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10 Leaders in Business, Politics and Arts Share Their Favorite Books of 2019 – The Wall Street Journal



Flea, Zadie Smith and Robert Iger

Each year we ask more than 50 leaders and luminaries from literature, business, politics and the arts to name the best books they’ve read during the year. You could spend all day reading the full list—and all year reading the books.

Robert Iger

Ta-Nehisi Coates has become one of my favorite authors—he also writes the “Black Panther” comics—and his searing debut novel, “The Water Dancer,” will stay with me forever. I’m fortunate to work with some supremely talented writers and I certainly appreciate the immense power their stories have to develop empathy and an appreciation for the human condition. Our world needs great storytellers to teach us, to enlighten us and to open our minds to our differences. “The Water Dancer” is such a story and solidifies Mr. Coates as one of our great storytellers. The historian Yuval Noah Harari’s profound books have allowed me to consider the state of our world through the prism of the past. But in “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” Mr. Harari uses history to explore what our future may hold—and makes the case that we should not be afraid of change or disruption, but should rather embrace its inevitability and use it to move us forward. In a business as dynamic as ours, this is a vital lesson.

— Mr. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Co. and the author of “The Ride of a Lifetime.”

Téa Obreht

In preparation for 2019 I found it necessary to break my lifelong habit of reading at bedtime. (It had grown troublesome as I became someone who works way too late and doesn’t realize she’s drifted off, then half-dreams her way through intricate plots at the disastrous pace of one chapter a night.) The rewards have been glorious: My afternoons were spent with Kathleen Alcott’s daringly inventive “America Was Hard to Find” and Karen Russell’s wild and wonderful “Orange World” and Lauren Wilkinson’s genre-bending “American Spy.” I was blown away, too, by

Salvatore Scibona’s

“The Volunteer,” which might be the first book I’ve ever read whose beginning made me cry. It starts with a tiny, desperate boy found at the Hamburg airport speaking an unknown language, and leads us from Latvia to Vietnam, New Mexico and Cambodia, through lifetimes and family myths, memories, upheavals and betrayals of mind and body.

— Ms. Obreht is the author of “Inland.”

Marc Benioff

This year, three extraordinary leaders remind us that we can all be a platform for change. In “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Robert Iger chronicles his amazing career—including his 15 years leading Disney. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes stories illustrating key moments that shaped Disney’s history and Bob’s 45-year career. His “Lessons to Lead By” will help everyone, from new hires to chief executives. My good friend David Rubenstein brings us “The American Story,” applying his incredible interviewing skills to draw out deep insights from our nation’s top presidential historians. David’s book shows us how the past informs our understanding of the present and can shape our future. Roger McNamee’s “Zucked” captures the disastrous consequences of one of our most powerful companies not making trust its No. 1 value. Every page is a reminder that businesses can do more than make a profit; it should be a corporate responsibility to serve stakeholders as well as shareholders and improve the state of the world.

— Mr. Benioff is chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce and co-author, with Monica Langley, of “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.”

Zadie Smith

I reread “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and reremembered it’s a masterpiece. I read “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by

Shoshana Zuboff

and “Re-engineering Humanity” by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger and wished everyone would read both before the re-engineering is total. I read “Potiki” by the Maori author Patricia Grace and thought she should get the Nobel. I read “Voices From Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich and was glad she already has one. I read “Fleishman Is in Trouble” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner on a plane to Australia: I laughed and cried. The flight was so long I also read “A Month in Siena” by Hisham Matar. Everybody should get to spend a month with Mr. Matar, looking at paintings. I read “Black Lives: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition 1900,” edited by Julian Rothenstein, and felt thankful for Du Bois. I read “The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of Nationalism” by Fintan O’Toole and wished I’d written it. I read “The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes”—that 16th-century servant who revealed the corruption of all masters—and marveled at how a long-departed consciousness could still feel present. I read “Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing” and wished that particular consciousness had not departed. I read “Out of Darkness, Shining Light” by Petina Gappah and “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang and felt delighted by fiction. I read “Feel Free” by Nick Laird and felt lucky to have a poet in the house.

— Ms. Smith is the author of “Grand Union.”

HR McMaster

It is difficult to overstate the threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea. Not only as a direct threat to humanity, but also because a nuclear-armed North Korea would lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. If

Kim Jong Un

gets them, who doesn’t? The Kim family has never built a weapon it did not try to sell. As North Korea’s third-generation dictator threatens a “Christmas present” if the U.S. doesn’t accede to his latest demands, we would do well to understand better the emotions, ideology and worldview that drive and constrain his behavior. A great starting point is Anna Fifield’s “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.” The book is impeccably researched. The prose is lively. Ms. Fifield writes with wit and dark humor about a murderous and increasingly dangerous dictator. Through first- and secondhand accounts, she fills in the gaps of Mr. Kim’s life to paint a less-unfinished portrait of the man. He is smarter and more calculating than anyone gives him credit for, securing power by ramping up the nuclear and missile programs started by his predecessors. This book provides a valuable perspective on this formidable adversary and one of our most vexing foreign-policy challenges.

— Mr. McMaster is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Susan Packard

As I turned the final pages of Patti Callahan’s novel “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” I couldn’t believe the two main characters had only known each other for a decade. The victim of an abusive husband, Joy Davidman flees America with her two small sons and sets up life in England. She becomes a writer and takes the chance to correspond with

C.S. Lewis,

author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” novels. Davidman wants to know more about Lewis’s conversion to Christianity from atheism. She, too, is a convert, from Judaism. Lewis writes her back, and the two become friends. Over the decade of their fierce and growing love, Davidman’s spirit and self-worth grow: “It wasn’t until England I saw who I could be: a brilliant light, cherished for who I was.” Her love in turn transforms Lewis from a man living only in his intellect. “Logic takes no account for the heart,” she tells Lewis. “How can you tell a heart what to do?” She opens him up to the grace of living fully and vulnerably, and changes this brilliant writer forever.

— Ms. Packard is a co-founder of HGTV and the author of “Fully Human.”

Andrew Yang

Artificial intelligence and other new technologies have the potential to change our economy and society in unpredictable ways. Even techies don’t know what’s going to happen. Kai-Fu Lee’s “AI Superpowers” recognizes the power that will come from these technologies and the dangers of falling behind other countries, especially China. The book has shown itself to be particularly relevant and prescient. Few observers, even two or three years ago, could have predicted the current state of U.S.-China relations. The U.S. needs to invest in these areas to catch up, while also bringing the world together in an organization like the WTO for data.

— Mr. Yang is the founder of Venture for America and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate


Despite my dismay around the dystopian takeover of science fiction and the loss of hope, optimism and fascination that buoyed my Ray Bradbury childhood, I set my petty whining aside to tell you that Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” is a stunner. It’s a terrifying vision of a dismal future brought on by the willful ignorance, racism and greed of human beings, and an eerily dangerous parallel to our present path. Ms. Butler gives us a satisfying protagonist in the hypersensitive teenager Lauren, whose courage and wits are an infinite source of inspiration. Paulette Jiles’s “News of the World” is the only book I’ve read that caused me to yell out loud in the solitude of my bedroom. Young Johanna, displaced by the wildly shifting world around her, shows courage and spiritual depth beyond her years and filled my heart with purpose. It’s a history book and the most profound love story between Johanna and an elderly man named Capt. Kidd. Toni Morrison’s “Sula,” the first book I read together with my then-fiancée in our two-person book club, is an absolute epic. Love and yearning, pathos and racism, a deep friendship connection forged in secret trauma, it was the last Morrison book I read before her passing and must be held in the highest esteem.

— Flea plays bass for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and is the author of “Acid for the Children.”

Twyla Tharp

Three books recently gave me hope that consensus can be reached in our radically divided culture, emphasizing the optimism and courage to be had when we debate our differences. John Sexton’s “Standing for Reason” demonstrates the commitment needed from adults to support the development of knowledgeable and inquisitive young thinkers. Mr. Sexton, a former president of New York University, insists on the power of logic in dialogue to weld the silos of a large urban university into one force. It can be done. In “A Month in Siena,” Hisham Matar’s study of paintings found in this Italian city help transform the brutal loss of his father into a rebirth of faith. The iconography of three Sienese painters gives Mr. Matar his metaphor. In the first half of the 14th century, Ambrogio Lorenzetti portrayed a democratic Siena ruled through individual civic responsibility. In the latter half of that century, following the Plague, Bartolo Battiloro showed Siena’s community spirit deteriorating; its collective guilt and terror made the city susceptible to a hegemonic ruler. Then a century after the plague, Giovanni di Paolo represented individuals once again capable of communicating directly, without intermediaries, in a work appropriately titled “Paradise.” Józef Czapski’s “Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp” is just that. Czapski, a Polish officer, was captured during World War II and taken to a Russian hard-labor camp. At the end of each harsh day, the prisoners maintained their sanity by giving one another lectures on the subjects they knew best. As there were no written documents allowed, these recitations were entirely from memory. Czapski’s almost literal recall of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” is incredible in its detail; yet even more impressive is his insistence that we can maintain humanity through communication with one another. May we all so triumph in the New Year.

— Ms. Tharp is a choreographer and the author of “Keep It Moving.”

Will Hurd

In “American Carnage,” Tim Alberta explains why our political system is where it is. He illuminates how trends like a widening chasm in incomes, a shredded national identity and a dissipating sense of societal cohesiveness have blurred together into an expression of outrage and how politicians have responded to these changes. He details how “elections in modern America are won principally by mobilizing the base, not persuading the middle.” This is dangerous: The only way we have solved problems in this country is by working together. “American Carnage” helps us understand how and why we’ve forgotten the basic truth that way more unites us than divides us.

— Mr. Hurd is a congressman from Texas.

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The BJP's Flawed Blueprint for Resurrecting Kashmir's Politics – The Diplomat



After a gap of several months, political activity is beginning to sprout once again in the Kashmir Valley. Both old and fresh faces of Kashmir’s mainstream politics promise new political fronts and a fresh vision for yet another “Naya Kashmir.” Quite understandably, the political leadership in Delhi is trying to infuse vigor into this political activity, hoping it can help to address discontent following the August 2019 decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and transform the former state into a union territory. While the politics of alternatives isn’t new to Kashmir, the current atmosphere bears a stark resemblance to the 1960s, when the Indian National Congress tried to consolidate their control over the political and administrative affairs of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The installation of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad as prime minister of the state, following the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, was the first move aimed at creating an alternative government, one acquiescent to Congress’ central leadership. His decade-long tenure removed apprehensions that Sheikh’s wavering loyalty had raised. However, it did not prevent the central leadership of the Congress from aspiring for a permanent alternative. Bakshi’s resignation under the Kamraj Plan opened up this possibility.

The Congress found Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq to be a perfect fit for its requirements. Sadiq, a National Conference dissident and founder of Democratic National Conference, won the 1967 election and led the first elected Congress government in the state. While this allowed the central leadership direct control, the move failed to achieve its aim of penetrating down to the masses – something the Congress has still not been able to do. Instead, the Sadiq government constantly depended on the central leadership for directions. This failure laid the ground for handing the reins back to Sheikh Abdullah in 1972.

In its pursuit of breaking the impasse and restoring political processes in Kashmir, the present government is perhaps seeking to create its own ruling class that will be dependent upon the center, both legally and politically. While they have chosen to avoid the older guard of Jammu and Kashmir’s political parties, the central leaders also do not seem to be interested in identifying and elevating the second-rung leadership. However, the continuous detention of these political figures keeps them relevant on both sides of the political discourse.

What is transpiring in the political circles of Kashmir is certainly not a new strategy. Armchair politicians and seasoned turncoats have traditionally been used to lay a fresh political ground in Kashmir, even though the practice is antithetical to restoration of democratic processes. This practice ignores the very fact that in a complex political environment where alienation is deep-rooted, alternatives cannot evolve in vacuum.

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Any alternative to the older guard in Kashmir has to be broad-based. It has to have the patronage of the masses, a strong network of workers capable of mobilization and electoral experience. For now, the capacity to mobilize masses may be seen as a threat to public order, but it is precisely what is required to restore political processes.

Naveed Mehmood Ahmad is currently working as Legal Research Fellow in New Delhi. He has a Masters in Law from Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai.

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Politics Briefing: Conservatives lead national poll – The Globe and Mail




Between the plane crash in Iran, the coronavirus and protests that are increasingly crippling rail lines around the country, it would be a trying time for any government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have been lauded for his handling of the aftermath of the plane crash last month, but Canadians are apparently souring on his leadership as the problems pile up.

The latest Nanos Research survey, released this morning, puts the Conservatives in the lead nationally at 36 per cent support among respondents. Nanos has the Liberals at 33 per cent, the NDP at 15 per cent, and the Bloc and Greens with 7 per cent each.

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“Although the Liberals have enjoyed a marginal advantage over the Conservatives since mid-November there has been an decline in support over the last few weeks in the Nanos tracking,” founder Nik Nanos said. He noted the decline has happened at the same time as the controversies in the news.

The hybrid phone-online survey talked to 1,000 Canadian adults over four weeks. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The latest survey pegs support for the parties pretty close to what they were on the Oct. 21 election night. The Conservatives won the popular vote thanks to huge margins of victory in Western provinces, while the Liberals won a number of close contests in Central Canada that put them over the top in seat count. But with a minority government, technically the Liberal government could fall at any time.

Since the election, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer resigned. The party is due to pick a new leader on June 27.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


Teck chose to back out of the Frontier oil sands mine when it became clear that being at the centre of a national debate about energy and environmental policy was not going to be a boon to the company, sources tell The Globe and Mail. The business case for the major project was also troubled because of low oil prices. Teck said earlier this month it would be net-zero on emissions by 2050, and sources say it also wasn’t clear how the resources company would achieve that.

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Protests in solidarity with some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue to target rail lines, a day after Ontario Provincial Police closed the main blockade at Tyendinaga. A new blockade was set up in Hamilton, at an important nexus for freight and commuter lines.

As if there wasn’t enough energy news, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the federal carbon price was unconstitutional. That ruling followed those of the Ontario and Saskatchewan courts, which found the carbon price was constitutional. It’ll be up to the Supreme Court to sort it out when it hears the case next month.

The New Democrats have tabled a bill to establish universal pharmacare. The Liberals have not said if they will support the bill, though they are promising to move somewhat in that direction.

The Liberals did table a bill to slightly open up access to physician-assisted deaths, by allowing for advance waivers and removing the need for the deaths to be “reasonably foreseeable.”

The government’s long-delayed plan to buy new fighter jets is being delayed more.

And the Public Sector Pension Investment Board is getting into real estate. However, it’s not clear if the Toronto development that the pension plan envisions will get the rezoning required to actually build housing.

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Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the Teck oil sands mine’s sudden rise to national prominence: “It can’t be said often enough: Hardly anybody was talking about the Liberals’ looming decision on whether to approve the Frontier mine a few months ago, even in Alberta. It wasn’t a big topic last summer when the project received a rather tentative approval recommendation from a federal-provincial panel, nor in the fall election campaign.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the politics of the decision: “A big chunk of Canada’s population will cheer at the prospect that future oil sands projects will be stymied. Another big chunk will feel climate-change policies must be set aside to let projects go ahead. Those are now political forces beyond the full control of politicians.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on the need for federal and provincial governments to work together: “Yes, the United Conservative Party campaigned on scrapping the carbon tax and protecting provincial jurisdiction. But even Jason Kenney has to know there is value to a consumption tax, and there are much bigger fish to fry – including incentivizing its emissions-heavy oil sands industry to innovate itself greener.”

Jason Markusoff (Maclean’s) on Teck’s thinking in withdrawing the Frontier mine: “The company, as it saved face, also saw this as a good opportunity to demand governments have actual big-picture oil sands development policies, and not just leave each project, one by one, to the whims of the varying beliefs of cabinet ministers who think one more straw will break Canada’s carbon back, or that this one is climate-affordable and economically necessary.”

Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on fair dealing: “Canada is a nation that is built on the rule of law and common sense. Before a railway could be built across the new nation, the government had to make treaty with the First Nations of the plains. This process stopped in the mountains because the American settlers in British Columbia refused to see the need to deal fairly with the First Nations. Today Canada is paying the price and the politicians and those in power know it.”

Brenda Cossman (The Globe and Mail) on the Weinstein verdict: “Measuring the relative success of #MeToo through the Weinstein trial might be a little too myopic, even in terms of the law. Law has already had a big role to play. Men such as Mr. Weinstein and broadcasters Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose were fired, and none of these once-powerful men brought successful wrongful dismissal suits. Nor did any of them bring successful defamation suits against the media who reported on their sexual misconduct. Well before the criminal law got involved, there were many #MeToo consequences meted out through the law.”

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Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Mediating the Politics of Abortion – The New York Times



To the Editor:

Re “How Abortion Warps Our Politics” (Op-Ed, Feb. 6):

Gracy Olmstead is certainly right to argue that the issue of abortion should not be avoided by either party in the next election.

Donald Trump is not a notably religious president, and it is easy to believe that his embrace of the issue is rooted in political advantage. But for many, and not only Catholics, the issue has a distinctly religious dimension, one that should be recognized generally, and so made a part of the Democratic platform as well as the Republican.

That platform should acknowledge the many disadvantages under which women labor, in the workplace and elsewhere. It should also support those women, half of whom live in poverty, who have an abortion for financial reasons, and many of whom would prefer not to.

Gender issues are complex, which is why they are often simplified in political discourse. But this one must not be conceded to Republican virtue, and should be attended to by both parties.

John C. Hirsh
The writer teaches medieval literature at Georgetown University.

To the Editor:

I certainly understand how some people view abortion as murder and sincerely want to protect the innocent, voiceless unborn. What I don’t understand or respect is how some of these very same people are also the ones looking to cut food stamps, attack the Children’s Health Insurance Program, welfare and other safety-net programs that would help children in need.

Aren’t these “born” children deserving of the protection that the unborn should have? What about separating children from their parents at the border? Aren’t these children also innocent and in need of protection?

The level of hypocrisy among many pro-life people is truly stunning.

Linda Drum
Jericho, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Gracy Olmstead doesn’t offer a reasonable alternative to the abortion dilemma. Here’s one: Support the option to choose life but oppose the effort to change policy. Support challenged young mothers but oppose a policy that forces them to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

Abortion is not simply an issue of money; it is an issue of choice: who gets to make one. Such a personal, private choice should reside with the woman.

Any abortion policy in America must protect the most vulnerable women. The greatest protection they could receive is simply the freedom to make their own choices.

Hamilton Clancy
New York

To the Editor:

I appreciate the nuanced stance that Gracy Olmstead takes. She is right that we need to provide better health care, better wages and so on. But I don’t believe that Ms. Olmstead or the pro-life Democrats fully understand what anti-abortion means to most people.

My husband has been an ob-gyn in practice for more than 40 years. He has happily delivered thousands of healthy babies. That said, he talks of the devastation to the family when a child is born with severe, untreatable abnormalities. He knows the difficulties women have when they have had an unplanned pregnancy and spouses separate, each blaming the other as the cause.

He has seen the severity to the family of an additional mouth to feed. He has helped counsel people with known genetic issues that would result in a short, painful life for the child.

Each person and couple must decide how to handle all these issues. It is incumbent that the decision be left to the pregnant woman, her partner and her health care provider, not legislators, courts or a president who will not have to deal with the consequences.

Hope Powers
McLean, Va.

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