Beach reads: 'My Name Is Red'

Beachgoer reads a book

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: Here we are, a Friday in mid-August, the perfect time for a nice beach vacation. We've asked some of our commentators to send along their nominations for the best business beach books out there. Titles that won't put you to sleep, just make you smarter, all while you dig your toes into the sand.

For today's final installment writer Harriet Rubin recommended a contemporary novel about the beauty of innovation:


Harriet Rubin: Orhan Pamuk's "My Name is Red" is a murder mystery set in 16th century Istanbul.

The first voice you hear is that of a murdered corpse speaking from the bottom of a well. This corpse is, appropriately, the last gasp of tradition — an artist who had been painting a book of two-dimensional Persian miniatures to celebrate the Sultan's glories.

Was the killer a master of the new realistic style of European painting that could make a woman like Mona Lisa look so real her eyes could magically follow you around the room?

"My Name is Red" is a riveting case-study in how innovation conquers minds, then markets and finally empires.

The excitement of this new method of beauty was the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.

Beauty, Pamuk writes, summons us "toward life's abundance, toward compassion, toward respect for the colors of the realm."

Why are products like iPhones or Prada shoes so coveted? Because they are beautiful. In a sea of commodity sameness, beauty stands out.

The young Steve Jobs, on the verge of creating the Macintosh, spent hours studying the Porsches parked at Hewlett-Packard.

Business is superb at creating consistency, like a Persian copyist. But beauty requires more.

Pamuk followed his own lessons. "My Name is Red" took him to a new level of artistry. Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year.

Ryssdal: Harriet Rubin is the author of Dante in Love and The Mona Lisa Stratagem.

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