It’s safe to say, summer is officially over, so while we’re basking in the very last rays of heat this month, we thought we’d look back at the season that was and more importantly, what we spent our time doing during those lazy hazy days. Reading in hammocks (or under trees, or on window seats, or…you get the picture) took up a disproportionate amount of time for a lot of us this year, so there was a high calibre of talk around the watercooler, making us feel much cleverer than some of us did after being hooked on Love Island for three months!
Here are some of our favourite reads from weeks gone by:
Jose Supico, CEO and founder – @jsupico
My favourite book this Summer was Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In a nutshell, Taleb argues that when people with ‘no skin in the game’, (i.e; no vested interest and nothing invested in the success of the project), make decisions for others, things are bound to go wrong.
I found it fascinating, because it shows in a detailed manner the huge asymmetries between the ‘chattering classes’, like politicians, academics, journalists and economists, who have very little at stake when formulating their complex and often downright implausible theories about how others should live their lives. Taleb shows us that their pontificating about people in ‘the real world’, such as plumbers, builders, barbers, investors or entrepreneurs, who risk their own money and reputations in order to succeed; isn’t usually fruitful.
This book brought home to me that the problem of intellectuals failing to learn from their mistakes, in a world that doesn’t penalise them for giving the wrong advice or tabling bad policies (think the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis) exists unchecked. Meanwhile, people in ‘the real world’ have to conform to reality if they want to be successful.
Gavin Stanley, Head of Platform – @grjstan
The late AA Gill’s acerbic wit, showcased in The Best of AA Gill never fails to raise a giggle. This compilation includes extracts from his features, travel reviews and classic restaurant critiques; as featured in publications like The Sunday Times, Vanity Fair and Tatler.
As my time off was coming to an end, I switched gears to a few more serious books, like Worth Dying for: The Power and Politics of Flags by Brit journo Tim Marshall, a favourite LBC and Sky News guest of mine. I love the intersection of politics and geography in Marshall’s exploration and the insight into how nations are shaped by their borders and symbols.
For a bit of Art of War-esque (although not as cut-throat) leadership motivation, I picked-up Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Stanley McChrystal with Chris Fussell, Tantum Collins and David Silverman. From 2004, McChrystal was a pivotal army leader during the USA-lead ‘War on Terror’ and adapts military expertise to the world of business by outlining how he thinks large organisations need to change in order to face ‘the new world’. Even someone as decorated as McChrystal realises that he’s merely a nurturing ‘gardener’ of his people, not a dictatorial leader above them and that the C-suite would benefit from being open to outside perspectives.
Maria Marques, Head of Marketing – @minesmarqs
I’m a fan of the classics — Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Eça de Queirós (a Portuguese author), Tolstoy and Jane Austen, among others. I always keep one by my nightstand. There’s something beguiling about the stories, dynamics and thinking of that period that help me get lost in a different world and a different time, aesthetically and politically.
I’m currently reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, having devoured at least four other books this summer.
Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men was one of the four and it felt like a (good) slap in the face – if there is such a thing! Let’s just say it was sobering. And riveting, in a way that non-fiction rarely managed to be. The meat of what Criado Perez brings to our attention comes from real data and actual statistics rather than pure opinion. This book is a must-read for everyone because it uncovers little-known realities that that most of us don’t even know about but we can, indirectly or otherwise, attribute them to major everyday inequalities.
The Elephant in the Brain, penned by software engineer Kevin Simler and economics professor Robin Hanson, satiated my need to get into some solid psychology and behavioural science theory; in between my staple diet of nail-biting thrillers. This book’s about our most hidden and selfish motives and how to manage them.
Joao Romao, Lead Developer – @JMCRomao
All year-round, I immerse myself in books around IT, software, architecture and management, mainly with career development in mind. Come summer, I relax a bit and widen the scope.
One book I read entirely for pleasure was Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with his son Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund. It’s an intriguing look at our arguably bleak world economic state here in the west, reminding us that the world has a fair amount of goodness in it and that our fate isn’t set out in stark black and white; as most news programmes would have us believe. Rosling offers complex reasons for being optimistic about our futures and puts sweeping assumptions by political commentators to shame.
As well as developing software, I am studying for my pilot’s license which can be pretty intense and very exciting in equal measure, so I’ve been reading up on certain aspects of maths and physics. The book Physics and Maths for the PPL, by Luis Bernay, has been helping me prepare, especially since he happens to be a professor on my upcoming course – I didn’t find that out until after I ordered it, so I am slightly feeling smug after adding this to my basket.
If you’re on the hunt for some reading material of your own, part 1 of our human-centred design masterclass, Show Them the Human Behind the Machine, is now available.