Summer Reading List

Jun 20, 2011 | Education & Professional Development, Leadership, Talent

Here’s a cliché that I’ve lived by for many years: leaders are readers. You cannot be a leader in your organization or field without being a serious student. So, as you head to the mountains or veg by the pool this summer, take a good book. Better yet, take five or six. Included here are books I’ve read recently, listed in alphabetical order. They cover a wide range of topics such as personal development, history, economics, politics, poverty, marketing and even non-business topics like Alaska. Why, I even threw in a 40-year old novel, True Grit!

Here you go:

  • Bridges to Sustainable Communities, by Phil DeVol. I wrote about this in another blog post, but DeVol is dialed into the real-world-on-the-ground actions communities are taking to break the pattern of generational poverty.
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink. He uses the latest research to demonstrate that common knowledge about what motivates people is basically wrong.
  • Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, by S.C. Gwyne. Southeastern Colorado was part of the vast Comanche empire, so this history has local relevance. It happened that right after reading Gwyne’s book I read The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, which is about the Dust Bowl that enveloped the same part of the country. Together the two books paint a chronological portrait of the devastating consequences of misguided public policies. We removed the first stewards of the land then created one of the biggest ecological disasters ever.
  • Extraordinary, Ordinary People, by Condoleezza Rice. I’ve long admired Dr. Rice but reading her perspectives on growing up as an African American in the Jim Crow days of Birmingham, Alabama was eye-opening. And having a family that values education leads to extraordinary accomplishments.
  • Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism: And the Economics of Growth and Prosperity, by William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan and Carl J. Schramm. Capitalism is capitalism, right? And depending on your world view, it’s either good or bad. These guys explain the different flavors of capitalism and make a compelling case for entrepreneurial capitalism as the best model for America. I’d go further and say they give the model that works best for brain-driven Fort Collins.
  • How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People and Free Markets Are the Best Answer in Today’s Economy, by Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames. A lifetime ago, as a college student, I took a course on comparative economic systems and traveled to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It was easy to see the adverse impacts of socialism and communism. Consequently, the recent political attacks in our country on capitalism make no sense to me, so I’ve been seeking out books like this to revisit my earlier assumptions. Forbes and Ames validate what I know to be true about our free market capitalist system and its inherent advantages. I like their approach because it focuses on basics and how and why capitalism works without the partisan political rhetoric that dominates so many conversations today about economics.
  • Learn Like a Leader: Today’s Top Leaders Share Their Learning Journeys, edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Beverly Kaye and Ken Shelton. This is a collection of 35 essays by prominent people that explain the learning experiences that shaped their lives. Most are good. I particularly found Jim Collins’ thoughts about learning logs and learning notebooks to be useful.
  • Looking for Alaska, by Peter Jenkins. My family took a trip to Alaska last summer so I consumed lots of Alaska books. Others worth considering include Jim Reardon’s Alaska by Jim Reardon, On the Edge of Nowhere by James Huntington, One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Richard Proenneke; and Yukon Alone: The World’s Toughest Adventure Race by John Balzar. May as well jump across the Bering Sea and add Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier.
  • Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer. One year after learning and writing about the U.S. Memory Championship, journalist Joshua Foer wins it using the memory techniques he learned. For those of us who can’t remember where we put our car keys, it gives us hope that we too can improve our memories.
  • Over Our Heads: An Analogy on Healthcarae, Good Intentions and Unforeseen Consequences, by Rulon F. Stacey, Ph.D, FACHE. Yes, this is ‘our’ Rulon Stacey, President of the Poudre Valley Health System. This is a quick read and a good one that gives you an understanding of the decisions we’ve made as a country over decades that have led to the current situation with the health care system.
  • Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution, by Charles Rappleye. Morris is the forgotten Founding Father. Without his remarkable mercantile and financial expertise, the American Revolution would have been lost. In school we’re spoon-fed a sanitized, sophomoric version of the Revolution that largely papers over the squabbling, internal divisions and dysfunction that were part of the founding. Rappleye puts a light on that and explains the complexity of the financial transactions, trade and credit that kept the new nation alive. I came away appreciating even more what a miracle our founding was.
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. Change is hard! The Heath brothers talk about the balance between our built-in drives and our logical brain and how to overcome inertia to make change happen.
  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott. Much of the hype around social media is just that: hype. Scott, however, does a great job of explaining why it’s important and how to use social media to accomplish your objectives. Bottom line: your website is still home base and content is king.
  • The Notes: Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom, edited by Douglas Brinkley. The narrative that grew up around Reagan is that he was just an actor with a middling intellect. This collection of private notes that he used for presentations and speeches shows that he was a serious thinker about issues and public governance and was serious about how he communicated those ideas. He honed his philosophy and message over decades.
  • The Citizen’s Constitution, by Seth Lipsky. I realized recently that I’ve never read the U.S. Constitution. Parts of it, yes, but not the entire document beginning to end. Until now you basically had two choices: tackle scholarly multi-volume sets or read a pocket version of the Constitution but without context or interpretation. This book hits the sweet spot in between, but be warned: it’s not a page turner.
  • True Grit, by Charles Portis. This is a funny and clever book. It was written in 1968 and is back in bookstores again because of the recent remake of the movie by the same name. It’s a classic.

Enjoy! Oh, I’m always looking for good books so if you have recommendations, please share.