Books to Get You Thinking 2015 Holiday Edition I
Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller
In the new expanded and updated third edition of his classic book, Shiller, professor at Yale and the recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics, incorporates the financial events and realities of the past decade while extending his analysis to include the bond market. Shiller explains the forces that define the direction that markets in stocks, bonds and housing take, attributing their volatility to investor psychology. Often it is irrational exuberance that drives markets to unsustainably high levels or, conversely, pessimism and panic that results in the markets crashing. Shiller highlights the importance of policy changes that could arrest future bubbles and crashes while offering suggestions on how individuals could protect their investments and assets from the volatility of markets.
Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs by David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano
David Yoffie of the Harvard Business School and Michael Cusumano of MIT Sloan School of Management have been studying the three technology giants – Microsoft, Intel and Apple - for the past thirty years. The book focuses on the iconic figures who headed these companies and the strategies, leadership and management skills they deployed to transform their companies and the entire information technology industry. The three leaders shared many commonalities as well as a long term vision to see ahead and frame an effective strategy to get there. Ultimately it was also personal passion that was the underlying driving force behind the success of all three CEOs - Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs. Examining their experiences in heading three big global corporations, Five Timeless Rules offers valuable lessons in strategic entrepreneurship for all business leaders.
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
Harvard physicist Lisa Randall’s fascinating new book talks about the interconnections between cosmology, planetary science and geology and how these mesh together to perhaps answer some of the deepest mysteries of science. The mass extinction of the dinosaurs almost 66 million years ago has been attributed to a huge impact on earth by a colliding asteroid or comet. Lisa Randall develops a hypothesis about what triggers such comet storms and identifies a disk of a specific kind of dark matter through which the solar system passes once every 32 - 35 million years. The reality of this hypothesis will be more evident once we get the three dimensional image of the galaxy that is in the process of being prepared by Gaia, the space observatory set up by the European Space Agency.
The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain by John Kounios and Mark Beeman
The authors, both professors of psychology, provide a fascinating study of how creativity and insights originate in the brain. Drawing on neuroscience, and surveying examples in five different areas of science, math, religion, morality and the arts, the authors provide a window into the process of how the brain brings about that sudden unexpected burst of understanding and perception. It could be a solution or an answer to a mathematical concept or another vexing problem that flashes across the mind when one least expects it. Not only will readers come away with a fuller understanding of the working of the brain, they will also find strategies for creating a conducive environment that would foster such eureka moments.
Pacific: Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers by Simon Winchester
Simon Winchester, journalist and author, pens this fascinating book about the Pacific, providing a unique window into the history centered around this magnificent Ocean. Travelling extensively through the islands, archipelagos and waters stretching across its vast waters, Winchester focuses on ten different vignettes from history that had defining roles in the future of the Pacific Ocean and the land adjacent to it. Disparate events as the nuclear tests conducted on the island of Bikini, the dramatic inventions and innovations of Japan and Silicon Valley, and the geopolitical clashes and shifting powers of different countries have all impacted the Pacific in different ways. Climate changes and environmental pollution have irrevocably changed the delicate ecological balance impacting marine life and the future of the once pristine waters of the Pacific.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe, creator of the very popular xkcd web comic, follows the publication of last year’s What If with another new book, Thing Explainer, to be released this November. In the book, Munroe looks at a collection of different complex machines, then creates a simple illustration of the main elements to explain the exact mechanics of how it functions while using only the thousand most used words in the English language. The book is founded on Munroe’s immensely successful comic "Up Goer Five" outlining the components and working of the Saturn V rocket. Thing Explainer includes many similar poster-size blueprints demonstrating the working of fascinating and diverse objects ranging from spacecraft, airliner cockpit controls, and datacenters to the basic human cell.
Biography and Memoirs
Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath by Ben Bernanke
Ben Bernanke, former professor of economics at Princeton University, provides an insider’s look into the tumultuous years that he served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. During this time, the US and the rest of the world faced one of the worst postwar financial crises since the 1930s. Bernanke narrates the story in-depth of how the Fed battled the Crisis, maintaining a fine balance between protecting and creating employment on the one hand and avoiding inflation on the other. Readers of this fascinating memoir will be privy to the many debates that raged in the Open Committee Meetings of the Fed. Bernanke shares his perspective, identifying the complete breakdown of confidence in the financial sector and the economy at large as the important factor triggering the Crisis.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
David McCullough, historian, author and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, enthralls readers once again – this time with a compelling portrait of aviation pioneers, Wilbur and Orville Wright. Readers also get a vivid picture of America in the early twentieth century, particularly of the Midwest and Dayton, Ohio, where the brothers spent most of their lives. Those were special times, a time when industry was flourishing and people were brimming with ideas and inventions. McCullough takes readers through the early lives of the brothers - long years of unwavering perseverance, courage and unmitigated risks where the brothers worked on designing the wings of an aircraft that would enable it to fly the skies. (Also featured in the September column of Books to Get You Thinking.)
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Ashlee Vance, a journalist and technology writer for Bloomberg Business, pens this engaging, lively biography of Elon Musk, industrialist and entrepreneur of Silicon Valley best known for his successes at PayPal, Tesla Motors, Solar City and SpaceX. Based on hundreds of interviews with friends, family and with Elon Musk himself, Vance creates a vivid portrait of Musk, his vision, the companies he built, and his personal life. While he is sometimes compared to Steve Jobs, Musk has earned a stellar reputation as an unrivaled innovator and disruptor who was the architect of the launch of the world’s most successful electric car, set in motion green energy initiatives with his solar power company and made major strides in space research at SpaceX – the company he founded.
Words Without Music by Philip Glass
An engaging, finely-nuanced memoir by Philip Glass, one of America’s great composers of late twentieth-century classical music. Glass gives readers a glimpse into his personal life and journey as well as provides a window into the culture, arts and music of his time. Born to Jewish immigrants, his childhood in Baltimore was followed by studies in Chicago and rigorous training at the Julliard School of Music in Manhattan. He owed much to his extensive studies with the legendary French composer, conductor and teacher, Nadia Boulanger and collaborations with a long line of distinguished artists, playwrights and musicians including Ravi Shankar, Allen Ginsberg, Doris Lessing and many others. Words without Music follows Glass as he transforms from an early music prodigy to a world-renowned composer of symphonies, operas and film scores.