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Wharton Digital Press  |  August 13, 2019

The Wharton Digital Press Summer Reading List

Top Picks From Our Authors for Your Next Read

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One constant feature of a perfect summer vacation is a good book.

Wharton Digital Press asked its authors what they’re reading this summer to relax and recharge. Here are the books they recommend.


A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence book cover, Kartik Hosanagarpeter fader, author of customer centricity and coauthor of the customer centricity playbook

A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control, by Kartik Hosanagar

My Wharton colleague Kartik Hosanagar cuts through all the hype to bring a clear view of what’s going on with many emerging technologies and how we (as consumers, concerned citizens, and thought-leaders) should view the high-tech future.


Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Max Tegmark
Great read for anyone interested in learning about the history, current state, and future possibilities and potential of AI.

cassie solomon, coauthor of leading successful change

Business Planning for an Uncertain Future: Scenarios and Strategies, by Roy Amara and Andrew Lipinski
This is going back to the classic, published by the Institute for the Future, about scenario planning in uncertain environments—it is very timely today. Amara is the originator of Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

The Corporate Startup: How Established Companies Can Develop Successful Innovation Ecosystems, by Tendayi Viki, Dan Toma, and Esther Gons
This book describes the ways in which innovators in large companies can borrow from startup methods (like lean startup) and how large companies need to distinguish between the business models they use for their core businesses and the business models they use for their innovation projects. The chapter on “Innovation Accounting” is worth the book.

The Book of Why book coverpaul schoemaker, AUTHOR OF BRILLIANT MISTAKES

The Book of Why, by Judea Pearl

It is hardly a beach read in terms of content and weight at 400-plus pages. But it addresses a very crucial issue for AI, since those technologies are mostly based on correlational data analyses rather than causal ones. If you were to ask an autonomously driven car why it made a sudden evasive turn, it could not explain itself. The impressive data analyses it performs super-fast lack the broader world contexts needed to offer causal explanations that would satisfy the human mind. This will really matter if humans and machines want to develop deeper conversations.



Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight
Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, by Gordon S. Wood
Sapiens and Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari
The greatest lessons don’t come from business books. Use the summer to read something else to gain perspective on life—and, thereby, business.

Dr. Judith rodin, coauthor of the power of impact investing

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

A lengthy, complicated interweaving of the lives of compelling characters, all connected, initially unknowingly, by how they are impacted by the power of trees and the outdoors. It is full of strange twists and turns in a sweeping, epic narrative that is beautifully written.

The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish
Written like an historical whodunit, it follows an Oxford don as she and a graduate student slowly uncover more and more papers that document the period in the late 1600s in London when England readmitted Jews who had suffered in Spain and Portugal in the Inquisition and fled to Amsterdam. The scribe, whose papers they find, is an amazing character, and the lives the papers reveal–and the moral, religious and romantic issues they confront–make for an emotionally and intellectually gripping read.

Kevin Werbach, coauthor of For the Win and the gamification toolkit

These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore

At this contentious time in America, many of us struggle for optimism about the present and the future. So we must turn to the past. Historian Jill Lepore’s book is a reminder that the United States was always built on ideals and that its commitment to those ideals has always been imperfect.

Stewart friedman, author of baby bust

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

It is brimming with brilliant insights about how human relationships evolve, riveting as an action adventure rooted in evolutionary theory, and most of all, stirring as a call to action for how we must, in our fleeting moment as members of our planet’s ecology, try to save it, now!

brian dumaine, coauthor of go long

An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic, by Daniel Mendelsohn

It’s an amazing memoir about a college classics professor whose search for his father parallels the search by Telemachus for his father Odysseus. A truly touching and remarkable read.

kenneth shropshire, author of sport matters and coauthor oF the miseducation of the student athlete

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein
For those still trying to figure out if their kids should be single-focused on a sport and if you would be in the league if you had specialized, this book provided the answers. Originally, he was looking to title the book Roger vs. Tiger, after Roger Federer, who played every sport as a kid, vs. Tiger Woods, who played golf to the exclusion of all others. Discussion goes beyond the half-full/half-empty conclusion.

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