McKinsey Global Publishing’s top 25 picks

A Woman Like Her: The Story Behind the Honor Killing of a Social Media Star by Sanam Maher

I just finished this book over the weekend and I can’t stop thinking about it—it speaks to very global, human issues. It’s about Qandeel Baloch, murdered by her brother in an honor killing in 2016. She was one of Pakistan’s first social-media stars, regularly challenging taboos about self-expression and virality.

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

This is one of the most profound books I’ve read.

Leave the World Behind: A Novel by Rumaan Alam

It’s a novel about the end of the world (maybe!) and how individuals deal with an event completely beyond their control.

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong

In the United States, one in five people lives with a disability; these first-person essays let some of them tell their stories in their own words. Understanding their experiences better is critical to facilitating greater accessibility and inclusion—crucial for empathetic leadership.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Are humans innately selfish? Some make that argument; I look forward to a shot of optimism from Bregman’s book, focusing on the power of kindness and cooperation throughout human history.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders

I became a Saunders fan years ago when I read the short story “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” in some anthology in the ’90s. Not only is Saunders an inventively funny writer, but he is also a professor who teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. In this book, he has on his professor hat—analyzing what works about stories from four great Russian writers (Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Turgenev). I’ve gone through the first Chekhov story, and the focus is on the subtle details that keep a reader moving through a story to the end. In other words: “How do you engage your audience?”

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis

For a couple of years now, I’ve been reading my way through American history.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber

When it came out a few years ago to rave reviews, I remember making a mental bookmark to revisit this when my kids were older. Now that my kids are in elementary school, I’m starting to think about giving them an allowance and, well, making sure they don’t get spoiled!

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

This book was published last year and is ostensibly a novel about the collapse and aftereffects of an international Ponzi scheme (and was “inspired” by Bernie Madoff). But really, it’s a beautiful and haunting rumination on memory, truth, and guilt.

A Children’s Bible: A Novel by Lydia Millet

The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran

The Perfume Thief: A Novel by Timothy Schaffert

Set in Paris on the eve of World War II, this novel tells the story of a queer American expat (and notorious thief to boot) who is drawn out of retirement and into one last scam.

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb

Beavers formed the ecology of the American West, and they are fascinating little critters as well.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian, a historical-fiction novel, tells the story of Belle da Costa Green, whom J. P. Morgan hired to curate his collection of rare materials. Green rose to prominence in that role, working to establish the collection housed at the Pierpont Morgan Library while also building a name for herself. However, there was a lot more to Green than anyone could have imagined—a secret identity. The book interests me because it is essentially a tale of courage and empowerment. I find that very inspiring.

Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg

The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

The Cheap-Eaters by Thomas Bernhard

Pessoa: A Biography by Richard Zenith

Twilight Man: Love and Ruin in the Shadows of Hollywood and the Clark Empire by Liz Brown, former McKinsey Global Publishing senior copy editor

McKinsey on Books

Explore this month’s best-selling business books, prepared exclusively for McKinsey Publishing by NPD, and a collection of books by McKinsey authors on the management issues that matter.

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.


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 Kris Coratti, Chantal De Soto, Rimjhim Dey, Melanie Newman, Joellen Perry, and Jayne Rosefield for their help.

Within McKinsey Global Publishing, Eleni Kostopoulos led the effort to make this year’s list come alive, with collaboration and support from Mike Borruso, Nancy Cohn, Victor Cuevas, Torea Frey, Mary Halpin, Drew Holzfeind, Kathleen O'Leary, LaShon Malone, Philip Mathew, Janet Michaud, Kanika Punwani, Sarah Thuerk, Duane Tomaszewski, Petra Vincent, and Nathan Wilson.