Reading and Listening: A 2020 Summer Playlist from Yale SOM Faculty
We checked in with some of our faculty members to find out what books and audiobooks have been informing and entertaining them so far this summer.
Sheila and Ron ’92 Marcelo Senior Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship
The first book I read this summer was Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. This autobiographical collection of essays reads like a story, and brought me great comfort and inspiration. The author is a feminist activist and nonprofit leader. Through her own experiences, she deconstructs and examines social constructs like race, gender, religion, and sexuality. I was sad when it ended, and wanted more of her honesty and confrontational style. Since then, I have kept busy with the faculty book club, where we’ve been reading and discussing Michelle Alexander, Robin DiAngelo, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and Ibram X. Kendi.
Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Economics, and Public Health (Health Policy); Professor in the Practice of Management, Director of the MD/MBA Program, Director of Healthcare Curriculum, MBA for Executives Program, Yale School of Management
I was inspired by Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, by Vivek Murthy. This inspiring book could not be more timely. When Murthy, our alum (YSM/SOM ’03), first contemplated this topic, professionally, he was our Nation’s Doctor: the 19th Surgeon General of the United States. He began writing the book less than two years ago. Who could have imagined that a book about loneliness and the importance of human connection would come out during a pandemic, where so many of us find ourselves disconnected from those we love and/or alone, ourselves. This book opens one’s eyes to the social, psychological, and medical consequences of the “other” pandemic: loneliness.
Assistant Professor of Operations Management
I’ve been focusing on reading the anti-racism books from Harvard’s book list, and so far have been especially struck with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. It made me think completely differently about the racism inherent in our prison system and determined to incorporate what I learned both in my personal and in my teaching life.
Janet L. Yellen Professor of Finance and Management
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
If Frankl can find “meaning” in the worst place on earth, then what excuse do the rest of us have? I try to read this book once a year, to remind myself of what is important.
Plagues and Peoples, by William H. McNeill
Do you think COVID-19 is a unique experience for humankind? It is not! This classic book from the 1970s will teach you some history you probably did not learn in school, and its ideas and themes resonate very strongly today.
Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
A brilliantly imagined future in this science fiction classic. Because sometimes it is nice to think about something totally different from our current reality.
Assistant Professor of Accounting
I am fascinated by Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman. The book is centered around economic forces that shape the response to climate change. The authors offer a brief but dynamic and thorough overview of where humanity stands with changing weather patterns.
Milton Steinbach Professor of Management
I like to keep up with what my colleagues are doing at Yale. Odd Arne Westad recently joined the history department. His book The Cold War: A World History is thrilling. It is told from a European perspective; while I lived through much of this period, it provided a new way of seeing this conflict.
Yale’s Beinecke Library obtained the Walter Evans Collection of Frederick Douglass and Douglass Family Papers. As a way of celebrating, they did a filmed reading of Douglass’s 1852 July 5th address to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. The oration is Shakespearean. In a flip of Marc Antony, Douglass says he comes to praise our founding fathers, but ends up burying them. The reading features Sterling Professor David Blight along with local citizen activists. You can watch it here.
I’ve also been enjoying theater, both via audio plays and a new form of theater done under quarantine. I can recommend the Audible play Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar and The Line, presented by the Public Theater and streaming through September 1.
For sheer escapism, just about anything Nelson DeMille writes works for me. His son (and now coauthor) Alex went to Yale, and as payback, Nelson pretty much has fun at our expense in all of his novels. My latest read is The Deserter. Prior to that was The Cuban Affair—not his best, but I’m partial to it as I make a guest appearance.
Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies & Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management
“The Parable of Julian Bond & John Lewis,” by Vincent Coppola in The Atlantic
The heroic youth and civil rights courage of the tenacious, principled John Lewis is an inspiring model. However, the backstory of his life as a political aspirant is also very interesting, as he won office with the support of Atlanta’s white voters with the more urbane, eloquent Julian Bond the favorite of the Black Atlantans in the 1980s. Lewis’s ability to hit back hard as need raises questions about what is fair to fight over. The unfulfilled promise of Bond’s life was a mystery to so many, but this piece show how wrong it is to judge someone who wants to live their own life and not the script others drafted for him. I was living in Atlanta through this era of redefinition of roles and movements.
“Will the Pandemic Blow Up College in America?” by Michael S. Roth in Politico
Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth has developed an impressive skills for the takedown of academic overstatement from sensationalizing scholars who love to create misleading “straw man” images of university life in a Freudian attack on their parent universities. He did this last year in taking on the misleadingly presented, disconnected statistics and presentation of fringe campus events as the new normal as offered by NYU’s Jonathan Heidt, a friend to several of us, in Heidt’s book The Coddling of the American Mind. Now Roth takes on the flamboyant, fun Scott Galloway, another NYU academic and friend to several of us, who has pronounced remote learning as a replacement for in-person campus instruction. Roth debunks disruption in a way that can make any neo-Luddite proud.
“The New Religion of Risk Management,” by Peter Bernstein in Harvard Business Review
The late Peter Bernstein offered a satisfying teaser from the last of his ten books on economics and finance, this one titled Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. In it, he revisited the intellectual battles the mathematicians Blaise Pascal, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Jakob Bernoulli, and Daniel Bernoulli. His work parallels the thinking of more scholarly mathematically oriented economists who came to embrace behavioral influences in risk management and decision-making, where Yale has long been making such important contributions across disciplines. While his critique of classical assumptions will not seem fresh to many at SOM, it still helps us consider the door opening to much-maligned individual differences as mattering in forecasting and decision-making as we consider behavior in public health catastrophes, consumer behavior in economic crises, and a nightmarish election season.
Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present by Frank M. Snowden
Speaking of public health catastrophes, our great Yale colleague has written an incredibly prescient new Yale University Press book studying the fuller context of pandemics through history beyond the epidemiology and virology, to provide perspective on the ways epidemics reveal the social, cultural, and political contexts of their origins. As he moves through time from bubonic plague to Ebola, he shows how the human psyche is changed by the consequences of these diseases. While you’d think his timing is perfect, actually it was not. He unfortunately had a talk in Rome and research in the Vatican just before COVID-19 broke out and was trapped there for months!
It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis
Surely this 1935 dystopian political novel by Sinclair Lewis has sadly, finally found its time. The book depicts a vulgarian demogogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip. A mix of Huey Long, Hitler and Mussolini, he becomes president, seizes full control of the government, and—using ruthless paramilitary forces—imposes totalitarian rule. Three times MGM tried to make a movie based on this cautionary tale but failed. So who wants to join me to buy the rights?
James L. Frank ’32 Professor of Private Enterprise and Management, Professor of Marketing & Director of the China India Insights Program
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammed
This summer, I read a lot about issues of social justice and racial inequality. Of all the books I read, as an academic and social science scholar, The Condemnation of Blackness moved me most to shame. Scholars in statistics, sociology, and economics from the 1880s–1930s intellectualized racism through what was clearly shoddy scholarship and lent credence to the lie associating Black people with criminality. Many of today’s challenges faced by the Black community, including residential segregation and mass incarceration, can be traced back to ideas legitimized from this period—negating and neutralizing the gains for Black people from the abolition of slavery.
Growing up in India, I had been a student of social justice movements against India’s caste system. At a high level, I was surprised by the similarities in arguments that allow society to ignore or even rationalize ongoing injustice in two very different parts of the world.
Heather E. Tookes
Professor of Finance
This is not the summer for my traditional beach read. Instead, I am reading books like this one: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, by Jeff Hobbs. The unsettling title reveals the book’s ending. But the journey—from Newark to Yale and back again—is a powerful one that highlights how important it is to understand the rich heterogeneity of life experiences within our community. I read it several years ago, but it is on my list of books to re-read this summer because it lays bare some of the complexities of structural inequality that hit so close to home. (The book includes Peace’s time here at Yale and in New Haven and is written by his college roommate.) In addition to raising complex societal questions, by detailing the vastly different home lives of two college roommates, Hobbs brings to the forefront questions about how to promote equity in the classroom in the current world of remote learning.
Associate Professor of Operations Management
I like Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini. It was written way back in 1993, but is still relevant today. It has some really cool insights about persuasion. It's a marketing book on its surface, but the book has useful tips for everyday life. One thing I learned from the book is this: why you should stop saying “you’re welcome.”
Find more faculty recommendations on our 2019, 2018, and 2017 summer reading/listening lists.