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. After all, “mental, social, and spiritual health are as important as physical health,” writes Lars Hartenstein, coleader of the McKinsey Health Institute—and music can tick all these boxes. While you’re jamming, lay back and get inspired with one of these enticing books recommended by global leaders in this year’s annual summer reading list, get sharp on business topics with related McKinsey articles and reports, and hear from your favorite wordsmiths in our Author Talks series. Happy reading and rocking.

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  1. “Faith” by Galantis, with Dolly Parton
  2. Part of the McKinsey Health Institute’s focus on comprehensive health is that it’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual. The latter is about more than religion—it’s about purpose and a search for meaning, and a sense of connection to something larger than yourself. This song encapsulates that.

    What to read:
    Book: From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks
    Article: The secret to great health? Escaping the healthcare matrix
    Interview: Author Talks: How to stay healthy no matter what

  3. “Naatu Naatu” by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava
  4. This is an upbeat, feel-good song, and it made history this year by becoming the first Indian-film song to win an Oscar—a huge feat! And fun fact: Our readers from India are our second-largest group of loyal readers, only behind North America.

    What to read:
    Book: Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners around the World by Tyler Cowan and Daniel Gross
    Article: How agtech is poised to transform India into a farming powerhouse
    Interview: Author Talks: Indra Nooyi on leadership, life, and crafting a better future

  5. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles
  6. This catchy song was released in 1979, but the lyrics “they took the credit for your second symphony, rewritten by machine on new technology” align perfectly with the present-day buzz on generative AI.

    What to read:
    Book: The Age of AI: And Our Human Future by Daniel Huttenlocher, Henry A. Kissinger, and Eric Schmidt
    Report: The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier
    Interview: Author Talks: In the ‘age of AI,’ what does it mean to be smart?

  7. “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay
  8. Coldplay is among the most environmentally friendly touring artists in the world, and it’s the first band in history to release an annual sustainability report following its “Music of the Spheres” World Tour in 2022. Coldplay is also great at making records worth playing on repeat—and this track is a perfect example of that.

    What to read:
    Book: The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future by Solitaire Townsend
    Report: Creating a more sustainable, inclusive, and growing future for all
    Interview: Author Talks: Don Norman designs a better world

  9. “Driver 8” by REM
  10. The lyrics “Driver 8, take a break, we've been on this shift too long” are reminiscent of all the conversations we’re having in business today about burnout (in a different context, of course). Also, it’s time to take a break in summer months.

    What to read:
    Book: Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind by Andy Dunn
    Article: Beyond burnout: What helps—and what doesn’t
    Interview: Author Talks: Why burnout is an epidemic—and what to do about it

  11. “Soulshine” by Allman Brothers Band
  12. The events of the past few years have taken a toll on the mental health and well-being of many, both at home and work. The lyrics “we all feel this way sometimes, gotta let your soul shine, shine till the break of day” inspire us to persevere when the going gets tough.

    What to read:
    Book: Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Inside Story of the Album That Defined the ’70s by Alan Paul
    Article: Age is just a number: How older adults view healthy aging
    Interview: Author Talks: The world’s longest study of adult development finds the key to happy living

  13. “The Cure” by Watkins Family Hour
  14. This is a great song for when you’re taking a walk or are otherwise outdoors, but the essential message—looking for a breakthrough while scared of change—is a relevant reminder of how to move forward. It connects well with resilience.

    What to read:
    Read: The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
    Article: What is resilience?
    Interview: Author Talks: Embracing power and possibility in the aftermath of loss

  15. “Look Up Child” by Lauren Daigle
  16. This song is a peppy lifter when “all you feel is doubt” or “when you can’t figure it out”—who doesn’t need such encouragement from time to time?

    What to read:
    Book: Girls on the Brink: Helping Our Daughters Thrive in an Era of Increased Anxiety, Depression, and Social Media by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
    Article: Gen Z mental health: The impact of tech and social media
    Interview: Author Talks: Make anxiety your ally

  17. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
  18. When we worry about everything all the time, we can lose our focus. Bob Marley reminds us that it’s important to take a breather—and there’s no better time to unwind than in the summer months.

    What to read:
    Book: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
    Article: Global flows: The ties that bind in an interconnected world
    Interview: Author Talks: How to learn and lead calmly through volatile times

  19. “La mer” by Charles Trenet
  20. La Mer is a dreamy homage to the beauty of the natural world. In contrast to the English-language Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin, which shares the same melody but is about the person the singer loves, the original French lyrics are a love note to the sea. The final line literally translates as, “The sea cradled my heart for life.” Who wouldn’t want to reciprocate and protect something so nurturing?

    What to read:
    Book: Winter Swimming: The Nordic Way Towards a Healthier and Happier Life by Dr Susanna Søberg
    Article: Water: A human and business priority
    Interview: Author Talks: An epic legal battle for clean water in Appalachia

    What’s your book-and-song combo? Reach out to us at newideas@mckinsey.com to let us know what you’re listening to and reading this summer.