Recommended summer reads ’18
Almost all of the recommended books can be bought at Academic Books for a discount price for CBS alumni. See more information about the Academic Books discounts (Photo: Shutterstock/Africa Studio)
Gregor Halff, Dean of Education and Professor in Corporate Communication
Gregor Halff is CBS' new Dean of Education. On his LinkedIn profile, the 47-year-old Dutchman describes himself as an ‘Educator, biz-school leader and communication researcher’. Prior to coming to CBS, he was Professor in Corporate Communication and Deputy Dean for Programmes at Singapore Management University. He was also Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (2017-18). (Private photo.)
Summer reading? The first choice to make is between big topics or big stories (except if the summer turns out to be long).
For big stories, I nearly always rely on William Boyd: one of the current great narrators with well crafted drama, conflicted protagonists and deeply researched context. His novels keep you entertained on long flights, but won’t make your fellow passengers raise an eyebrow at your taste.
For big topics, I recommend Timothy Garton Ash: ‘Free Speech. Ten Principles for a Connected World’. It is a sweeping cultural analysis of the freedom of speech in a world that is technically more connected than ever before. Original, sometimes frightening, but always reasonable, it makes the case for ‘robust civility’ when freedom and repression are so often intertwined.
Also high on my list is ‘Bourgeois Equality’ by the economic historian Deirdre Nansen McCloskey. Like many economists, she investigates how value is created, allocated and accumulated, but her originality lies in describing how ideas – and not just technology, capital, or institutions – drive economic growth. She lays out her argument in lusciously rich historical detail.
Of course, if one is after big-ideas-wrapped-in-big-stories one cannot go wrong with rereading novels with canonical status. For 2018 I recommend looking again at Joseph Conrad’s ‘Nostromo’ and be reminded of how hard it can be to distinguish independence from lack of responsibility and doubt from moral ambiguity.
Also, Virginia Woolf teaches us in ‘The Years’ that the slow, ongoing, and hard to pinpoint changes are as powerful as the ‘disruptions’ we discuss disproportionately often today.
Associate Professor (in HRM and Organization) Sara Louise Muhr
Sara Louise Muhr is Associate Professor at the Department of Organization and is affiliated to Lund University as Docent. She is also Academic Director of the CBS Business in Society Platform ‘Diversity and Difference’ and associate editor of ‘Organization’ and ‘Journal of Business Ethics’. Her research focuses on critical perspectives on managerial identity and HRM, especially in relation to issues around coping with diversity and expectations in modern, flexible ways of working. She is also the researcher behind the study on gender and leadership positions carried out for CBS and The Danish Association of Managers and Executives in 2018, presented on International Women’s Day. (Photo: Bjarke MacCarthy.)
‘Living a feminist life’ by Sara Ahmed is a selection of provocative, passionate and personal essays about understanding and resisting the raced and gendered constructions of modern lives. Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work.
In particular, she encounters the increasing difficulties of being ‘the feminist’ and brilliantly takes the reader through the way she becomes more and more estranged to the world she critiques (culminating in her resignation from her professorship at Goldsmith). The further development of her famous figure ‘the feminist killjoy’ all through the book and the chapter on ‘feminist snaps’ were for me particularly inspiring.
‘The power’ by Naomi Alderman is a science fiction ‘page-turner’ describing a world in which women have developed the power to emit electricity from their hands, thus becoming physically more powerful than men. However, since Alderman’s matriarchy is no less unequal or discriminating than a patriarchal society, her book is a brilliant and inciting critique of power and human nature rather than gender relations.
It is noticeably that Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale) was Alderman’s mentor and big inspiration, but Alderman manages to turn everything upside down in her equally catching – but very different – dystopia. The book is just as disturbing and frightening as it is an exciting and intelligent read!
‘The Argonauts’ by Maggie Nelson is a brilliant, lovely and warm love story combined with philosophical and trans activist wittiness. As an established poet and prose writer, Maggie Nelson in this book bravely details her love for Harry Dodge, a charismatic, gender-fluid artist and gives the reader intimate and passionate insights into the couple's complex joys in creating a queer family.
I have never read a book this personally moving and intelligent and witty at the same time. It is priceless!
Niels Thyge Thygesen, Associate Professor (Welfare Management)
Associate Professor Niels Thyge Thygesen from the Department of Management Politics and Philosophy is part of the department's Politics research group, among other subjects focusing on Welfare Management. He describes himself as a business in society researcher and is especially interested in strategic changes and transformations within public sector organizations. He has published several books and articles on the advantages of trust, the impact of technologies and the timebinding of organizations, is deeply engaged in CBS’ Master of Public Governance and MSocSc Programme and is also a popular speaker at public conferences. (Private photo.)
Summer reading? In my mind there is no doubt. These three books will change you.
For the big story, I will recommend 'The Grapes of Wrath' written by John Steinbeck. The book won several prizes and was cited prominently when Steinbeck later was awarded the Nobel Prize.
This book is not only a great story of a family trying to make it through the prewar depression. It is, ultimately, an incredible revealing analysis of the great paradox in neo-liberal economy: If this economic model is meant to create greater wealth, why is the opposite happening much too often?
As such, the book can be read as a warning but also as a great defense of Good Governance and the Economy upon which the Nordic model and the Danish public sector are based (and challenged). Enjoy! And look forward to the very last sentence of the book.
For the unusual story, I will recommend ‘High-Speed Society: Social Acceleration, Power, and Modernity’ by Hartmut Rosa & William E. Scheuerman. The book has received international academic recognition and is somehow different to other analyses of society. While books on society is much concerned with who (social dimensions of society) and what (material dimension of society), Hartmut Rosa & William E. Scheuerman’s book on speed is occupied with time (temporal dimension of society).
The importance cannot be underestimated, as we recall Heidegger’s famous work, ‘Being and Time’ from 1927. Rosa and Scheuerman pose imperative questions of great concern. How does acceleration penetrate almost all aspects of life? How is life speeding up, and what are the consequences? And how much speed can we tolerate? The book is very well written and can therefore be read at great speed.
For the critical and provocative story, I will recommend ‘Sacred Economics – Money Gifts and Society in the Age of Transition’ by Charles Eisenstein. You can read the book online for free and hence, there is no publication date as such.
It is an incredible analysis and critique of today’s money economy. One-sided, exaggerated and with an incredible sophisticated rhetoric. Just like a critique should be in order to impress. As opposed to a money economy, which divides people, Eisenstein suggests an alternative, a gift economy, based on relations. This message will provoke your thoughts and make you think of other capitals in life than money.