Summer reading 2013


During the academic year, much of my reading tends to be work-related, and I have less of an attention span for books read purely for pleasure. While this summer is busy with writing projects and conference speaking obligations, one way I’m trying to remedy my chronic work-life imbalance is by making time for some good books. A core notion about “summer reading” is that instead of being a “must-read” or a “should-read,” it should be an “I-want-to-read.” Here are four I’m delighted to have on that list:

Given that it’s now officially summer, it’s fitting that one selection is a baseball book, Cait Murphy’s colorful and fascinating Crazy ’08 (2007), a vivid account of the 1908 major league baseball season. It is widely recognized as being among the best of the recent books about the National Pastime, and the first few chapters were all I needed to understand why. For a history buff and lover of baseball nostalgia, it’s an enormously appealing non-fiction narrative.


I just finished a binge re-watch of the excellent 2009 HBO mini-series “John Adams,” starring Paul Giamatti as John Adams and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams. The mini-series takes us from the Revolutionary era into the early 1800s. It’s based on celebrated historian David McCullough’s prize-winning biography, John Adams (2001), and now I want to read the book. The other day I dipped into the opening chapter, and I could hear McCullough’s rich, distinctive voice as I read.

Good portions of the book’s early chapters are set in Massachusetts, whose colonists (including Adams) were central towards agitating, planning, and fighting for American independence. Many years ago, I went to hear McCullough speak about this era at Boston’s historic Old South Meeting House, which served as a public meeting hall for the rebellious locals. He was so taken by the opportunity to give a talk on that topic in this historic site that he began by opening his arms and happily proclaiming, “Aren’t we lucky to be here?!”


I tend to limit my fiction reading to mysteries, espionage, suspense, and the occasional horror novel. The only novel and new title highlighted here is Stephen King’s Joyland (2013), a coming-of-age tale set in 1973 about a young man who works at an amusement park. King intentionally limited its initial publication to a printed paperback format, his personal ode to a time when good pulp fiction helped to pass the summer.

I read a lot of Stephen King’s earlier books years ago, but only recently rediscovered him. While I haven’t consumed even a majority of his works, I regard him as one of the most gifted popular storytellers of our time.


Finally, there’s Bruce D. Schneider’s Energy Leadership (2007). (I guess I can’t completely escape work-related reading!) Starting with the story of how a struggling, low-morale company was rescued and transformed, Schneider writes about how the personal energy we bring to our work can change organizations for the better. As long-time readers of this blog are well aware, I spend a lot of time examining how to respond to the personal damage done by toxic organizations. This book considers the possibilities for staging turnarounds.

With the exception of the Schneider book, it’s a Book-of-the-Month Club-ish list, isn’t it? What can I say — I’m a middlebrow type of guy at heart. I’m willing to wade through some difficult stuff for work purposes, but for personal reading I like to be entertained even as I’m being educated. These aren’t the only genres that attract my attention, but they consistently have occupied my bookshelves for pretty much my entire adult life.

2 responses

  1. Hey David: JUST finished Joyland and I have EVERY Stephen King book ever written. Anyways, this book is a lightweight and can be read in a single trip to the beach. I found it predictable, but if it’s a pleasure read you’ll be good to go! Excited for tomorrow at the State House !!!

  2. The New Yorker just published a piece by Malcolm Gladwell about the philosopher Albert O. Hirschman,, in which he has high praise for the recently-published biography by Jeremy Adelman, “Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman.” After reading Gladwell’s article, I couldn’t be more excited about borrowing a copy of this tome (758 pp) from my local library (I just moved and am determined to tame my book-buying habits) as it would be hard to imagine who has led a more interesting life. Gladwell briefly discusses Hirschorn’s bias towards remaining in dysfunctional institutions in order to foster change rather than exiting them, thereby losing the opportunity to reform them…a choice that many bullying victims surely struggle with.

    Also received an e-mail this morning from a close friend and avid Dicken’s fan who is re-reading “Bleak House” and am going to use this to motivate me to read the copy I downloaded from Project Gutenberg a couple of years ago (not that I really need to add more weight to the hate side of my love/hate relationship with the legal profession).

    Thanks for sharing your summer reading list and for all you do to promote healthy workplaces.

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