Each summer, I bring my kids to our local library to sign up for the summer reading program. For one of my kids, this essentially sets him up to win prizes for the vast quantity of books he would have read no matter what. For my other son, setting this goal and tracking his reading is more important, and probably causes him to read at least a few more books over the summer than he would normally.
This year, they asked me what my reading goals are. At first, I showed them the hundreds of books on my Kindle and noted that I am well beyond metrics for summer reading – I am a constant reader. But it was a good opportunity to discuss how important it was to get content from a variety of sources – and I admit, I could probably do with a few less character-driven novels and a few more books outside of my comfort zone.
With that in mind, here is my current reading list for this summer:
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who we Really Are: This book mines our internet search data and treats it as the ultimate lab to reveal biases, culture, and how the questions we ask about health, family and business impart a lot of collective wisdom. Big data has become a ubiquitous term, so I appreciate this attempt to humanize it – and am also hopeful that the insights around digital marketing and search will help provide insights to our client associations.
Alexander Hamilton: I will admit that I jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon early on, and my kids know most of the words to a majority of the songs. And I had the opportunity to see the show in Chicago twice this year. (Go see it – anywhere!) Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius historical musical was driven by this Ron Chernow book, which Miranda himself read on vacation. If it is good enough for a MacArthur Foundation Fellow (or “genius grant”) winner, it should be just fine for me.
Chemistry, A Novel: Written in present tense by a dual-degree holder from Harvard, this novel explores how culture and family intersect and influence adult decisions, both personal and professional. I admit this is largely on my list because I love writers who can make science accessible to someone who admittedly doesn’t have that skillset or focus – and as a natural part of the plot. Excited to stretch my mind a bit with this one.
Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being: As someone who does a lot of board facilitation and works with our client leaders to do the same, I am always interested in how personality impacts group dynamics, initial and ongoing impressions – and I admit, the book had me at the line “Which is the more viable path toward human flourishing, the pursuit of happiness or the happiness of pursuit?” As a former certified facilitator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am looking forward to hearing about new research around personality and its impact on personal and professional decision-making and outcomes.
And some of my favorites so far this season:
The Hate U Give: As a parent and someone who would like to have more insights into cultures and experiences I can’t share, I thought this book was brilliant. The author captures the pathos of adolescence perfectly – but the real story is about a family balancing the dream of seeing their kids have better educational opportunities with the desire to stay connected to their community – and made me recognize the privilege inherent in not needing to make that choice for my own kids. A Young Adult book by a first-time author may seem to be an anomaly on this list, but I am trying to read more books by non-majority voices, and I think Angie Thomas is an author with more great things ahead.
Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience & Brand Value: I really liked this collection of perspectives and hands-on strategies to incorporate design thinking in planning processes from 24 authors. Our client organizations may see some of this creep into future board meetings…fair warning.
Saints for All Occasions: J. Courtney Sullivan perfectly nails everything from the slim but important divisions in the Boston Irish community, to how we tell people to turn around in Massachusetts (“bang a U-ey” for those not in the know.) Although I’m a Massachusetts native, I haven’t lived there for nearly 28 years – and I loved getting drawn into a complex multi-generational story that reminded me of families I knew growing up.
Of course, my kids will get things like bookmarks, free burritos and cool gel pens for hitting their goals whereas I will just get a feeling of personal accomplishment. Which is great, but I do enjoy a burrito.
Wishing you at least one restful opportunity to get lost in a book this summer – whether on a plane, porch, or on the beach!
Erin Fuller is the president of association management and consulting for MCI USA, and has 609 books on her Kindle. She is on Goodreads as erinmfuller; assume any reviews of the “Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja” series are from her son.