What are you reading this summer? Well, in some circumstances, this can be a loaded question. If a work colleague or even your boss asks you about your beach reading list, it’s probably best to avoid talking up anything from the science fiction, romance or sports categories on Amazon. Better to choose one of The New York Times’ bestsellers in the business category, something like “Dare to Lead” or even Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.”

But if it’s a good friend who is asking, it’s easier to be honest (mostly honest) with your response, mentioning a book like “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” by Amy Schumer or one of the Daniel Silva thrillers. I always find that it’s a good idea to have a couple of different lists top of mind just in case you get the dreaded “what-books-are-on-your-nightstand” question. Still, given the risks of putting people on the spot, Vmail Weekend asked several industry executives what they are reading right now. The result is a pretty good roundup of books that could be on anyone’s summer beach list or nightstand. (Oh, and in case you’re interested about my beach-reading list, I tell colleagues it includes titles such as “Leaders Eat Last.” But if you’re asking for a friend, then it’s safe for me to say one of the funniest books I’ve ever read has to be “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings.” As one reviewer noted, “"I laughed so hard I had to leave the meeting I was in.”)

Here’s what a few others are reading this summer:

Erin Meyer
Director of Marketing

I am actually a big reader, and Jim Edwards (president and chief executive of Opti-Port) and I share books back and forth quite a bit. A few of our members had mentioned the book “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman. I checked it out, and found it to be a great read. The book centers around a method for creating what it calls a strong “Entrepreneurial Operating System.” While I find that many business books tend to be too theoretical, Traction outlines really tangible and actionable tools for strengthening six key components of a business. Many of our team members have read it now, and we’re actually bringing in Wickman’s co-author to speak on the topic during the Opti-Port member conference at Vision Expo East. Highly recommend!

Steve Wright
President and Chief Commercial Officer
Safilo North America

I’m reading “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. It’s a very inspiring read on the practical ways good leaders should lead. The book is filled with interesting stories that force the reader to see realities from different perspectives but pushes all to explore inward to raise upward!

Jeff Todd
President and Chief Executive Officer
Prevent Blindness

I recently finished re-reading one of my favorite novels, “City of Thieves,” by David Benioff. Set in post-World War II Russia, it follows two young people who are – under the threat of death - sent off on a hunt for a dozen eggs to fulfill the desire of a Soviet officer’s daughter to have a cake at her wedding. While the plot is simple enough, the dramatic story is excellently and captivatingly written. To lighten things up, I am following the drama of Benioff’s story with Chelsea Handler’s “Life Will Be the Death of Me…and you too!” I always get a kick out of her humor filled take on her life and ours.

C. Edward Buffington
President and Chief Executive Officer
GPN Technologies

I wouldn’t say I’m a “big reader” but happened to pull an old book off the shelf recently, “Maestro”, and I am thoroughly enjoying the read. The simple business premise of the book is analogous to an orchestra conductor and the symphony orchestra. The maestro doesn’t micromanage each member of the orchestra but rather facilitates each member of the orchestra to be their best while communicating a larger vision, leading to the great performance!

I see a very direct analogy to running a company. As a CEO, we are generally powerless to individually create success but rather enable our teams to feel ownership of the projects and business, not just their individual day-to-day jobs. A maestro leads by listening with an open and receptive ear. Corporate leadership must do the same, listen and “conduct” the team, encouraging each member of the team to participate.

I view my role at GPN as the maestro, the conductor and I solely depend upon our teams to make great music and success.

Sara Campbell
Membership Manager

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” a novel by Robin Sloan caught my eye as I perused the “used” section of Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, Ore., last winter. It took until early June for me to finally pick up this little gem, and I’m sure glad I did. The story follows Clay, an out-of-work web designer, as he starts a new job at a strange, long, and tall bookstore called, as the title would suggest, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. We meet the curious characters that frequent the bookstore and learn about the “special” section of books to be checked out. As Clay and his friends try to solve the mystery of the odd volumes, they encounter fantastic characters and take both figurative and literal journeys to solve an ancient riddle. Part science-fiction, part fantasy, and pure fun, this was a light, easy read great for a summer afternoon by the pool.

Also, “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah is the summer read set in Alaska that was recommended to me while visiting Alaska earlier this year. It was fun to be able to reference some places in the book, such as The Salty Dog Saloon in Homer, and revisit those long, Alaskan summer days after I returned home. This is an epic book about a troubled family who escapes into the incredibly bright, but incredibly short Alaskan summer. The main character, Leni, sees the temperament of her POW veteran father, Ernst, change with the seasons in their brutal new environment. As we follow Leni and her family through the years, we see how they are affected by the light and darkness, both in the environment and within their own family. I found that I was carried seamlessly through the many twists and turns as naturally as the changes in the Alaskan seasons and both satisfied and sad that my journey with Leni had come to an end.

Cristina I. Llorens
Communications Manager
ABB Optical

Backlash” is the latest spy thriller novel in Brad Thor’s series focused on the character of Scot Harvath, a former Navy SEAL turned covert ops professional. Harvath and his team of operators encounter dangerous missions in order to help keep the United States safe from enemies and threats, both foreign and abroad. Other books in the Scot Harvath series include Spy Master, Use of Force, and Foreign Agent.

Kristina Gross
Director of Communications
National Vision

I love historical fiction, so one of the books I read this summer was Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. It’s based on the true story of the notorious scandal of the real-life Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage in which children from low-income families from southern states were kidnapped and sold to wealthy families across the country. The author’s ability to bring the characters to life and create such emotionally-relatable stories with the backdrop of such a poignant piece of history kept my attention from cover to cover.