The Goldman Sachs back-to-school reading list is better than you’d expect

Read up.
Read up.
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew
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It’s back-to-school time! Grab your pens, zip up your backpack, and turn to your nearest financial institution.

For the second year, Goldman Sachs has released a back-to-school reading list. And it’s not terrible.

The recommendations, provided by senior management, includes fiction, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Half of the Yellow Sun and Julian Barnes’ The Noise of Time, along with the usual coffee table nonfiction like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, and Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise.

The list is for people of “all ages and career stages,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email. The recommendations, along with the company’s other social media initiatives, ”have the larger goal of humanizing the firm and our leaders,” she wrote.

The list could be worse. Compared to JP Morgan’s dull and self-help-heavy summer reading list (with a predictable cameo from Hamilton—or at least Hamilton: The Revolution, a book about the development of the musical), the Goldman list at least suggests its employees are trying to learn something.

Here are a few examples:

Dispatches, by Michael Herr (1977)
“When Herr died this summer, I decided to re-read it, and was once again struck by how viscerally he captured the war experience. Herr renders Vietnam as at once terrifying and desensitizing, while also expressing the disaffection of a generation.” — Liz Bowyer (Executive Office)

Inverting the Pyramid: the History of Football Tactics, by Jonathan Wilson (2009)
“This is an excellent book that describes how football tactics have evolved over time. Applicable to our work—as it shows how ‘change is the only constant.'” — Bobby Vedral (Securities)

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
“The novel details the life of one sister in Ghana and the other who was sold into slavery in America. It is a very well-written and educational narrative of their lives.” — Lisa Opoku (Technology)

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
“It is an extraordinary study of friendship and trauma – you are led to understand the minds of the characters in a way that is equally gripping and at times, harrowing.” — Sally Boyle (Human capital management)

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (2016)
“A hilarious behind-the-scenes history of how Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld created the concept, characters and storylines that resulted in the greatest television series of all time.” — Dino Fusco (Services)

And here’s the full list.