Take a look and pick a book: Introducing our 2023 summer reading list

Ah, summer. The time to sit back and relax, hit the beach, or take to the skies—and curl up with a good book or two. In what's quickly become one of my favorite annual traditions at Russell Investments, I survey our associate base for their summer reading recommendations every year around this time.

So, as summer hits its stride this year, I'm pleased to share our associates' top reading choices again—and what a list we have this time. From deep dives on tackling unconscious bias and reimagining higher education to lighter reads on generational differences in the workforce and the power of geography, I'm confident there's something for everyone on 2023's list. So, I encourage you all to take a look and decide on a book to peruse. Because summer is here, and it's time to relax, unwind and broaden our horizons.

Bucking the Buck: U.S. Financial Sanctions & International Backlash Against the Dollar

Daniel McDowell
Oxford University Press

The capacity to understand future financial trends lies at the intersection of governments, global financial infrastructure, and markets, including currency. In addition to providing unique insight into how our global financial / payments system works in practice, this book argues that the U.S.' increased use of financial sanctions has increased the pursuit of anti-dollar policies. U.S. sanction activity has recently hit peak levels following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. As the U.S. dollar serves as the global reserve asset and the currency of choice for cross-border investment activity, marginal changes among foreign governments can significantly impact long-term trade flows and investment trends.

The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias: How To Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams

Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy, and Anne Chow
Simon & Schuster

Unconscious bias is something others struggle with, but not you, right? That's what most people—myself included—often think. That's why this book is an important one. The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias dives deep into a topic we often don't even realize is affecting us. The guide reads like a candid conversation with seasoned professionals who truly understand the impact of unconscious bias in today's diverse world.

The authors include Pamela Fuller, a former diversity analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense, and Anne Chow, the former CEO of AT&T Business, the first woman of color CEO in AT&T history. The book is a wake-up call that challenges leaders to own up to their own biases and take action to build inclusive environments. Right from the first chapter, the authors get real about what unconscious bias is and how it messes with our decision-making. They paint vivid pictures with real-life examples that hit close to home.

This book isn't just about awareness. It's about practical solutions. The authors dish out a buffet of strategies and techniques to help leaders tackle bias head-on. From simple exercises that make you question your own assumptions to implementing fair hiring practices, they give you the tools to make a real difference in your organization. They include case studies and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, along with other tools, like a prep worksheet and a list of ways to reframe your unconscious thoughts.

The authors also stress the importance of ongoing education and dialogue. They encourage leaders to create safe spaces for open conversations about bias, where employees can share their experiences and perspectives.

Thriving on Overload: The 5 Powers for Success in a World of Exponential Information

Ross Dawson
McGraw Hill

At the core of Russell Investments' business is collecting information and making decisions. As the sheer quantum of information has increased rapidly, the ability to garner actionable insights has arguably dwindled. This book outlines five strategies to master a world 'overloaded in intelligence.' The purpose is to help leaders and practitioners think more effectively about the future in order to execute better in the present. This book offers some new insights into how we can identify the paths which are most relevant to the future.

The Great Upheaval: Higher Education's Past, Present, and Uncertain Future

Arthur Levine and Scott Van Pelt
Johns Hopkins University Press

While much has been written about how the pace of technological change is rapidly transforming various sectors of society, there's been less focus on how these changes could impact one of America's most venerated social institutions—the higher education system. Fortunately for us, authors Arthur Levine and Scott Van Pelt tackle this issue head-on in their 2021 book, The Great Upheaval: Higher Education's Past, Present, and Uncertain Future, by taking a critical look at how the future of American education is likely to play out.

The authors begin their analysis with a deep-dive look into the history of the higher education system, which traces its roots back to ancient civilizations and religious institutions. Levine and Van Pelt highlight the transformative impact the Industrial Revolution had on higher education, including the establishment of the modern universities as we know them today. They then shift to the present day and examine the profound changes occurring in the higher education system, which they attribute to three key forces: globalization, technological advancements, and shifting societal expectations.

In particular, Levine and Van Pelt point to the growing commercialization of education, the rising cost of tuition, and an increasing emphasis on vocational skills rather than a traditional liberal arts education. They also delve into the challenges and disruptions the system is facing due to the rise of online education platforms and the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs). The final section of their book, aptly titled "Looking Forward," examines how potential alternative education models—such as lifelong learning and competency-based education—will likely permanently reshape higher education in the years to come. In this section, Levine and Van Pelt raise important questions about the role of universities in society, the need for adaptability and innovation, and the responsibility of higher education institutions in preparing students for future challenges.

Ultimately, I found this book to be a valuable resource that sheds light on the issues confronting higher education today while simultaneously serving as a clarion call to action for educators, policymakers, and students alike. By actively reimagining and redefining the higher education system, together, we can ensure that it keeps pace with our ever-changing world.

Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend

Joseph B. Treaster

The longer the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed)'s fight to tame inflation has dragged on (16 months and counting), the more compelled I've felt to look to the past to understand how the central bank handled the mother of all inflationary crises: the period of sky-high price increases in the United States that spanned most of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Reading New York Times journalist Joseph Treaster's biography of former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who headed the U.S. central bank during the height of this crisis, accomplished exactly this—and much more—for me. Treaster's tale starts by examining Volcker's upbringing as a talented schoolboy in New Jersey, continues through his education at Princeton, Harvard, and the London School of Economics, and finishes with an extensive probe of his time in both private and public service, including at Chase Manhattan Bank, the Treasury Department, the New York Fed and at the helm of the Federal Reserve.

The highlight of the book for me was Treaster's behind-the-scenes look at the former Fed chair's decision to aggressively raise interest rates—from 11% to 20% in less than two years—in order to "slay the inflationary dragon" (as Volcker so famously put it) that had been bedeviling U.S. consumers for the better part of the 1970s. The author does an exemplary job of exploring the Fed chair's unwavering commitment to crushing inflation, even as his resulting policies of monetary tightening sparked two painful recessions. In reading through this, it was interesting to note some of the similarities between the Fed under Volcker and today's Fed under Jerome Powell, including the belief among both central-bank leaders that persistent, entrenched inflation is the number-one threat to the health of a country's economy—even more so than a recession.

Overall, Treaster's profile of Volcker serves as a fascinating look into one of the 20th-century's most towering financial figures. More so, as the renowned Dr. Carl Sagan once said, you must know the past to understand the present. Consider Treaster's book a must-read for those seeking more information about the mindset of the inflation-fighting Powell Fed of today.

The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World

Tim Marshall
Elliott & Thompson Ltd.

How do you get your mind around disparate global events? What do wars in Afghanistan have to do with Brexit in the U.K. and the Global Financial Crisis? Tim Marshall, a long-time foreign correspondent for Sky News, answers those questions with one word: geography.

Marshall explores ten regions that he believes are set to shape global politics and economies: Australia, Ethiopia, Greece, Iran, the Sahel, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.K., and space. Marshall makes the case that physical features like mountain ranges have as much impact on a nation's destiny as politics and ideology. He's also great at knocking down lazy assumptions about points on the globe. In financial services, we lump China and Australia together under the AsiaPac category, "but Beijing is as close to Warsaw as it is to Canberra."

Marshall smirks at the idea that we live in a "flat world in which financial transactions and communications through cyberspace have collapsed distance, and landscape has become meaningless." And while the author clearly acknowledges that modern technology changes the way we overcome geographic barriers, the force of geography remains as powerful as ever. He writes of modern Greeks: "At a strategic level, what concerns them is much the same as when they looked up to Zeus, Apollo, and Aphrodite on the heights of Mount Olympus. The gods have gone, empires come and go, alliances shift, but the constants for Greeks remain what made them—the mountains and the seas."

Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents―and What They Mean for America's Future

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D.
Atria Books

I'll admit it—the title of this book alone hooked me instantaneously. After all, regardless of what generation we belong to, each one of us interacts with a host of people from generations different than our own on a daily basis. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the workforce, where an astonishing five generations of individuals are working together for the first time in human history.

We all know that collaboration and communication are essential to driving high performance in the workplace, but how can either be achieved effectively across such a wide spectrum of ages, life experiences, and viewpoints? I'd argue that understanding each generation's strengths and challenges is key to unlocking the answer to all of this—and psychologist and noted author Jean M. Twenge does just that and more in Generations.

I found this book to be a compelling read right off the bat. While I won't give away too many of Twenge's findings if you're looking for answers as to why Gen Xers are perceived to be more direct communicators than their millennial cohorts or why some of your colleagues tend to call more than email—for the record, I think both are effective means of communication—then this book is for you.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, the more we understand about each other, the more we can work together as one cohesive unit—especially as we return to our pre-pandemic ways of daily life. In my opinion, Twenge's book provides a critical foundation for doing exactly that.