Saturday, January 5, 2013

Some Favorite Books with Personal Connections

Each year, there are lists of favorite books made.

This past year has been personally a Year of the Book for me.

I just finished correcting the galleys for my new book, which I will be writing more about in future posts.

In this post, I highlight some books that I recently read, reread, or am still working through, which are featured in the photo below. Each of these books also represents a personal connection.

Why Nations Fail was written by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. Daron is a Professor at MIT and we hosted him in our INFORMS Speaker Series in the Fall of 2008. Our legendary former Dean, Dr. Tom O'Brien, along with the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, helped me to plan and sponsor his visit, which was also advertised with our Finance Speaker Series. His wife is Professor Asu Ozdaglar, also of MIT, and she and I were plenary speakers at the NetGCOOP conference in glorious Paris in October 2011. Why Nations Fail is a riveting volume of economic history.

The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner I had written about previously on this blog.since I had received an interesting email from Ronald Capik, who had worked at Bell Labs, about an even earlier post that led to some additional sleuthing work. A photo in The New York Times, although originally labeled as being of Bell Labs researchers, actually was not. Bell Labs was a center of innovation in the US and I knew quite a few individuals  in operations research that had worked there. I often write about leadership, creativity, and innovation on this blog and as a "techie" highly recommend it.

The Universe in Zero Words by Dana Mackenzie, who writes also for AMS and SIAM publications, is a very entertaining book on mathematics as told through equations. It is nicely illustrated and Dana's sense of humor livens up the book. As a lover of math and equations, as well as the history of science, I enjoyed the book very much and told Dana so. He had spoken with me at length about supply chains and the work that we had done also on humanitarian supply chains. And, speaking of supply chains, the book, Sustainable Supply Chains, that was published in 2012, and edited by Professors Tonya Boone, Vaidyanathan Jayaraman, and Ram Ganeshan, is a terrific collection of works on this topic, which is very near and dear to me. My doctoral student, Amir H. Masoumi, and I have a chapter on sustainable blood supply chains in the book, and the other contributors' names any of my readers in operations research or operations management will recognize.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe I am presently reading and it will certainly be a book that I will reread. It is a love story written by a son, Will Schwalbe, about his truly amazing mother, Anne Marie, who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She has raised three children and has had a fascinating career not only as the Admissions Director at Harvard but also as a humanitarian. She emphasizes the importance of kindness and, together, she and her son exchange books and their love of them through doctor's meetings, cancer treatments, and even celebrations. In the book, Anne Marie speaks about the author, Geraldine Brooks, and calls her amazing. She and her son have a discussion about her book, People of the Book. Geraldine, along with her husband, Tony Horwitz (who happens to be a fellow Brown University grad), was a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard the same year that I was (2005-2006). We celebrated the Pulitzer Prize that she received for her book, March, that year and she was hard at work then on her book, People of the Book, while we were at Harvard. Some photos of our Radcliffe graduation I have posted here (Geraldine, Tony, and then Dean of Radcliffe, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, who is now the President of Harvard are in them as well as other Fellows),

Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle, which was the recipient of a National Book Award a few years ago, was recommended to me by Professor David E. Boyce at a dinner in honor of him and hosted by Professor Higano of Japan. Coincidentally at the dinner, which took place in Ottawa, Canada, I was seated next to the proud father-in-law of Boyle, Professor Art Getis, who, like Professor Boyce, is a luminary in the discipline of Regional Science. Professor Boyce told me that he could not put the book down!

Two of my favorite books are on outstanding educational institutions. The book by the Moorheads -- long-time teachers at Deerfield Academy, my daughter's alma mater, is A Pictorial History of the Academy. It is a stunning volume that I enjoy perusing, time and time again. Mrs. Moorhead was my daughter's French teacher her senior year at Deerfield and we have enjoyed seeing both Mr. and Mrs. Moorhead at Amherst Chinese Foods. Lucky are children who have such special educators in their lives! The Biography of a College by Albert W. Gendebien, is the third volume in the history of Lafayette College, my husband's undergraduate alma mater, located in Easton, Pennsylvania. We met when he was a grad student at Brown University and I was a freshman at Brown. He still stays in touch with some of his former professors there and the campus on College Hill is beautiful! We visit there quite regularly.

Beginning Again is a book of poems by my neighbor in Amherst, Professor Frederick C. Tillis. The book was delivered to our door by Professor Tillis and I return regularly to his poems that provide solace and that also remind me so much of our neighborhood. Each year, Professor Tillis and his wife are the recipients of our holiday cookie plates.  We very much enjoy our conversations with him!