Your Official, Unapproved Summer Reading List


Summer is designed to change you. The sun hovers in the sky for pointless, fabulous hours. The scaffold of daily life gets knocked sideways. You travel to far-off and exotic places, which are often in your own backyard. And sometimes you read books.

With that in mind, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for books that changed the way I see things. Recommended to be enjoyed with a gin and tonic, and a hammock.

549105954Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Reading Susan Cain’s book is like being handed a pair of X-ray glasses with which you can see everyone you know — including yourself — in a new and vivid light. It’s especially good on the often-overlooked benefits of introversion when it comes to creativity, leadership, and communication, and on the powerful things that happen when introverts teach themselves to be strategically extroverted.

adam-grant-give-and-takeGive and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, by Adam Grant – Have you ever had a book where you dog-ear so many pages that it begins to be far more convenient to locate a page that is not dog-eared? This is one of those books chiefly because Adam Grant 1) is one helluva writer, teacher, and researcher; 2) provides a genuinely revolutionary way to look at cooperation, generosity, and human nature. His thesis is that acts of giving are the most powerfully underrated force on the planet. Even better: when you reflect on it, you’ll see that he’s absolutely right.

UnknownSocial Physics: The Lessons from a New Science, by Alex Pentland – One of the most fulfilling moments in life is those rare moments when we are part of a group that possesses that elusive, magical quality known as “good chemistry.” We usually think of those qualities as intangibles, but Sandy Pentland’s new book makes them real, and, more important, measurable. Pentland, who directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab, uses a series of new tools to show, among other things, how good groups function like beehives, how strangers can be brought together to solve massively complex problems, and how idea flow is the most important factor governing group performance.

9781594204548_p0_v1_s260x420Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, by Adam Alter. The idea that our brains unconsciously react to tiny signals is not new. But Alter gives us a blueprint for the way it works. For example, we behave more virtuously when we are watched — even by a photograph of eyes. Athletes are more likely to win when they wear red, perhaps because it mimics the kinds of dominance displays in our evolutionary past. The lesson: Seemingly tiny signals can have a massive impact on us, and dialing into that fact is the first step toward gaining a measure of control over them.

{A70B865E-ACAF-4825-A21F-A8DF02DE123D}Img100The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow — Okay, a 65-year-old novel might seem out of place on this list, but if the modern twitter-ized world has taught us anything, it’s that life can be lived at various levels. You can either skim the surface, or you can dive in and explore the depths. If you want to dive deep, there is no better guide than Bellow and his novel about an ambitious Chicago kid who, as the famous first paragraph declares, “will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent.”

Here’s Bellow on Augie’s grandma:

With the [cigarette] holder in her dark little gums between which all her guile, malice, and command issued, she had all her best inspirations of strategy. She was as wrinkled as an old paper bag, and autocrat, hard-shelled and jesuetical, a pouncy old hawk of a Bolshevik, her small ribboned gray feet immobile on the shoekit…. She was impossible to satisfy.

Here’s his description of a train ride to Chicago:

I headed downtown right away. It was still early in the evening, glittering with electric, with ice; and trembling in the factories, those nearly all windows, over the prairies that had returned over demolitions with winter grass pricking the snow and thrashed and frozen together into beards by the wind. The cold simmer of the lake also, blue; the steady skating of rails too, down to the dark.”

It’s good stuff, and a good way to slow down and see what’s really happening in life. After all, isn’t that what summer is for?

If you have any suggestions for summer reading, I’d love to hear them.

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10 Responses to “Your Official, Unapproved Summer Reading List”

  1. Ryan Hockman says:

    The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay: larger than life protagonist who inspires me. At over 600 pages, this may be the only book you can read in the summer.

  2. Hi Dan

    Have got three books, they being:

    Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
    Focus – Heidi Grant Halvorson
    Instant Influence – Michael Pantalon

    All three are based around Motivation and it’s worth watching Simon Sineks Talks on You Tube.

    Happy Reading

  3. Axel says:


    i got two books:

    The plateau effect- Hugh Thompsan and Bob Sullivan
    The winner effect – Ian.H Robertson

  4. Frank Murphy says:


    Susan Cain’s book QUIET is a MUST read for every parent & every teacher! It changed the way I view and encourage and write report card comments for all of my “introverted” leaders/students. Thanks for this list. I’m off to get a few of these!


  5. If you enjoyed Quiet by Susan Cain you’ll also enjoy:

    The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and is a book about people with more sensitive nervous systems, in other words they take in more information than normal and could help to explain introversion much better.

    And if wanting a mind opening book then I would suggests:

    The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden and is a book which brings the latest research together on how everything is connected.

    I can also attest to how good a book Give and Take by Adam Grant is, for once read a new understanding about people arises

  6. Alex says:

    I’m very introverted but I’m not shy or affected by other peoples mood easily.

    I would refer to reading Carl Jung to understand better the different types of introverts.

  7. Rod Roth says:

    Great selections, Dan. Here are two I started reading this week:
    “Think Like a Freak” by the authors of Freakonomics. Ever wonder how the Yokaichi Kobi won the first hot dog eating contest he ever entered by eating twice as many dogs as the previous record holder? Terrific treatise on how to look at problems like a Freak

    The other is John Coates’ “The Hour Between Dog and Wolf.” Turns out, it’s body parts, not the brain that causes people to become transformed when taking risk. Essential reading for anyone involved in the financial markets, whether it’s trading or investing through a 401k. Most revealing thing I’ve read about the subject. Thanks!

  8. michaelmas says:

    “Mastery”, by Robert Greene.

  9. Griffin says:

    Thanks for these Dan! I’d like to add ‘Networking like a pro: turning contacts into connections’ by Ivan Misner to the list. It’s just such a practical skill that many attempt but few really study how to master.

  10. April Arnold says:

    Feeding the Rat by A. Alvarez about rock climber Mo Anthoine. A 140-page easy read full of adventure!

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