Every summer, McKinsey & Co. interviews a number of CEOs of global corporations to ask what they are reading. This summer, 15 of the world’s most powerful business and military leaders named a total of 51 books, ranging over history, politics, memoir, business, technology and fiction.

Here are a few of their suggestions:

Leading Change—John P. Kotter
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done—Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Pachinko—Min Jin Lee
The Sympathizer—Viet Thanh Nguyen
Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal—Eugene Soltes
Life After Life—Kate Atkinson
Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology—Jim Al-Khalili & Johnjoe McFadden
Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality—Jaron Lanier
Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s Decline from Obama to Trump and Beyond—Gideon Rachman

These books can also be ordered from amazon. Further suggestions are found on the McKinsey website.

Athena Advises

If the CEO of McKinsey, the CEO of JP Morgan, the Founder of Dropbox and the Chief of Staff of the British Army make time to read–it’s time for you to pick up a book!

You might begin with The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and named on over 20 lists of Best Books of the Year. The amazon editorial review claims: “Political, historical, romantic and comic, The Sympathizer is a rich and hugely gratifying story that captures the complexity of the war and what it means to be of two minds.”

Some of you may choose it for the content, if your history class will cover the war in Vietnam. Some of you may choose it for its example of considering a complex question from two sides. Fiction is particular adept at presenting us with conflicting perspectives, and so training us in emotionally nuanced reasoning. Critical reasoning, together with mathematical reasoning, is perhaps the most important skill required for success in the International Baccalaureate, standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT–and life.

Pardon me, while I return to my reading!


Dr. Marlena Corcoran
Founder and CEO