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My Summer Reading List

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What's in the Bag?

My Summer Reading List

Whether I’m at the office, at home, or on the road, I always have a stack of books I’m looking forward to reading. Last year I shared my summer reading list, and I thought I’d do it again this year. Here are a few of the books I’m planning to read, along with one recommendation of a book I’ve already finished.

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
By Jared Diamond
Viking Adult, 2012

It’s crazy that I haven’t read this one yet. Diamond’s best-known book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, had a profound effect on the way I think about history and why certain societies advance faster than others. In this new book, he draws on his personal experiences with cultures in the Pacific Islands to talk about what traditional societies can teach us about child rearing, dispute resolution, and other areas. Even if I disagree with some of what he says, I know it will be interesting and well worth the read.

 In fact, I’d like to invite you to read it along with me. I’ll be posting my review of The World Until Yesterday in about two weeks. If you’re interested, you can read it at the same time and post your comments.

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

by Marc Levinson
Princeton University Press, 2008

I’ve read a fair amount already about how advances in engines for jets and ships made globalization possible. And Melinda and I recently took our kids on a trip to see the Panama Canal, because we’re so curious about how it works and we wanted to see it in action.  I’m hoping this book, which is about how shipping containers are another key advance that underwrites globalization, will add another dimension to the story for me.

However Long the Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls

by Aimee Molloy
HarperOne, 2013

Melinda read this book a while ago and wrote a great review of it on the foundation’s site. Molly Melching started a group called Tostan, which initially set out to end the practice of female genital cutting. Today they have expanded to many different areas, all related to expanding opportunities for women and girls in Africa. I’m sure it will be an enlightening read.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character 

by Paul Tough
Mariner Books, 2013

Tough argues that non-cognitive qualities like perseverance and optimism are what make kids successful. He looks in particular at the research on improving college graduation rates for low-income and minority students, which is an issue our foundation does a lot of work on, so I’m curious to see what he has to say.

Japan's Dietary Transition and Its Impacts (Food, Health, and the Environment)

by Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi
MIT Press, 2012

Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing

by Vaclav Smil 
MIT Press, 2013

If you’re been reading this site for long, you know that Smil is one of my favorite authors. The term “polymath” was made for people like him. He writes thoughtful, thorough books on energy, innovation, agriculture, history, diet, and a lot more. I’m trying to read everything he writes, but he publishes so quickly that I can’t keep up. While his style can be a little dry and isn’t for everyone, I learn more by reading Vaclav Smil than just about anyone else.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time)

by Claude Steele
Norton & Company, 2011

I’ve actually read this one already, but I’m including it here as a recommendation. I learned a lot about different forms of discrimination that affect people’s performance but are very hard to detect. It helped me understand why even some very intelligent people don’t do as well as you might expect when they get to college. It also breaks down a lot of myths, like the idea that minorities will prosper if we can just do away with discrimination in hiring. Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minorities to get a leg up. And Steele offers a few ideas about how to tackle the problem. It’s a very good read.

Patriot and Assassin 

by Robert Cook
Royal Wulff Publishing, 2013

A friend of mine gave me this novel and insisted that I read it. It’s a thriller about terrorists plotting an attack on U.S. soil. I don’t generally read a lot of fiction. I think The Hunger Games was the last novel I read. I bet this one will involve less archery.

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