2017 Back-to-School Reading List

Whether you’re heading back to campus, back to the office or just looking to get back into a routine this fall, the third annual Goldman Sachs Back-to-School Reading List features a collection of books you won’t want to put down. Check back daily over the next few weeks to see what Goldman Sachs executives across the firm and across the globe recommend reading. 

Kyung-Ah Park – Executive Office Division, New York

Richard Nixon: The Life,  by John A. Farrell
Brilliantly written with new revelations, Farrell provides a humanizing depiction of the life of a president who came to the pinnacle of power from nothing through sheer will and hard work, yet alone and deeply insecure.  A nuanced portrait of a president who had many triumphs (diffusing the Cold War, creating the EPA, furthering civil rights and desegregating schools) that are overshadowed by his desire to win at all costs that made him unscrupulous throughout his political career and ultimately culminated with his Watergate downfall. Many lessons that are poignant as ever.

Harit Talwar – Digital Finance, New York

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, by Samuel P. Huntington
A seminal – and not uncontroversial – study of political systems. Huntington’s book was originally published in 1996, but it remains timely today, even as modern connections – think social media – may help mitigate some of the tensions he describes in ways he could not have predicted at the time of writing. Reading his arguments can cause equal measures of despair and determination – despair at the enormity and complexity of the challenges that face the world, determination to ensure that its thesis not be prophecy. Many have written and argued for and against Huntington’s ideas; in a nutshell, he saw the post-Cold War era as one characterized by “cultural conflict.” Understanding that national allegiance is but one part of a person’s political identity is perhaps this book’s most profound contribution. I read it almost like a wakeup call. 

The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
Fascinating book giving a behind the scenes look at how U.S. presidents since Hoover have helped their successors understand the office and the role and root for their success. No one understands the burden, challenges, and opportunities of the office until they actually occupy it. While they all have large egos and personalities, they are also drawn to the larger mission of the country and the office and put aside differences to help each other. Given that we at the firm operate like a partnership, it was very interesting to see the human relationships behind the institutional success. It is a reminder of the value of building relationships and not merely rely on processes and how cooperation can exist robustly with different views and opinions as long as there is a larger purpose. I found it inspiring both as a citizen of our country and an employee of a 147-year-old firm.

Shin Horie – Global Investment Research, Hong Kong

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, by Thomas L. Friedman
To me this book is a great “cheat sheet” to keep me updated on the latest important topics of the world. It covers a wide range of areas such as technology (which I have a lot of personal interest in), the financial market, and social, political, and geographical issues, and is full of interesting real world stories. Most importantly, it makes me feel optimistic about the future after finishing it.

Do You Still Think You’re Clever?: Even More Oxford and Cambridge Questions!, by John Farndon
This book has a list of questions asked at the admissions interviews of Oxford and Cambridge, and the author tries to provide his own answers. Questions like, “Why do human have two eyes?”, “what do you think of a teleportation machine?”, “should we open a Wal-Mart store in the middle of Oxford town?”, may have no right answer. Candidates need to digest the question, recall everything they have learned about the topic and frame the answer as creative as possible on the spot. It really tests the candidates’ depth, width and flexibility of thoughts. If I can generalize, this is a relatively weak area of local education systems in Asia. The encouraging thing is that we see a number of attempts emerging to overcome this issue. 

Wolfgang Fink – Investment Banking Division, Frankfurt

The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy, by Dani Rodrik
An insightful treatment of globalization by Harvard Professor Dani Rodrik. Rodrik explains why economists have advocated for globalization in financial institutions, labour markets and trade for decades. He shows that a global economy and free trade are not necessarily beneficial to all. According to him, they may not even be compatible with our idea of democracy and nation states. Rodrik makes reasonable and realistic suggestions of how to improve global economic cooperation. He argues for smart globalization, not maximum globalization.

Network Thinking: Beyond Brockhaus Thinking, by Ulrich Weinberg
An unusual roadshow to the most innovative locations and people around the world. Where network thinking drives actions. The book leads behind the scenes of large corporations that are leaving the analog 20th century “Brockhaus Thinking” mode, but also to small companies that never practiced it. It shows how a network thinking approach can make corporates and individuals extremely successful.  

Padideh Raphael – Securities Division, Hong Kong

Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth, by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans
This book paints a fascinating picture of what humanity could look like in the next 5-20 years, as the exponential pace of technological advancement now allows for controlled genetic design to supersede passive natural selection which has ruled human evolution on this planet for millions of years. As someone who studied Neuroscience in undergrad 20 years ago, I was blown away to learn that scientists are currently succeeding in transplanting full heads (on rats), which is amazing to think about given the task of re-fusing the nervous system to the body. With the concurrent strides in mapping of brain functionality, and ongoing push to find other habitable planets out in space (which the authors expect will be well within 5-10 years!), it takes only a little imagination to extrapolate how radically altered life can be like for future generations.

Matt Jahansouz – Human Capital Management Division, New York

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
Extraordinary and emotional; so beautifully and thoughtfully written, many sentences will stop you right in your tracks and leave you thinking for days. Not the lightest of topics, this book explores how one young man, himself a neurosurgeon, manages the news and the process of being terminally ill. Written from the perspective of both doctor and patient and with the gift of understanding both science and literature, there are few reads like this one.

I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb
This is storytelling at its best. One of my favorites and a regular summer reread. You're taken into details that you never saw coming only to learn they're connected to everything you've already read. There are stories within stories and more heart and emotion packed into this book than most any other that I've picked up. 

Gregg Lemkau – Investment Banking Division, New York

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
Fascinating recitation of the innovation and courage of the Wright brothers in their pursuit of flight. Incredible story of two underappreciated innovators whose unmatched curiosity and determination changed the course of history.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert A. Caro
Story of Robert Moses and building New York City. Incredible story of the man behind the scenes who wielded outsized influence in the creation of 20th century NYC. Great lessons on true power and interesting context for today's discussion on infrastructure investment in America. 

Dermot McDonogh – Finance Division, London

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, by Dorthe Nors
A story of Sonja, a recently single mid-forty-something translator of Scandinavian noir, who escapes her rural upbringing in West Jutland to live in the hubbub of Copenhagen. The book delves into humorous situations including where the protagonist  learns to drive with Jyette, an aggressive instructor, who won’t let her change gears, acting as a stark metaphor for her life. It also explores her on-going battle with vertigo and her complex relationship with her sister, Kate, who finds every opportunity to cut short conversations. "Mirror, Shoulder, Signal" is funny, insightful and incredibly smart.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller
A very honest, raw memoir, where Fuller retells the story of growing up in a white tenant farming family pre and post-Independent Zimbabwe. The book explores stark themes of civil war, imperialism, racism, the loss of siblings and dealing with her mother’s failing mental health. Although a tragic, and often uncomfortable portrayal, of this time in social history there are moments of laughter and gentleness throughout. An educational, emotional and interesting read.

Elisha Wiesel – Engineering, New York

Letters to a Young Muslim, by Omar Saif Ghobash
So inspiring to read a voice of moderation from a background so different from mine. An urgent plea to the next generation to resist the lures of polarization and divisiveness that surrounds us everywhere.

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin
I’ve been a science fiction fan my entire life but had never read any Chinese works until this book. The plot is super-ambitious; since I don’t want to spoil anything I’ll just say it starts off with a wave of scientist suicides in the wake of experimental particle physics results that suggest science is broken.

Christina Minnis – Investment Banking Division, New York

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, is the story of an older widowed veteran of the Civil War and War of 1812 who takes responsibility for returning a 10-year-old girl of German descent from her Indian captors to her aunt and uncle. Her birth family was killed by her captors, and she initially fights to get back to "her family; the Indian family." The story details how the relationship between the orphaned girl and widower evolves on their trip through the lawless frontier of post-Civil War Kansas and Texas. This book reminded me of “True Grit,” and I loved the ferocious spirit of the little girl, Johanna, and how the old man makes protecting her his final mission. "News of the World" offers a great window into our country at a very rugged time which seems distant but was not all that long ago. As I finished the book, Hurricane Harvey was making landfall in Texas. Watching the incredible acts of bravery and grit that our friends and colleagues have exhibited over the last few days, their sheer determination to move forward and reclaim their lives again confirmed Texans continue to be a special breed of American.

Ken Hitchner – Executive Office, Hong Kong 

Game Worn: Baseball Treasures from the Game's Greatest Heroes and Moments, by Stephen Wong and Dave Grob
My colleague Stephen is a serious collector of baseball memorabilia. You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the care and effort that went into his latest book, "Game Worn," with its beautiful photography and detailed storytelling about the game and its history. This book is a testament to years of research and a strong passion outside of work, demonstrating that a senior investment banker can make time for other pursuits beyond Wall Street.

Clif Marriott – Investment Banking Division, London 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
With three children under four coupled with a career in investment banking, I find it challenging to find time for reading books. But, I also struggle to find good books to read to my children, especially books for my daughters that aren't about princesses and living happily ever after. I received "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls" from a good friend who also has two daughters. Comprising a few hundred short stories depicting strong female leaders from recent history, the book provides great female role models for my daughters that aren’t princesses. 

Edith Cooper – Human Capital Management, New York 

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, by Admiral William McRaven focuses on the small, but invaluable, actions we can take every day to make a positive impact in our lives and in the world more broadly.  Admiral McRaven draws on his 37 years as a Navy SEAL to share ten lessons that apply to all of us - regardless of where we are in our life journey. The most important lesson I learned from Admiral McRaven relates to the power of one person to unite, inspire and give hope to those around him or her.  When we find hope, even in the most difficult of times, we have the ability to drive change. 

Allison Nathan – Global Investment Research Division, New York 

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival, by Joe Simpson
I love stories about survival and perseverance against all odds. This is a true story of a mountain climber in the isolated peaks of Peru who breaks his leg, but manages to survive in the worst of conditions. It is an incredible and inspiring story of resilience that made a lasting impression (even though I don’t know the first thing about mountain climbing!).

White House Years (and Years of Upheaval), by Henry Kissinger
I first read these memoirs in college; they provide a captivating perspective on a pivotal period of shifting spheres of influence in the world and the United States’ place in it. No one can convey the complexities, subtleties and importance of  diplomacy like Kissinger can—something that I find myself thinking about a lot lately given the seeming lack of appreciation for this today.

Marty Chavez – Finance Division, New York 

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari
This is the sequel to “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, also a must-read. For anyone who thinks about the future of liberal democracy, humanism, machine learning, big data, genetic engineering, and human consciousness, here’s a provocative speculation on the future. I don’t share his dystopic vision, but his book makes for essential reading.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild
The author journeys from liberal Berkeley, California to the Louisiana bayou to paint a picture of life in red-state America. For anyone seeking to understand why people who might benefit from liberalism instead reject it, this book will give you information and a new perspective.