Our Faculty and Staff Recommend
We asked faculty and staff what they read over the summer and below are some of their favorites (selecting the faculty member's name will take you to their profile).
Assistant Professor, OMIS
Albert Einstein: His Life and Universe
Not really work-related in a strict sense, but as a fellow math modeler, it was a cathartic experience for me to read about Einstein's gritty search for mathematical precision and order even when faced with incredible arbitrariness. This arbitrariness was all around him in many ways: the Swiss government's repeated denial of citizenship, his inability to get an academic position, his disintegrating marriage and the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany.
Good Strategy / Bad Strategy
Rumelt casts a new spin on the industrial organization view of strategy to explain why many seemingly great organizations get stuck with bad strategy. He convincingly argues that while leadership, charisma and vision are important ingredients to motivate people to achieve the desired objectives, they end up being merely empty buzzwords without a concrete strategy based on economic principles.
Assistant Professor, Marketing
The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy
Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
Here is a review from NY Times »
|In Professor Terri Griffith's Technology and Organizations blog, she recommends her "best" for 2011-12. Here are selections from her top 12:
The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy
The 24-Hour Customer is not just for marketers; it speaks to a much broader set of our modern interactions. It's a book for all of us as we think about the work we do all day, and if you have marketing responsibilities, you get a bonus!
The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World
The Ad-Free Brand does what I think all professional books should do: Make it easy to do a deep dive on a weekend or a short refresher during the week. There are clear callouts and easy to mark bullet point sections. There is also a place to register the book to stay aware of updates, downloads, and errata. This is a brave new world.
Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears
Fun and fast paced. Yes, I see HAL. Yes, I see Google. That's half of what makes this book a good read. The other half is thinking about how close we are to reality with this work of fiction.
The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business
Phil Simon is a futurist/analyst who shows how "each piece interacts with other parts of its ecosystem and the world at large" and his book shows the deep layers of platforms and how the four focal iconic organizations are building flexible business models. These ideas are likely to challenge all of us to critically think about new organizational forms.
Getting Results From Crowds: The definitive guide to using crowdsourcing to grow your business
Ross Dawson and Steve Bynghall
The book starts with a solid overview of all the ways crowds are participating in work around the world, and then takes you clearly into the considerations of each of these different ways of using crowds. The authors provide overviews, risks and benefits, and clear how-tos to help anyone take advantage of, or participate, in these great resources.
Just released last fall — The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive by Terri Griffith
Angier is a science writer for NYT. The book is the best non-technical science book I have ever read—a scintillating overview of the scientific canon in physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, molecular biology and geology. This woman writes beautifully and has a deep knowledge of the sciences. It's a must for anyone who desires to understand a bit about modern science.
Associate Professor of Economics
|A book I enjoyed is
Caesar: A Life of Colossus
I have read very little Roman history, so it surprised me a lot how Casear in the Roman civil war around 50-45 BC routinely would let opposing commanders go free after they surrendered. It reminded me of several African civil wars and coups d'etat, where there was apparently a mutual understanding that rebel commanders were part of an elite and were not proper objects of battleground violence.
Goldsworthy presents Caesar as a brilliant general and politician, who carefully used both extreme force and terror (when fighting enemies of the Republic) and generous forgiveness (when fighting fellow Romans).
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
Pinker is an MIT neurolinguist by profession. He has written many great books the best known of which is The Blank Slate. His works are always of great depth. This current title extends that tradition. One sometimes wonders if conditions in the world are improving or getting worse. There is so much crime and violence in the headlines and the suicide bombers in the Middle East and the murderous drug cartels in Mexico make it feel like humanity is going downhill. Thus it is very refreshing to learn from this extensive analysis that violence overall is falling and has been falling for centuries. In fact, since 1995 in the US violent crimes (as reported by the FBI) have fallen from about 45 per 100,000 people per year to only 15 — and the drop has been pretty linear all along the way. The world is getting better in this regard. Why is this trend happening? Pinker lays the credit to several causes, but most centrally to education. He reasons that education leads to empathy and empathy leads to less tolerance for harming others (even animals, buy the way).
Thinking Fast and Slow
This is a very well documented and fascinating treatise on the two systems as work in our brains — the gut feel (the fast system) and the reasoned consideration (the slow system). Both systems serve us well in general, but both systems also have their shortcomings. It is the richness of consequences and domains of application that makes the book so interesting. Did you know, for instance, when you have a colonoscopy that if the doctor leaves it in for a minute with no movement before removing it that the experience is remembered as must less stressful than otherwise (even though it was that much worse for the longer treatment that resulted). The phenomenon he addresses in this respect is "the experiencing self" vs. "the remembering self". It is the remembering self that makes most of our decisions.
The Power of Habit
Habit: The 95% of Behavior that Marketers Ignore
These two books remind us that, as Ghandi said, "We are what we repeatedly do." Our repeated behaviors become habits and our habits drive our behavior. Life should be about developing good habits and avoiding bad ones. These books explain how, why, and what can be done in a marketing sense about customer habits.
|The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars
This is a fascinating account of the clash between climate scientists and the special interests who deny man-made global warming. The book describes how deniers of man-made global warming successfully use the political system to fight the almost unanimous views of climate scientists.
|Bring Up the Bodies
My favorite book this year was Hilary Mantel's novel, Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to her masterpiece, Wolf Hall. Bring Up the Bodies continues the saga of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's right hand man, and is essentially the story of the events leading up to Anne Boleyn's execution. Cromwell, a villain in some accounts, is portrayed by Mantel as a complex but largely admirable character, a modern man of affairs in a still pre-modern England. He was also a successful businessman, and not just because he had the ear of the king.
The Fear Index
Lost Memory of Skin
I read two recent novels about journeys to hell, both set in Florida, naturally. Karen Russell's Swamplandia! is a coming-of-age story about a young female alligator wrestler. Yes, a creepy boatman does lead her to the underworld. Yes, it is almost as precious as it sounds, but quite gripping in parts. Russell Banks's Lost Memory of Skin is about the travails of a convicted minor sex offender, condemned by the law to a purgatory of homelessness and marginalization. It is a flawed novel, but I know it will stick with me for a long time.
I just finished The Fear Index, by Robert Harris. It's the best artificial intelligence/ hedge fund thriller I have ever read... in fact, it's the only artificial intelligence/ hedge fund thriller I have ever read. Not great, but competently done, and just plausible enough to keep you up a few extra minutes at night.
What Love Comes To
I am teaching undergraduate econometrics this fall, and a colleague recommended James Stock and Mark Watson's Introduction to Econometrics. It is a very fine textbook. I'm certain the students will hate it.
The wonderful American poet Ruth Stone died last November at 96. Her last collection, What Love Comes To, is a treasure, full of whimsy and sadness.
The same colleague has a book of her own out this year: California Native Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide, by Helen Popper. A visually beautiful, very practical, and best of all engagingly written book. Buy your favorite gardener a copy for the holidays... or sooner: fall is Cal-native planting season!