September 6 was National Read a Book Day. In honor of this literary occasion, we at ICMA wanted to share what ICMA Executive Board Members are currently reading. From fiction to nonfiction and historical to leadership-focused, one of these books is likely to peak your interest.
Frans G. Mencke, ICMA Regional Vice President; City Manager, Hoorn, Netherlands
"During this summer I enjoyed reading Geert Mak’s In America: Travels with John Steinbeck. Mak is a Dutch author, the kind of history teacher that you would have wanted at high school. In his book, Mak assesses the current state of America, following the trail of John Steinbeck in his book 'Traveling with Charlie.' To me, the book was a great informative portrait of the historical and contemporary America, written in a pleasant and entertaining style but of course through the curious eyes of an outsider. The Guardian stated in its review: 'Mak treats America as an oft-divorced, drug-abusing, crass but inexplicably adorable uncle – a beloved, improbable entity whose successes inspire admiration and envy even as his blunders induce groans.'
For Americans, it is probably even more interesting to read about Europe. Mak wrote a well-appraised book on that as well, titled In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century. It is the report of a journey by the author through all corners of Europe, and at the same time through important events in the past century. Highly recommended!"
Stephanie J. Mason, ICMA Regional Vice President; Township Manager, Doylestown, PA
"I am currently reading The Past and Future City by Stephanie Meeks. I am reading this book and am looking forward to Ms. Meeks speaking at the ICMA Conference this fall. I love historic properties and buildings and believe in their preservation. The community I work in is located in historic Bucks County, PA. Our motto is “Preserving the past embracing the future”. Also, we’re not far from Philadelphia a City with lots of historic properties. I believe preservation is important to communities and I think Ms. Meeks book addresses how preservation can have an important impact on them. I’d encourage others who love history and old building, in particular, to read her book and come hear her speak in San Antonio."
Daryl J. Delabbio, Ph.D., ICMA Regional Vice President; Grand Rapids, MI
"I am currently reading Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks. While not the traditional management or leadership book, this dual biography (covering a limited span in the lives of Winston Churchill and George Orwell), was an excellent read. It emphasizes the 1930s and 1940s when both individuals were at their peaks during their lifetimes. While growing up under different circumstances, both were journalists, and both were concerned about the threats of authoritarianism and advocated for the preservation of democracy. Interesting was that one came from the perspective of the right (Churchill) and the other from a more leftist persuasion (Orwell). Churchill predicted long before others in England the concern about Hitler and the rights of individualism and democracy versus authoritarian rule, and as a Member of Parliament and Prime Minister lead England through World War II and victory over those who were considered freedom’s enemies. Orwell, through his books Animal Farm and 1984, showed how authoritarianism was a threat to freedom. Each admired the other, but neither was acquainted with the other. While familiar with both individuals, it was from a 50,000-foot level. This read provided me with enough detail about their lives without being overly biographical. Good lessons for going with your values and gut while leading and influencing."
Susan E. Sherman, ICMA Regional Vice President; Assistant City Manager, Olathe, KS
"I recently read The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. For me this book reignited the importance of trust, both giving and earning trust in your relationships. We all know the importance of trust, but this book helped to remind me, and my team, that trust has at its core integrity and intent. We sometimes default to ill intent on the part of others---imagine your interactions if you were to assume good intent first instead of the opposite. This book includes 13 great reminders of things that you may already know such as talk straight, demonstrate respect, get better, and listen first. These are things that we often think we are doing, but may not be as consistent as we should be."
James J. Malloy, ICMA Regional Vice President; Town Manager, Westborough, MA
"I just finished reading My Friend the Mercenary by James Brabazon. It’s a true story about government corruption, the media, mercenaries and government coups in West Africa. It’s a very fast paced book/adventure story. It’s a good read that makes our government look stable and civil by comparison."
Martha J. Bennett, ICMA Regional Vice President; Chief Operating Officer, The Metro Council, Portland, OR
"I have two books on my nightstand right now. The first is The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin, which explores how great leaders can hold two opposing ideas in their minds and can often integrate these ideas into a new, more creative idea. The second is fiction: I’m reading About Grace by Anthony Doerr. Doerr wrote All the Light We Cannot See, and About Grace is his first novel. It’s about nature, human failure, loss, and redemption. I read fiction both because it uses another part of my brain and partially because I love learning from great storytelling."
Carl Harness, ICMA Regional Vice President; Chief Human Services Administrator, Hillsborough County, FL
"I am currently finishing: Stronger by Jeff Bauman. A story about the tragic event (Bombing at the Boston Marathon) that rocked our nation. But also a story of heroism and perseverance."
Heather Geyer, Incoming ICMA Mountain Plains Regional Vice President; Administrative Services Director, Wheat Ridge, CO
"The book I am currently reading is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Brown dives into the topic of vulnerability. She writes, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” I think Brown hits the nail on the head when it comes to really thinking about what risk taking looks like and the lessons she shares are applicable to so much of what we do in local government, i.e., change management. It’s a great read!"
Amber Snowden, Board Secretariat, International City/County Management Association
"I just finished reading Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. I didn't know it, but I grew up only a few miles from the town that was ground zero for the original pill mills which got Americans hooked on Opioid containing pain medications, then marketed as non-addictive. When prescribing was finally brought under control, prices of pills on the black market skyrocketed, and Mexican heroin cells offering pizza-style delivery stepped in to fill the void. Heroin addiction knows no geographic or societal boundaries, and understanding how this crisis began is an important first step to being able to fight it and save countless lives from ruin."