Worth reading

We know what you are reading this summer

Eight months in 2020 has turned out to be a year like no other in recent memory—one dominated by a global pandemic, destabilising lockdowns, unending work-from-home weeks, and—depending on which continent you’re on—upended summer or winter travel plans. Meanwhile, we have borne witness to an unprecedented groundswell of protests and dialogue, especially in the US, as we collectively grapple with enduring racial-justice and equity challenges.

Now, we find ourselves at that moment in August when, even in a pandemic, professional lives often slow down. It’s also the moment when McKinsey Global Publishing typically asks business leaders to share books they have recently read, plan to revisit, or look forward to reading.

This year, we have consciously broadened our horizons to ask leaders and personalities from diverse fields and global organisations to talk about the books that have inspired them or, in many cases, provided a much-needed respite from our daily, often virtual, realities. We hope you will be as intrigued as we were when these 60 leaders shared their recommendations with McKinsey Global Publishing’s Raju Narisetti.

For added inspiration, we have also curated summer book recommendations from the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Harvard Business School, and the long list of the 2020 Booker Prize. We have also included some recommendations from the editorial staff of McKinsey Global Publishing. Our hope is that this compilation helps you find opportunities to reflect and recharge as we prepare for what will likely be a challenging and unpredictable fall.

A final note: On August 17, the Financial Times and McKinsey will reveal the 2020 long list for our annual Business Book of the Year Award. The judges then get to work winnowing those selections to a short list, to be announced September 23 by McKinsey senior partner Dame Vivian Hunt, following a digital discussion hosted by FT editor Roula Khalaf, “Books, business, and beyond: Making sense of the near future.” Joining this discussion will be Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser to Allianz and president-elect of Queens’ College, University of Cambridge; Raghuram Rajan, Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, University of Chicago Booth School of Business; and Amy Webb, founder, Future Today Institute.

We invite you to join this virtual event from wherever you plan to be in September. Be sure to check back here for registration information in the coming days, as well as details of the 2020 long list. The eventual winner will be announced in December. And if you haven’t read it already, we recommend the 2019 winner Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by journalist and activist Caroline Criado Perez. Here’s more from our blog on last year’s short list and winner.

Business Leaders

Global Leaders

Business Media


Civil Rights/Freedom of Expression

Other Media


McKinsey Leaders

Other 2020 reading lists you might want to explore

McKinsey Global Publishing Picks

20 books to read this summer (Washington Post)

Bill Gates: Books to read, TV to watch, and things to do this summer (World Economic Forum)

FT Series: Summer Books 2020 (Financial Times)

Harvard Business School Faculty Summer Reader (Harvard Business School Working Knowledge)

So you want to read the classics (Vox)

Summer Reading (New York Times Book Review)

The 2020 Booker Prize longlist (The Booker Prizes)

The great escape: 50 brilliant books to transport you this summer (Guardian)