Recommended Summer Reading

I am proud to say that I’ve been on an unusually productive reading blitz recently. During the short break between the spring and summer terms in the MIM program, I made a point of getting through as many books as I could on my personal reading list. Three of these books in particular have themes that relate directly or indirectly to topics that we often discuss in MIM classes, be it questions of leadership, or teamwork and organizational behavior, or the importance of understanding a country’s historical context and it’s influence on present day events.

Each of these books comes highly recommended, so if you haven’t read them yet but are interested in the themes that they discuss, be sure to check them out.

lean-in-bookLean In
By Sheryl Sandberg
240 pages. Knopf 2013

Sheryl Sandberg’s much talked about book on why there aren’t more women leaders, and what both women, and men, can do to correct this. The book is of course written primarily with a female audience in mind, encouraging women to take more of a leadership role in their professional lives, but men who care about supporting the women in their lives will find plenty of thought provoking ideas in here. Some of the career development advice that Sandberg touches upon would seem to apply to people regardless of gender, such as her point that careers these days are like “jungle gyms”, as opposed to the proverbial ladder (Sandberg is not the first to use this analogy, but it is a useful perspective that she does a good job of fleshing out more in the book).   A good read for those interested in issues that specifically affect women professionals, as well as for anyone looking for encouragement in furthering their own careers and “taking a seat at the table”.

quiet susan cainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
By Susan Cain
368 pages. Broadway Books 2013

Another book that has received quite a bit of attention over the past year or two, Susan Cain’s Quiet seeks to redefine how people think about introversion, and challenges the notion that only the most outgoing, extroverted individuals can make effective leaders. By first dispelling the misconception that introversion means a person is shy (it does not, necessarily), the book goes on to cite examples of notable people who have not only found success in spite of their more introverted proclivities, but have actually succeeded in ways because of this aspect of their personalities (Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Warren Buffet are just a few examples). The book at times became too bogged down in cognitive research on personality for my taste, but I thought that the sections on the strengths of introverts when it comes to leadership and teamwork in organizations were especially interesting, and useful for anyone looking for ways to better integrate the quieter members of teams in the future.

Never Forget national humiliationNever Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations
By Zheng Wang
312 Pages. Columbia University Press 2012

This book focuses on how China’s modern history has, and continues to shape Chinese citizens’ perceptions of international events, and China’s place in the world. In the first few chapters the author gives a brief overview of modern Chinese history, essentially from the beginning of the Opium Wars, with special emphasis on how China’s experience with it’s “Century of Humiliation” at the hands of other nations still influences collective memory in China. In one of the more intriguing and original arguments of the book, Zheng Wang describes the rise of nationalism within China, and cites examples of the Chinese Communist Party transitioning from being the upholder of Marxist-Lenninist-Maoist philosophy during the Mao era, to what is now it’s adopted (if unstated) role as the protector of Chinese nationalism since the Reform and Opening period of more recent years. The book strikes a refreshingly balanced note, neither veering into the alarmist tone of some recent books on “China’s Rise”, while also not getting stuck in the victimization narrative that often characterizes Chinese interpretations of its past and present relations with other countries. The book is written with a Western audience in mind, and if anything, simply argues that to truly understand China, one must also understand its recent history, and how Chinese people perceive, and are influenced by, that history. These are lessons that are strikingly similar to topics covered in the Pacific Rim and World Affairs class in the MIM Program.



Joshua Thorpe is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program.  After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou.  Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.


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