you read actual books. Similarly, a popular way to lay a claim to being a “thought leader” is to broadcast to your devoted audience—whether through an annual list, blog post, or whatever— what books you’re reading. The more esoteric the book, the better, of course.
Naturally, we couldn’t be left out. So here’s a list of the books we’re looking forward to reading this summer, as well as where we heard about them.
As we’ve mentioned before, Bill Gates’ list is always a great source for books. He reads some intense stuff—heavy on public health and the education system (though we notice he’s got The Hunger Games on his list, too). Most intriguing on his list, though, is The Box, a fascinating tome about the containerized shipping industry. No, really. In the same way that Eli Whitney revamped the gun industry by making guns with interchangeable parts, containers have overhauled the shipping industry by providing a standard form factor that can be used in multiple kinds of transportation, ranging from ships to trucks. An army travels on its stomach, and any company that sells tangible goods travels on its logistics. Plus, the move to containerized shipping helped pave the way for paperless shipping. What’s not to like?
Various branches of the military offer their own reading lists. Needless to say, they tend to be pretty focused on blowing things up, whether it’s things they blew up in the past or things they might blow up in the future. This isn’t necessarily relevant to business today (we hope.) But the Air Force Chief of Staff Reading List has an interesting book in the context of ageism and Millennials: Sticking Points, which is about the four generations currently in the American workforce and how to get them to work together better. The focus is on the twelve areas where these groups can come into conflict, and how to smooth the path. Blowing things up doesn’t seem to be involved.
Speaking of wars, we’ve had our order in for the paperback version of Lawrence in Arabia since before Christmas. It’s not that we’re cheap; we’re tired of getting knocked unconscious when we’re reading on the beach and doze off and drop a hardback on our face. We’re eagerly looking forward to getting it in a week or so. Much of what’s going on in the Middle East today dates back to the Lawrence, post-World War I era, and the book is supposed to explain how we got from then to now. Besides, what’s more appropriate to read on the beach?
We haven’t yet gotten to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (though we did tell you how to pretend you’d read it in our holiday book feature). But we need to actually read it, if only because so many people cite his work. If people start calling us “outliers” or “connectors” or whatever this book’s equivalent is, we want to know if we’ve been insulted or not.
We’ve talked before about danah boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research who basically studies the sociology of social media. Her most recent book is It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Even if you don’t have a teen—networked or otherwise—her work tends to have a lot of influence over how people see social media and how it’s being used. Plus, remember that in a few years, the teens she’s writing about now will be working for you. (See Sticking Points.)
Finally, we don’t know much about Adam Grant other than that he’s a professor at the Wharton School of Business (courtesy of his LinkedIn bio)—but the guy’s got great taste in books. And we’ve got to give him points for being ahead of the game, no matter how you define when summer starts—he debuted his list of “Can't-Miss Business Books for Spring and Summer” in March. Before most of them had even been published. (As an indication of his foresightfulness, back then he was already recommending Creativity, Inc., which we liked so much a few weeks ago.) And a number of the books he recommends just sound awesome.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: “This book holds the keys to solving one of the great puzzles of life: how can we do less but accomplish more?“ Naturally, here at Simplicity 2.0, we’re all about that.
- Cubed: “It’s billed as a secret history of the workplace, unraveling why our offices look the way they do and how so many people came to work in cubicles.” As you may recall, we’ve talked before about our feelings on office plans, so we’re certainly interested in this one.
- Mindwise: “Do you think you’re pretty good at knowing what others are thinking, feeling, craving, and planning? Think again. This intriguing book from a prolific social psychologist at the University of Chicago covers why we fail at mind reading and lie detection, and how to improve.” Mwahahaha.
Better get reading. You’ve only got 97 days until Labor Day.
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