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David Levin, CEO of McGraw Hill Education Reviews Transformational Books

An avid reader, David Levin typically works his way through multiple books simultaneously.

An avid reader, David Levin typically works his way through multiple books simultaneously. “I’m a bit of a magpie—my wife complains about the piles of books around the bed,” admits the CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, whose tastes skew toward “books about business, but not business.” In other words, he favors reading about people who transformed the economy through their interactions with it or with one another rather than the latest business best-seller, explains Levin, who recently shared some of his favorite reads with Chief Executive.

Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America

This fascinating read about industrial titans and the evolution of the steel industry was part of a self-prescribed immersion course Levin undertook after relocating stateside for his current post. “In bringing my family here—becoming an immigrant in my 50s—I thought it behooved me to dive in, dig deep and understand more about America,” he explains.

A Guide to Pseudo Events in America

“Very much ahead of its time in defining the world we are now living in,” says Levin of a book that he says “introduced the concept of ‘pseudo-events’ like press conferences and presidential debates long before 24-hour media and the Internet. My perception of this election has been completely altered by a book written in 1962.”

How the Communications Revolution Is Changing our Lives

This 1997 look at how wireless communications would redefine relationships by making distance irrelevant “changed my perception of the world,” says Levin, who read it in 2002 just before taking his first CEO post at the tech company Symbian. “It made a massive impact in terms of helping me redefine the way I saw the planet and the relationship of the different parts to one another.”

And How They Got That Way

Seeking a primer on education when he joined McGraw-Hill Education in 2013, Levin discovered this “classic mirror book about what’s happening in education in various parts of the world and what it means.” Comparing and contrasting the “high-performing” educational systems of Finland and Korea, he found inspiration in Howe’s exploration of “the many layers of what counts in making great education.”

What’s Gone Wrong With the Language of Politics?

“I’ve got this one queued up next,” says Levin. “It’s on how we use rhetoric and language to undermine reality and whether we’re communicating clearly or creating problems for ourselves.”


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