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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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We need more liberty, less politics: Richard Boddie – OCRegister

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Back in 1990 when I was running to become the 1992 nominee for president as the Libertarian Party candidate, and again when I actually ran for the Senate in California against Dianne Feinstein and John Seymour in 1992, and then against “DiFi” again and Michael Huffington in 1994, reporters would often ask me, “How many Libertarians are there”?

My late friend and mentor David Bergland, the 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, used to often tell reporters, “Most Americans are libertarians. They’re just in the process of discovering it.”

I pray that he might have been right, and I have reasons to believe so.

I believe that many Americans just want to be left alone to live their own lives freely, and that most abide by a live-and-let-live philosophy in their daily lives. It’s clear to me that we would probably all be better off if we stopped using the state, or so-called government, as the vehicle by which we try to impose our values on others. Voluntary anything beats mandatory anything every time.

But current political frameworks and debates don’t actually lend themselves to maximizing personal freedom, or even freedom from politics.

My initial political beliefs came from my home, as is most people’s experience. My dad, a Negro church pastor (this was in the early 1940s and that’s what we were called and also called ourselves when not using the term “colored”) was a Democrat, mainly because of FDR’s influence on the Black communities nationwide with his New Deal. Thus, I too was a Democrat. Rev. Boddie (pronounced “body”) strongly opposed war and questioned any and all United States military intervention worldwide. I also do to this day, most likely as a result of dad’s pacifist influence.

As an adult, after college and law school, I observed that the vast majority of Black folks in my city, Rochester, New York, were Democrats, likely for much the same reason as most people: you inherit political perspectives from those around you.

In those days in the minds of most people, politically, there were only Republicans, Democrats and Communists.

The concept of liberal, conservative, or even independent had yet to surface as political divisions in the minds of the citizenry. And surely there were no color-coded red, blue or purple shortcuts until recent times. And as for that recent innovation, it’s obvious that somebody definitely got the red and blue colorings backward. Who ever heard of a blue progressive or socialist, or a red Republican? Come on. But I ramble.

Unfortunately for our nation, the word “libertarian” and understanding thereof appears to be much too late in coming, just now breaking through to the masses. Instead and as a result, most of our politics are dominated by factions committed to using government to achieve what should be achieved voluntarily or as close to the individual as possible.

Libertarianism as a political approach is much closer to the intuition most people have of live and let live, for it is based on the common belief and understanding that this nation was predicated on respect for the individual first and foremost.

We would probably all be better off if we stopped using the government as the vehicle through which we seek to solve every problem, from the personal to the cultural to the economic.

This current divisive culture war and craziness that we are experiencing could ultimately be better handled by individuals and communities, often voluntarily, instead of being botched up and exacerbated by politicians at all levels.

I believe that we wouldn’t have our lives dominated by headlines about Trump or Biden or whomever if we didn’t trust in government to do so much that it shouldn’t be doing. Isn’t it obvious to you yet where the actual obvious problem is here?  As the late American businessman and libertarian activist Robert LeFevre put it, “Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.”

The late co-founder of the Libertarian Party, David Nolan, established that there are five basic elements that one must believe in if she or he professes to be a libertarian: 1. You own yourself; 2. A belief in the right of self-defense; 3. Opposition to “criminal possession” laws; 4. Opposition to taxes on productivity; and 5. Support for a sound money system. That’s basically it.

Or more concisely, by yours truly:  “Do all you agree to do, and do not encroach on other people or other people’s property.” Or, “Don’t hurt other people and don’t take their stuff.” Or, “Thou shalt not aggress.” And this especially goes for people calling themselves government, too.

These days so many decent American voters are clamoring for a third party. It is quite understandable considering all the bipartisan angst. But, for some strange reason, perhaps due to the Libertarian Party’s principled and consistent positions and belief that “thou shalt not aggress” or “live and let live.” and absent the traditional cut-throat and too often blind political tactics, few are aware of or making the switch to the only political party that could fix the mess.

The LP has been in existence for almost 50 years now, it is in all 50 states and has been for years, and has run presidential and congressional candidates since its inception, as well as state and local candidates. It’s interesting to note that very few Americans have been allowed to even consider that political party choice. What’s up with that?

Whether you vote for the LP or not, whether you call yourself a libertarian or not, wouldn’t our lives all be better if we were less bombarded with politics? The only way to get there is to stop playing the usual games, stop sticking to the usual scripts and stop putting so much power in the hands of politicians and the state.

Richard Boddie is a member of the Southern California News Group’s editorial board.

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Ukraine president says Kyiv staying out of U.S. internal politics, elections – Reuters

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FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gestures during an open-air news conference, one year after his inauguration, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kiev, Ukraine May 20, 2020. Sergey Dolzhenko/Pool via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that it was a matter of Ukraine’s national security to stay out of U.S. internal politics, particularly its election.

“#Ukraine did not and will not allow itself to interfere in the elections and thus harm our trusting and sincere partnership with the #USA,” he wrote on Twitter late on Saturday.

Zelenskiy, 42, was a comic actor when he won a landslide election last year. But the first year of his presidency was overshadowed by Ukraine’s unwitting involvement in events that led to the impeachment of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump had unsuccessfully pressed Ukraine to launch an investigation into his Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Never, under any circumstances, it’s acceptable to meddle in another country’s sovereign elections,” Zelenskiy wrote.

Zelenskiy appealed to Ukrainian politicians to avoid any actions that could be linked to U.S. elections, nor allow themselves to try to solve any of their personal, political or business problems that way.

“Ukraine’s reputation is worth much more than the reputation of any of our politicians,” the president said.

Earlier this week, Zelenskiy told Reuters that he hoped U.S. support for Ukraine would remain strong regardless of who wins the American election.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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Week In Politics: Congress Fails To Come To Agreement On New Coronavirus Relief Bill – NPR

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As lawmakers fight over what to include in the next Coronavirus relief package, we look at the impact of delaying that aid. Also, do we know more about President Trump’s agenda for his second term?

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