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To promote summer reading, QCity Metro has partnered with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and its “Summer Break” program.

As part of that partnership, QCity Metro’s publisher, Glenn Burkins, will suggest five books for your summer consideration. This article will be updated each week when Glenn picks a new book.

1. Sea of Glory

For me, reading is about adventure. A good book must do more than inform; it must take me places.

A while back, while fishing of the coast of Florida, I looked at the gnarly mangroves that lined the seashore and tried to imagine what it might have been like for the early European explorers who plied those waters, unsure what they would find.

That daydream led me to read a series of books that placed me aboard sailing vessels bound for remarkable voyages of discovery. Among my favorites was “Sea of Glory” (2004, Penguin Books) by Nathaniel Philbrick. No less an authority than David McCullough called it “a treasure of a book.”

“Sea of Glory” tells the story of the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842, which set out to map the Pacific Ocean. Along the way this expedition collected a trove of plants and animals that would later become the basis of the Smithsonian Institution.

This flotilla, which included six ships and nearly 500 military and civilian personnel, including nine scientists, “discovered” new lands, met (and exploited) native tribes and, of course, endured a shipwreck or two.

We also see in this book how individual ambitions and personal animosities can impact leadership and team cohesion. Conflict among the crew was common. I was struck by how the leader of this expedition, a naval officer named Charles Wilkes, was largely vilified, despite the general success of him mission. This was in stark contrast to the universal praise that has been heaped upon Sir Ernest Shackleton, who led a famously ill-fated expedition to reach Antartica in 1914. (Also read Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.)

Meticulously reported and written with magnificent detail, “Sea of Glory” offers the journey of a lifetime.

Check back on July 12 to see Glenn’s next pick. In the meantime, make sure you’re tracking your reading under the Library’s Summer Break program. They have cool prizes for kids, teens and adults.

2. How to lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders and Game Changers

Ever wonder what separates good from greatness?

I have.

What was it about Oprah Winfrey that fueled her phenomenal success? How did Sr. Richard Branson amass a personal fortune as founder of Virgin Group, the British company that carried him all the way into space on Sunday?

In his book, ‘How to lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEO’s, Founders and Game Changers‘  author David M. Rubenstein (no slouch himself when it comes to success) interviews 31 of the world’s most success people…assuming we measure success by fame, fortune and career accomplishments.

Like a lot of people, I’ve always been fascinated with leadership. During my days as a Wall Street Journal reporter and later as business editor at The Charlotte Observer, I often sat with successful executives and found myself wondering why he/she become CEO above all others. Was it all about talent, or did luck, charisma or even personal contacts play a role?

I can’t promise you that “How to Lead” will answer those questions — in fact, it leaves that question frustratingly unanswered — but it does open a window into the minds of successful people, including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Clinton, Jack Nicklaus, Colin Powell, Robert E. Smith (before the truth came out) and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

This book is divided into six sections — visionaries, builders, transformers, commanders, decision-makers and masters — each featuring various leaders, so it’s perfect for hopping around.

3. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1916 – 2019

It took 400 years to write this book.

Well, perhaps that’s a stretch, but the story of Black people in America, which this book chronicles, spans four centuries of bigotry, survival, determination and triumphs.

“Four Hundred Souls” begins in 1619 with the arrival of “20 and odd Negroes” aboard the slave ship White Lion. It ends with Black Lives Matter in 2019.

In between, various writers — Nikole Hannah-Jones writes about the White Lion — take their turns expounding on notable developments in Black history that led us to where we are today.

The fact that so many writers contributed — each in his or her own voice — is what makes this book special.

At 503 pages, including the index, it offers a breathtaking expanse of a history we seldom read is schools. I found it especially timesly given the current debate over the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of who we are as Americans, this book is worth your times.

4. Pelosi

If you want to see how power works at the highest levels of government, grab a copy of “Pelosi” by journalist Molly Ball.

This book reveals why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is so hated by those on the political right. And the answer is: She’s fierce, and she knows how to wield power to get what she wants.

Despite the little snippets of maternal care sprinkled throughout, this book makes clear that this mother-of-six was born to rule. 

“Pelosi” cracks open the real story behind a political juggernaut.

5. An American Marriage

When a book makes Oprah’s Book Club and also gets kudos from former President Barack Obama…well, that’s good enough for me.

An American Marriage” didn’t disappoint.

The genius of this book is that its two main characters — Roy and Celestial — are so thoroughly ordinary — two upwardly mobile Black people doing all the things that upwardly mobile Black people do so routinely every day.

Until their ordinary lives take a devastating turn.

Thoroughly ordinary, yes. But it’s also a story that’s thoroughly American.

Click the link below to learn more about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Summer Break reading program.

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