My Summer Bookshelf

Not exactly beach reading, but lots of books are piling up on my shelf! I'm looking forward to finding some quiet time this summer to dig in. 

Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First, by Ram Charan, Dominic Barton and Dennis Carey

I'm looking for ideas on developing and retaining talent that can apply to the architecture profession. We need to put our people first, which would be a departure for a profession that is historically punishing to its practitioners, particularly women, people of color, and members of other under-represented groups. According to Sheryl Sandberg, "Talent Wins provides an innovative framework for cultivating talent -- and shows that diverse teams are critical to unlocking an organizations full potential."

The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind

From what I've read so far, this is a brainy (okay, dry) read with an important project: to understand how technology will transform the professions. We really have no idea what technology will bring, but as certain technical functions are are outsourced to machines, we, as architects, will need to focus more on distinctly human skills: communication, critical thinking, team-building, and connecting dots. Is it possible that the push toward STEM education to build a pipeline to the profession is misguided? It seems to me that the future will demand a solid grounding in technical skills, of course, but with a robust underpinning of the kind of expansive, speculative and humanistic thinking that a liberal arts education provides.

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange

I am such a fan of Alexandra Lange, who is, in my opinion, one of the smartest people writing about architecture and design today. This topic touches on so many of my preoccupations: design, of course, but also how children play, explore, learn, discover, and create. From what I know of Lange's writing, I'm looking forward to her signature combination of profound intellectual firepower, clearly expressed, and infused with warmth, humor, and common sense. I may save this one for last because it is sure to be a treat.

Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home) by Morra Aarons-Mele

Does anyone else remember "Broadcast News," the 1980s rom-com in which Holly Hunter plays a superstar producer whose outward successes are punctuated by daily crying jags? I've always identified with that character, and when I was a young architect, I spent not a few lunch hours crying in the ladies' lounge at the Daniel Burnham designed Marshall Field's department store in the Chicago loop. It served as a release valve for my feelings of fatigue, frustration, fear, and allowed me to be back at my desk, killing it for the next several hours. Many professionals do their best work in environments or on schedules that diverge from traditional workplace norms; this book is for them. A word of caution: it reads like a Glamour magazine "do's and don'ts for the career gal," a voice that unfortunately undermines some of its more powerful arguments.

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to talk to people all over the country. I always notice cultural differences between different cities and regions, but often can't quite put my finger on what differentiates one culture from another. I'm about halfway through this fascinating book, which answers my questions by identifying eleven groups who settled the country, bringing with them beliefs, cultures and traditions from their home countries. Woodard traces the migrations routes of these separate "nations" and the subsequent conflicts and co-mingling between them. I was interested to learn that in my home state of Maryland, three nations converged, which explains my affinity for certain cultures that are not strictly "mine."  This book provides a valuable perspective for anyone who wants to understand why our country is increasingly  fractured along cultural lines.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

Not quite sure what I'm getting into with this one, but he had me at the subtitle. I'm always interested to learn about what it takes to create productive, happy teams. One thing that's always puzzled me about architects: most architects origin stories begin with play, whether it's Lego, Froebel blocks, or building forts out of sofa cushions. Yet, we work in a profession where so many are unhappy, frustrated, unfulfilled. In fact, a recent study by the CDC, "... revealed that those who work in architecture and engineering are the fifth most likely to commit suicide, compared to those in other jobs." I'm eager to learn how successful groups create the cohesion and trust necessary for creative risk-taking, because despite the well-known trope of the hero architect, most people who work in the profession know that above all else, architecture is the ultimate team sport.

What are you reading this summer? Please share in the comments section below. Happy summer and happy reading!