Beach reads from academic scholars

What Our Scholars are Reading this Summer
14 recommendations from politics, economics, history and more

It’s peak summer with the mercury toying with triple digits here on campus in Davis. Many are taking time to reboot and get ready for fall. We asked some of the brightest people we know—our faculty—what they’ve been reading during their time. It’s not light fare. 

Their recommendations range from Civil War-era biographies to the latest controversies in tech as well as academic insights into the political, social and economic forces shaping society and business. 

Shannon Anderson, Professor and Michael and Joelle Hurlston Presidential Chair in Accounting

Fascism: A Warning” by Madeleine Albright (2018, HarperCollins Publishers).
“I read this to reacquaint myself with central European history and, quite frankly, to dig deeper into the meaning of a word that is tossed around pretty casually in describing the world political scene today. It was helpful on both accounts and a worthy reminder of why an informed, engaged citizenry is essential to a well functioning democracy.”

Nicole Woolsey Biggart, Research Professor and Professor Emerita

How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence,” by Michael Pollan (2018, Penguin Press).
“I enjoyed reading Pollan’s ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ with several classes of students. It was a perceptive view of the food industry and the technologies and powers behind the mass production of what we eat. Pollan’s latest book reports on decades of research on the active ingredient in substances such as LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). This is investigative journalism that uncovers the political, financial and institutional forces that thwarted scientific inquiry into the possible medical benefits of these molecules. It’s a fascinating tour of the trajectory of biological research and medical technology. If you think that science isn’t shaped by social forces, read this.”

Gina Dokko, Associate Professor in Management and Organizations

The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything” by Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna (2018, St. Martin’s Press). “People are talking about blockchain, but relatively few people can explain exactly what it is and why it matters.”

Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It” by Chris Clearfield and Andras Tilcsik (2018, Penguin Press).
“I’m hoping that this book can help me make sense of how complex systems fail, and how small errors can signal later catastrophe.”

Paul Griffin, Distinguished Professor in Accounting

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think,” by Hans Rosling (2018. Flatiron Books).
“It’s super insightful about the world around us, appeals to the academic mind and is a poignant story, too.”

Andrew Hargadon, Professor of Technology Management and Charles J. Soderquist Chair in Entrepreneurship

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” by Cal Newport (2016, Grand Central Publishing).
“This is one of two books I’ve read this summer that are written for people taking stock of where they are and where they want to be next. The thesis is simple: in a world of increasing distraction and decreasing differentiation, success depends on your ability to think and work at a deep level. The takeaway: know what you want to be known for and make sure you’re investing in the deep work necessary to get you there.”

Design Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life,” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans (2018, Knopf)
“This book is design thinking meets career counseling. Full disclosure: Bill Burnett was my professor in the Stanford Product Design program and also my boss at Apple Computer (way back in the day). Their idea is that we should apply the same tools we use for designing cool products and enriching experiences to our own lives and careers: tools like acting with curiosity, trying new things, reframing problems and trusting the process. The takeaway: know what value you create (or want to) and make sure you’re putting in the deep work to be known for it and to keep growing. If you want to innovate, start with yourself.”

Daniel Kennedy, Lecturer, Articulation and Critical Thinking

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads,” by Tim Wu (2016, Knopf).
“Very much at issue this year is to what extent digital media (Google, Facebook, SnapChat, etc.) should exploit people for their personal information, and then monetize it in sometimes questionable ways. Wu, who coined the phrase ‘net neutrality,’ dives deep into 200 years of the same core issue in the U.S. as direct mail, advertising, radio, TV and other communication breakthroughs came into the public arena.”

Michael Maher, Professor Emeritus in Accounting

Grant,” by Ron Chernow (2017, Penguin Press). 
“This book is a lengthy and well-researched biography of Ulysses S. Grant. According to Chernow, Grant was mostly of failure both in business and in the military before the Civil War. He reenlisted when the Civil War broke out. Lincoln saw him as a general who could get things done and win the war. As a war hero, he was urged to run for the presidency in 1868. Frankly, he was a better general than a politician, but he served two terms, the first president to do that since Andrew Jackson.”

The Soul of America: the Battle for Our Better Angels,” by Jon Meacham (2018, Random House).
“Meacham’s book title reflects a quote by Abraham Lincoln, ‘the better angels of our nature.’ Meacham describes many of our previous trials and tribulations throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s an uplifting book.”

Sanjay Saigal, Director of Analytics Strategy, MSBA

The Driver in the Driverless Car: How our Technology Choices will Create the Future,” by Vivek Wadhwa with Alex Salkever (2017, Berrett-Koehler).
Whatever issue he examines—immigration policy and the American tech economy, diversity and business, or more recently, the possibilities of our dawning age of Analytics—Wadhwa is reliably eclectic, insightful and provocative. Last year, he visited our MSBA campus in San Francisco to discuss how the proliferation of artificial intelligence and other new technologies promises to change the nature of work, society, and indeed, the lived human experience. This book is an ardent technologist’s dazzling exploration of whether humanity’s future will be ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Mad Max’.”

Scott Strait, Lecturer, Management Information Systems

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” by John Carreyrou (2018, Knopf Publishing Group).
“This is a gripping story about start-up culture and how human nature can lead founders, investors and business partners to a bad place. In this story the examples are so extreme and, in hindsight, in your face, that the reader can’t not re-evaluate their own actions in similar situations. And for those that are fans of the classic Irving Janis book “Group Think,” this presents a current and very close-to-home example.”

Rao Unnava, Dean and Professor

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility,” by Patty McCord (2018, Silicon Guild).
“Patty McCord helped design the culture of high-performance and the unique organization as chief talent officer at Netflix, and it was very interesting and valuable to read her perspective on how to recruit and build great teams.”

Hemant Vaidya, Lecturer, Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship Academy

The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company” by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson (2016, McGraw-Hill Education).
“Disney has been one of the more successful enterprises in the entertainment industry. This book describes how Walt Disney followed four principles that led to his enterprise’s success:

  1. Dream beyond the boundaries of today.
  2. Believe in sound values.
  3. Dare to make a difference, take risk.
  4. Just go out and do it. 

The authors also describe several organizations, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Men’s Warehouse, that have adopted these principles to be successful. It’s a great reading for any entrepreneur and business leader.”