For most Americans, the summer is a time to slow down and spend time with their family. It's a time for barbecuing, golfing, going to amusement parks and relaxing at the beach.

To me, the year is like a football game with two halves, and the summer is like halftime. For me it's a time to read as many business books as I can digest. I use the time to think and contemplate about how I can improve my company's chances for success.

The types of books I like to read are how-to and books that stimulate my creative juices. The how-to books are excellent for providing me with ideas that I can implement. Here are suggestions of books you should consider reading:

The Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies

, by Jagdish Sheth. I always wondered why great companies, like champion boxers, go from seemingly indestructible to flat, out-of-shape, stumbling hulks. This book profiles several once-dominating companies that have shot themselves in the foot. It has been my experience that I have learned more from my own mistakes and those of others I have spoken with than I have from successes.

Achieve Leadership Genius

, by Drea Zigarmi, Susan Fowler and Dick Lyles. This book was written by three top-tier consultants who have worked with America's best corporate leadership. It's a quick, insightful read that tells you what skills you need to develop to be a successful leader. The book provides good examples, but what's best about this book is that it's very practical.

The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

, by John Bogle. Bogle is one of the most brilliant minds of the last 100 years. I have interviewed this founder of Vanguard and heard him speak. No one holds a candle to him in terms of explaining capitalism's influence on society and what average investors need to understand to ensure that they will have more money in their retirement than want they put in. This is a thought-provoking book that will give you business ideas.

The Rules of Life

, by Richard Templar. This book is about how to manage your life -- from your career to stress to your money. I think for professionals in their 20s, this is an excellent book. It's sage advice born of experience.

Boom

, by Mary Brown & Carol Orsborn. The number of books written about marketing to women is growing exponentially, and for good reason. Their buying power is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. This book provides insights into how to market to the boomer generation.

Buzz

, by Edward Koch. Koch was a three-term mayor of New York in the 1970s and 1980s. He is a master politician and marketer who was renowned for being able to deliver clear, concise messages. I like this book because of the good stories and examples from Koch's political life and his business experiences since he left politics. Politics is a contact sport in which creating positive buzz for yourself and negative for your enemies is a required skill for success.

The First-Time Manager's Guide to Team Building

, by Gary Topchik. This is a very good book with great advice on how to manage people. There are good real-life examples. As someone who has run a lot of businesses, I find that this is also a good book to refresh experienced managers. Experienced managers often forget the little things over time, just like athletes forget to do the little things that made them great.

Never Eat Alone

, by Keith Ferrazzi. This is an excellent book on how to build up a network of contacts that will lead to new opportunities and improve personal performance. It's a quick, substantive read.

Fares to Friends

, by Ed Wallace. This is another good book on developing relationships, but what makes this different is that the reader is reminded that people from all walks of life can teach us lessons.

Let's Put On A Show!

, by Stewart Lane. Lane is a Tony award winner. His book provides readers with insight on how to develop and successfully launch a Broadway show. The launch of a Broadway show is like that of a new company, so there is a lot of good information for entrepreneurs and marketers to glean from this book.

There are a lot of great books from authors you have never heard with terrific experience. Next month, I will make some more recommendations.

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Kramer is the author of five business books on topics related to venture capital, management and consulting. He is a faculty member at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and the veteran of more than 20 start-ups and four turnarounds.