Books for Everyone on Your List

‘Tis the season! We asked Bush Institute leaders to share recent reads they recommend this holiday season. Happy reading and happy gifting!

Ken Hersh, President and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

By Peter L. Bernstein

A must-read to understand how to improve decision making. It is also a fascinating historical tale on how we quantify everything.

Natalie Gonnella-Platts, Director, Women’s Initiative

The Day the Crayons Quit

By Drew Daywalt

Creative and comical, The Day the Crayons Quit offers a thoughtful lesson in mindfulness. Orange and Yellow are not on speaking terms over a difference of opinion, Blue is on the verge of a breakdown from overuse, Red could use a vacation, and Black feels sorely underestimated. Through the hilarious characterization of each crayon, the story highlights the importance of recognizing and supporting the feelings and well-being of others. This tied together with a box of crayons is the perfect children’s holiday gift.

Lindsay Lloyd, The Bradford M. Freeman Director of the Human Freedom Initiative

The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un

By Anna Fifield

Anna Fifield covered both North and South Korea for the Washington Post for several years.  Her new biography of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un goes beyond the sometimes bizarre and superficial media coverage.  Fifield paints a fascinating portrait of a leader who is smarter and savvier than you might expect, but also willing to act brutally to hold on to power.

Anne Wicks, The Ann Kimball Johnson Director of the Education Reform Initiative

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World

By Jeff Gordinier

There is something about the alchemy of taste, setting, company, and (likely) wine that make books about food and chefs such good reads.  This one is a perfect example.  The author travels – and tastes – the world with one of its most renowned chefs, capturing a journey that is about far more than food.  Reading it made me nostalgic for all the great meals I have shared over the years and around the world with those dear to me.

Matt Rooney, Managing Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative

El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America

By Carrie Gibson

El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America is the history of the Spanish colonization of the Americas, which predated the British and French colonializers by a century or more.  It points out that, when the Pilgrims stepped off onto Plymouth Rock, the vineyards in Valle de Parras, in Coahuila about 250 miles southwest of Laredo, were finishing their twelfth vintage, and St. Augustine, Florida had been an organized municipality for 50 years. It challenged a lot of preconceptions that I was raised with about where America came from and broadened my understanding of how we came to be the nation we are today.

Laura Collins, Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative

A Good Provider is One Who Leaves

By Jason DeParle

This is a compelling story about three generations of a Filipino family and the benefits and challenges they face when members decide to leave the Philippines to find work. The author puts a human face on a very polarizing debate while also weaving in solid statistics on global migration.

William McKenzie, Director, Editorial

Listening to Leaders: Values, Empathy, Humility, and Relationships

On my Christmas list? Listening to Leaders: Values, Empathy, Humility, and Relationships. And why not? It is a new Bush Institute book with perspectives from both recognized and rising leaders!

Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas.

By Stephen Harrigan

The second book is Stephen Harrigan’s Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas. I heard him speak this fall, and this book takes Texas history into the current era of moonshots, Big Tex, and the struggle of minority groups, while also re-examining familiar parts like the Alamo, Sam Houston, and our independence.  I look forward to reading this in the new year.

Cullum Clark, Director, Bush Institute – SMU Economic Growth Initiative

The Overstory

By: Richard Powers

Richard Powers’ Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Overstory weaves together moving stories of several people whose lives become interconnected with trees, and ultimately with one another. The novel presents a startling portrait of the biological wonders in the lives of trees and forests, a scathing indictment of short-sighted clear-cutting practices and the cultural and economic forces that enable them, and a compelling affirmation of the interdependence of humanity and the natural world. When I picked The Overstory out at a boutique bookstore in Santa Fe, the store’s owner said the book had changed her life and would change mine – and she was right.

Matthew Amidon, Director, Military Service Initiative

Sailing True North – Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character

By: Admiral James Stavridis USN (Ret.)

“The voyage of character is the most important journey each one of us ever makes.” From Themistocles to Sir Francis Drake, through Admiral Chester Nimitz to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, James Stavridis gives us a unique view into the varied leadership styles and resident character of ten admirals. There are no perfect leaders and Sailing True North does a wonderful job of telling stories of triumphs and failures allowing us to reflect on, and perhaps improve, as we undertake our own voyages of character.