Hugh McColl ventures into ‘The Post-American World'

Retired Bank of America chieftain Hugh McColl Jr. generally favors history books but last week wrapped up Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria's timely “The Post-American World.”

The recent release looks at the “rise of the rest,” including breathtaking growth in China and India. McColl, who retired as the mammoth Charlotte bank's CEO in 2001, called the book factual.

“One of the realities is that our economy is struggling,” he said. “Our currency is in the chutes, and we don't seem to be making progress at the moment.”

What needs to change? For starters, he said, “We should find alternative energy sources and get at it with a vengeance, starting with nuclear. … Drilling for new oil is a joke. We don't have enough refineries.”

The ex-Marine also enjoys spy books and complicated mysteries with a historical bent. Last week, he was starting “The Spies of Warsaw,” by a favorite author, Alan Furst, a leading writer of historical spy fiction. The thriller is set in 1937 Poland, a pre-World War II period that interests McColl.

History appeals to him, he said, because “I like to know why things happen. I like to know why people behave like they do.”

McColl will search specific info online, but he gets his news from the Observer and The New York Times. He has no iPod or similar device and can't imagine what he'd do with one. The man who built one of the nation's largest banks also passed on:

“All businesses need people to do more. If they give you something to do, do it and ask for something else. That's the way to get ahead.”