McKinsey Global Publishing’s top picks

Members of McKinsey Global Publishing share what’s on their bookshelves this summer.

Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life
Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman
Penguin Random House, May 2022

This book follows four women reading philosophy—and carousing—at Oxford in the mid-1940s. The author argues that these women went on to change the course of philosophy in the United Kingdom. Why? According to one of the women, because “there were fewer men about then.”

Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World
Victoria Finlay
Simon & Schuster, June 2022

Like many other coveted products, fabrics have a supply chain, a cultural history, and a true cost. Cotton’s globe-spanning backstory, for one, is informed by colonialism, slavery, and industrialism. But this book isn’t just a polemic. It’s also a celebration of beauty, art, and innovation—and a call to do better.

Born to Be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentleman Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune
Keith Thomson
Hachette Book Group, May 2022 

This new book tells a real-life Pirates of the Caribbean yarn—albeit without the fighting skeletons—drawn from research as well as seven journals of actual buccaneers. It’s perfect for long, lazy, mercifully scurvy-free afternoons.

The Heroine with 1001 Faces
Maria Tatar
W. W. Norton & Company, September 2021 

Does the “hero’s journey” obscure women’s historical contributions? And are the voiceless really silent? This vital nonfiction work offers a mind-bending survey of folklore and feminine resistance—from Arachne to #MeToo—for a lens on heroines’ pursuit of transformative and compassionate justice.

His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice
Toluse Olorunnipa and Robert Samuels
Penguin Random House, May 2022 

In 2020, Floyd’s murder sparked a summer of protests. This book is on my list in hopes of better understanding the man who became a flashpoint: Who was he, and how did systemic racism—in housing, education, healthcare, policing, and more—shape his life and the US writ at large?

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
Oliver Burkeman
Macmillan, August 2021 

What if the key to a fulfilling, meaningfully productive life is accepting our limits? Burkeman writes one of my favorite newsletters, The Imperfectionist, and his thoughts on making peace with “radical finitude” have helped me clarify just what to hold on to and let go of. This insightful book avoids life and productivity hacks and is instead a thought-provoking critique of contemporary productivity culture. A “self-help” book for those tired of self-help books.

How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth
The Moth et al.
Penguin Random House, April 2022 

If there’s one thing I have an endless appetite for, it’s reading about the craft of storytelling—whether for the page, the stage, audio, or video. This breakdown comes from the directors of the radio show and podcast The Moth and follows their well-structured process for pulling good stories out of people. That’s just what I need. This seems like a must-read for anyone in the business of storytelling—and, technically, that’s everyone.

Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World
Cade Metz
Penguin Random House, March 2021

It’s time for me to start delving into a deeper understanding of artificial intelligence, particularly how it started to be used by some of the tech giants to understand human thinking. This book sounds like a nice, human way to ease into the subject.

Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood
Dawn Turner
Simon & Schuster, June 2022 

I’m excited for this read, which examines the stories of specific women to understand Chicago’s city planning, urban teens, White privilege, and housing.

Mercy Street
Jennifer Haigh
HarperCollins Publishers, February 2022 

I’m reading this book now, and it’s amazing. While it’s fiction, it’s hard to find a more relevant book at this point in time in examining what pregnancy and abortion access means.

The Triumph of Nancy Reagan
Karen Tumulty
Simon & Schuster, April 2021 

Everyone teased me about reading this book, but it was fascinating. It doesn’t make excuses for anything she did, but it lends incredible context to understanding the Reagan presidency and the ’80s. It’s also well written and engaging, with enough juicy tidbits to make you want to keep turning the page.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
Penguin Random House, September 2016 

This book was helpful during my own career exploration some years back. Instead of simply thinking about what you want to do, the authors recommend that you design it, then test it out, and see if that’s what you really want to do—or to keep iterating. The book’s lessons are invaluable, especially now during the Great Attrition.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963; Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963–1965; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965–1968
Taylor Branch
Simon & Schuster, November 1989, January 1999, January 2007 

These books are part of the author’s King Era trilogy that offers an in-depth, narrative look into the life and era of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The author did extensive research and countless interviews with those close to King, thereby making this trilogy and its lessons timeless.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
Malcolm Gladwell
Hachette Book Group, October 2013 

This book reevaluates what it means to be at a disadvantage, if it’s really a disadvantage at all, and how “winning” and “losing” aren’t always what they seem to be; not every Goliath is victorious all the time. Gladwell makes multiple great cases for the underdog in a revisionist view of nine personal stories beginning with the David and Goliath tale itself. I began the read hoping to get a glimpse into Gladwell’s work, as I’ve heard great things about his writing; what I found were brand-new ways of staring down problems I’d seen all my life. Both blatantly obvious and deeply profound (as the best sociology is), David and Goliath challenges conventions of ability, intellect, hardship, and how we measure ourselves against the next giant we meet. I recommend this book to anyone looking for something refreshing.

Fellowship Point
Alice Elliott Dark
Simon & Schuster, July 2022 

As a huge fan of Dark’s writing, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book. At the heart of this multilayered narrative, set in coastal Maine, is the lifelong friendship between two very different women. A generational saga exploring the complexities of love, loss, land, and loyalty, this novel promises to be a satisfying summer read. I’m a few chapters in and already captivated by these characters and the world Dark has created.

McKinsey on Books

Explore this month’s best-selling business books prepared exclusively for McKinsey Publishing by Circana and a collection of books by McKinsey authors on the management issues that matter, from leadership and talent to digital transformation, corporate finance, and more.

Author Talks

Dive into insightful conversations with authors on crucial management topics including leading through a crisis, unleashing innovation, coping with organizational culture shifts, and more.

10 songs (and 30 reads) to kick off your summer break

– Looking for ways to make your escape this summer without disconnecting from the issues that matter? We’ve got you covered. Put on your nifty noise-cancelling headphones and unwind with this music playlist, curated by the editors of McKinsey Global Publishing.

Acknowledgments

It takes a village to curate amazing lists from this rather busy group of leaders from all over the world. We would like to thank Kathy Bloomgarden, Robert Christie, Rimjhim Dey, Aria Finger, Steve John, Adrian Monck, Jayne Rosefield, Michelle O Sing, and Vinay Sridhar for their help.

Within McKinsey Global Publishing, special thanks to Mike Borruso, Elana Brown, Vanessa Burke, Sean Conrad, Pablo Corzo, Zachary Enco, Drew Holzfeind, Eleni Kostopoulos, Molly Liebergall, LaShon Malone, Philip Mathew, Pamela Norton, Kanika Punwani, Diane Rice, Shirley Shum, Amanda Soto, Sarah Thuerk, and Nathan Wilson for making this list come alive.

We hope you have enjoyed our annual reading list. Please let us know your feedback and how we could have made it even more enjoyable and useful for you. Drop us a note at newideas@mckinsey.com.