#gilttech's Recommended Reads for the Dog Days of Summer

7 min Read Time


The #gilttech team includes many avid readers. Here are some of our favorite recent reads, both brand-new and not-as-new. Perfect for the beach, for long flights to vacation destinations, or for an afternoon relaxing at the park. (Even if you’re a cat, you can still enjoy the dog days of summer.)

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, Richard Rumelt (Crown Business, 2011)
A very well-written book that defines strategy in the light of creating execution plans that provide realistic paths to achieving goals. The book is great in distinguishing goals from strategy, and illustrates its point with real-life examples from both successful and unsuccessful companies. After reading this book, it is impossible to think of strategy the same way. Be warned! –Michael Bryzek, Gilt co-founder and CTO

Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace Books, 2014)
Charles Stross rarely disappoints, but this book is truly bananas in scope. Yet it’s still accessible to the casual sci-fi fan. Set a couple thousand years in the future, the book presents humanity as extinct. In the place of humans are metahumans, who are descendants of robots. The story follows Krina Alizond-114, a metahuman, on her journey across space to search for her lost sister Ana. Naturally, all sorts of adventures and intrigue ensue, which I’d rather not spoil here. While the story itself is terrific, Stross’ vision of a future without humans as we know them, and his detailed backdrops, are really what whisk the reader away from reality. –Matt Isaacs, Senior Software Engineer/Mobile team

The Glory of Their Times, Lawrence S. Ritter (Harper Perennial, 2010)
Summer has always belonged to baseball, and The Glory of Their Times can help you remember why. Inspired by the death of Ty Cobb in 1961, Ritter decided to do the rounds and talk to all the great players of that era who were still alive. In doing so, he has preserved first-person accounts–from several points of view–of plays like the infamous “Bonehead” Merkle, which cost the Giants the 1908 pennant. (The play is named after Fred Merkle–at the time, just 19 years old–who didn’t manage to step on second base while the crowd was rushing the field.) Or maybe you will prefer stories like the one about Hans Lobert racing a horse around the bases to see who was faster, man or beast? Baseball has come so far that it all seems like fiction. This book is an oral history of what baseball was like during the turn of the century, and delivers a feeling none of us could ever have known otherwise–and might not have ever believed, either.  –Justin Riservato, Director of Program Management

Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, Kembrew McLeod (NYU Press, 2014)
If you enjoy collecting trivia about wiseacres and eccentrics, this is the perfect summer read. Memorable characters in this historical survey of world “pranksterature” include George Psalmanazar, an 18th century character who claimed to be from the island of Formosa but was probably from France. Psalmanazar created his own language, wrote false history books about his “native land” that achieved mass popularity in Europe, and ate what McLeod calls “bloody food” in the company of British high society. Another, more recent prankster is comedian Alan Abel, whose Society for Indecency to Naked Animals advocated for animals to wear clothing and became notorious enough to attract the attention of the major network news. Go here to read an excerpt from the book’s first chapter, which highlights the antics of one of the most famous pranksters in American history (it’s not Ashton Kutcher). –Lauri Apple, Tech Evangelist

#Girlboss, Sophia Amoruso (Portfolio Hardcover, 2014)
Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso begins her book by sharing highlights from her troubled teen years, when she hitchhiked her way up the West Coast, avoided college and took jobs that offered zero opportunities for advancement. A hernia sidelines her for a spell, which she spends–as she puts it–“dicking” around the Internet. She opens an eBay store, putting her passion for vintage clothing to work–and her enterprise takes off. Sophia spends her days and nights scouring thrift shops, photographing her finds and selling them at up to a 150% profit. Eventually her business evolves into Nasty Gal, the $100-million-plus business that has become a household-name ecommerce brand. Throughout the book, Amoruso owns up to her mistakes and highlights the lessons she learned along the way. #Girlboss doesn’t offer much insight into the secrets to success, or beat the reader over the head with motivational slogans, but it does hold its own as a remarkable story of dedication and triumph. Perhaps what’s most intriguing about Amoruso is that her success was solely based on her finding something she loved to do and turning it into a career. She doesn’t preach about hunting down a mentor or needing to take this or that course, but offers straight-up common sense about living and learning (things she was forced to do at a young age). Given its title, you might expect #Girlboss to be full of feminist mantras, or to follow the style of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (which highlights all the ways to “have it all” while pointing out all the persistent gender discrepancies that make “having it all” seem impossible). But Amoruso tackles these assumptions early in the book by presenting a fresh and modern take to her generation: I believe the best way to honor the past and future of women’s rights is by getting shit done. Instead of sitting around and talking about how much I care, I’m going to kick ass and prove it.” – Lauren Ribando, Email Engineer

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (originally published in 1966)
Every summer I read this classic of Russian literature, written between 1928 and 1940 but unpublished until 1967 (when people could finally handle it, I guess). I love it because I still can’t believe that anyone wrote something so surreal and surprising under the guise of “Russian Literature.” This book is intended to be satire, but let’s face it: You are going to miss most of the cultural and political references because you didn’t live in the Soviet Union during the 1930s or study Stalinist history. But it’s still a lot of fun to read about what happens when the Devil and his giant talking cat decide to visit Moscow and mess with people, and how the bureaucrats try–and fail–to control them with paperwork and red tape. –Justin Riservato

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, Atul Gawande (Picador USA, 2008)
Atul Gawande is both a surgeon and a writer for the New Yorker. This book starts with an exploration of the questions, “We are the best surgeons in the world at what we do … or are we? How would we know?” I found this book to be a great example of how to think about really understanding behaviors, and how to prove what is actually happening in the world through measurement. One of the great stories in the book focuses on cystic fibrosis and how that disease can be beaten–once you measure the right things. –Michael Bryzek

The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, Ben Tarnoff (Penguin, 2014)
Back in the 1860s, San Francisco was a tiny, start-up-free town populated by post-Gold Rushers, a growing number of immigrants, and–as this fascinating new book by Ben Tarnoff describes–a quartet of ambitious writers who struggled to find their own voices. At the head of this group, at least at first, was moody clotheshorse Bret Harte, who achieved success only to transform into a drunken, egomaniacal self-parody (if he were a modern-day celebrity, he’d be caught DWI and asking the arresting officer, “do you know who I am?”). While Harte’s career and reputation sink, his friend Mark Twain transcends a panoply of self-destructive early-manhood habits (making enemies by writing falsehoods and uncouth articles, contemplating suicide, recklessly going broke) to achieve fame and respect as a storyteller and public speaker (marriage to a wealthy, stabl woman only helps). Rounding out the four were poets Charles Warren Stoddard and Ina Coolbrith, whose self-doubts and complicated life circumstances kept them from reaching the level of mainstream success that Twain or Harte achieved. - Lauri Apple

Photo by Josh Antonio

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