UVA Darden Dean Emeritus Bob Bruner Offers Recommended Books of 2020

By Dave Hendrick

Darden Professor and Dean Emeritus Bob Bruner recently posted his annual list of suggested reading, books that just may help readers stimulate their purpose and chart a new direction during difficult times.

Bruner, an avid and dedicated reader, offers suggested volumes in medicine, history, politics, leadership, and, of course, fiction. Whatever you choose to read, Bruner suggests, be intentional with the volumes you opt spend your time with.

In previous years, I have extolled the importance of reading to sharpen one’s purpose as a leader (see 20112012201320142015201620172018, and 2019).  Thus, reading good books can help you shape your direction.  The best books don’t tell you what to think; they may calm you down or rile you up; but they confront you with ideas that stimulate your own sense of purpose.  I’m leery of the vast self-help literature, very directive stuff that reduces purpose to banal checklists.  Instead, start from your own interests.  During difficult times, self-directed personal reading can help you get a grip on your rudder.

Get some good books (as defined by your interests and by people whose judgment you respect); don’t read junk.  Set aside a few hours each week to read and make notes about the parts you like—I underline, dog-ear, and highlight mercilessly (only in books that I own!)  Pay attention to what resonated with you and follow the trail to more good books.  Give any book the first hundred pages to hook you, after which you either finish it or quit and go on to another.  If you can, read a book with others and discuss it.  Serious reading is intentional.

I read a lot, mostly because I like to, and partly because it’s my job.  A wise guy student once asked, “Why do you read?  Don’t you know everything already?” Nope.  As 2020 showed, the world keeps changing.  I owe it to my students and colleagues to hone my mastery continually.  Abraham Lincoln once explained that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four sharpening the axe. Think of reading as sharpening your axe.

See Bruner’s full list of recommendations in his 18 December blog post.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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