22 Books That'll Keep You Learning This Summer

Smith researchers recommend new and classic books that will get your brain buzzing
Collage of book covers.

Pandemic or not, we all need to take time off to enjoy summer. And what’s better on a hot day than to get lost in a good book. If you haven’t found your fav summer read yet, don’t fret. We’ve got 22 great books right here (mostly fact but fiction too) as recommended by Smith researchers. So start scrolling and find out why our professors love these books. We’re sure you’ll find something to help fill those lazy, hazy days. 


  • The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning, by Dan P. McAdams
    Suggested by: Julian Barling, professor and Borden Chair of Leadership

    “Politicians, writers and so-called experts have commented with considerable certainty on the mental state of President Donald J. Trump. But what is the scientific evidence? Read no further than renowned psychologist and gifted storyteller Dan P. McAdams’ absorbing new book that is rooted in personality theory. The answers will surprise you.”

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
    Suggested by: Bertrand Malsch, associate professor and PricewaterhouseCoopers/Tom O'Neill Fellow of Accounting

    “It is an excellent autobiography that addresses many current issues in the United States. I strongly recommend it for summer reading.”

  • All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, by Marshall Berman
    Suggested by: Jay Handelman, associate professor and associate dean (faculty)

    “This book is certainly not a light, fluffy summer read but one that has shaped a lot of how I see things as a researcher. To me, it provides fascinating insights into the historical evolution that shaped our modern societal structures.”

  • My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams
    Suggested by: Laura Rees, assistant professor

    “Wow! What a writer, thinker and change agent for the United States. Ginsburg is one of my idols. She’s also a simply fantastic writer; there is an essay in the book that she wrote as a teenager that would put anything I have ever written to shame. If we could all do only a fraction of what she has done to improve the justice system in the U.S., we would be able to make the world a better place.”

  • Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool, by Emily Oster
    Suggested by: Nicole Robitaille, assistant professor

    “I’m wrapping up maternity leave right now and loving Cribsheet. It’s a data-driven guide to parenting and would be a great read for anyone who is expecting or at home with little kids. I love reading books that are evidence-based in their prescriptions.”

  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson
    Suggested by: Pamela Murphy, associate professor and E. Marie Shantz Fellow of Accounting

    “I’m just starting this book about Winston Churchill during the blitz. Larson does a great deal of research before he writes each book, and he’s able to recreate history in a very readable way. Some refer to his work as ‘non-fiction that reads like fiction.’ ”

  • The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, by Desmond Cole
    Suggested by: Kate Rowbotham, assistant professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Organizational Behaviour

    “A powerful look at the systemic racism in Canada, which is something Canadians seem all too willing to ignore. Taking a look at 2017, Cole provides a month-by-month account of the injustices faced by black and indigenous peoples in all facets of life. For people who are involved in social justice movements in Canada, the stories featured by Cole should be familiar. Their compilation in one book reminds us of how much work needs to be done to dismantle the systems that continue to foster inequality.”

  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder
    Suggested by: Lynnette Purda, professor and RBC Fellow of Finance

    “This reads like a John le Carré spy novel but is set in the context of a hedge fund investor in Russia shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s a true story about corruption with a tragic turn. The back cover opens with the phrase ‘This is a story about an accidental activist.’ That resonates with me now with the death of George Floyd. It’s a good challenge for us to think of whether, or how, we too could (should?) become accidental activists.”

  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World, by Stephen Brusatte
    Suggested by: Paul Calluzzo, assistant professor and Toller Family Fellow of Finance

    “The choice is somewhat motivated by my three-year-old son’s obsession with dinosaurs and my desire to be a better source of information for him. It also fits in with my outside interest in harder sciences and, more specifically, evolution. There is real value in looking at how researchers from other disciplines think about and solve problems.” 

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined 
    Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, both by Steven Pinker
    Suggested by: David Detomasi, associate professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of International Business

    Better Angels describes and documents why violence in the world has declined. Enlightenment Now, which is more recent, tracks overall human progress and gives people a sense of hope for the future. Both seem particularly pertinent right now, and are great reads as well.”

  • Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
    Suggested by: Jana Raver, associate professor and E. Marie Shantz Professor of Organizational Behaviour

    “A book that I’ve really wanted to re-read is Man's Search for Meaning. Many people would benefit from reading Frankl’s transformative experience of being imprisoned in a concentration camp yet coming out with lessons for positivity and finding meaning in life. When it comes to understanding the psychological and social experience of enduring adversity, yet still finding ways to remain resilient, there is no better classic.”

  • Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond
    Suggested by: Steven Salterio, professor and Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Accounting and Auditing

    “Diamond uses an individual/firm-level crisis management perspective as a lens to understand how country-level crises affect the relative ability of nations to emerge from challenges. His examples include Finland’s war with Russia, Indonesia’s emergence from dictatorship, and Australia’s realization that it is an Asia-Pacific nation. What attracted me to this book is that it was written before our current COVID/Floyd crises, but applies its lessons to the contemporary U.S. It should be especially insightful given that it was written before the current storm, but with the idea in mind that a storm was coming.”

  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
    Suggested by: Anthony Goerzen, professor and Donald R. Sobey Professor of International Business

    “This follows eight financially struggling families and highlights the issues of extreme poverty, affordable housing and economic exploitation.”

  • American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republicby Victoria Johnson
    The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret Worldby Peter Wohlleben
    Suggested by: Tina Dacin, professor and Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Strategy & Organizational Behaviour

    I loved American Eden. It’s a biography of David Hosack, who was super-motivated and persistent, a brilliant surgeon and botanist. It has intrigue and politics. Hosack had an amazing interest in plants, and it was fascinating to read how he was able to take that and create the country’s first botanical garden. I’m really intrigued by biomimicry and the environment, so that drove my interest in The Hidden Life of Trees.” 

  • Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries, by Safi R. Bahcall 
    Suggested by: Anton Ovchinnikov, associate professor and Distinguished Professor of Management Analytics

    “An amazingly refreshing take on innovation. It’s especially relevant for artificial intelligence, data and analytics-driven innovations that are inherently uncertain and have to be managed accordingly.”


  • The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
    Suggested by: Anthony Goerzen, professor and Donald R. Sobey Professor of International Business

    “This book is set around the time of the Vietnam War and is about a North Vietnamese mole embedded in the South Vietnamese community. It’s a very well-written story about dual identities and the immigrant experience against the backdrop of international politics.”

  • The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
    Suggested by: Laura Rees, assistant professor

    “This is an extremely short read that should be read at multiple levels. Superficially, it is a light-hearted story about Winnie the Pooh and his friends. At a more fundamental level, this book will make you think deeply about your life, its meaning and who you want to become as a person. This book played a pivotal role in my deciding to join academia. I keep a stack in my office to give to students whom I think will also gain something from it.”

  • 1984, by George Orwell
    Suggested by: Anton Ovchinnikov, associate professor and Distinguished Professor of Management Analytics

    “I finished this in February, before the pandemic, but it’s particularly interesting and timely now.”

  • The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck
    Suggested by: Pavlo Kalyta, assistant professor

    “This is a book about our world’s obsession with money and societal pressures to accumulate wealth—a story of a good ordinary man torn apart by these pressures. Every person in the business world faces this question sooner or later: How far would you go to make an extra penny (or million)?”

  • Shōgun, by James Clavell
    Suggested by: Henry Schneider, associate professor and Commerce '64 Fellow of Business Economics

    “I read this book after my trip to Japan in December. It's a work of historical fiction that I couldn't put down. At the same time, I learned about Japanese history and culture. My favourite recent book.”

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