Top Techies Share Their Summer Reading Lists

With summer here at last, offices are emptying out as workers head out for some well-deserved R&R.

Even vacation-shy tech managers are venturing out of their cubicles, and when they do, they're trading their manuals and e-mail logs for reading material of a different ilk.

Computerworld polled several IT professionals about their summer reading plans. If you're looking for inspiration, you might consider taking a page from their book, er, books.

Beach Clark

Vice president, information technology
Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta

Vacation plans: My girlfriend and I will go up to Wisconsin for a long weekend and play [golf at] Whistling Straits, where they're going to play the PGA Championship this year. And we may also take my three boys down to Mexico to one of those all-inclusives in August sometime.

Reading wish list: I think I've narrowed it down to The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. The other candidates were Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis and Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

I picked the Randy Pausch because he was a computer science guy. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, so the book's about living your life to the fullest. My wife passed away three years ago, so it's a topic on my mind. I first heard about it on NPR. It's supposed to be a really good book.

Text-delivery medium of choice: If I don't end up getting an iPad this summer, I will probably be reading on the iPhone. I've actually read a book on the Kindle app for iPhone, and it was great. The thing that surprised me was how good the readability is. I thought being that small it would be distracting, but it's not. It's lightweight and you can adjust the text to the size you want. It's just really great.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: I'd recommend something kind of business-related but not IT. I'd say, since you're on vacation, make sure it's entertaining. I'm a big believer that one of the best ways to be educated is to be entertained.

Larry Bonfante

CIO
United States Tennis Association, White Plains, N.Y.

President Society for Information Management, Westchester-Fairfield chapter

Vacation plans: Vacationing with my family at Cape Cod for a week at the end of June.

Reading wish list: For vacation, to distract me from the normal business mentality, I'll take Outsmart! How to Do What Your Competitors Can't by Jim Champy, because I'm a big fan of Champy's work; Deception Point by Dan Brown, who always writes page-turners; and Bad Moon Rising by Hank Bordowitz -- I am a classic rock aficionado and play in a rock band, so I'm interested in the real story of what happened with Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty.

When I get back home, I'll start Motivate Like a CEO by Suzanne Bates and Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships by Thom Singer.

Text-delivery medium of choice: I'm bringing old-fashioned books on vacation. Between my BlackBerry and my laptop, I look at a screen 10 hours a day. So when I read for pleasure, I like to break up the monotony and have a different experience.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: Well, the books I plan to read: Motivate Like a CEO because I think communication and motivation are critical, and Some Assembly Required because relationship management is perhaps the most critical skill required by any business executive.

Katrina Lane

Senior vice president and chief technology officer
Harrah's Entertainment Inc., Las Vegas

Vacation plans: I am very much looking forward to several long weekends, including one in San Diego and another in Phoenix to see various family members. I'm still in the process of planning trips to see friends.

Reading wish list: Based on a recommendation from a colleague, I plan to read The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team With Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. Also, Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) by Jim Butcher, because every brain needs some candy, and sci-fi/fantasy helps broaden the view of what one considers possible.

Text-delivery medium of choice: Paper for now. Most of my reading is done at the gym, and paperback books can better survive getting knocked off the elliptical. But I got a Kindle as a gift and plan to load it up soon so I can carry many books at once.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: I recently read The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande and thought it was a great example of extending an idea used in some industr

Anthony Murabito

CIO
Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Lexington, Mass.

Vacation plans: We have a week planned at Saratoga in August and a week at the beach in New Jersey in early September.

Reading wish list: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. While I think his tone is somewhat north of bombastic, many of his previous views have come into crystal reality. I, too, believe the IT organization of 2020 will be a small, loosely coupled team that works in a matrix with business technologists throughout their organization.

Also, The Spy by Clive Cussler. I read everything that Cussler and Harlan Coben write. I read Coben's Caught in two days, right after it was released.

Finally, my birthday gift from my son -- Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. I will leave that one without any comment.

Text-delivery medium of choice: I own an iPad and a Kindle, but I still tend to read the majority of my books the old-fashioned way. I still have a bookcase to fill.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: Adrian Slywotzky's Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition , because it teaches you to constantly assess where your value points are within an organization and how to relocate them when you lose them.

And my bible: Managing Information Strategically by James McGee. I learned much about the value and importance of information from this book. For a book written in 1993, it still rings loud and clear with my beliefs and principles on running an IT organization.

Jeffrey Pattison

CIO
INTTRA Inc., Parsippany, N.J.

Vacation plans: I'm doing a four-day trip to Bermuda and a weeklong cruise with the family up to Maine and Nova Scotia. One of the reasons I like to cruise is it gets me out of contact; it's one of the few ways to unplug. But it's getting a little harder to do that with cell towers on the ship.

Reading wish list: The Lost Cyclist by David Herlihy. I'm a big bike rider, and it's about one of the first guys who tried to bike around the world and disappeared. It's about pushing boundaries, the lack of infrastructure.

The second is The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick. I like history and finding out about strategy and what did and didn't work.

Third, and this is completely off the wall, it's actually a take on Anna Karenina. It's called Android Karenina -- they list Ben H. Winters and Leo Tolstoy as the authors. I was flipping through and thought it was an easy read. It's my plane ride read.

Also I'd like to read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It talks about what has to come together for someone to be really good at what they do.

Text-delivery medium of choice: The one that doesn't come on in Kindle format, The Lost Cyclist, I'll read as an old-fashioned book. The others I'm debating whether to read on my Kindle or an iPad.

Because I travel all the time, the weight and portability of the Kindle is a big benefit. And a Kindle lets you switch between books and magazines easily, so you don't have to carry a whole bunch of books with you.

I might steal my kids' iPad when they go away for the summer, though I haven't read a book on the iPad yet. I'm a little reluctant to do so because there's too much other stuff on the iPad and I'll get distracted.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: I think Gladwell's The Tipping Point is good and relevant. As we follow IT trends, we need to ask, what makes something go from being niche to becoming mainstream? When does it reach a tipping point?

Von Wright

Vice president, cloud and wholesale services
AT&T, Atlanta

Vacation plans: I'm taking the family on an Alaska cruise for a week, and I'm headed to Canada for my annual fishing trip with my father. There's no electricity, no telephone, nothing. They drop us off on a seaplane on a lake, and they come get us in a week.

Reading wish list: I have this horrible habit of starting books during the course of the year and finishing them on vacation. So I've accumulated Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, Pull by David Siegel and They Call Me Coach by John Wooden.

Text-delivery medium of choice: It's funny. I've been buying people Kindles, but I don't have one myself. I've ordered an iPad, but I read everything in hard copy because I annotate books so much. I read like they're textbooks. I take notes. I highlight the book. I put tabs in it so I can go back and see the stuff that blew me away.

So if someone comes out with an e-reader that allows me to swipe the lines, highlight quotes and turn them into something I can print out, maybe I'll convert. But I think I'll be with the hard copy for a while.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: Gary Kinder's Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea . It was given to me by one of my most talented new leaders back at Christmas time. It's a pretty big book and I thought, "I'll never read this," but I started it and it really grabbed me. It's a historical account of a shipwreck off the cost of North Carolina during the gold rush in the 1800s. It's a great story of leadership, innovation, and perseverance.

Ashok Rout

IT manager
Social Interest Solutions Inc., Sacramento, Calif.

Vacation plans: My son wants to go to San Diego and Los Angeles during his summer vacation, so we'll do that.

Reading wish list: Apart from my regular technology magazines and books, I am planning to read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I read portions of Pausch's lecture at Carnegie Mellon on the Web and was really inspired by some of his views on how life is a race against time and how one should manage it to make the best out of it.

Being part of company that implements solutions to give people who are less fortunate in life access to the benefits that they deserve, my job almost always is a race against time. So I strongly believe I can find a lot of relevance in this book and can learn a lot from it.

Text-delivery medium of choice: Although I use my iPhone to read various stuff, I was not able to get an electronic version of this book, so I'll read the paperback.

Book you'd most recommend to IT colleagues: Connect the Dots by Rashmi Bansal. This is a book that presents success stories of 20 entrepreneurs who had no formal MBA degrees and didn't hail from successful business families but defied all odds to become some of the most successful entrepreneurs. There is a lot to learn for IT people from this book, because technology would not have been where it stands today if innovators like the people profiled didn't dare to try to bridge the gap between vision and reality. This is what every person in IT needs to do.

More techie reads

The Society for Information Management's Regional Leadership Forum (RLF) puts out a list of required reading for its participants every year. The goal, says RLF director Bob Rouse, is to inspire more book reading.

"It's not that [members] aren't reading, it's that they're not reading very diversely, so we want to encourage that," he says. "We're trying to get people to become readers."

The RLF list includes 35 books, mostly nonfiction works focused on management, leadership and technology. Rouse notes, however, that there are some fiction pieces in there too. "We throw in some novels just to break up the pace, which is something that [most participants] aren't used to," he says.

Whether fiction or non, Rouse says the selected books are chosen to impart management and business lessons as well as encourage readers to take a wider view of their work and the world.

Here's RLF's current reading list:

  • Brain Rules by John Medina
  • Creating the Good Life by James O'Toole
  • Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Stephen R. Covey
  • The Extreme Future by James Canton
  • First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • Gandhi (the movie)
  • The Heart Aroused (CD) by David Whyte
  • Heart of Change by John P. Kotter
  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
  • Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson
  • Leadership Is an Art by Max DePree
  • The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem and Warren Bennis
  • Leadership Passages by David L. Dotlich, James L. Noel and Norman Walker
  • A Leader's Legacy by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Managing Transitions by William Bridges and Susan Bridges
  • Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  • Nibble Theory by Kaleel Jamison
  • Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon Mackenzie
  • Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  • Penguin State-of-the-World Atlas by Dan Smith
  • The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
  • The Prince by Machiavelli
  • Speed Lead by Kevan Hall
  • Synchronicity by Joseph Jarowski
  • The Theft of the Spirit by Carl A. Hammerschlag
  • True North by Bill George
  • Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
  • Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  • The Zen of Listening by Rebecca Z. Shafir

Mary K. Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

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