Reading

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping  Your Sh*t Together: How to Run Your Business Without Letting it Run You, by Sherry Walling.  This rare gem focuses on a topic that is on many academics’ mind,  yet one that is rarely written about: the heavy toll that the road to success in academia can take on young researchers. This book confronts this topic head on.  Don’t let the title fool you: Academics are entrepreneurs in disguise, as they have to come up with ideas, decide which ones to pursue, recruit teams to execute that idea, and after a long roller coaster ride, be the residual claimant on the success or failure of the enterprise. The book is written by a brilliant PhD psychologist, who combines her deep understanding of the human mind with her personal experience as one-half of an eventually (!) very successful entrepreneur couple. It guides the reader into an introspective journey with its discussion of the types of people that get drawn into these careers (you will definitely see yourself in one of them!), the mental and emotional pressures faced by each type, how to get things done despite these challenges, and so on. The style is casual and very engaging, and makes for a great reading. 

137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession, by Arthur Miller. This is a fun read about two famous scientists, physicist Wolfgang Pauli and psychologist Carl Jung, and their quest to uncover the secret of 137, which is often called the most mysterious number in Physics. 137 is a dimensionless constant whose precise value is crucial for the existence of the universe, yet explaining the origin of its value has eluded physicists and led Pauli to team up with Jung to look to psychology, spirituality, and ancient wisdom for potential explanations. Along the way, the book provides a fascinating helicopter tour of the lives of the famous physicists of the 20th century and is full of interesting (and sometimes very colorful!) anecdotes that shows the human side of well-known scientists. 

The Broken Dice, and Other Mathematical Tales of Chance, by Ivar Ekeland: A fascinating journey into chance and risk that appear under different guises in different sciences from mathematics and physics, to economics.

The University: An Owner’s Manual, by Henry Rosovsky: An entertaining and informative book on Academic life, written by the former Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences (and economics professor). I read this many years ago while doing my PhD and really enjoyed it. Re-reading it recently and with the benefit of some hindsight, I found it as good as the first time–despite a few parts that are a bit outdated. (As a bonus: it contains a wealth of interesting anecdotes, especially about the second part of 20th century, that might interest those working on the economics of education).

Boomerang, by Michael Lewis: A helicopter tour of European economies and their debt problems. Entertaining, Michael Lewis style.

The Calculus of Friendship, by Steven Strogatz: If you enjoyed math problems in high school, chances are you will like this book. The lifelong friendship that starts between a high school student who ends up becoming an accomplished math professor and his high school calculus teacher, chronicled through their letters spanning several decades. Many interesting math problems you may recognize along with very clever and intuitive solutions.

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