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What is ‘good’ summer reading? It seems almost ridiculous to generalise because so much is down to taste and the intentions behind the reading. So, yes, having a book list does border on presumptuousness but in defence there are 50 books on this list so maybe with this scatter-gun you might find one or two to enjoy and learn from.
The books that I most enjoy make me think. In the scaffolding and the bricks – the search for the best ideas – I suggest that we can do more to build a stronger, clearer and professional mind fit to face a complex world in uniquely stressed times. And this comes most from what we read.
The scaffolding is the framing of the issues you are dealing with through the values and beliefs that come from your lifetime experiences – this is mostly about context. The bricks are the substance of the ideas you are dealing with – this is mostly about content. The book suggestions, discussed below, are built around this framework.
In strengthening your scaffolding, you can exercise the resilient and meditative mind with two books:
Deepak Malhotra and The Peacemakers Code. Malhotra is a Harvard business professor in negotiation, deal-making and conflict resolution turned storyteller in this science fiction book about alien invasion. The story is fast-paced, brilliantly imaginative fiction and has significance for our resilience as a society to face up to existential challenges through co-operation.
Krista Tippett and Becoming Wise; An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. I find this book and the Krista Tippett podcast that goes alongside it very calming and contemplative. This book really helps with identifying the principles to look out for yourself and it is, yes, wise.
Also in the scaffolding category, the informed and balanced mind could benefit from:
Kate Raworth and Doughnut Economics. The book provides a visual framework for sustainable development functioning successfully within planetary and social boundaries. It suggests how different parts of our ecosystem can contribute to a sustainable future. The doughnut economics model has a big future.
Tim Harford and How to Make the World Add Up. The steady erosion of standards in the presentation of facts and numbers has meant this book has become essential reading. Principles such as search your feelings, get the back story and be curious alongside others are well-presented and illustrated by example.
In the bricks category, the collective and collaborative mind could use:
Matthew Syed and Rebel Ideas. This is in the Malcolm Gladwell genre and explains through storytelling how teams can accomplish more than individuals, but all too often fail in cognitive diversity by not using multiple frames of reference. The merits of dominant and prestige (servant) leaders is a particularly telling narrative.
Rebecca Henderson and Capitalism Reimagined. This is a book preaching the importance of fairness in business and society, strong institutions, and maintaining a guiding purpose. Henderson successfully synthesises how businesses can make these changes, both directly themselves and through collaboration. Lots on climate change and inequality.
And also, in the bricks category, the prepared and prescient mind could use:
Rita McGrath and Seeing Around Corners. This is about the build-up in disruptions and how assiduous attention to factors at play in disruptions helps with prescience. The methods generate scenarios that enable organisations and individuals to pivot more quickly to join the disruptors and avoid being the disrupted.
Kim Stanley Robinson and The Ministry for the Future. KSR is well-known for science fiction which in this case he weaves into some non-fiction treatises: climate change is central, but so are geo-engineering, politics, and societal futures. In a world needing imagination on climate change this is both chillingly realistic and ultimately optimistic.
There are just a few suggestions here, with several recent releases, fiction at the start and end of the list and thinking spread throughout. And below is the full list with a bit of grading and narrative to help with priorities.
But, so much to read, so little time.
Roger Urwin | August 2021
Beinhocker, Eric | The Origin of Wealth*
Berners Lee, Mike | There is no Planet B***
Highly readable account of climate change mixing science and economics to help suggest solutions that everyone can contribute towards. This book is ground-breaking in putting our values under scrutiny and into the mix with support for the importance of kindness and fairness
Bernstein, Peter | Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk*
Bookstaber, Eric | The End of Theory*
University of California Chief Risk Officer Bookstaber, explains the nature of systemic risk and what happens in crises, like the GFC, when systems seize up, and how agent-based modelling can address some of the issues. The failings of economics are an essential theme
Brynjolffson & McAfee | Machine, Platform, Crowd**
This book is a very clear introduction to the new technologies that are disruptive given scale and need and suggests where industry business models will undergo their Uber-moments, usually when platforms and networks break through
Carney, Mark | Values: Building a Better World for All***
This is a well-framed and researched book about society adapting its goals to suit its values in a world in which financial value has out-muscled non-financial values. It is particularly strong in showing how to learn from the pandemic through principles of solidarity and fairness
Dalio, Ray | Principles**
Controversial account of how organisations can be simplified into machines with equations that might be seen as de-personalising. But Dalio is a huge fan of culture and talent and his radical transparency model works for Bridgewater where decisions are fine-tuned by ‘believability’
Desai, Mihir | Wisdom of Finance*
El Erian, Mohamed | When Markets Collide
Fukuyama, Francis | Identity*
Friedman, Thomas | Thank you for Being Late
Gawande, Atul | Checklist Manifesto*
Gladwell, Malcolm | Tipping Point
Gladwell, Malcolm | Outliers
Haidt, Jonathan | The Righteous Mind**
Haidt reveals the soft nature of our belief system in which feelings come first, socialising second, thinking third. His identification of individuals flags the moral foundations in core values of caring, fairness and loyalty in groups. He identifies libertarian principles as innate to individuals
Harari, Yuval Noah | Sapiens
Harari, Yuval Noah | 21 Lessons for the 21st Century**
This is a stunning tour de force across work, equality, civilisation, nationalism, religion, immigration, war, post-truth, education and meaning; and a few more. All it misses is global pandemics. ‘Clarity is power’ is key and he identifies pathways to the redesign of life itself
Harford, Tim |How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers**
Harford is of course the ‘Undercover Economist’. The steady erosion of standards in the presentation of facts and numbers has meant this book has become essential. Search your feelings, get the back story and be curious and other principles are well-presented and illustrated
Hastings, Reid & Meyer, Erin | No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention
Heimans & Timms | New Power
Henderson, Rebecca | Capitalism Reimagined in a World on Fire**
A book preaching the importance of fairness in business and society, strong institutions, and a guiding purpose and synthesised into how businesses can make these changes themselves and through collaboration. Lots on climate change and inequality. It is overly optimistic though
Ilmanen, Antti | Expected Returns*
Kahneman, Daniel | Thinking Fast and Slow*
Kay, John | Other People’s Money
Kay & King | Radical Uncertainty
Kerr, James | Legacy – 15 Lessons in Leadership*
King, Mervyn | The End of Alchemy
Lo, Andrew | Adaptive Markets*
Lovegrove, Nick | The Mosaic Principle
Malhotra, Deepak | The Peacemakers Code**
Malhotra is the Harvard Business Professor in negotiation, deal-making and conflict resolution who turns storyteller in this science fiction about alien invasion. The story is fast-paced fiction and has significance for society’s ability to face up to existential challenges through co-operation
Mauboussin, Michael | More than you Know
Mayer, Colin | Prosperity*
Mazzucato, Mariana | The Value of Everything; Making and Taking in the Global Economy*
McGrath, Rita | Seeing Around Corners; How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen**
This is about the build-up in disruptions and how assiduous attention to factors at play in disruptions helps with prescience. The methods generate scenarios that enable organisations and individuals to pivot more quickly and join the disruptors and avoid being the disrupted.
Moyo, Dambisa | How Boards Work: And How they can Work Better in a Chaotic World
Mulgan, Geoff | Big Mind
Page, Scott | The Diversity Bonus
Pink, Dan | Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us*
Pinker, Steven | Enlightenment Now
Raworth, Kate | Doughnut Economics***
Doughnut economics, is a visual framework for sustainable development – shaped like a doughnut or lifebelt – combining planetary boundaries and social boundaries and providing a framework for how different parts of our ecosystem can contribute to a sustainable future
Robinson, Kim Stanley | The Ministry for the Future***
KSR is well-known for science fiction which in this case he weaves into a number of non-fiction treatises: climate change is central, but so are geo-engineering, politics, and societal futures. In a world needing imagination on climate change this is both chillingly realistic and ultimately optimistic
Rosling, Hans | Factfulness*
Silver, Nate | Signal and Noise*
Stout, Lynn | The Shareholder Value Myth
Suskind, Daniel | The End of Work
Syed, Matthew | Rebel Ideas***
This is in the Malcolm Gladwell genre and explains through story-telling how teams can accomplish more than individuals but all too often fail in cognitive diversity by not using multiple frames of reference. The merits of dominant and prestige (servant) leaders is telling
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas | Fooled by Randomness**
An accurate account of the part played by noise in life, industry and investing. In this work he writes clearly on the part played by cognitive dissonance in seeing soft data as gospel; and the part played by unexpected events (black swans) and radical uncertainty as later picked up by Kay
Tegmark, Max | Life 3.0**
This explains the future of AI from its current applications to massive extensions and on to generalised AI and the consequences in terms of the singularity. It is aimed at keeping AI constructive to our humanity but leaves a few doubts as to whether AI can stay a benign force
Tippett, Krista | Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living*
West, Geoffrey | Scale: The Universal Laws of Life and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies*
***Top 5 = don’t even think of not reading this
**Next 10 = required and essential reading
*Next 15 = essential reading
Next 20 = = plain good reading