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
- Kissinger, by Niall Ferguson. A brilliant insight into the man, the Cold War and the challenges of working in government.
- The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science,by Andrea Wulf. A great man, and a great story.
- Napoleon the Great, by Andrew Roberts. A brilliant synthesis of an incredible life.
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.
- Five Days at Memorial Hospital by Sheri Fink. A harrowing journalistic account of life and death in a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina struck.
- Seeing Like A State – How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott. A humbling examination of how well-intentioned government schemes have failed catastrophically and wrecked people’s lives.
- The Great Transformation, The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, by Karl Polanyi. A classic from 1944 on how the market economy and modern nation state are intertwined. Polanyi’s analysis could not be more relevant today.
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!
- Digital to the Core: Remastering Leadership for Your Industry, Your Enterprise, and Yourself, byMark Raskino and Graham Waller. A fantastic deep dive into how global business is evolving, given the pace at which technology is being developed and information is being generated.
- My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. Through the lives of two friends, Elema amd Lila, who meet in 1950s Naples, the author tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country undergoing momentous change.
Matt Mercer, senior editor at the Centre for Public Impact
- The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert Caro. Before embarking on his monumental account of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the author produced this weighty – but riveting – tome about the man who built New York City into what we know today. Essential reading for anyone interested in cities, government – and power.
- Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, by Jon Meacham. A portrait of a decent man fired up by a sense of public duty. Takes the reader behind closed doors and also offers valuable insights about Bush the Second.