College presidents share “the best book I’ve ever read”

As we head into summer, here are some books that come highly recommended

eCampus News asked higher-ed leaders: What is the best book you’ve ever read and why? Here are their answers.

“I don’t have one best book. The best one I’ve read lately is The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workforce, by Ron Friedman.”
—Kris Williams, PhD, president/chief executive officer, Henderson Community College, Kentucky

“I would pick two. Good to Great, by Jim Collins, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by the late Stephen Covey. Collins’ book offers wonderful examples of how 11 major companies changed their focus and went from acceptable performance on the stock market to exemplary performance. The alignment across this diverse set of companies was remarkable—they each had leaders who focused on the company’s mission, not themselves; each company had a singular operational focus; and their performance metrics, technology systems, and human resources approach supported that operational focus.

“Covey’s book was not only a bestseller in its time but was a marvelous checklist for personal and professional success. I have tried to apply those seven habits in my daily life, ranging from ‘being proactive’ to ‘begin with the end in mind’ to focusing on my listening skills (‘seek first to understand, then to be understood’). They sound so common sense, yet they aren’t commonly practiced.”
—Elsa Núñez, president, Eastern Connecticut State University

The Enigma of Arrival, by V.S. Naipaul. Both the story and the craft of his writing stayed with me.”
—Michael V. Drake, MD, president, The Ohio State University

“I love reading. I’m a member of a book club that reviews cutting-edge publications on management, leadership, and higher education. I order copies for my leadership team, so we can read them together and keep up with the latest innovative practices. In the last few years, I’ve read two excellent books: Good to Great, by Jim Collins; this was a good college when I arrived, but we needed to be great and The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Hulung. I recommend this book to everyone, including students. It’s one thing to have ideas but you’ll get nowhere if you don’t know how to execute them.”
—J. David Armstrong, Jr., president, Broward College

“Reading is a passion of mine. My favorite book is often the last one I have read. Two of recent note are: Zero to One, by Peter Thiel, and 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson. Both of these books spin conventional wisdom in various directions and stimulate my mind.”
—Michael J. Smith, president, Berkeley College, New York and New Jersey

The Leadership Challenge, by Barry Posner. The theme of leadership is for everyone and is based upon leaders at all levels and how ‘regular people’ can make a huge, positive difference in their organizations.”
—John J. Rainone, president, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Virginia

“I love this question because I’m so passionate about my answer! Without a doubt, my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It actually inspired me to go to law school. I read the book when I was 12 years old and knew then that I wanted to be this morally upright, Gregory Peck-type Atticus Finch figure.”
—Gloria Larson, president, Bentley University, Massachusetts

“I most recently read Promise Me Dad by Joe Biden. It’s a great family story. I’m an avid reader and enjoy all genres, from history to Western.”
—Richard Rhodes, president and chief executive officer, Austin Community College, Texas

“My favorite recent read is The Underground Railroad, a depiction of subjugation, power, casual violence, and a broken world in which heroes struggle, suffer mightily, and still, somehow, give us hope. It is a tour de force book.”
—Paul J. LeBlanc, president, Southern New Hampshire University

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