10 Books for Beach or Poolside This Summer
A guidebook to life for college graduates, another work by two-time Pulitzer winner David McCullough and a meditation on thought and genius.
Bloomberg, May 23, 2019
It’s that time of year! Memorial Day is here, and the season to sit on the beach and enjoy your favorite books is upon us.
Here are my 10 of the most promising titles for beach and pool-side. There are many, many books on my wish list. I asked readers for some suggestions to add to my the increasingly long list. (The complete list of 50+ suggestions is here); all of our prior Summer & Winter reading lists are here).
A few caveats: As always, most of these are new releases, with one or two older titles mixed in. Second, this list is based on my personal interests (they are decidedly not based on publicist pitches). Third, I link each book to Amazon, which lets me track lots of data about each title (including how many of you actually buy the book). It throws off a few dollars, and I donate any revenue your book purchase generates to a literacy program.
Next, even though I have piles of unread books in my library, I never worry about that. I have a fairly high purchased-to-read (P/R) ratio, but I don’t let that bother me; just having them handy means I might read them, and at the very least I have a large reference library. Last, I will actually read them (most of) them. On to the book list!
• Scott Galloway, The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning: Galloway should be familiar to readers as both the brand strategy professor at NYU Stern School of Business, a regular guest on Masters in Business, and as the author of The Four. He usually writes about technology and business, but concern with his students’ life issues led to this 10 minute YouTube video that garnered nearly 2 million views. That became this lovely short book which is likely to be a graduation and holiday gift for years to come.
• Safi Bahcall, Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries: How does group behavior and the science of phase transitions manifest itself? The author, a physicist and entrepreneur, tries to show why some wild new ideas become game changers. I was skeptical, but when someone like Danny Kahneman claims “This book has everything: new ideas, bold insights, entertaining history and convincing analysis. Not to be missed by anyone who wants to understand how ideas change the world,” I pay attention.
• David McCullough, The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West: Ever since I read The Wright Brothers” (on an earlier summer reading list of ours — and it was fantastic) I have been a fan of the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough writes about. This tale of how the American Northwest Territory was settled looks intriguing.
• Alan B. Krueger, Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life: From the economist who revealed the secrets of the minimum wage comes this look at the economics of the music industry. Its disruptions by technology to economics of songwriting and concert tours, the music industry offers important financial lessons. Kreuger, an economic rock star himself (he was former chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers) left us far too soon.
• Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World: The trade routes which connected the East and the West also led to the spread of ideas, cultures and religions. In the midst of our budding trade war, perhaps some history on trade between China and the world might shed some light on current affairs.
• Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World: Is financial fraud becoming its own sub-genre? This reporting into yet another fraud reminds me of The Spider Network or Bad Blood. What distinguishes this one is the size: it involved billions of dollars.
• Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle, Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell: I understood Bill Campbell was a behind-the-scenes guy in Silicon Valley, but I had no idea just how influential he was. Bill Gurley of Benchmark noted “I would argue that Bill has had a bigger impact on Silicon Valley than any other single person simply because his reach was so amazingly wide.” That’s a story I want to read.
• Charles C. Mann, The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World: When it comes to climate change, there are many possible futures. At one end, things get irreversibly worse; at the opposite end, technology “solves” climate change just like any engineering problem. This book looks at that intellectual clash between environmentalists on the one side and the techno-optimists on the other by telling the history of two little-known twentieth-century scientists.
• Rory Sutherland, Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life: Rory Sutherland is the Vice Chairman of advertising giant Ogilvy; he describes his “attractively vague job title” as allowing him the freedom to create a behavioral science practice within the ad agency. This looks intriguing.
• Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid: A masterwork from 1979 that focuses on how cognition can emerge via a variety of hidden neurological mechanisms. I always regretted blazing through GEB in college for a class. This is the summer when I finally get to reread it slowly and carefully.
What books do you want to read this summer? Hit me at my address (britholtz3 at bloomberg dot net) and I might include them in a future column.
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan
Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter