With the fall term having drawn to a close, and cold weather setting in, wintertime offers ideal conditions for hunkering down and digging into the titles and tomes atop one's reading list.
Here, Harvard Business School faculty members share some of their favorite recent works, or the books they're most looking forward to delving into over the next few months, which share the common theme of living boldly and bravely.
Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Berol Corporation Fellow
I am eager to dive deeper into Cat Turco’s new book, The Conversational Firm: Rethinking Bureaucracy in the Age of Social Media
. Turco (AB 1999, MBA 2003, PhD 2011), who is now a professor at Sloan, takes an in-depth look at a leading organization in the social media industry as it attempts to use its expertise to produce great products and also to transform its own organizational design. So far, her extremely detailed, honest account captures everything from euphoria to frustration, with interesting insights for executives, employees, and entrepreneurs alike. It holds particular interest for me given my research on the relationship between increasingly transparent workplace design and employee productivity
MBA Class of 1973 Senior Lecturer of Business Administration
This semester, I read two excellent books and many case studies. Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch
is smart, witty, humane, and motivation to re-read George Eliot’s great novel next summer. The other was Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth
. The more I study business, the more I want context and empirical analyses, not anecdotes or theories. Gordon is a scholar who provides eye-opening data and discussions of lifestyle, labor, technology, and consumption changes in America from 1870 to 2015—quite a sweep. Over the holidays, I’ll read two books (and many exams!): The Story of the Lost Child
, the final volume of Elena Ferrante’s novels about Naples, and Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game
, a timely study of con artists.
Leemore Dafny When Breath Becomes Air
MBA Class of 1960 Professor of Business Administration
is the short, heartbreaking autobiography by the late Stanford neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, who died of lung cancer at age 37 in 2015. Beautifully written, it reminds those of us who study the business and policy angles of the healthcare sector of the complex set of objectives that sector is trying to achieve. We must help people to live well, but we must also help them to live their final days to their fullest – and that definition varies widely across individuals. For a broader treatment of this important subject, I’d also recommend Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal
. Although both books are about dying, the stories they tell – using magnificent, highly readable prose – reminded me to rejoice in life.
I’ve just started reading Michael Lewis’s new book, The Undoing Project
. It chronicles the lives and inspirations of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who were founders of the field of research I work in. So far I’m liking it. Right off the bat there was a quote that really resonated with me: “a new definition of the nerd: a person who knows his own mind well enough to mistrust it.”
Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Richard Hodgson Fellow
For those snowed in over this holiday season, I recommend reading Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
. This engaging autobiography offers an unapologetic view into Phil Knight’s early life adventures and how his travels between Oregon and Japan eventually led to the creation of Nike. It’s chock-full of lessons about persistence and taking the road less traveled that will resonate with managers of all stripes.
I would recommend two books for these troubling times, when moral leadership seems hard to come by. Long Walk to Freedom
, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, is a marvelously candid and well-written account of Mandela’s life and the ways that he reasoned his way through the hard-fought battle against apartheid. It begins with his role as a prince in a South African royal family and follows his journey through activism, dissent, resistance, and imprisonment, and ends with his personal negotiations over his release from prison with South Africa president F. W. de Klerc. Closer to home is our MIT colleague Zeynep Ton’s book, The Good Jobs Strategy
, which shows that even in low-cost retail, business leaders can do good and do well at the same time. Both are inspiring.
The Year in Alumni Books 2016