The Real Deal New York

Real estate pros share picks for books on Nigeria, everyday opportunities and astrophysics on the go

What they're reading now
By Angely Mercado | August 01, 2017 11:00AM

Steven Schnall
Founder, Quontic Bank

What are you reading right now, or what did you finish most recently? “Nigeria: a Failed State: Profound Treatise on a Crippled Giant” by Robert Nwadiaru.

What spurred you to read that book? I had no particular strong interest in Nigeria, but the book was given to me by the author, who was the night watchman at a construction project of mine in Tribeca.

Has anything from the book stuck with you? It served as strong reminder of how fortunate we are to have been born in such a great country. The author is highly educated, brilliant and yet works as a night-shift security guard in America for $10 an hour rather than stay in his home country. We take for granted that so many of our taxi and Uber drivers, or night watchmen, may be doctors and scholars displaced.

Would you recommend it to others? I can’t say that I’d recommend the book to one not so interested in Nigeria. It just meant something to me personally, given my acquaintance with the author.

Ellie Johnson
President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties

What are you reading right now? “The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. The book delves into the possibilities surrounding us in our everyday lives, and can completely change your outlook on life in a positive way. 

What spurred you to read it? I recently had the pleasure of hearing Benjamin Zander at a conference, where he was the motivational speaker.

Has anything you read in it stuck with you? Many of the principles in this book really resonated with me, especially since I recently embarked on an exciting challenge to lead the expansion of Berkshire Hathaway into the New York market. What resonated with me the most, though, is Rule No. 6: “Don’t take yourself so damn seriously” — a simple notion, but one that’s important to live by.

Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely! It is an easy read with hundreds of nuggets for everyday life, masked in various ways — from music analogies to life experiences and anecdotes. It reminded me of the world of possibilities that exists when we remain open-minded, take risks and, most importantly, when we remember that every action we take matters.  

Karl Slovin
President, MWest Holdings

What are you reading right now? “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

What spurred you to read it? I went with my family to hear deGrasse Tyson speak. He is an unbelievably entertaining lecturer. Without any notes, he held 2,000 people completely captive for two and a half hours with his stories about the way the universe works. After the lecture, I had to buy his book.

Has anything stuck with you? He is incredible at blowing your mind with simple ideas regarding our narrow perspectives. He explains how “some of the water you just drank passed through the kidneys of Socrates, Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc” and how “some of the air you just breathed passed through the lungs of Napoleon, Beethoven, Lincoln and Billy the Kid.” There are so many interesting concepts in this book, but I’m still wrestling with the magnitude of the universe, and how it can either make you feel meaningless and small or completely interconnected to everyone and everything else.