William's Must-Read Summer Picks


We are now at the part of the year, where Houston feels like the face of the sun. While I like to read regularly throughout the year, I find summer to be a great time to dig into my reading list and catch up on podcasts I haven’t yet been able to consume.  And with the advent of summer, hopefully, you’ll find some time to read a new book, listen to or watch a new podcast, and find a way to enrich yourself before hitting the full throttle of the school year in the fall.

At the risk of oversharing, here are some of the books and podcasts I’ve been listening to and reading over the last several months. 

There are a couple of themes to my curated list:

  1. Nonfiction. 
    If you want fiction beach reads, let me know and I’ll have my wife, Adrienne (far better read than me) make suggestions. I’m a history and information junkie, as you’ll see below.

  2. Not just church books. 
    I purposely left out devotional reading and theology for this list. I read both daily (if you want a great one, try Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. Written in the 15th century, it’s still the best devotional I’ve ever found). I also left this section out because we serve so many top authors in this category of books, and I don’t want to pick favorites (at least not during the summer!).. Rather, this list is for summer fun and enrichment. 

My suggestions will not strike a chord with everyone as admittedly my taste is somewhere between diverse and schizophrenic. But I hope it spurs you to at least grab a book, listen to something new, and use this summer to expand your mind. 

Here is my list. Happy reading and listening, and have a great summer!

For raising your Fortune-Telling Abilities: 

I have long believed that if you want to know the future, all you have to do is study the past. (Nerd Alert. I almost did a PhD at Princeton on the History of Doctrine. Yes, I’m that much fun to invite to a party). 

1776 by James McCullough:

Such a great read, particularly around July 4th. 

Einstein, and Leonardo Da Vinci, both by Walter Isaacson: 

If you have nothing going on this summer, dig into both.  Warning, they are long! Biographies (of people who have been dead for a while) are one of the best resources I’ve found for studying timeless patterns in history, and Isaacson is one of the best at telling their stories. I particularly liked the DaVinci book, not just because he was fascinating. Why? With tech evolution growing geometrically,  I believe we are living right now in a Renaissance that will make Leo’s look like a non-event. I’m learning all I can about how to embrace and leverage the amazing changes that are coming our way. 

Podcast: It Was Said, by Jon Meacham

The background and stories behind some of the most timeless and powerful speeches in history. Start with either John F. Kennedy, We Choose To Go To the Moon (can you tell I’m a Houstonian), or Teddy Roosevelt - Man In The Arena. (still waiting for an episode of The Sermon on the Mount….)

TV Miniseries: The Roosevelts, by Ken Burns (PBS)

These two presidents governed during enormous changes in the US. Particularly interesting to me were the sections on Teddy. He was the Republican who insisted on abolishing child labor and establishing national parks.  He was a sickly boy who made himself into a strong dude. If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy Ken Burns, you’ll thank me later. 

For Your Health:

Outlive, by Peter Attia:

What can I do now to both lengthen and improve the quality of life? There’s a path, and Dr. Attia says he has uncovered it. I met this wildly popular book with a bit of skepticism. I don’t agree with Peter on everything, but he’s not a quack, and he certainly has the credentials  (Johns Hopkins Medical School, a stint at McKenzie, and more).  This book may have impacted my daily routine and outlook more than any other this year. (Bonus: Peter has a great podcast. You may have seen clips of him/it floating around your social media). 

The Confident Mind: A Battle-Tested Guide to Unshakable Performance, by Dr. Nate Zinker:

The Director of West Point’s Performance Psychology Program shares the secrets of mental toughness and self-belief in this new definitive guide to mastering confidence, the key to performance in any field. Super good leadership book!

Just For Fun and Your Taste Buds:

The Franklin Barbecue Collection [Two-Book Bundle]: 

Franklin Barbecue and Franklin Steak - Ok, this is super nerdy, but now you know me. Yes, I read a book on the history of steak (call me Texan). Fantastic read and the second in the bundle has recipes!

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat:

Fantastic primer on basic cooking and using core ingredients for balance and flavor. All of which I’m trying to learn more about. Are you picking up a theme? (Bonus: great podcast by the same name)

The Grand Slam, By Mark Frost:

This is a book about history more than golf. It’s full of insight into the country in the early 20th century, and I think will be enjoyable whether you follow the sport or not. 

It’s also a book about the lost art of being a gentleman. In a world where chivalry has a DNR, and nobility isn’t modeled in politics or culture, this book is a gem. I’m still learning that art, and have found a study of Bob Jones to be super helpful. 

And if you have any interest in the game, reading about Bob Jones’ year of unparalleled golf is a memory too few have studied. Nobody, not Tiger, not Nicklaus…nobody has had a year that matches his. 

Yes I love the game. But my friends who don’t play and have read this say it’s well worth the investment of time. 

Podcast: The NFL, in the series, Acquired. 

Do you think my friend Carey Nieuwhof has a long podcast? How about a 4-hour podcast on the history and business story of the NFL? It’s a fascinating episode and one of many that take a deep dive into the origin/history/business model of our best-known brands. The Wall Street Journal says that “the smartest people in the room are all listening to this podcast.”  I’ve found it so worth the time (usually throughout a couple of long runs). 

My second favorite episode from Acquired is Hermes. It tells the story of a luxury brand that set out to be the best, not the most expensive. And how a family company, now 6 generations in, is keeping artisans at work and training the next generation. It is a fascinating read on succession, art over price, and insisting on excellence. 

Bonus Suggestions:

You might consider picking up my latest book, Be The Unicorn. Want to stand out in the crowd? Here’s what I’ve learned about the habits that the best 30,000 interviews we have done have in common. I’ve been amazed at how it keeps getting read and reviewed. THANK YOU SO MUCH!). 

Coming Soon: 

Podcast: A Hire Purpose. We are launching a new podcast series, a complement to our long-standing series, The Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast.  This new series is focused on helping you make the very most of your vocational life. What path should you be forging? What can you do now to get where you want to be in the future? After 16 years of studying the career paths of countless leaders, we will be exploring what we can learn from the best people we know. The first season will be dropping soon!

I hope you find at least one of my suggested reads/listens to your liking.