In my last Leading Thoughts, I wrote about my love of summer reading, about my belief that we must “read to lead,” and about some of the often-unrecognized benefits of reading. In this edition, I want to recommend some books to you. I ask only one thing: read at least two of these books this summer. Reading all of them will change your life, and if you do it I want you to tell me about it. Here goes:

American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For, David McCullough
Books of speeches have shaped the thinking and the rhetoric of many great leaders in history, from Lincoln to Churchill, from Golda Meir to Martin Luther King. Here’s one for you, and it comes at the perfect time in American history. This is a short book of inspiring speeches by David McCullough, dean of American historians. Don’t worry. This isn’t boring or bland. McCullough’s talks movingly remind us Americans of who we were and what we can be again. The theme of leadership spills from every page.

The Illustrated Art of Manliness, Brett McKay
This book is just out, and it is perfect for summer reading. It is a compendium of all kinds of manly lore, from driving a stick shift to table manners, from finding water in the wild to jumping from a speeding car. What I love is that it is lushly illustrated in that old style I remember seeing in magazines at my father’s barber shop. You’ll recognize it. This is a wonderful choice for summer. Read it with your son (and your daughter!), and enjoy it with your band of brothers. By the way, a perfect Father’s Day gift!

The Churchill Factor, Boris Johnson
People often ask me what my favorite Churchill books are. I have a dozen, but this is one I recommend often. Boris Johnson is the former mayor of London, the one with the mussy blond hairdo. He is a gifted writer, though, and he loves Churchill as I do. If you like to sink into a great historical read over the languid summer months, this is the one for 2017. It will make you a better leader.

1984, George Orwell
Our current politics surface discussion of this book often, and I strongly urge you to read it. At the time it was written, it was a future vision. Now, it is a map for our times dressed up like a novel. You’ll find it an easy ready, but deeply insightful. C’mon. Risk it.

The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis
This author has given us some of the most enjoyable knowledge explosions of the last decade. He wrote Flashboys about Wall Street, The Big Short about the economic crisis of 2008, and Moneyball about statistics and baseball. He skillfully offers genius insight in swift, muscular language. This book is about the friendship of two brilliant men who gave us stirring insight into social behavior. It’s about friendship. It’s about culture. It’s about leadership. You can’t go wrong with this one.

Use of Force, Brad Thor
Need a good thriller to pass the summer months? This is the author to know. Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath novels are learned but fast-paced reads that usually have to do with international terrorism, Washington politics, cutting edge military technology, and the intelligence game. Fun, surprising, educational and, yes, thrilling. Use of Force is the seventeenth in the series, but you can jump in anywhere.

That’s it for now. More next time. Have a good weekend. And let the summer reading begin!

Stephen