Looking for some titles to catch up on your reading this summer? From brand new bestsellers, to stories that reveal new insights about historical events, here are eight titles that are well worth packing.
1. Unchartered: How to Navigate the Future by Margaret Heffernan
What it’s about: We are addicted to prediction, desperate for certainty about the future. But the complexity of modern life won’t provide that; experts in forecasting are reluctant to look more than 400 days out. History doesn’t repeat itself and even genetics won’t tell you everything you want to know. Tomorrow remains uncharted territory, but Heffernan demonstrates how we can forge ahead with agility. In her bold and invigorating new book, Margaret Heffernan explores the people and organizations who aren’t daunted by uncertainty.
Why pick it up: From former CEO and popular TED speaker Margaret Heffernan comes a timely and enlightening book that equips you with the tools you need to face the future with confidence and courage. Ranging freely through history and from business to science, government to friendships, this refreshing book challenges us to mine our own creativity and humanity for the capacity to create the futures we want and can believe in.
2. How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman
What it’s about: Award-winning Wharton Professor and Choiceology podcast host Katy Milkman has devoted her career to the study of behavior change. In this ground-breaking book, Milkman reveals a proven path that can take you from where you are to where you want to be. Drawing on Milkman’s original research and the work of her world-renowned scientific collaborators, How to Change shares strategic methods for identifying and overcoming common barriers to change, such as impulsivity, procrastination, and forgetfulness.
Why pick it up: Whether you’re a manager, coach, or teacher aiming to help others change for the better or are struggling to kick-start change yourself, How to Change offers an invaluable, science-based blueprint for achieving your goals, once and for all.
3. Americanon: An Unexpected U.S. History in Thirteen Bestselling Books by Jess McHugh
What it’s about: The true, fascinating, and remarkable history of thirteen books that defined a nation. Surprising and delightfully engrossing, Americanon explores the true history of thirteen of the nation’s most popular books, like Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Webster’s Dictionary, and Emily Post’s Etiquette. Overlooked for centuries, our simple dictionaries, spellers, almanacs, and how-to manuals are the unexamined touchstones for American culture and customs. These books sold tens of millions of copies and set out specific archetypes for the ideal American, from the self-made entrepreneur to the humble farmer.
Why pick it up: What better way to understand a people than to look at the books they consumed most, the ones they returned to repeatedly, with questions about everything from spelling to social mobility to sex? This fresh and engaging book is American history as you’ve never encountered it before.
4. Work: A Deep History, From the Stone Age to the Age of Robots by James Suzman
What it’s about: A revolutionary new history of humankind through the prism of work by leading anthropologist James Suzman. Drawing insights from anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology, zoology, physics, and economics, Suzman shows that while we have evolved to find joy, meaning, and purpose in work, for most of human history our ancestors worked far less and thought very differently about work than we do now. He demonstrates how our contemporary culture of work has its roots in the agricultural revolution ten thousand years ago. Our sense of what it is to be human was transformed by the transition from foraging to food production, and, later, our migration to cities. Since then, our relationships with one another and with our environments, and even our sense of the passage of time, have not been the same.
Why pick it up: Arguing that we are in the midst of a similarly transformative point in history, Suzman shows how automation might revolutionize our relationship with work and in doing so usher in a more sustainable and equitable future for our world and ourselves.
5. Collision Course: Carlos Ghosn and the Culture Wars That Upended an Auto Empire by Hans Greimel and William Sposato
What it’s about: In Japan it’s called the “Ghosn Shock”—the stunning arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the jet-setting CEO who saved Nissan and made it part of a global automotive empire. Even more shocking was his daring escape from Japan, packed into a box and put on a private jet to Lebanon after months spent in a Japanese detention center, subsisting on rice gruel.
This is the saga of what led to the Ghosn Shock and what was left in its wake. Ghosn spent two decades building a colossal partnership between Nissan and Renault that looked like a new model for a global business, but the alliance’s shiny image fronted an unsteady, tense operation. Culture clashes, infighting among executives and engineers, dueling corporate traditions, and government maneuvering constantly threatened the venture.
Why pick it up: This gripping, unforgettable narrative, full of fascinating characters, serves as part cautionary tale, part object lesson, and part forewarning of the increasing complexity of doing global business in a nationalistic world.
6. Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy by Jeffrey E. Garten
What it’s about: The former dean of the Yale School of Management and Undersecretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration chronicles the 1971 meeting at Camp David, where President Nixon unilaterally ended the last vestiges of the gold standard—breaking the link between gold and the dollar. Over the course of three days—from August 13 to 15, 1971—at a secret meeting at Camp David, President Richard Nixon and his brain trust changed the course of history. Before that weekend, all national currencies were valued to the U.S. dollar, which was convertible to gold at a fixed rate. That system, established by the Bretton Woods Agreement at the end of World War II, was the foundation of the international monetary system that helped fuel the greatest expansion of middle-class prosperity the world has ever seen.
Why pick it up: Based on extensive historical research and interviews with several participants at Camp David, and informed by Garten’s own insights from positions in four presidential administrations and on Wall Street, Three Days at Camp David chronicles this critical turning point, analyzes its impact on the American economy and world markets, and explores its ramifications now and for the future.
7. Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy by Anne Sebba
What it’s about: On June 19, 1953, Ethel Rosenberg became the first woman in the U.S. to be executed for a crime other than murder. She was thirty-seven years old and the mother of two small children. This is an important moment to recount not simply what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the ‘trial of the century’, but also a timeless human story of a supportive wife, loving mother and courageous idealist who grew up during the Depression with aspirations to become an opera singer. Instead, she found herself battling the social mores of the 1950s and had her life barbarically cut short on the basis of tainted evidence for a crime she almost certainly did not commit.
Why pick it up: Seventy years after her trial, this is the first time Ethel’s story has been told with the full use of the dramatic and tragic prison letters she exchanged with her husband, her lawyer and her psychotherapist over a three-year period, two of them in solitary confinement. Hers is the resonant story of what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.
8. Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America by Scott Borchert
What it’s about: An immersive account of the New Deal project that created state-by-state guidebooks to America, in the midst of the Great Depression―and employed some of the biggest names in American letters. The plan was as idealistic as it was audacious―and utterly unprecedented. Take thousands of hard-up writers and put them to work charting a country on the brink of social and economic collapse, with the aim of producing a series of guidebooks to the then forty-eight states―along with hundreds of other publications dedicated to cities, regions, and towns―while also gathering reams of folklore, narratives of formerly enslaved people, and even recipes, all of varying quality, each revealing distinct sensibilities.
Why pick it up: By way of these and other stories, Borchert illuminates an essentially noble enterprise that sought to create a broad and inclusive self-portrait of America at a time when the nation’s very identity and future were thrown into question. As the United States enters a new era of economic distress, political strife, and culture-industry turmoil, this book’s lessons are urgent and strong.
Question: What books are on your reading list this summer?
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