Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Great Article for Summer Reading / 10 Books to Better Understand the World by Jacqueline Novogratz

I pulled this article from my LinkedIn News this morning - make sure you read the comments at the end of the article if you go to the original article!
By Jacqueline Novogratz
I always think that summer is going to be a time to slow down, but in many ways, life continues apace at Acumen – and increasingly, for everyone I know. While I love traveling for work and pleasure, I also find deep joy in exploring the world through reading. My list is actually a lot longer than the following 10, but here's what I've been reading lately.
1. Lesley Hazleton – After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
This is a must-read to understand the history of the Shia-Sunni divide. Lesley Hazleton writes with the eye and voice of a novelist and brings the people and stories of Islam to life in a way that is at once powerful and unforgettable. Given all that is happening in the Middle East, this should be required reading for all global citizens, really. I promise you will not only learn a lot, but this is one you can read on the beach as well. I started reading it on a rainy Sunday morning and didn't get off the couch until I'd turned the last page.
2. Vali Nasr – The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat
Moving from the history of Islam, Nasr draws us into the state of Islam today. He addresses Middle East foreign policy and the future of American influence and power. Vali is an important voice in foreign affairs and this is the right time to read this book.
3. Taiye Selasi – Ghana Must Go and 4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah
Two beautiful works of fiction that I promise will captivate you in remarkable ways. Ghana Must Go follows a family brought together in Accra after a father’s death and Americanahis centered on a Nigerian woman living in the U.S. Both novels deal with torn identities and the power of Diaspora communities in today's modern world. You will feel absorbed into these strong character’s lives as their stories unfold. I love that they are written by remarkable African women – voices for a new generation.
5. Rohinton Mistry – A Fine Balance
Bombay is one of my favorite cities and I’ve regularly visited it over the last decade. A Fine Balance is Dickensian in spirit and scope – fundamental reading to understand what it means to be poor in India – to be human, really. The narrative follows lovable but authentic characters as they battle the effects of political chaos, and divides in society.
6. Joseph Stiglitz – The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future
Professor Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, dives into the sickening cost of inequality. The concentration of wealth to the top one percent is not good for anyone – and is a phenomenon the wealthy will regret as well as the poor. Stiglitz is a critical voice on this issue and his thinking continues to have enormous impact on our work (he serves as an Acumen board member).
7. Jonathan Rieder – Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation
On April 16 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. If there is a single text that I read each year, it is this one – and it is at the core of Acumen's own reading list given the document's soaring rhetoric and focus on ideas of justice, of equality and of activism. Indeed, we speak often of "moral imagination" or the ability to put oneself in another's shoes and this document is breathtaking in reflecting this idea. Jonathan Rieder has studied King and the Letter extensively, and brings a refreshing perspective to its words and to the writer, social activist and minister who changed the course of history.
8. Mary Oliver – Why I Wake Early
What can I say? I love poetry in general (Hafiz, Rumi, Rilke, Yeats, Heaney, among others), but there is no one I read more consistently than Mary Oliver. Her poems ground me in the beauty of the world, and remind me to observe nature more carefully and thoughtfully, to start my days with gratitude, to feel the sun on my face. Her book Why I Wake Early is the perfect selection of poems for summertime, though I carry a number of the poems in this book with me throughout the year.
9. Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception
Acumen advisor and dear friend Seth Godin continues to push us and his readers past our comfort zones and into creativity. This book explores how all of us can embrace our artistic side and use it to offer something unique to the world. Seth will wake you up to diving more fully into life and refusing "to hide".
10. Chris Lowney – Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World
If you are interested in leadership, I cannot recommend this book more highly. Chris Lowney spent seven years as a Jesuit seminarian and then pursued a long career with JP Morgan as a Managing Director. He found himself asking why we have a crisis of leadership given all the corporate money spent on leadership training, and so explored the work of building the Jesuit "company". He describes the four pillars of Jesuit training — self-awareness, ingenuity (embracing change), love and heroism (energizing ambitions) – and connects these pillars to historic characters, and inspires the reader to want to do and be more. I've come back to read this book twice already and see it as almost a handbook for the kinds of organizations we need to develop in our complex world.
What other books do you recommend that help you understand the world?

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