Whether we’re traveling to Europe, heading to the beach or simply soaking up the weekend summer sun, all of us at The Alexander Group have a favorite book (or three) within arm’s reach. Our list of summer reading recommendations reflects our diverse interests and experiences, so you’ll find mysteries and thrillers, nonfiction, historical fiction and autobiographies in our bags and on our Kindles.
Need some literary inspiration for the months ahead? Scroll on for what we’re currently reading and see what author emerged as a favorite among the firm members.
Managing Director, The Alexander Group
Currently Recommending: Lessons in Chemistry
Author: Bonnie Garmus
Synopsis: Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Currently Recommending: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
"A story of a forty-year friendship, friends as business partners, rags to riches, lots of video games, love, loss and peace."
Synopsis: On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom.
They borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo: a game where players can escape the confines of a body and the betrayals of a heart, and where death means nothing more than a chance to restart and play again. This is the story of the perfect worlds Sam and Sadie build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, games as artform, technology and the human experience, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director
Currently Reading: Fixed. How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem-Solving
Author: Amy E. Herman
Synopsis: Demonstrating a powerful paradigm shift for finding solutions, Herman teaches us to see things differently, using art to challenge our default thinking and open up possibilities otherwise overlooked. Her unexpected, insightful, and often delightful methodology is sought after by leaders and professionals for whom failure is catastrophic. Luckily for us, these tactics work— no matter the problem’s scale or complexity. And we don’t need an art degree or previous knowledge about art to benefit from her approach, only a willingness to open our eyes and our minds. Yes, things go wrong all the time. What matters most is what we do to fix them.
Director of Research
“I’m big into psychological thrillers/mysteries. Here are some of my favorite authors, Ruth Ware, Alice Feeney, Freida McFadden and Tracy Clark.”
Currently Recommending: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Synopsis: Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo's stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo's desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Currently Recommending: Rock Paper Scissors
Author: Alice Feeney
Synopsis: Things have been wrong with Mr. and Mrs. Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.
Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts--paper, cotton, pottery, tin--and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after. Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.
Associate, Alex & Red
Currently Reading: Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Author: John Steinbeck
Synopsis: A summer read for anyone itching to get out of the house and drive the many miles of America. John Steinbeck, too, desired to see as much of the United States. Taking to the open road with his pickup truck and his dog, Charley, Steinbeck ventured from Maine to California and seemingly everywhere between. Published in 1962, Steinbeck’s America was changing from the one he knew, from the place he wrote so many classics and this book is more of his reflection on those changes than a travelogue. Through Steinbeck’s keen observations, we can glimpse back in time and find ourselves traveling with Steinbeck (and Charley) and discover that some things haven’t changed all that much.
Managing Director, The Alexander Group
“If you are looking for gut wrenching emotion, from raw visceral imagery of the horrifying experiences of war to drug addiction-the daily battle of the death spiral and all who are so sadly impacted during and the aftermath, these are the books I have recently read and recommend. I couldn’t put these books down but now need to read something much lighter!”
Currently Recommending: Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
Author: Hampton Sides
Synopsis: A tense, powerful, grand account of one of the most daring exploits of World War II.
On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POWs who had spent three years in a surreally hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March left in the camp, and their extraordinary will to live might soon count for nothing—elsewhere in the Philippines, the Japanese Army had already executed American prisoners as it retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. As the Rangers stealthily moved through enemy-occupied territory, they learned that Cabanatuan had become a major transshipment point for the Japanese retreat, and instead of facing the few dozen prison guards, they could possibly confront as many as 8,000 battle-hardened enemy troops.
Currently Recommending: The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O’Brien
Synopsis: A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling. The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.
Currently Recommending: Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition Addiction, and Tragedy
Author: Eileen Zimmerman
Synopsis: Written by a childhood friend, Eileen Zimmerman, based on her husband’s drug addiction which he covered up until the end and the resulting guilt, anger, sorrow, and mix of so many other emotions this awful journey unearthed.
Director, The Alexander Group
"I’m currently on the waitlist at my library for Loot by Tania James. It’s well reviewed, it’s historical fiction, and it’s got artists, bloody colonialism commentary, and a mechanical tiger. What more could I ask for?"
Currently Recommending: Loot
Author: Tania James
Synopsis: Abbas is just seventeen years old when his gifts as a woodcarver come to the attention of Tipu Sultan, and he is drawn into service at the palace in order to build a giant tiger automaton for Tipu’s sons, a gift to commemorate their return from British captivity. His fate—and the fate of the wooden tiger he helps create—will mirror the vicissitudes of nations and dynasties ravaged by war across India and Europe.
Working alongside the legendary French clockmaker Lucien du Leze, Abbas hones his craft, learns French, and meets Jehanne, the daughter of a French expatriate. When Du Leze is finally permitted to return home to Rouen, he invites Abbas to come along as his apprentice. But by the time Abbas travels to Europe, Tipu’s palace has been looted by British forces, and the tiger automaton has disappeared. To prove himself, Abbas must retrieve the tiger from an estate in the English countryside, where it is displayed in a collection of plundered art.
Senior Research Associate, The Alexander Group
Currently Recommending: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: T.J. Klune
Synopsis: Very sweet book about a government worker in the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth who is sent on an assignment to a island to investigate an orphanage for very talented fantastical beings. You know, to make sure these magical children don’t destroy the world as we know it. Such a cute story and would be wonderful light summer reading.
Currently Recommending: When McKinsey Comes to Town
Authors: Michael Forsyth and Walt Bogdanich
Synopsis: Fascinating read which explores the hidden influence of the world’s largest consulting firm.
Currently Recommending: Horse
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Synopsis: Evocative story about the world’s greatest racehorse of the mid 1800’s whose bloodline can be traced to numerous current thoroughbred champions including Secretariat. Multiple storylines focusing on art, race, love, and friendship.
Currently Recommending: Remarkably Bright Creatures
Author: Shelby Van Pelt
Synopsis: Touching feel-good book which features an octopus and which ends by tying up all the different storylines in a most satisfying fashion.
Senior Associate, The Alexander Group
Currently Recommending: Just Mercy
Author: Bryan Stevenson
“This was a random airport buy and I loved it.”
Synopsis: Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Currently Recommending: Extreme Punishment: The Chilling True Story of Acclaimed Law Professor Dan Markel's Murder
Author: Steven B. Epstein
“Last month I read a book about my law school professor who was killed in a murder for hire by his wife’s deranged family.”
Synopsis: A devoted father. One of the most accomplished criminal law scholars in the country. Someone wanted him dead. But why? On the morning of July 18, 2014, 41-year-old Florida State law professor Dan Markel dropped his boys off at preschool, hit the gym, and headed home to his quiet, tree-canopied neighborhood. Within seconds of pulling into his garage, two .38-caliber bullets fired from point-blank range were lodged in his brain.
His brutal slaying defied explanation. The case went stone cold for nearly two years before dogged pursuit by the Tallahassee Police and the FBI resulted in the arrest of two life-long criminals who had driven 10 hours from Miami with one singular purpose: to murder the esteemed professor. Were his ex-wife Wendi Adelson and her South Florida family the masterminds behind this horrific crime?
Author: Shannon Bream
Synopsis: The women of the Bible lived timeless stories—by examining them, we can understand what it means to be a woman of faith.
People unfamiliar with Scripture often assume that women play a small, secondary role in the Bible. But in fact, they were central figures in numerous Biblical tales. It was Queen Esther’s bravery at a vital point in history which saved her entire people. The Bible contains warriors like Jael, judges like Deborah, and prophets like Miriam. The first person to witness Jesus’ resurrection was Mary Magdalene, who promptly became the first Christian evangelist, eager to share the news which would change the world forever.
Author: Malcom Gladwell.
“I love Malcolm Gladwell’s books.”
Synopsis: David and Goliath--Explore the power of the underdog in Malcolm Gladwell's dazzling examination of success, motivation, and the role of adversity in shaping our lives, from the bestselling author of The Bomber Mafia.
Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won.
Or should he have?
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
Currently Recommending: What the Dog Saw-- What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?
In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell has written three books that have radically changed how we understand our world and ourselves: The Tipping Point; Blink; and Outliers. Now, in What the Dog Saw, he brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from The New Yorker over the same period.
Research Associate, Alex & Red
Currently Recommending: Outliers
Author: Malcom Gladwell
Synopsis: In this stunning book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.