Six Summer Books (and more) that will make you think… while you’re lying on a beach

It’s that time of year again when your friendly, approachable PwC Luxembourg blog team starts going on summer vacation (not all at once of course, that would be a bit inconsiderate, so we’ll still be producing articles). But before we do, we’d like to propose to you a summer reading list, in this case part researched, part personal choice. 

Now you may be the sort of person who takes Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco, to the beach (it’s a tough read, but so worth it).  Or you may be the sort of person who takes Cosmopolitan magazine.  We are not here to judge (and we would read both!) but we thought the theme of this reading needed to have some focus. The list we present below is… books that make you reflect.

So, you still get to relax and “vacate”, but you can also let your mind wander and contemplate. For us, because we are avid writers, we like this summer period because it allows for some “moodling” time — which literally means, “long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering”. But really, to us and we bet to you as well, this is a form of super-relaxed brainstorming, meaning you can come back in September refreshed, but with a lot of newly-formulated ideas regarding strategy, your present and your future, and tips to improving personal productivity. 

We mention strategy first because we looked at the Strategy+Business Summer reading suggestions 2021 as a starting point. There, they offer eight great reads aimed at CEOs that challenge conventional wisdom and offer fresh perspectives—on CEOs, their company, and the economy at large. And honestly, they all look like a great read. But from this list we picked the following, because they relate to personal development, which is something we often contemplate while lying on a beach with a piña colada, a nice sangria or… you name it! So without further ado, book choice number 1 is:

How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman

Want to be less lazy and more confident? In her new book, Wharton professor Milkman offers research-backed guidance for making changes that last. She finds that the trick is to understand your internal obstacles and select the right strategies to overcome them. It’s not that change is hard. Rather, she writes in this engaging mélange of behavioral economics and self-help that, “we often fail by applying the wrong tactics in our attempts at change.”

Next, we spied a book also recommended by Strategy+Business (you can read the excellent interview here. Although it might seem a bit heavy for some for a summer read, it looks super fascinating. And because one of our team members is a Canadian and is very proud of the work that Canadian-British-Irish economist and banker Mark Carney has done both in his role as the Governor of the Bank of Canada from 2008 until 2013 and the Governor of the Bank of England from 2013 to 2020, our book choice number 2 is:

Value(s): Building a Better World for All by Mark Carney 

A bold, urgent argument on the misplacement of value in financial markets and how we can and need to maximise value for the many, not few. As an economist and former banker, Mark Carney has spent his life in various financial roles, in both the public and private sector. VALUE(S) is a meditation on his experiences that examines the short-comings and challenges of the market in the past decade which he argues has led to rampant public distrust and the need for radical change.

Focusing on four major crises-the Global Financial Crisis, the Global Health Crisis, Climate Change and the 4th Industrial Revolution– Carney proposes responses to each. His solutions are tangible action plans for leaders, companies and countries to transform the value of the market back into the value of humanity.

So now you are lying in the sun (or hiking as you could be a mountains more than a beach person) and maybe you have read the first two books on our list. Your mind is starting to really mill over what you have read. If you like to keep your eyes open to what is really happening in the world and on our planet, we propose our book choice number 3, because even when walking on the sand, it is no longer viable for humans to bury their heads in it:

Ten Years to Midnight by Blair H. Sheppard 

This is a book that means a lot to us. Written by Blair Sheppard who joined PwC in June 2012 as Global Leader, Strategy and Leadership, he examines the root causes of four urgent global crises and suggests a few strategic solutions that could begin to fix them. In short, the book claims that we have ten years to find answers and implement them. We cannot use 20th century logic to meet this challenge. That logic has led to steady improvements in living standards across the world, but it has also given rise to these challenges and failed to meet them. We need systematically different approaches to creating a better future, building on the creativity and power of markets but setting them in a new context.

Now we get to the more personal choices (although you may have already seen them on many books lists):

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Although we also saw that this book was on the summer reading list at Strategy+Business, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a timeless book, for all ages we would suggest. In fact, there are a slew of Andrew Carnegie books that some people think of as old-fashioned, but we think of as classics.  

To quote Strategy+Business author Daniel Akst, “Dale Carnegie’s often-maligned self-help book not only stands the test of time, it demands to be read again…How to Win Friends and Influence People—the title itself has entered the cultural lexicon as the basis for parodies and spin-offs—remains in print 85 years after its initial publication. Translations have carried its message around the world. Revised editions have taken account of changing times. There is even a version called How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. How could a text so widely reviled retain such enduring appeal?”

Well, there is only one way to respond to Daniel’s question. Do what he did and read (or re-read) the book.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

We’ll give you a hint who picked this one. The Tipping Point was written by Malcolm Timothy Gladwell CM, who is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker. And it comes highly recommended by our Canadian team member. It was given to her by a friend years ago and it was a real personal game-changer. Gladwell’s breakthrough debut explores the science behind viral trends in business, marketing, and human behaviour. It’s one to really get your brain excited!

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell, first published by Little, Brown in 2000. Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” 

The book seeks to explain and describe the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life. As Gladwell states: “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do”. The examples of such changes in his book include the rise in popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the steep drop in New York City’s crime rate after 1990.

And this leads us to the final book choice. One of our team members gave it to another to read and it is quite simply a mind-blowing book if you have not read it. We consider it the perfect summer read while you contemplate your hectic life and allow yourself some much needed rest and relaxation. So on to book choice number 6:

Why We Sleep: Unlocking The Power Of Sleep And Dreams by Matthew Walker

Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. 

Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshalling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood and energy levels, regulate hormones, prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. He also provides actionable steps towards getting a better night’s sleep every night.

But don’t just take our word for it. You can also read this sterling review of the book by none other than Bill Gates. He writes, “It took me a little longer than usual to finish Why We Sleep—ironically, because I kept following Walker’s advice to put down the book I was reading a bit earlier than I was used to, so I could get a better night’s sleep. But Walker taught me a lot about this basic activity that every person on Earth needs. I suspect his book will do the same for you.”


Additional combo

We walked through Crystal Park’s long aisle (that’s the name of our Luxembourg office), asking some of our colleagues if they had additional random suggestions that they considered suitable as a summer read. So here are three additional ideas:

Is It Really Green? Everyday eco-dilemmas answered by Georgina Wilson-Powell
What’s the environmental impact of toilet paper? Which is greener, a bath or a shower? How much better for the planet are electric cars? If you want to contribute to a healthier planet, but find it difficult to work out which is the greenest way, then this eco-friendly book (yes, all of it!) is for you! Georgina Wilson-Powell answers more than 140 everyday sustainable living questions, cutting through the confusion and giving you the facts. Carla

Man’s search for meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
What’s the meaning of life? When you’re trapped in a concentration camp, away from everything and everyone you love and knowing what your fate might be… How do you keep up? This book focuses on love, hope, responsibility, inner freedom, and many more topics to start a retrospection process in one’s selves perfect to come back from holidays looking at life differently. Maria

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Robert L. Moore, Douglas Gillette
You are a man, so you’re meant to be the controller, abusive or domineering. Haven’t you, sometimes, felt the “heavy” weight of masculinity, when you don’t quite match the standard? This revealing book proposes a new way to understand masculinity, describing it as generative, creative, and empowering of the self and others. Highly recommendable if you are a person who likes to challenge the social paradigm and the status quo. Luis


What we think
Mary Carey, Senior Manager Media Relations & Editorial at PwC Luxembourg
Mary Carey, Senior Manager Media Relations & Editorial at PwC Luxembourg

There is nothing quite like a contemplative read on vacation when you have the time to concentrate and think. Who knows? You could come back in September with a totally new mind-set, have solved a problem or see your life, career and the world in a new and more holistic way. As I have read all of the books I recommended, I am going to jump right into my colleagues’ suggestions starting with Man’s search for meaning.

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