Summer reading brings to mind swinging hammocks, pitchers of lemonade, the whirr of lawn mowers, and pages turned on e-readers and, yes, even that anachronism, bound books.
Extracting recommendations for a summer reading list from the most distinguished boardroom executives (NACD Directorship nomenclature for the most influential in corporate governance) seemed a daunting task. What would people who spend their time on subjects such as business strategy and compensation disclosure offer as reading suggestions for the rest of us?
Turns out that while directors and governance gurus share the interests and concerns of average folks, they are also charged with monitoring executive performance (and may be liable if they don’t), so their reading choices often focus on the challenges and contretemps of the mighty and powerful. You don’t see much fantasy or pulp fiction here. Some, in fact, avoid business tomes altogether, preferring the rigors of ancient tales to enlighten the questions of the day.
Herewith, then, a list of summer reading suggestions from some of our best and brightest readers.
Barbara M. Barrett
Earlier this year, former U.S. Ambassador Barrett was named interim president at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, capping a distinguished career in law, business, government and aeronautics. Barrett has held numerous positions in government (she served as vice chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration and ambassador to Finland). She is a former director of Raytheon and Exponent and currently serves on private boards.
Barrett recommends: No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, by Condoleezza Rice (Crown, 2011).
John H. Biggs
The former chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF holds an AB in the classics from Harvard and a PhD in economics from Washington University. Biggs is a former director at Boeing and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Biggs recommends: The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides (HardPress Publishing, 2010).
Biggs writes: “I have just finished reading it for the first time since college days….It has always been a favorite of military leaders and many CEOs.”
J. Michael Cook
The former chairman and CEO of Deloitte is a director of Comcast and International Flavors and Fragrances.
Cook recommends: The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1957).
Cook writes: “As the grandfather of seven, I intend to read a lot of Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter. Not of much help in the boardroom, but lots more fun.”
The founder and principal of the public relations firm that bears his name, Dilenschneider has counseled major corporations and business executives since 1967, and has authored several books on PR and leadership.
Dilenschneider recommends: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, by Marcus Aurelius (Pierides Press, 2008).
Dilenschneider writes: “A major figure in Stoicism, Aurelius wrote about living a tempered, noble life in the second century, and his thoughts are still applicable today. This book was given to me by a graduating senior who said he read it every night. So I’m starting to do just that. It is fascinating.”
The president and CEO of the world’s largest independent public relations firm of the same name, Edelman writes a popular blog, 6 A.M. Edelman recommends: George F. Kennan: An American Life, by John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin Press HC, 2011).
The go-to professor for reporters looking for insights into the latest developments in corporate governance, Elson chairs the University of Delaware’s John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance and is an independent director for HealthSouth.
Elson recommends: Journals: 1952–2000, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (Penguin, 2008).
Jack M. Fields Jr.
The eight-term Congressman from Texas chaired the House Telecom and Finance Subcommittee overseeing both the FCC and the SEC. Now Fields runs a government relations firm, 21st Century Group, and is an independent director of Insperity.
Fields recommends: 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. Gwynne (Simon & Schuster, 2010).
Fields writes: “The story of Quanah Parker, the most famous Comanche chief, and the Texas Rangers was so interesting that on a moose hunt in Alaska I would crawl in my sleeping bag with one hand outside to hold the book; when that hand got too cold, I would switch hands so that I could continue reading. I literally couldn’t put it down.”
Joe T. Ford
The vice chairman of Augusta National Golf Club (home of the annual Masters Tournament) is the co-founder and former CEO of Alltel. Ford has served as a director of multiple public companies, including Dial, Duke Energy and Textron.
Ford recommends: American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodard (Viking Adult, 2011).
Irvine O. Hockaday Jr.
This former CEO of Hallmark Cards, graduate of Princeton and friend of sovereigns to assembly plant workers thanks to his sharp intellect and engaging manner, was chairman of the Federal Reserve (Tenth District) and has served on a number of boards, including Dow Jones and Sprint Nextel. Hockaday is currently a director of Ford Motor Co. and Estée Lauder.
Hockaday recommends: Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (Dover Publications, 1990).
Hockaday writes: “I typically don’t read business books (an exception is the recently published American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, which does a good job of explaining how Alan Mulally worked his magic at Ford). I am rereading this classic which contains wisdom for business and other leaders.”
Reatha Clark King
Until her retirement last year, King served on the board of Exxon-Mobil for 13 years. She is on the NACD board of directors and has served on the boards of Wells Fargo, HB Fuller, Minnesota Life and Lenox Group. She earned graduate degrees in chemistry from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Columbia.
King recommends: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2011).
King writes: “Walter Isaacson is one of my favorite authors. So I am so delighted that he did the biography of Steve Jobs. Both this biography and the one on Einstein have helped me become a more independent thinker.”
Richard S. Levick
The president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Levick Strategic Communications is the author of several books related mostly to crisis management and is a regular contributor to Fast Company and Forbes.com.
Levick recommends: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin (Portfolio Hardcover, 2010).
Levick writes: “I actually listen to most of my books on the iPhone. This is one of the best books on marketing I have ever read…a must read for the digital age. It will force directors to ask critically important questions: how to be more like Apple and less like HP.”
One of our most well-read contributors, Lipton is founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, chairman of the board of trustees of New York University, and one of the leading mergers and acquisition thinkers of our time, inventor of the poison pill defense and a legal counselor whose brilliant insights have influenced courts from Delaware to Great Britain.
Lipton recommends: The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 2012).
Lorenzi, professor of management and international management at Loyola University in Baltimore, is the former dean of Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business and a noted author.
Lorenzi recommends: 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America, by Albert Brooks (St. Martin’s Press, 2011).
For Overachievers, More Recommendations
Barbara M. Barrett: Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West, by Hampton Sides (Doubleday, 2006); Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson, 2011); Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans, by Mitch Daniels (Sentinel HC, 2011); On China, by Henry Kissinger (Penguin Books, 2011) Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press HC, 2010)
J. Michael Cook: Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1954); Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1990); Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1958)
Robert L. Dilenschneider: Brave Men, by Ernie Pyle (Henry Holt & Co., 1944); Strength for the Moment, by Lori Hogan (Image, 2012)
Richard Edelman: Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union, by Robert V. Remini (W.W. Norton & Co., 1993)
Joe T. Ford: American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, by Bryce G. Hoffman (Crown Business, 2012); Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry (Simon & Schuster, 1998)
Irvine O. Hockaday Jr.: Moby Dick, by Herman Melville (Simon & Brown, 2011)
Reatha Clark King: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot (Broadway, 2011); It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, by General Colin Powell with Tony Koltz (Harper, 2012); Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books, 2011)
Richard S. Levick: Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek (Portfolio Trade, 2011)
Martin Lipton: End This Depression Now, by Paul Krugman (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012); Finance and the Good Society, by Robert J. Shiller (Princeton University Press, 2012); The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public, by Lynn Stout (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012); Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2011); That Used to Be Us: What Went Wrong With America— And How It Can Come Back, by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011
Peter Lorenzi: Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles, by Ruchir Sharma (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012); The Coming Prosperity: How Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Economy, by Philip E. Auerswald (Oxford University Press, 2012); Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy, by Robert Neuwirth (Pantheon, 2011); Understanding Social Entrepreneurship: The Relentless Pursuit of Mission in an Ever Changing World, by Jill Kickul and Thomas S. Lyons (Routledge, 2012)
Richard Torrenzano: Cain at Gettysburg, by Ralph Peters (Forge Books, 2012)
Larry Weber: Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere, by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, with a foreword written by Indra K. Nooyi (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012)
Ralph Whitworth: Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software, by Scott Rosenberg (Crown, 2007); The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One, by Satoshi Kanazawa (Wiley, 2012); Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere, by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, with a foreword written by Indra K. Nooyi (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012)