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Summer Reading Choices, From Success Stories to Empowerment

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by Ronn Levine

I think most of us would say that we haven't read near the amount of books that we had intended to when we first learned about our quarantines back in March. Sitting on my bedside now are: The Way I Was, an autobiography by Marvin Hamlisch (signed at a reading where he actually played music from The Sting); Almayer's Folly by Joseph Conrad; and a memoir, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. Happily, I just finished an amazing book, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson who I had the pleasure of working with at The Washington Post many moons ago.

But a long, hot summer still looms before us with those quarantines still in place along with a staycation or two. In other words, there's still time. Here are some book recommendations I've come across:
 
Two from Bill Gates' blog, GatesNotes:
 
The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger
"This is one of the best business books I've read in several years. Iger does a terrific job explaining what it's really like to be the CEO of a large company. Whether you're looking for business insights or just an entertaining read, I think anyone would enjoy his stories about overseeing Disney during one of the most transformative times in its history."
 
Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
"Banerjee and Duflo won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences last year, and they're two of the smartest economists working today. Fortunately for us, they're also very good at making economics accessible to the average person. Their newest book takes on inequality and political divisions by focusing on policy debates that are at the forefront in wealthy countries like the United States."   
 
Two success stories:
 
CJwalker2_1611566.jpg
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A'Lelia Bundles.
From The New York Times: "Walker's biographer and great-great granddaughter, A'Lelia Bundles, does not overestimate her importance when she calls Walker one of the pioneers in her use of direct sales (the Fuller Brush Company was founded in 1906, the same year as Walker's), marketing strategies and commissions... Walker's story has always deserved an expansive loom on which to weave the threads of her legendary life with the broad themes and major events of American history."
 
Have Fun, Fight Back, and Keep the Party Going: Lessons from a New Orleans Entrepreneur's Journey to the Inc. 5000 by Jeff O'Hara
In his memoir, O'Hara, president of destination management firm PRA New Orleans, tells of his escape from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the determination required to rebuild his business in a city felled by disaster and a meetings and events industry underwater.
 
Three from The Financial Times:
 
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Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit by Alex Edmans
"This is more than just another call for a radical rethink of how companies operate: Edmans, a finance professor, offers plentiful research — his own and others' — to back his thought-provoking thesis that it is not enough to create the conditions for businesses to act better. They should be enabled to "grow the pie" through more effective leadership." Professor Edmans has succeeded in showing that companies can create both: profit and social value.
           
Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together by Margaret Heffernan
"Uncharted tackles our obsession with the spuriously precise 'science' of prediction and offers abundant examples, drawn from business, science and personal experience, to underline the importance of preparedness, adaptability and robustness, rather than rigid plans."
 
Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader's Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss
"Leaders who recast their mission to improve the people around them will turn themselves into better listeners and make their teams more productive and happier to boot."
 
And finally a couple for enjoyment:
 
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
From the author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year. I had the pleasure of interviewing McBride once—incredible person!
 
A Burning by Megha Majumdar

"In this breakneck literary thriller, debut novelist Megha Majumdar sets the scene in India, where a young Muslim woman from the slums lands in jail after criticizing the government's handling of a train bombing on Facebook." I actually caught a Zoom talk with Majumdar last week and then ran out to get the book. Alas, it has joined my crowded bedside.

Ronn Levine is editorial director for SIIA.


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