(Bloomberg Opinion) -- With the official start of summer behind us, and assuming you’ve already polished off “Pride and Prejudice” and the Mueller report, we’ve got some reading material for wherever your summer may take you next:
If you’re planning to spend summer in the city, grab a copy of “Triumph of the City” by my Harvard colleague Edward Glaeser. This book tours the world’s greatest cities and their histories -- drawing on Glaeser’s career in urban economics -- to reveal how urbanization promotes innovation, development, socioeconomic opportunity and even sustainability. Meanwhile, Moira Weigel’s “Labor of Love” should fit the bill for all those summer nights. The book teaches us how economic forces drive modern dating -- from the people we meet to the industries that make money off match-making. In addition to showing how wealth dynamics shape matching and courtship, Weigel argues that as our ability to meet and communicate has expanded, the labor inherent in being “on the market” has grown to preposterous levels. If summer is when you clear your inbox and focus, pick up Robert A. Caro’s “Working.” Famous for his exquisitely detailed biographies -- which are simultaneously meditations on the sources, uses and abuses of political power -- Caro gives new meaning to the word thorough. In this collection of essays, Caro reveals his tricks of the trade, and how he musters the obsession and drive needed work on a single project for decades.(1) If you’ll be travelling all around the world, then you need “The Gift of Global Talent” and “The Language of Global Success,” by my Harvard Business School colleagues William R. Kerr and Tsedal Neeley, respectively. The former draws upon a decade of economics research to understand how high-skilled immigration has driven American growth and innovation. The latter is a masterful examination of how language shapes multinational organizations’ values and culture, building on hundreds of interviews conducted across four continents. When you’re ordering a beachside lunch, don’t forget to think about where your fish came from. Mark Kurlansky’s “Cod” retraces the past millennium to show how one white, flaky variety came to go so well with a bag of chips. And it’s not just a fish story -- Kurlansky makes a convincing case that cod has played a significant role in world history. But as he also highlights, environmental threat puts this gustatory favorite at risk of permanently becoming the one that got away. If epic thunderstorms give you brainstorms, Greg Stone’s “Branding With Powerful Stories” will help you sell those ideas to the world. Stone shows how to use storytelling to cast your product as a hero, saving the victims (your customers) from a villain (a dastardly problem such as loan sharks or the blue screen of death). Stone is a master of strategic communication -- I’ve had the opportunity to be taught by him firsthand -- and his book feels like an extended coaching session. It’s crystal clear, full of energy and actionable: as you read it, you’ll uncover the hero your customers are holding out for. And if you’re the type who likes to spend the summer surfing the web, jack into William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.” Way back in 1984, this science-fiction classic foretold the modern internet -- and with it, the novel presaged many of the challenges that would come with overbearing technology companies, artificial intelligence and cybercrime.
(1) Note: Reading this book will almost certainly make you want to read Caro’s magna opera biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson, which together cover just under 5,000 pages. Consider yourself forewarned.
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Scott Duke Kominers is the MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and a faculty affiliate of the Harvard Department of Economics. Previously, he was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and the inaugural research scholar at the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics at the University of Chicago.
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