Smith Brain Trust / May 23, 2024

Summer Reading List 2024

SMITH BRAIN TRUST – Summer is fast approaching and that may have you dreaming about that beach vacation you so richly deserve or relaxing on your patio on a warm summer night. Curling up with the perfect book always pairs well with summertime.

The 21st Annual Summer Reading List for Business Leaders has recommendations from University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business faculty that include a memoir of one of the scientists responsible for the phenomenal advances we’re currently seeing in AI. There’s a book that makes a formidable case against the existence of free will, a biography of the only American president to serve two non-consecutive terms and a novel from a Nobel Prize-winning author who has written three books adapted for the big screen. One of them is among our recommendations. The movie is set to open later this year.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

By Douglas Hofstadter

“A Pulitzer Prize-winning take on how mathematics, art and music are interconnected via computer science and self-symmetry. It should be required reading for any creative geek up to no good.”

Terrence O’Brien, Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor, Finance

The Worlds I See: Curiosity, Exploration, and Discovery at the Dawn of AI

By Dr. Fei-Fei Li

“This is one of the best books I’ve read recently. It combines the author’s personal life story with her extraordinary professional achievements in the AI field. In addition to the tech-heavy content in the book, the story brings out a deeper appreciation for some of the issues first-generation immigrants face. It also emphasizes the importance of persistence, resilience and passion, as well as the incredible opportunities the United States and universities can provide for those who are willing to seek them.”

Balaji Padmanabhan, Dean’s Professor of Decision, Operations & Information Technologies
Director, Center for Artificial Intelligence in Business

Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will

By Robert Sapolsky

“Sapolsky is an eminent neuroendocrinologist, and this book describes the biological details of decision-making in the brain. It reveals what happens in the moments before we choose an action, before that, and so on, going back to even when we were in the womb. He provides arguments against the existence of free will, claiming that our choices are determined by causal effects emanating from the past. Since I study and teach rational decision-making, I was naturally intrigued by the central thesis. Is choice just an illusion? Whether you are ultimately convinced by his arguments or not, you will be entertained and learn a lot from this fascinating book.”

Kislaya Prasad, Research Professor, Decision, Operations & Information Technologies
Academic Director, Center for Global Business

Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks

By Patrick Radden Keefe

“The true crime stories contained here should be required reading for all Smith faculty and students. So many business lessons can be learned from these tales of cons and fraud. It is a glorious window into the minds of bad actors, all written by a master storyteller from The New Yorker. You won't put the book down.”

Samuel Handwerger, Lecturer, Accounting and Information Assurance

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By Carol S. Dweck

“This book identifies the difference between people who do and do not succeed. It is about the difference between having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. In my humble opinion, this should be required reading for everyone.”

— Laura Labovich, Adjunct Professor, Office of Career Services

Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships

By Scott Rick

“This book offers a science-backed perspective on how people manage money in romantic relationships. It covers interesting new research on how having a joint bank account versus separate accounts affects relationship satisfaction. How do the financial skills of romantic couples diverge over time? Do children inherit the spending habits of their parents? The book combines cutting-edge research with fun anecdotes to offer practical suggestions for readers.”

Joseph Reiff, Assistant Professor, Marketing

A Man of Iron: The Turbulent Life and Improbable Presidency of Grover Cleveland

By Troy Senik

“Like so many Americans, every April I pay my taxes. I never enjoy parting with my hard-earned money, but I know I must do so for the greater good. Yet, I cannot help but wonder where each dollar actually goes. Naively I hope that none of my civic contributions are frittered away in wasteful spending or even worse, outright corruption. Hence, one of the cardinal powers of the presidency rests upon being the ultimate steward of the public largesse. In this regard, Grover Cleveland certainly lived up to his billing as “a man of iron.” In Troy Senik's brilliant account, we come to appreciate this staunch fiscal reformer. He was pro-business, a legendary workaholic and a limited government leader. Grover Cleveland never lost sight of his fiduciary duty to the American people.”

Hank Boyd, Clinical Professor, Marketing

Let Us Put Our Money Together: The Founding of America’s First Black Banks

By Tim Todd

“I enjoyed this book for two reasons. First, it was a thoughtful gift from one of my senior colleagues. Second, my latest research is on minority-owned banks and this book provided a historical account of the first Black banks in the U.S.”

Agustin Hurtado, Assistant Professor, Finance

ESG Mindset: Business Resilience and Sustainable Growth

By Matthew Sekol

“This book illuminates how embracing sustainability principles can catalyze transformative change within companies, strategists, and consultancies. Through insightful guidance, it empowers readers to navigate the complexities of sustainability, by focusing on a long-term corporate strategy that fosters resilience and sustainable growth for the future.”

Nima Farshchi, Lecturer, Management and Organization
Executive Director, Office of Experiential Learning
Director, Center for Social Value Creation

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

By Allison Pataki

“Marjorie Merriweather Post, the heir to the Postum Cereal Company fortune, expanded the company by purchasing Birdseye and other companies with her second husband E.F. Hutton. They created General Foods. When her third husband, Joseph Davies, served as ambassador to the Soviet Union, she purchased treasures of the Tsars, many of which are displayed in her former home, Hillwood Estate in Washington, D.C. She was an impressive negotiator and shrewd buyer. After reading the book, I wish to visit Hillwood. An enjoyable read about this fascinating American businesswoman.”

Elinda Kiss, Associate Clinical Professor, Finance

Klara and the Sun

By Kazuo Ishiguro

“Given the explosive growth of everything connected with AI over the past year, this novel is very timely reading. Although published over three years ago with a view from the perspective of the Artificial Friend—a kind of AI robot with very human-like features including emotions—the work is being made into a movie. The film is scheduled to come out later this year. Two Nobel Prize-winning novels by Ishiguro, “Never Let Me Go” and “The Remains of the Day”, were also adapted for the big screen.”

Michael Fu, Smith Chair of Management Science

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution

By Gregory Zuckerman

“This book describes how Jim Simons, a former academic mathematician without a background in finance, launched the "quant" revolution by pioneering algorithmic trading. Medallion, his largest fund, earned more than $100 billion in trading profits 30 years following its inception in 1988. It generated an unheard-of 66% annual return during that period.”

David Kass, Clinical Professor, Finance

Getting Along: How to Work With Anyone (Even Difficult People)

By Amy Gallo

“We've all had that one difficult coworker or manager who is always complaining, presenting us with unreasonable expectations or doing something else that keeps us up at night, long after they have forgotten the event that triggered our response. And so, we find ourselves diverting our productive and creative energies to overthinking. This pattern impacts our health and performance, and yet we can't stop. Amy Gallo's new book explores the many different faces of difficult people. It helps us understand their motivations and provides valuable recommendations for ways to deal with them and with ourselves. The advice helps you navigate those tricky relationships and build greater resilience in the process.”

Gosia Langa-Basit, Senior Lecturer, Management and Organization

Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things

By Adam Grant

“In his most recent book, Adam Grant argues that everyone possesses the hidden potential to achieve success. With the right opportunity and motivation to learn, anyone can build the skills to achieve greater things.”

Progyan Basu, Clinical Professor, Accounting and Information Assurance

An Economist Goes to the Game: How to Throw Away $580 Million and Other Surprising Insights from the Economics of Sports

By Paul Oyer

“This is a great book from 2022. It is about the intersection of sports and economics. It’s easy to read, but it has depth.”

Bruce Golden, The France-Merrick Chair in Management Science

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