Just in time for the July 4 holiday and summer vacations is President Emeritus Jim Doti’s annual list of summer reading recommendations, which first appeared in his column “On California” in the Orange County Business Journal.

I’m going to give my “On California” readers a break this month.  No supply and demand graphs.  Not even a word about stratospheric housing prices.

It’s summer, and we should all take a break. We especially need time to kick back on the beach or pool or favorite couch and read or listen to a good book.  On that note, I’d like to recommend some of the books I’ve particularly enjoyed this past year for your summer reading pleasure.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Of all the books I read this year, my absolute favorite is Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike. My enjoyment of this book has very little to do with the fact that I’m a marathon runner.  It’s mainly due to this being a marvelous book about what it takes to be a great leader and entrepreneur. Phil, of course, didn’t start out that way. He tells about all the trials and tribulations he faced before he and Nike ultimately became a success. I greatly admire and respect Phil’s candor in opening up about his many mistakes as well as his triumphs. I especially enjoyed reading about his first recruit, Jeff Johnson, and some of their amusing interactions together. I’ll be recommending Shoe Dog to my students, especially those that are entrepreneurially inclined.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

My second favorite book this year is Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. I listened to this audio book while running a marathon in Long Beach and quickly gave up any thought of my time goal.  I ended up making lots of stops, since I couldn’t run and laugh hysterically at the same time. I challenge anyone to get through the scene where Trevor comes up with a new idea for an outhouse without laughing. But it’s not all laughs. There is a great deal to learn about South Africa. And like Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, this book is also about the author’s early entrepreneurial experiences as a music producer. If there is a hero in this story, it’s Trevor’s resilient mother, whose indomitable spirit is a true inspiration. I highly recommend the audio version of Born a Crime so you can enjoy Trevor’s wonderful narration and accents.

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

Another book with a South African setting is Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard. This book tells the remarkable story of Winston Churchill’s experiences as a 24-year-old correspondent during the Boer War. You don’t have to be a Churchill fan to enjoy this true tale of his exciting escape from prison.


The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

I also recommend Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey. This book is an epic account of Rinker’s crossing of the Oregon Trail in a mule-drawn wagon, just like the pioneers did it. Rinker and his brother’s adventures together are funny and heartwarming.  But there’s also a lot of history about how the pioneers made the crossing and how our west was won. The real stars of the story, though, are Rinker’s team of Percheron mules, Beck, Jake and Bute.

The War That Saved My Life

Finally, if you have children to read to, I highly recommend Kimberly Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life. Fascinating from start to finish, I’ll bet you will become as engrossed as your young listener.

Have a great summer, and let me know what you think of any or all of my books by emailing doti@chapman.edu.