RECon Reads

Published on May 19, 2016 in Leadership & Development
Emily Kendall
Emily Kendall
Director of Marketing and Communications

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It’s ICSC RECon Season, and those of us in the retail industry are getting ready to descend on fabulous Las Vegas for our biggest convention. For most attendees that involves logging some flight time, and for your in-flight entertainment, I’d like to recommend some of my favorite books.
I have to admit my original plan was to discuss favorite business books. There are some fantastic business books out there, and a few made it on my list below. However, I took a step back and decided to expand my list to include some of my favorite stories about people.  These are stories of triumph, failure, tragedy and comedy – some featuring underdogs and renegades. The common theme of this list is exploring what makes us, as human beings, tick.
1.Frank: The Voice, by James Kaplan.  We’re headed to Vegas, and I love Frank Sinatra, so it’s only appropriate this is on the list. James Kaplan tells the story of Frank’s early career, his stumbles along the way and his return to glory with his 1960 Oscar win for “From Here to Eternity.” I flew through this book on my Kindle, captivated the entire way, and only realized how long it really was when I bought the hard copy for a fellow Sinatra lover.
2.Boomerang, by Michael Lewis. Michael Lewis takes us backpacking through the impact of cheap credit on Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and the U.S. before and after the recession. It offers a great human and cultural perspective on the financial crisis, a trip you can take without having to stay at any hostels.
3.The Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine, by George M. Taber. Before there was Silicon Valley, there was Napa Valley with a merry band of rogue winemakers that took on the Old World establishment and put California wine on the map. We all love a good underdog story and anything that cheers on Team USA. Plus, you’ll get some great wine picks to impress the boss and your clients at all of your Vegas dinners next week.
4.The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. As a testament to how well-wrought the characters are in this piece, I felt like I was leaving my friends behind at college when I finished this book – I didn’t want to let them go. This is a book about baseball and the human condition, to paraphrase from the New York Times book review. The book centers around short-stop phenomenon, Henry Skrimshander, whose college career puts him on track to be one of the greatest in the game - until he chokes. It’s a story of how we’re shaped by both the pressures we face and the relationships we build.
5.Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve read every book Malcolm Gladwell has published, each fascinating in their own right, but Blink is my favorite. Gladwell explores how our snap judgements, blink-of-an-eye decisions and impulses impact our actions, and how these seemingly simple every day occurrences can have greater consequences than we intend or imagine.
6.The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. While the title of the book sums it up well, this is worth a read. The fall of Enron impacted us all in some way. This book details the wild ride up and down while getting into the heads of the people at the helm. N.B. – read Blink first before reading this because it will provide additional insight about the power of perception and how that impacted Enron.
7.The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis. No hard feelings if you watch the movie on the plane, but you will miss out on the fascinating details and backgrounds of the main characters in this story and what really makes them tick. Another Vegas appropriate tale - going up against the house and winning.  Much like Enron, the Great Recession and the events leading up to it have shaped us all, and this book offers a unique, human perspective on how and why it happened.
We are all so overloaded with data points, market analysis, business strategies, jargon and theories that it is easy to lose sight of why we are in business in the first place – to solve problems for and serve people – especially in the retail industry. So pick up one of these books and reconnect to that idea. After all, the most important business we’re in is the business of being human.

Author: Emily Kendall
Emily Kendall
Emily Kendall
Director of Marketing and Communications
TAGS: Books