A smattering of geographically and topically diverse novels and non-fiction books, both new and old, make up the summer reading lists for pension fund and money manager executives.
Classics like “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Art of War” are joined by lesser-known books and authors, and settings that span the globe.
One executive is even brushing up on his actuarial knowledge.
George Hopkins, executive director of the $13.1 billion Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, Little Rock, is augmenting his lighter reading with a textbook on actuarial studies. But he will still find time for classics. He is reading Ray Bradbury's “Fahrenheit 451” and plans on picking up “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas, a book of more than 1,000 pages that he rereads every few years.
When Mr. Hopkins is on vacation though, he will delve into stories by William Johnstone and Louis L'Amour, the only two Western authors he reads.
“That's what I like reading in the summer,” he said. “I grew up with Western novels on my reading list and I still enjoy reading them.”
William R. Atwood, executive director of the $12.8 billion Illinois State Board of Investments, Chicago, has a wide range of books he is looking to finish this summer. He recently read Oscar Wilde's “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and Kent Haruf's “Where You Once Belonged,” and has Mr. Haruf's “Plainsong” in queue on a recommendation from his brother.
But right now Mr. Atwood is reading “Such a Long Journey” by Rohinton Mistry. “I always like novels set in India,” he said.
Also on Mr. Atwood's list are “A Son of the Circus” by John Irving and “The Heart of the Matter” by Graham Greene, who Mr. Atwood said has a “compelling writing style.”
Mr. Atwood and Gary Harbin also enjoy reading with their children. Mr. Harbin, the executive secretary of the $16.6 billion Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System, Frankfort, said he has “very little” personal reading time and instead spends his time reading with his 10-year-old son. This summer they will be tackling the second book in “The 13th Reality” fantasy series by author James Dashner. He said the protagonist is into quantum physics and the book is “really out there.”
Unlike Mr. Atwood, James Wilbanks' list is all about non-fiction books.
“All I read is non-fiction,” said the executive director of the $11.4 billion Oklahoma Teachers' Retirement System, Oklahoma City. “Once a year, I try to go back and read through "The Art of War.' It's a quick read, but there's always something there.”
Currently, Mr. Wilbanks is reading “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who is a distinguished scientific adviser at hedge fund firm Universa Investments LP.
“My approach to reading is eclectic,” Mr. Wilbanks said. “I go to the new-book section and pick up anything that looks interesting.” He also consumes books in a number of ways; he said he will often have a book on tape for his commute, a hard-copy book and another book on his Kindle.
Cynthia Steer, head of manager research and investment solutions at BNY Mellon Investment Management in New York, said she tends to read fiction in the summer, such as spy stories. She enjoys reading Turkish and African detective stories and David Baldacci's “The Hit” is on her reading list this year. Ms. Steer said she likes to read authors that do their historical homework and provide accurate context.
One topic is at the top of her list this summer, but she has not picked out a title yet - “how to figure out (people in their) 20s and how to engage them. I want to know what we can teach them,” she said. She also enjoys reading magazines on food, horticulture and gardening.
Ms. Steer will not be starting the “Game of Thrones” fantasy series by author George R.R. Martin despite recommendations from a friend, but she is a fan of the television show.
Vassilios Papathanakos, Princeton, N.J.-based deputy chief investment officer at INTECH Investment Management LLC, has a list that is completely made up of authors he has not read before.
On his fiction list is the recently released “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” by Mohsin Hamid “The Pegasus Forum: The Trap is Set...and the World's Finances Begin to Collapse” by David Schofield and “The River Speaks: The Vaiyai Poems from the Paripatal” translated by V.N. Muthukumar and Elizabeth Rani Segran.
“I'm always on the lookout for something new,” Mr. Papathanakos said. “I look for books that inspire me with new ideas and provide a different perspective, hopefully.”
Mr. Papathanakos' non-fiction list comprises “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” by Mark Mazzetti, “More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon” by Philip W. Anderson, “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” by Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen M. Reinhart, and “Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It” by James Q. Wilson.
“I generally try to mix some fiction and non-fiction to keep it interesting,” Mr. Papathanakos said.
Richard Lacaille, London-based executive vice president and global chief investment officer at State Street Global Advisors, said there are “some great history books I want to read” this summer, adding he will be spending a lot of time reading “Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750” by Odd Arne Westad. Mr. Lacaille said he wants to better understand the history behind China, and it is interesting to see how events and history are perceived differently in the West.
“I read so many books, but I never read any business books,” Mr. Lacaille said.