Considering eyewear company Warby Parker includes several book recommendations on their Tumblr account, there’s no doubt they are a literary bunch. Even the name Warby Parker comes from two characters in a Jack Kerouac novel. So it’s no surprise they eagerly weighed in when we asked for their top summer reads for personal and professional development.
Related: 25 Books for Success
When a book cover has the title written upside down, you know you’re about to embark on a thought-provoking journey. This book envisions the world by projecting how people in the future will perceive the past. Author Chuck Klosterman asks, “How certain are we about our understanding of time? Is it possible that the greatest artist of our era is currently unknown (or—weirder still—widely known, but entirely disrespected)? Is it possible that we ‘overrate’ democracy? And perhaps most disturbing, is it possible that we’ve reached the end of knowledge?”
Through gallivanting among objective and subjective problems, humor and analysis and sprinkled with interviews of creative thinkers like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Amanda Petrusich and Nick Bostrom, he writes about how we currently live as we ponder the present becoming the past.
“Reading Chuck Klosterman is like walking into a party and instantly finding the best conversationalist in the room. His new book asks questions that subtly reframe the way a reader will look at the world.”
—Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO
2. I Am Malala
In this best-selling memoir by the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai tells her story about knowing from a very young age that she would change the world.
When she was 10 years old, the Taliban seized control of her region in Pakistan and banned girls from attending school. After Yousafzai was shot on a bus riding home from school in October 2012, she not only survived, she spoke out to share her powerful, inspirational story about hope, truth, miracles and changing the world despite your age.
“I’m looking forward to reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. When I worked as director of VisionSpring, I spent a great deal of time working with female entrepreneurs in developing countries, and I’ve seen firsthand the power of educating girls. Malala’s story is riveting and I’m excited to do a deep dive with her first book.”
—Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO
3. Zero K
It might seem paradoxical for a novel to be a personal development book, but in this book by Don DeLillo, the main character’s health is failing and he grapples with entering another dimension and new world.
Various profound questions penetrate the novel, such as staying present to living and experiencing life. They ring similar to stories straight from the headlines, such as living in a world of terrorism, floods, fires, famine and plague. DeLillo juxtaposes rhetorical questions and issues with humanity, life and love.
“Don DeLillo is the best at writing coolly paranoid quasi-suspense tales that somehow sum up the modern condition while also being extremely entertaining. I like the idea of reading Don DeLillo with a piña colada by the pool—it’s so wrong, and yet so right.”
—Molly Young, writer
This New York Times best-seller is by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty—yes, that Phil Jackson, former head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, the winningest coach in the history of professional sports. As you can imagine, he has a lot of lessons and anecdotes to share based on values leading teams instead of allowing individual egos to take center stage.
The North Dakota native exemplifies the American dream—he reinvented himself and explored psychology, Native American philosophy and Zen meditation. His leadership approach is based on freedom, authenticity and selfless teamwork. In the book, Jackson describes how he learned the secrets of mindfulness and team chemistry as a New York Knicks player in the 1970s; how he managed Michael Jordan and taught selflessness and ultimately got players at various levels to trust each other, including Dennis Rodman and other brash personalities.
“This book by the ‘Zen Master’ doesn’t just whet my appetite as a Bulls fan; it also reveals Jackson’s philosophies on leadership, teamwork and mindfulness that—though unorthodox in the world of sport—helped him win more championships than any coach in NBA history. One interesting fact is that before long road trips, Jackson would recommend a book to each player that he thought would help that player achieve success on and off the court. And his Dennis Rodman stories are a fun bonus.”
—Adam Greenberg, commercial counsel
In this half-memoir, half-metaphysical inspirational book, Dr. James Doty shows readers how to change lives by changing both their brains and hearts. Growing up with a chronically depressed mother and alcoholic father, Doty was poor. When he was 12 years old, he walked into a magic shop in search of a plastic thumb, but left with a conversation that would forever change his life. He met a woman who shared exercises with him to ease suffering while discovering his biggest dreams. Her final lesson? Keep his heart open and teach those same techniques to other people.
Fast forward: As the neurosurgeon reflects upon applying these principles yielding unimaginable results, he connects the link between our brains and hearts, focusing on making a difference and how every person can help make the world more compassionate and loving.
“Into the Magic Shop is the incredible life story of Dr. James Doty, a world-class neurosurgeon and director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. It made me want to be nicer to myself and others and is an excellent reminder that science and magic are two sides of the same coin, and not different types of money.”
—Colleen Tucker, senior talent manager
Related: 7 Books Everyone Should Read