Summer Reading List
Looking for new perspectives? Start here.
This tweet from Brad (and his full thread) struck a chord with me. People have impact. The voices we choose to listen to shape how we think. When we restrict those voices to the ones we are already comfortable with, we stagnate.
We need to keep doing better.
I’ll be taking paternity leave this summer (and Fintech Takes will be paused until August), so I won’t be able to spend as much time as I’d like surrounding myself with people.
So, next best thing:
To help assemble the ultimate summer reading list, I reached out to some of my favorite fintech folks with this request:
I'm looking for your top reading recommendations. Stuff that has helped shape your thinking.
Below is a truly massive list of books/articles/people recommended by me and to me, organized into eclectic categories.
Thanks to Theo Lau for organizing her recommendations on an actual bookshelf :)
Black voices matter.
And I am recommitting myself to finding them and listening to them. Here’s my initial list, but please do @ me with additional suggestions.
The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy by Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres.
A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story by Elaine Brown.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.
I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone by Nina Simone.
Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela.
It's about Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage by Arlan Hamilton. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
In the last 20 years, the number of publicly-traded companies in the U.S. has been cut in half and, as of 2016, the wealthiest 10% of Americans owned, in dollar terms, 84% of the total stock held by U.S. households. What do these (and other) trends mean for the economy and the people participating in it?
The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty by Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider. (h/t: Jennifer Tescher and Nik Milanovic)
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. (h/t: Theo Lau)
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer. (h/t: Jennifer Tescher)
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson. (h/t: Jennifer Tescher)
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando de Soto. (h/t: Leslie Parrish)
The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty by Clayton M. Christensen. (h/t: Theo Lau)
The Innovation Blind Spot: Why We Back the Wrong Ideas--And What to Do about It by Ross Baird. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Economic Dignity by Gene Sperling. (h/t: Jennifer Tescher)
The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the Twenty-First Century by Adam Davidson. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
Education before transformation.
Maybe the reason so many digital transformation projects fail is because we haven’t taken the time to educate ourselves on what’s possible and what’s not. Here are some books that might help with that:
Doing Digital: Lessons from Leaders by Chris Skinner.
Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think by James Vlahos. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age by Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne. (h/t: Theo Lau and Brad Leimer)
A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman. (h/t: Alex Jiménez)
How can a thing be both hilariously inept and terrifyingly powerful at the same time? Here are some books to help untangle the present contradictions and future promise and peril of artificial intelligence (and spotlight the companies and people training it).
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It's Making the World a Weirder Place by Janelle Shane. (I love this book)
Reprogramming the American Dream: From Rural America to Silicon Valley—Making AI Serve Us All by Kevin Scott. (h/t: Theo Lau)
AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee. (h/t: Theo Lau & Brett King)
The Algorithmic Leader: How to Be Smart When Machines Are Smarter Than You by Mike Walsh. (h/t: Jim Marous)
Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins by Garry Kasparov. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark. (h/t: Theo Lau)
The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
Well, that got dark.
I understand if you skip this section, but if you’re looking for more stuff to bum you out in 2020, these books on the dark side of technology and the business models it enables will do the job:
New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future by James Bridle. (h/t: Theo Lau and Brad Leimer)
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
Targeted: The Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower's Inside Story of How Big Data, Trump, and Facebook Broke Democracy and How It Can Happen Again by Brittany Kaiser. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
Making better decisions.
A personal obsession of mine is understanding how people make decisions. This book is one of my all-time favorites on this subject:
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein.
And I got several great recommendations for additional books in this area:
The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki. (h/t: Mengxi Lu)
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (h/t: Deva Annamalai)
Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. (h/t: Jennifer Tescher)
Another subject I’m committing myself to learning more about. Got a bunch of great recommendations.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. (h/t: Theo Lau)
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Bossypants by Tina Fey. (h/t: Liz Lumley)
Building companies and products.
Given the folks I solicited my recommendations from, it didn’t surprise me to see a whole lot of books relating to business and product strategy. Here are the ones that most intrigued me:
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark. (h/t: Theo Lau)
The Castle and the Sandbox by Kosta Peric. (h/t: Brad Leimer)
The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design by Marty Neumeier. (h/t: Alex Jiménez)
Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton Christensen. (h/t: Alex Jiménez)
Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford. (h/t: Peter Wannemacher)
Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company's Future - and What to Do About It by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert. (h/t: Peter Wannemacher)
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. (h/t: Deva Annamalai)
Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption by Geoffrey A. Moore. (h/t: Paul Loberman)
Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. (h/t: Alex Jiménez)
A quick note from Mary Wisniewski.
I asked Mary for recommendations and she went off script in the most delightful way:
Marc Hochstein: The person, not a book (but read his writing and follow him on Twitter @marchochstein). Brainstorming fintech-related ideas with Marc at American Banker helped me think bigger picture: what is at stake in banking is an existential crisis. That gave me all kinds of ideas in the way I find stories or the way they find me.
Susan Orlean: She writes on ordinary subjects in intriguing ways. You always feel something after reading her work. She’s an influence in how I look at bank news or fintech news. At first blush, something can seem extremely dull. Then, you dig in and uncover sizzle. Start with “The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup.”
Gidget: The person (and the book by Frederick Kohner). Why should fintech execs read “Gidget?” Why wouldn’t they…! This is a book that inspired so many things in my life – how I ended up in California, how I formed a bond with the real woman and so on. It also inspires my way of thinking: Don’t follow the group. I highly recommend this book as a reminder to break from conventional thinking. Gidget learned to surf when it was mostly only dudes doing so. Now, the fintech community is learning how to shake up an industry full of traditional thinking. There will be wipe outs. Pair with a Pina Colada.
Banking and money.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Anyone trying to reinvent financial services would be wise to study the history of money, banking, and debt. A few suggestions:
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber. (h/t: Nik Milanovic)
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein. (h/t: Nik Milanovic)
A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class by Joe Nocera. (h/t: Nik Milanovic)
The Virgin Banker by Jayne-Anne Gadhia. (h/t: Chris Skinner)
Random, but interesting.
No larger organizing principle here. Just a bunch of interesting books:
Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding... Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis by Sam Anderson. (If you like basketball and/or obscure American history, this is your book)
Here Comes the Sun by Steve Jones. (h/t: Chris Skinner)
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. (h/t: Alex Jiménez)
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. (h/t: Chris Skinner)
Tiger That Isn’t by Michael Blastland. (h/t: Peter Wannemacher)
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. (h/t: Theo Lau)
It’s been a tough six months, so treat yourself.
The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks. (h/t: Jennifer Tescher)
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. (h/t: Liz Lumley)
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World--And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling. (h/t: Theo Lau)
More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources--And What Happens Next by Andrew McAfee. (h/t: Theo Lau)
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. (h/t: Theo Lau)
Mahabharata retold by Krishna Dharma. (h/t: Deva Annamalai)
Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff. (h/t: Theo Lau)