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Home Blog Jeff's Summer Book List

Jeff's Summer Book List

By Jeff Leahy, Head of School 08/30/2018
My summer reading list: Perhaps due to the pervasive lists of “beach reads” that I encountered over the last few months, there is a broader assortment of literature that I am recommending this time around. I still had the pleasure of reading some excellent non-fiction books that generally focus on culture and community. Surprisingly, I did not read a book this summer that I would not recommend.

Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove. This is a fun read that has gained international fame. It was passed on to me, and subsequently, I have recommended it to others. Without giving too much of the plot away, after losing his wife, Ove slowly gains new relationships and connections which provide for him a sense of meaning and purpose in his life.

Daniel Silva’s The Black Widow. Part of a popular series of spy thrillers. If you are a fan of espionage drama, then this will not disappoint. This is the 16th in the series, so there is plenty of options from which to choose.

Ken Follett’s Key to Rebecca. I remember reading Follett’s Eye of the Needle one summer when I was a teenager (I think my older brother had passed it along to me). Key to Rebecca is another espionage thriller, and its looseness with historical facts are forgivable. The story is set in a British controlled Cairo that is preparing for the arrival of Rommel’s advancing army.

The Orphan Master’s Son. This Pulitzer Prize winner is by far one of my favorite reads over the last few months. Adam Johnson’s tale of a young man navigating his way through North Korea is superbly told. As one reviewer states, “Johnson’s book is an audacious act of imagination: an intimate narrative about one of the most closed nations on Earth.” While written in 2012, it is perhaps because of our renewed interest in North Korea in recent months that made this seem so immediately relevant and interesting. I left this book with one word on my mind, “Wow!”

Charles H. Vogl’s The Art of Community. This was passed along to me by a fellow administrator at CRMS. In a relatively small, close-knit learning community, a book that takes you through the seven principles for belonging is going to be of high value, and this book did not disappoint. You can find some of his lectures on “YouTube,” if interested.

Destiny of the Republic, A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. You will leave Candice Millard’s book with an incredible sense of a presidency that just was not to be. President Garfield is a civil war hero, intellectual scholar, university president (at 26 years of age), and an unwilling nominee for President of the United States. The fact that his death was potentially avoidable makes his assassination all the more tragic.

Dan Coyle’s The Culture Code. The subtitle of this book says it all, “The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.” Coyle unpacks and illustrates what groups with strong cultures do differently than less successful organizations and teams. Everyone who I know that has read it has found it helpful, and it is the type of book that seems to keep on being passed around after one person is finished. He is also the author of The Talent Code, so if you like this book, then I would recommend picking this book up next – its subtitle, “Greatness isn’t Born. It's Grown. Here’s How” is equally revealing.

Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is so thin it is almost weightless when you hold it in your hands, but its portrayal of who survives and who perishes the WWII concentration camps is as deep and meaningful now as it was when he first wrote it. Frankl returns a few times to Nietzche’s, “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How” to explain the importance of having a purpose in life. Frankl sees in today the challenge of living in a “tensionless” society where an enormous increase in leisure hours has produced boredom. I loved his urging that we “Live as if you were living already for a second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.”

Luis Alberto Urrea’s House of Broken Angels. We had the pleasure of hearing the author speak on campus this past spring, and you could not help but leave that meeting wanting to pick this novel up if you hadn’t done so already. This story of an aging patriarch and his connection to a wide variety of family members was required reading for our sophomores and juniors. Urrea is an excellent storyteller and if you have liked some of his other work, then you will not be disappointed with this one.


Podcasts I have been listening to podcasts have replaced audiobooks for me when I travel and would like something to listen to other than music. Here are three suggestions – all of which I would highly recommend.

Malcolm Gladwell has added two more seasons to his Revisionist History podcast. These continue to be a great listen, but there is something about the first season that makes it a personal favorite.

The Tim Ferris Show – I am giving Tim Ferris a lot more of my attention in recent months after reading his book Tools of Titans. I don’t always love his interviews, and these podcasts are on the longer side (approximately 1 hour each), but the guests he brings in are often interesting and entertaining.

NPR’s The Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam– a very engaging listen if you are interested in hearing about patterns of human behavior that are based on recent science.
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Home Blog Jeff's Summer Book List

Jeff's Summer Book List

By Jeff Leahy, Head of School 08/30/2018
My summer reading list: Perhaps due to the pervasive lists of “beach reads” that I encountered over the last few months, there is a broader assortment of literature that I am recommending this time around. I still had the pleasure of reading some excellent non-fiction books that generally focus on culture and community. Surprisingly, I did not read a book this summer that I would not recommend.

Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove. This is a fun read that has gained international fame. It was passed on to me, and subsequently, I have recommended it to others. Without giving too much of the plot away, after losing his wife, Ove slowly gains new relationships and connections which provide for him a sense of meaning and purpose in his life.

Daniel Silva’s The Black Widow. Part of a popular series of spy thrillers. If you are a fan of espionage drama, then this will not disappoint. This is the 16th in the series, so there is plenty of options from which to choose.

Ken Follett’s Key to Rebecca. I remember reading Follett’s Eye of the Needle one summer when I was a teenager (I think my older brother had passed it along to me). Key to Rebecca is another espionage thriller, and its looseness with historical facts are forgivable. The story is set in a British controlled Cairo that is preparing for the arrival of Rommel’s advancing army.

The Orphan Master’s Son. This Pulitzer Prize winner is by far one of my favorite reads over the last few months. Adam Johnson’s tale of a young man navigating his way through North Korea is superbly told. As one reviewer states, “Johnson’s book is an audacious act of imagination: an intimate narrative about one of the most closed nations on Earth.” While written in 2012, it is perhaps because of our renewed interest in North Korea in recent months that made this seem so immediately relevant and interesting. I left this book with one word on my mind, “Wow!”

Charles H. Vogl’s The Art of Community. This was passed along to me by a fellow administrator at CRMS. In a relatively small, close-knit learning community, a book that takes you through the seven principles for belonging is going to be of high value, and this book did not disappoint. You can find some of his lectures on “YouTube,” if interested.

Destiny of the Republic, A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. You will leave Candice Millard’s book with an incredible sense of a presidency that just was not to be. President Garfield is a civil war hero, intellectual scholar, university president (at 26 years of age), and an unwilling nominee for President of the United States. The fact that his death was potentially avoidable makes his assassination all the more tragic.

Dan Coyle’s The Culture Code. The subtitle of this book says it all, “The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.” Coyle unpacks and illustrates what groups with strong cultures do differently than less successful organizations and teams. Everyone who I know that has read it has found it helpful, and it is the type of book that seems to keep on being passed around after one person is finished. He is also the author of The Talent Code, so if you like this book, then I would recommend picking this book up next – its subtitle, “Greatness isn’t Born. It's Grown. Here’s How” is equally revealing.

Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is so thin it is almost weightless when you hold it in your hands, but its portrayal of who survives and who perishes the WWII concentration camps is as deep and meaningful now as it was when he first wrote it. Frankl returns a few times to Nietzche’s, “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How” to explain the importance of having a purpose in life. Frankl sees in today the challenge of living in a “tensionless” society where an enormous increase in leisure hours has produced boredom. I loved his urging that we “Live as if you were living already for a second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.”

Luis Alberto Urrea’s House of Broken Angels. We had the pleasure of hearing the author speak on campus this past spring, and you could not help but leave that meeting wanting to pick this novel up if you hadn’t done so already. This story of an aging patriarch and his connection to a wide variety of family members was required reading for our sophomores and juniors. Urrea is an excellent storyteller and if you have liked some of his other work, then you will not be disappointed with this one.


Podcasts I have been listening to podcasts have replaced audiobooks for me when I travel and would like something to listen to other than music. Here are three suggestions – all of which I would highly recommend.

Malcolm Gladwell has added two more seasons to his Revisionist History podcast. These continue to be a great listen, but there is something about the first season that makes it a personal favorite.

The Tim Ferris Show – I am giving Tim Ferris a lot more of my attention in recent months after reading his book Tools of Titans. I don’t always love his interviews, and these podcasts are on the longer side (approximately 1 hour each), but the guests he brings in are often interesting and entertaining.

NPR’s The Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam– a very engaging listen if you are interested in hearing about patterns of human behavior that are based on recent science.
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