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

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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

Flea

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 2020s can end America’s generational divide in politics – Brookings Institution

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As the new decade begins, a generational divide stands at the heart of our political debate, impacting a raft of issues including the current question on impeachment. For example, according to a recent Qunnipiac poll, 60% of registered voters under 35 believe the U.S. Senate should vote to remove President Trump from office—compared with just 42% of those over 50 who believe so.

In many ways, our racially diverse, younger population is beginning to flex its political muscle and raise national consciousness on a variety of progressive issues. This contrasts sharply with the rapidly aging population of mostly white baby boomers and their seniors, who have pushed back mightily against such policies. Unless some accommodation is reached, the struggle between our past and our future will persist, leaving our nation and its economy vulnerable.

The generational confrontation came to a head during the just-concluded decade, epitomized by the presidential transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Obama, the nation’s first African American president, received solid support from voters under 45 and racial minority voters, signaling the rising political power of a younger, diverse America.

In a not-so-hidden backlash, white, working-class baby boomers and their seniors were the core constituency that subsequently elected Trump, who preyed upon their fears of a changing America with messages of nostalgia, isolationism, immigrant deportation, and rants against political correctness.

In his first three years in office, Trump’s administration has done much to curtail programs that benefit younger families—health care, benefits to immigrant children, public education, housing assistance, and many other social supports. And, alongside a Republican-controlled Congress, it has handcuffed future spending on such programs with irresponsible tax cuts, virtually guaranteeing ever-larger budget deficits.

Younger generations—millennials and Gen Zers—are strongly supportive of issues that would positively impact their futures: greater racial justice and inclusion, more favorable treatment of immigrants, stronger environmental protection, and effective gun control. But policies that support such measures are low on the priority list for Trump’s aging base.

Underlying this generational conflict are racial demographic dynamics which should further empower younger, diverse generations. One of these dynamics is the continued aging of the white population: There was an absolute decline in the number of white children and teenagers over the past decade, a consequence of there being fewer white women of childbearing age and low white immigration. Racial minorities, on the other hand, accounted for more than half of the decade’s births, as well as accounting for all growth in the country’s under-18 population.

Youthful diversity will be even more prominent in the new decade. The 2020 census will show that more than half of all children under 18 identify as a racial minority. During this new decade, as more white baby boomers age beyond 65, there will be an absolute decline of whites in their prime working years, meaning that racial minorities will contribute to all of the decade’s labor force growth.

The only part of America’s white population that will grow appreciably in the 2020s will be those of retirement age—increasing 23% over the next 10 years. This bulging, boomer-driven group will become increasingly dependent on a much slower-growing (2%) and rapidly diversifying labor force to support the federal programs that will benefit them, such as Social Security and Medicare. It is therefore vital for these boomers’ own interests to encourage government programs that benefit young families and future workers, including education and job training, Head Start, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, children’s nutrition, and child care assistance. Such programs will especially help children of color—many of them first- and second-generation Americans—who will soon contribute to our young adult and labor force populations.

However, diversity-driven demographic change will not necessarily alter politics if older, white boomers cannot be convinced to invest in America’s youth. While the 2020 census will show that 40% of the American population identifies as a minority, it is likely that white Americans will comprise about two-thirds of eligible voters (minorities are more likely than whites to be too young to vote or legal noncitizens) and more than seven in 10 actual voters in the 2020 election (whites, especially older whites, have the highest turnout rates). This voter gap will be even greater in places with high voter suppression and, for congressional elections, in states with gerrymandered districts.

If the political division between ages and races continues into the next decade, our social conflicts are sure to intensify. In 2030, the 50-and-under population—comprised of millennials and Gen Zers—is projected to be less than half white, nearly a quarter Latino or Hispanic, 14% Black, and 11% Asian American and other races, while the 65-and-older population will still over 70% white. Today’s oft-derisive and cynical cries of “white privilege” and “OK, boomer!” would likely escalate, and be more than justified if older whites continue to horde and benefit from the federal largesse while progressive polices to support criminal justice, immigrant rights, and racial equity are held at bay.

Figure 2

But these racial and generational identity politics do not have to continue. It is possible that older whites will eventually hold more generous attitudes toward today’s highly diverse younger generations as they age and disperse across the country into suburbs, exurbs, and currently red states, while the children and grandchildren of baby boomers marry those in other races. Millennials themselves can be positive role models as they age and take on leadership positions in business, politics, and public life, serving as a bridge generation between the boomer-dominated nation we have been and the multihued nation we are becoming.

Most importantly, if we are to keep our strength as a country, leaders of political parties and officials at all levels of government need to help their constituents understand the value of co-generational dependency between the old and the young. If this occurs, and I hope it does, the 2020s can be a decade of improved harmony and economic prosperity for Americans of all ages and races.

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Political Fights Are Leaving Workplaces Divided – NPR

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Amid impeachment and the 2020 election, surveys show political fevers running high at work, undercutting trust and productivity. And workers and employers are bracing for those dynamics to get worse.

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A few months ago, a skirmish broke out on the factory floor of a clothing maker in Portland, Ore. It had received an order to make T-shirts for the Trump presidential campaign — but some people refused to work on the project.

The conscientious objectors were allowed to opt out, says Darcey McAllister, who handles human resources for her small- and medium-size business clients.

“But then those same people were harassing the people who were actually working on the project,” she says. “‘And so the manager called me and was like, ‘What do I do?’ “

McAllister told him to remind protesting workers that there was a business to run and to stop heckling their coworkers.

On factory floors and work sites and in clusters of cubicles, political divisions are playing out as real-life work drama. Such disputes are not only more common, but they’re also more contentious, especially amid an impeachment trial and the lead-up to the November presidential election.

According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 42% of U.S. workers have had political disagreements at work. And the resulting strife feeds an undercurrent of workplace stress.

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Employees can’t focus, the pace of work slows, and trust is broken. Some workers feel unwelcome or even discriminated against. That’s especially true if they’re in the political minority in their workplace.

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“The people who are Trump supporters probably keep a low profile for fear that they will get verbally attacked or questioned to the point that it would make them feel uncomfortable,” McAllister says. “I do absolutely have that sense that that’s true in Portland.”

What’s more, she expects it to get worse: “I know as we get closer to November 2020, it’s going to become more and more of a problem.”

Beth Kloetzer, a supervisor at a library in Wilmington, Del., has urged her staff to read memoirs written by people on opposing political sides.

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That leaves people like Beth Kloetzer in a bind. Kloetzer supervises a Wilmington, Del., library — typically a quiet environment for reading or researching in peace. The 30-person staff is supposed to offer unbiased help finding information.

“We’re like Switzerland; you know, we’re neutral,” Kloetzer says.

Except that has not been the reality. Personal politics have redrawn allegiances and roiled tensions among staff members. Kloetzer — a Democrat — says, at times, it’s difficult to avoid getting sucked into talking about the political events of the day, at work and online.

“Actually, I have a colleague that I just block her on social media because I was like, ‘I can’t see this,’ ” Kloetzer says.

She blocks angry posts from her news feed from both sides. Such comments reveal her coworkers’ political leanings, which range from conservative Trump supporters to nonsupporters, to liberals and a few in between.

“I wonder sometimes: Do people feel this strongly or is it just that they’re driven to feel that way because that’s the mood?” Kloetzer says.

It has calmed down a bit recently, she says, perhaps because she has urged her staff to read memoirs written by people on opposing sides, including Hillbilly Elegy, by conservative author J.D. Vance, and Born a Crime, by liberal comedian Trevor Noah.

“Reading about people of different views, you grab hold of the things that you can relate to,” Kloetzer says. “It might not change your opinion overall, but it might give you a greater understanding of why everyone doesn’t agree.”

Some, like Brian Melehan, seek refuge in silence. Politics feels so personal these days he worries a slip of the tongue could cost him business. “I don’t want to make anybody mad; it makes me kind of walk on eggshells,” he says.

Melehan’s family runs a residential construction firm in Lisle, Ill. He describes his views as to the left of the Republican-leaning majority in his community. Politics was once safe fodder for chitchat, he says, but now he avoids the subject altogether — especially with clients. That never used to be the case.

“I never, ever felt like I was in fear that my political viewpoint would somehow prevent people from wanting to hire me because they don’t like what I think,” he says.

Melehan says he thinks healthy debate is necessary for democracy and hopes tensions will eventually ease.

“Division sells,” he says. “It is something that people can get behind for a brief period of time, but eventually we all have to work with each other.”

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Political Campaigns Urged To Protect Themselves From Cyberattacks – NPR

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Security experts are urging U.S. political candidates to focus more on cybersecurity to avoid embarrassing or damaging hacks.

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Paranoia is the best strategy for political campaigns when it comes to digital security. After all, who can forget the massive hack of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s emails during the last presidential election and its embarrassing consequences?

The reelection campaign of Maine Sen. Angus King took this to heart. Lisa Kaplan, King’s digital director, regularly sent out fake emails to her staff to “see who would click on them.” Those emails during the 2018 campaign looked real — but they were not.

The goal was to keep staff members on their toes so they wouldn’t fall for emails from real hackers intent on damaging the campaign.

“We would try to get them to do things like change their password for their email or change their password for the database we were using,” Kaplan said.

It’s this kind of attention to detail and seriousness about security that political veterans and party officials are urging on candidates and their staffs. Starting next week, the first votes in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries will be cast. Even more campaigns — from congressional races to local contests for mayor and city council — are gearing up for November’s election.

Communication is the lifeblood of any political campaign, but it can also be the thing that sinks it if messages get hacked or manipulated. Email and social media accounts can be taken over. Sensitive or embarrassing documents can be leaked, and false information can really damage a campaign.

Campaigns are especially vulnerable because they operate like startups: They’re created from the ground up and add staff quickly. People move in and out of jobs quickly and bring in new phones and laptops.

“Campaigns are effectively startups, but their risk profile is more like established large businesses,” said Mark Risher, who works on account security at Google.

Additional risk comes from staffers using personal cellphones, computers and email accounts to work on sensitive material.

That rapid, often chaotic growth creates openings for hackers.

“You have almost every worst-case scenario,” said Mary Dickinson, a co-founder of U.S. CyberDome, a nonprofit offering free cybersecurity services to campaigns.

“You can’t really do effective training because you’ve got people coming on board all the time,” she said. And since it’s normal for people to bring their own devices into the campaigns, “you’ve got used devices that are not scrubbed being brought into the food chain,” Dickinson said.

The most infamous hack of a campaign happened in 2016, when Russians broke into the Gmail account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta. Some of the emails were embarrassing, such as Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks.

The Russians got into Podesta’s email account through a phishing attack — where hackers send emails disguised to look like they’re from a familiar sender or from a known entity like a bank. They try to trick people into handing over passwords.

Phishing is “very, very cheap to perpetrate [and] very, very easy to scale,” Risher said. “The attackers get to keep trying again and again until they succeed, and the target only has to make a mistake once.”

Nearly four years after the Clinton campaign email hack, phishing attacks haven’t changed much, Risher said.

“The attackers are still mostly using the same techniques that were effective in 2016, 2017, 2018. They haven’t evolved because they haven’t needed to,” he said.

Despite ample evidence that political figures are targets, they remain vulnerable. A recent national survey by Google and the Harris Poll asked politicians about their cybersecurity risks. Forty percent said they’ve had an account compromised in a phishing attack. And 60% said they haven’t significantly updated the security of their accounts since 2016.

So what should campaigns do to get serious about security?

At the top of the list is taking basic precautions to protect email and other accounts.

That includes multifactor authentication, which requires people to enter not just a password but also a code sent to their smartphone or from a special hardware key. Experts also recommend using password managers and communicating on encrypted messaging apps, like Signal and Wickr.

It is not just candidates and staff who should be tightening up their online security but also the people operating in the periphery who might be helping out the campaign.

“You have a spouse that could be vulnerable; you have children; you have the candidate’s best friend who’s also the finance chair,” said Michael Kaiser, president of Defending Digital Campaigns, another nonprofit that connects campaigns with free and discounted cybersecurity services and training.

If any of the campaign helpers have access to private information and they get hacked, their accounts can be used to target the candidate.

Experts say the focus in 2020 is not just on reducing risk but on planning how to respond if a cyberattack happens.

Otherwise, candidates will be battling adversaries not only at the ballot box but in their inboxes too.

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