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Seven business books that won’t put you to sleep at the beach

A few business alternatives for your summer vacation reading list. (iStock)

It's summer. A time for light beach reads, juicy tell-alls and comic memoirs. When it comes to poolside reading, business books about team-building, strategy or management metrics written by "thought leaders" or management gurus can hardly compete.

But that doesn't mean there aren't books related to business, leadership or careers that aren't worth taking on a summer road trip or day at the shore. Narrative investigations, deeply reported tales about titans in business and thought-provoking nonfiction works about industry disruption, gender issues or social science all offer a welcome respite from the genre's typical fare. Below, seven recent or soon-to-be published books to consider for your pool bag from business writers or academics -- rather than consultants -- that hold their own with the rest of the summer reading shelf.

by Christian Davenport (March)

The Post's Christian Davenport chronicles the outsize figures leading the commercial space race -- Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post), as well as Richard Branson and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Writing in the New York Times, biographer, history professor and former Time editor Walter Isaacson called the book "an exciting narrative filled with colorful reporting and sharp insights," one that "sparkles" with "crisp storytelling" because of Davenport's access to the main players.

2) Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think 

by Hans Rosling with Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling (April)

If Bill Gates thinks this book is so good that every college graduate should get it for free -- the tech mogul and philanthropist is offering a free download to any 2018 grad from a link on his blog -- it seems worth considering, at least. Though not a business book per se, its goal of helping people think clearly and outline of ten instincts that distort people's perspective will surely come in handy at work, not to mention in deciphering evidence from opinion in a world of "post-truth" dynamics and alternative facts. Plus its argument -- Rosling, the late doctor, professor of international health and TED talk giver argues the world is doing better than we think -- is a lot more enjoyable poolside than doom-and-gloom stories about all the robots coming for your job.

3) Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

by John Carreyrou (May)

The Wall Street Journal reporter's front page exposés of the now nearly collapsed blood testing startup were gripping reads themselves, but the book-length version offers readers a case study of deception and poor governance told "virtually to perfection," wrote author Roger Lowenstein in his New York Times review of "Bad Blood." Carreyrou not only tells the story of how Elizabeth Holmes managed to build the white-hot startup, drawing in billionaires and other luminaries along the way, but illustrates the danger of ignoring the people closest to the work, the perils of star-studded boards and what can happen when evidence is ignored.

by Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace (expected June 19)

Books about women's careers are often written by executives with billions to spare, academics with little experience in the corporate trenches or celebrities whose lives seem to barely resemble those of most professional working womens. Journalists Wallace and Schank, who is also a public interest technology fellow at New America, took a different route, interviewing the careers of sorority sisters from Northwestern University in the early 1990s about the decisions they've made and strategies they've taken about their work, their lives and their families. Though narrow in scope, and clearly not representative of many women's experiences (these were all attendees of an elite private university, hardly destined for blue-collar jobs), those looking for some solidarity reading or ideas about how other professional women mesh work, family and the decisions related to them can find it here.

by Keach Hagey (expected June 26)

The power struggles that have surrounded Viacom and CBS are like the background noise of the business news pages -- seemingly always there, yet somehow not rising to attention unless you're closely listening for it. Yet it is an epic story that takes a book to examine, one filled with legal conflicts, boardroom battles, angry ex-girlfriends, family drama and a 95-year-old media mogul whose health, Hagey wrote in April in the Wall Street Journal, where she is a reporter, "has declined so significantly he cannot speak much beyond grunts." It also promises more than just the tabloid soap opera business story, but a look at how much media consumption and its industry is changing.

by James Crabtree (expected July 3)

Crabtree, a professor at the National University of Singapore and formerly the Mumbai bureau chief of the Financial Times, offers an in-depth look at India's billionaire class, profiling the figures at the top of a society where the spoils of the world's largest democracy's growth have been particularly unequal. Crabtree, notes Publisher's Weekly, has written "an invaluable commentary on Indian democracy and the forces that threaten it," one that argues the "takeover of Indian politics by huge sums of private money has led to a boom-and-bust cycle in India’s industrial economy."

by Anand Giridharadas (expected Aug. 28)

At the end of the summer, anyone following the debate about the role of philanthrocapitalists, corporate foundations or tech billionaires in solving the world's problems will want to watch for this new book by former New York Times foreign correspondent and columnist Anand Giridharadas. As questions swirl over income inequality and the influence of elite givers' money on public institutions, Giridharadas' book wrestles with the ways the world's richest wants to help solve the world's problems -- without making clear their role in creating them or changing their position at the top.

Read also:

11 leadership books to read in 2018

How a business book from the '80s became a Silicon Valley cult classic

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