Skip to content
Article Article July 11th, 2016

Book tips: summer reading recommendations 2016

Article highlights

Biographies of Kissinger and Napoleon are recommended by @MichaelBarber9 for summer reading...

Share article

When she's resting from triathlon training @HollyRansom is reading books on power and productivity

Share article

CPI prog. director @dannybuerkli is often found buried in a book - check out his summer reads

Share article

Partnering for Learning

We put our vision for government into practice through learning partner projects that align with our values and help reimagine government so that it works for everyone.

Partner with us

Summer is often a time to take stock. To recharge the batteries. To spend some time with friends and family - and to catch up with the reading you don't have time to do during your normal working week.

With those of us in the Northern Hemisphere enjoying warmer days, the Centre for Public Impact has rounded up some recommendations to help you decide what to read over the next couple of months..

Sir Michael Barber, co-chairman of the Centre for Public Impact and managing partner of Delivery Associates

Paula Acosta Márquez, director of strategic delivery for President Santos of Colombia

  • Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It, by Arthur Lupia. Speaking as a public servant myself, it is quite clear that citizens know very little about how government actually functions, its results and how they can take advantage of public policies and programmes. This usually turns into a constant source of frustration for governments and technocrats as well. Professor Lupia presents methods for making people actually care about what we do in ways that are productive and pertinent.
  • The Performancestat Potential: A leadership strategy for producing results, by Robert D. Behn. This book is an ideal reference point for those who are struggling with the do's and dont's of the PerformanceStat mechanism. It summarises lessons of diverse experiences, identifies common patterns and unique traits to actual delivery.
  • Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government, by Mark H. Moore. Over the years Moore's book has become more valuable due to its practice oriented approach. It is based on real experience in government about how to deal with pressure, decision making and concrete situations in order to get results. At the end its focus on how to produce value is the key to inspire and better understand what public administration is for.

Stephanie Wade, director of the Innovation Lab at the Office of Personnel Management, US Federal Government

For me these books are about a summer of inspiration!

  • The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Benjamin Zander andRosamund Stone Zander. This book helps inspire us to look at what we think are impossible situations (be them relationships, interactions, personal or career goals) and create room for a different ending by developing a new story using empathy, compassion, humility and positive energy.
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This memoir draws us into the main character's tragic and unique upbringing and inspires us all to continue to believe in ourselves and accomplish great things, even in the face of tremendous adversity.
  • The Storm of Creativity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life), by Kyna Leski.

    This book reminds that when we are faced with immersing ourselves in creative work, we all falter, feel blocked and frightened about our abilities- and with that universal truth, helps us move past it so we can bring out our best selves.

Sir David Bell, vice chancellor of the University of Reading

  • Social Class in the 21st Century, by Mike Savage. The best and most insightful exposition of class distinctions in Britain today.
  • Our Kids: The American Dream in crisis, by Robert Putnam. How a changing economy and weakening ‘concentric circles of influence' - such as families, schools and communities - has reduced social mobility for the poor in the USA.
  • A Government that worked better and cost less?, by Christopher Hood and Ruth Dixon. This reviews the outcome of Whitehall reform efforts over the past 30 years and concludes - surprisingly? - that government has cost a bit more and worked a bit worse over the period.

Danny Buerkli, programme director of the Centre for Public Impact


  • Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon. A postmodern gonzo novel playing in the dark corners of New York's Venture Capital scene.
  • A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick. A science fiction classic from 1977, a dark exploration of modern insanity under the bright sun of California.


Holly Ransom, ‎chief executive of Emergent and co-chair of the United Nations' Young Women Entrepreneurs Coalition

  • The End of Power, by Moisés Naím. Written by a former director of the World Bank, this is a historical investigation of the shift of power from authoritative governments, militaries, and major corporations to individuals.
  • Slight Edge, by Jeff Olsen. For the productivity junkies this is a great read on how a disciplined approach to thinking and processing information can drive success.

Ann Hellenius, chief information officer for the city of Stockholm

One book for the mind and one for the heart!

Matt Mercer, senior editor at the Centre for Public Impact

Share this article: