Can you recommend a good book? I am putting my summer reading list together and would love to hear your suggestions.
Here are mine:
Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking
Will artificial intelligence outsmart us? Is time travel possible? Hawking addresses some of the most difficult questions of our times, but does so in a way that makes it accessible to everyone with a basic knowledge of science. That is an admirable skill. Hawking also had a wicked sense of humor which shines through. Read a chapter in the morning, and you’ll have something that will keep you thinking the rest of the day!
Amsterdam – Russell Shorto
When I’m traveling, people often ask me where I’m from. When I mention I live near Amsterdam, the answer is either: I’ve been there, or, I want to go there. I’ve not met a person who didn’t want to visit. What is it about Amsterdam? Shorto provides the answer in this story that documents the city’s history from 1500 to today.
He occasionally switches the story focus to New Amsterdam (also known as NYC) and the Far East. In doing so he paints a picture of a connected world, but in a much slower sense than today. Shorto sort of skips over the mid-1800s, which was a time where all governmental institutions were created and I think that is a miss. Other than that, it’s clear he loves the city and has written a captivating story. His book about New York is next on my list.
Pivot – Jenny Blake
“If change is the only constant, let’s get better at it” Jenny presented at our leadership kickoff in May. Now that jobs and roles change more quickly, you often make choices that influence your next career step, even if you’re not actively looking. Jenny introduced the pivot method and gave us some tools to use when we are faced with “what’s next?”. The book contains everything you need to prepare yourself for your next move.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari
At the same leadership conference I spoke about NGA2025, which is our strategy program. This was one of the books I read this year to better understand global trends and the effects they will have on our work/lives. Like Hawking’s book, 21 Lessons poses some big questions: about democracy. civilization, the importance of data and what it means to be human. Harari has an engaging writing style and tries to get a handle on today’s greatest challenges and changes. This book is more about the present than the title might suggest (Read Home Deus for the future, and Sapiens for the past.) and so it was a perfect preparation for a keynote on 2025.
Leadership and self-deception – Arbinger Institute
A colleague mentioned this book and I listened to it on the weekend. It’s about Tom, who joins a new company and gets schooled on culture by Bob and Kate (CEO). They teach him that you can either be in the box (not good) or out of the box (good). Maybe it was the audiobook but I kept feeling sorry for Tom and found Bob and Kate smug and condescending. It wasn’t until Lou (former CEO and inventor of the box) appeared that the story became interesting and I focused on the message. Not sold on this one.
Into the Storm – Dennis Perkins
This is a mesmerizing story about one of the most dangerous ocean races. It is also a book about leadership and teamwork. It highlights that if you work together, you can achieve the impossible, but it doesn’t hammer the message home. I found the story so compelling that I could not put this book down (also, I spent several vacations sailing a brown-sail). One of the best books about teamwork I read in a while.
Hit refresh – Satya Nadella
I recently visited Microsoft and I read this book before I went there. It’s a growth story, first about Nadella’s personal growth and then about Microsoft’s transformation. It also documents how a company the size of Microsoft was able to re-invent themselves to one of the leading tech companies. The focus on collaborative ecosystems is a topic dear to my heart. If you are starting on a digital transformation journey, this book is for you.
Happy reading and enjoy your summer!