Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One‘s Looking by Christian Ruder
Much is written about individuals sacrificing their privacy online. But that’s nothing compared to the amount of leg being bared by society at large. Ruder, co-founder of the dating site OKCupid, applies data analytics to sort out the good, bad, and ugly (also the racist and horny) elements of human nature, as revealed by social media. His findings suggest a new–potentially more accurate way–of assessing how evolved we are as a culture. We also learn that smart people prefer curly fries.
The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison
Jamison’s theme is our ability–or inability–to feel the pain of those in extremes of illness, poverty, and captivity. It’s not an obvious subject for business readers. But as leaders rise, they grow increasingly isolated. Customer “pain points” become mere opportunities for profit, and employees’ needs recede before the needs of the business. This insightful book reminds us that we are all humans first.
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
A provocative read for anyone evaluating the credentials of job candidates, anticipating her child’s academic future, or regretting her own academic past. Deresiewicz, a former professor at Yale, describes how this country’s eyes-on-the-prize approach to education has spawned a generation of young people who are rich in skill and efficiency, poor in self-knowledge and moral courage. Do you really want to trust your business to someone whose definition of leadership is simply being at the top?
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
The video of a woman barraged by unwelcome male attention as she walked around New York City received loud but mixed reactions earlier this year. Those who decried her experience as atypical should read the tales of discrimination and harassment collected here. Bates, a British journalist, argues persuasively that inequality is a continuum, with incidents minor and major deserving attention. The swelling chorus of women’s voices brings her message home. Men who encounter women in homes, offices, and public spaces–which is to say all men–will benefit.
Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local–and Helped Save an American Town by Beth Macy
Some company owners are heroes because they blaze trails. Others are heroes because they fight back. John Basset III is among the latter. The third-generation owner of Basset Furniture Industries took on the foreign competition decimating Virginia’s furniture industry and threatening his company and community. The book doesn’t reveal much that is new about the wages of globalization. But the stirring human story reminds us what’s at stake.
For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Starbucks’ plan to sell $7 cups of coffee at super-premium cafes likely received more publicity than its goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and active-duty spouses in five years. Starbucks founder Schultz and Washington Post writer Chandrasekaran do more than say, “Thank you for your service.” They demonstrate why companies not actively recruiting veterans are denying themselves a remarkable source of leadership and talent.
The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman
In her usual sparkling prose, naturalist and poet Ackermen guides a spellbinding tour of how innovation is reshaping the natural world. This ultimately hopeful book is forthright about the damage humans do to the environment while introducing us to a world of wonders, from buildings warmed by the body heat of commuters at a nearby train station to orangutans in captivity finding mental stimulation in iPads. Scientifically minded entrepreneurs will be inspired by the challenges.
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Popular business books abound with anecdotes about people arriving at fiendishly clever solutions to seemingly intractable dilemmas. This book uses examples ranging from rock stars to competitive hot dog eaters to explain how to come up with such nifty solutions yourselves. Like psychological Houdinis, the Freaknomics boys reveal the tricks to escape in-the-box thinking.