20 books to add to your reading list

You’re always wishing you had more time to read, right? The COVID-19 social distancing mandate could be your chance. In case you need a little inspiration, we asked our community to share their favorite books with us. Here we’ve compiled a list of suggested fiction, nonfiction, and memoir selections. Perhaps you’ll start with that best-seller you’ve heard so much about or an easy beach read to take a mental vacation, or maybe even a cult classic you’ve always meant to grab. Enjoy!


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. When two wealthy siblings are exiled from their home at an early age by their stepmother, they’re thrown into poverty. Relying on each other, they overcome desperate situations, yet never stray far from the orbit and draw of their eccentric childhood home. (Leyla Seka)

Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime by J. California Cooper. This collection of short stories offers up a diverse cast of characters that often struggle to make the right choices and find happiness in a society that often chooses light skin over dark and money over spirit. Each episode inspires, though, bubbling over with laughter, advice, and enjoyment. (Molly Ford)

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Nao is a 16-year-old who’s uprooted from her life in California to return to Japan when her father loses his job. To overcome her suicidal thoughts, she decides to research and write the story of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Ruth is a novelist on an island off the coast of Canada. When Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on shore, she’s thrown into the mystery of Nao’s life. (Jenny Sohn)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This novel tells the mystical story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who longs for adventure, travel, and wealth. His quest leads him to riches far different and more satisfying than he ever imagined. His journey serves as a grand reminder to seize opportunities, recognize the omens in life, and follow your dreams. (Lolita Taub)

Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion. This classic novel chronicles the Hollywood subcultures of the 1960s via the downward drift of a particular actress. In concise-yet-stunning language, the book captures the ennui of society and remains more than three decades after its original publication a profound read, riveting in its exploration of a woman and a society in crisis. (Erica Schultz)  

The Lymond Chronicles series by Dorothy Dunnett. Romp through history with incredible detail, plotting, maneuvering, travel, costumes, suspense, and hilarity. In 1547, the disgraced Francis Crawford of Lymond embarks on a fantastic journey to redeem his reputation. Follow along as his quest takes him from decadent French Courts to the battlegrounds of Malta to the hidden palaces of the Ottoman Empire and well beyond. (Laura Butler)

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. As an Italian teenager during World War II, Pino Lella was drawn into helping Jews escape over the Italian Alps to Switzerland, then led a double life as driver to a German general and spy for the Allies. If this book were pure fiction, readers might regard it as too far-fetched, but the fact that it recounts actual experiences makes it captivating. (Meagen Eisenberg)

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. In the outer banks of North Carolina lives the “Marsh Girl,” Kya Clark, who survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and food in the sand and ocean. When a local boy is found dead, the town immediately suspects Kya, but her mysterious life is not what it seems. (Robin Joy)

Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. Jack Reacher is a former Major in the United States Army Military Police Corps. Though he has a shady past, he maintains an in-depth sense of what is right. The series follows him as he falls into webs of complications and mysteries. These books are plentiful and not published in a chronological order, which means you can pick and choose as you like. (Elisa Steele)


Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. She’s the creator and producer of some of the most audacious shows on TV, yet Shonda Rhimes is a classic introvert, avoiding public appearances and suffering panic attacks before interviews. When her sister points out that you never say yes to anything, Shonda chose to make a change, challenging herself to say YES to everything that scared her for one year. (Anita Lynch)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. You might know Trevor Noah as the affable host of The Daily Show, but his path to success was everything but easy. Noah was born in apartheid South Africa to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. This is his tale. (Lisa Campbell)

Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom. For a time, Molly Bloom ran the most exclusive poker game in Los Angeles. She staged her games in hotel suites, dined at exclusive restaurants, flew privately, and hobnobbed with celebrities, until it all came crashing down. This is a behind-the-scenes look at Molly’s game, the life she created, the life she lost, and what she learned through it all. (Elena Gomez)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Thanks to the nature of their work, many therapists see their own counselors. But when an unexpected breakup leaves her reeling, therapist Lori Gottlieb enlists a new counselor to help her work through her issues. Gottlieb is hesitant at first to open up to “Wendell” (a middle-aged, balding man in a cardigan), but his odd methods make an impact. (Erica Dorfman)

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein. An American investigative journalist takes on Japanese organized crime, but when one scoop exposes a scandal that results in a death threat for him and his family, he decides to step down. Here he delivers an open look at Japanese culture and searing memoir about his rise from cub reporter to seasoned journalist with a price on his head. (Nicolas Dessaigne)

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley. This collection of essays is a deep yet humorous take on the catastrophes of everyday life. It’s like “listening to your smartest, funniest friend regale you about their (mis)adventures, be it waging war on a rude neighbor, making an ill-conceived climb up a volcano, or helping a swinger couple pick out a third.” (Ambrosia Vertesi)


Team of Rivals. Award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin shines a light on Abraham Lincoln’s true political genius in this highly engrossing work. Enjoy the research as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from total obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president. (Anirma Gupta)

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book weaves together eye-opening stories of children growing up today in an “other America.” As a whole, these detailed accounts show how working-class families have been all but forgotten as a result of decades of policy mistakes. (Reshma Saujani)

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. When Jeff Hobbs arrived at Yale, he met the man who would be his roommate for four years: Robert Peace. Robert grew up in the crime-ridden streets of Newark in the 1980s. The brilliant Robert studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics, but is unable to fully leave street life behind him. (Ebony Beckwith)

Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. Physicist and author Deutsch talks about the unlimited nature of human progress and how we often underestimate our ability to find solutions to problems. He argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe—and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. (Nick Mehta)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This must-read tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 crew team on an epic quest for an Olympic gold medal under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler. The rag-tag team, sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, remind us that victory is possible when everyone literally pulls together. (Ruthie Miller)

More suggestions to maintain your #PositiveOps

Looking for more fun recommendations to keep things positive while sequestered at home? Here are 30+ at-home activities to keep you physically and mentally fit. And here are 8 podcast recommendations to entertain and distract.

How are you staying positive these days? We’d love to know — Please share your recs with us on Twitter at @OperatorCollect.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or on Twitter and LinkedIn.