Books and Culture

Need a summer reading list? Stanford professors say these 5 books will boost your success and value in life

Melanie Kim | Twenty20

Success can mean different things to different people. For some, it's fame and fortune. For others, it's a prestigious job. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to how much value you bring to the world.

As Bill Gates once said, "When a country has the skill and self-confidence to take action against its biggest problems, it makes outsiders eager to be a part of it."

Recently, Stanford Business magazine asked faculty members from the Stanford Graduate School of Business to recommend books that inspired them to place the common good above their own personal interests:

1. "We Were the Lucky Ones," by Georgia Hunter

Recommended by Szu-chi Huang, Associate Professor of Marketing

Inspired by the true story of a Jewish family who was separated at the start of World War II, this novel demonstrates the resolve and power of the human spirit. Georgia Hunter says it took her nearly a decade of research to write "We Were the Lucky Ones." She recorded family narratives, translated old letters and documents and reached out to a number of people, museums and organizations. This truly moving novel shows that even in the toughest battles, empathy and love can be our strongest weapons.

2. "Swimming With Sharks: My Journey Into the World of Bankers," by Joris Luyendijk

Recommended by Peter A.E. Koudijs, Associate Professor of Finance

It's interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the ugly underbelly of the financial sector: A brewing pot of toxic culture, burnout, backstabbing and bonus-obsessed co-workers — especially through the lens of Joris Luyendijk, an investigative journalist who knew very little about banking prior to writing the book. While "Swimming with Sharks" is a tale of greed and dishonesty, it does offer plenty of insight into what future leaders in the sector can do to implement a culture driven by positive values.

3. "No Longer at Ease," by Chinua Achebe

Recommended by Scotty McLennan, Lecturer in Political Economy

From the author of the best-selling book "Things Fall Apart," this novel tells the story of a young and educated man who returns home from university abroad full of high hopes and new principles.

When a country has the skill and self-confidence to take action against its biggest problems, it makes outsiders eager to be a part of it.
Bill Gates

Unfortunately, he faces a different reality full of corruption and bribery. Even decades after it was first published, "No Longer at Ease" remains a fierce statement on the challenges that face African society today.

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4. "Jasmine," by Bharati Mukherjee

Recommended by Peter A.E. Koudijs, Associate Professor of Finance

"Jasmine" offers an international perspective on the American mindset and transformation of a person with contrasting cultural beliefs. Bharati Mukherjee's novel will give readers valuable insight into diversity, cultural perspectives and the need for inclusion. The New York Times Book Review calls it "one of the most suggestive novels we have about what it is to become an American."

5. "The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success," by Kevin Dutton

Recommended by Charles A. O'Reilly III, Frank E. Buck Professor of Management

As it turns out, there's a lot we can learn about success from psychopaths. According to Kevin Dutton, a renowned psychologist, serial killers like Ted Bundy tend to have all the traits that we desire: Fearlessness, confidence, charm, ruthlessness and focus. "The Wisdom is Psychopaths" is a riveting read that reveals how we can control of our dark sides and use them to change society for the better.

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a time management app, and the co-founder of Influence & Co., a content marketing agency. He is also the author of the best-selling book "Top of Mind."

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