It’s that reflective time of the year. And a few weeks back my old chum Sean Mills asked me if I’d pulled together a list of recent reading. So here you go, Sean (and the rest of ya). Listed below, in reverse chronological order, are all the books I bought in 2016. Can’t say I’ve read all of them cover-to-cover, but I’ve pithily summarised each and every one. Click on the books to go straight to the appropriate page on Amazon…
Brexit – What the Hell Happens Now? Ian Dunt
The political story of the year, and I’m just starting to work through Ian Dunt’s interpretation of what might lie ahead in our post-truth isolation…
Messy – How to be creative and resilient in a tidy-minded world. Tim Harford
Harford is a wonderfully talented writer and broadcaster, and presumably a bit whizzy with the old economics as well. His latest book proposes the importance of a little bit of chaos for creativity, innovation and ideas.
Competitive Advantage – Creating and sustaining superior performance. Michael Porter
An old one, this. The source of ideas about things like value chains. Bought for a reference on a project, not the most gripping of reads.
Weapons of Math Destruction – Cathy O’Neil
A cracking title, and a fascinating insight into the nature of WMDs – cranky algorithms that try to objectify the subjective (and the harm that that in turn can cause).
Disrupted – Ludicrous misadventures in the tech start-up bubble. Dan Lyons
My book of the year. 50-something former journalist Lyons reskills as a tech start-up marketeer. His 50-something journalist roots however allow him to recount a trail of hype, mis-management and mostly bullshit.
The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. Kevin Kelly
Thought provoking stuff. The 12 forces aren’t technologies per se, but trends that Kelly sees that are driven by tech.
The Persuaders – The hidden industry that wants to change your mind. James Garvey
Bought on a whim because it was cheap at the time, something of a conspiracy theory about the world of Public Relations.
The Myth of Meritocracy – Why working class kids still get working class jobs. James Bloodworth
Anything that can rekindle the idea that Michael Young’s entire point of coining the term meritocracy was an act of satire has to be a good thing in my book. I still can’t believe that M Young’s son is the remarkably irritating Toby Young.
The Future of the Professions. Richard & Daniel Susskind
Thoughtful look at how technology is going to disrupt the major traditional professions. Doesn’t quite scream “You’re all fucking doomed!” enough for my liking, but some good points made.
Chaos Monkeys – Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine. Antonio Garcia Martinez
Another expose of the world of Silicon Valley Startup. Not nearly as entertaining as the Dan Lyons book.
The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our Worl. Pedro Domingos
Assured by a Twitter contact that this is the best place to go for a primer of Machine Learning. Still haven’t read it. Waiting for a machine to do it for me.
Superforecasting: The art and science of prediction. Philip Tetlock & Dan Gardner
I loved Gardner’s book Risk. His second book Future Babble didn’t seem to have enough of an argument, and in hindsight this book with Tetlock is the book that Future Babble should have been. A look at the best way to predict the future – the spoiler is, it’s to be very precise and constantly reassessing your view. Futurologists who get all the press don’t do either, get all the coverage, and are usually wrong. Great stuff.
Smarter, faster, better: the secrets of being productive. Charles Duhigg
Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit is a cracking read, and had a big influence on my research work into collaboration at the beginning of 2016. Still haven’t gotten into this one. Oh. The. Irony.
Naked Economics and Naked Statistics. Charles Wheelan
Two for the price of two, here. Great overview books for non-economists and non-statisticians on the basics of these two disciplines.
The Difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools and societies. Scott Page
Great book, referenced also in the latest Tim Harford tome. At its core: you should promote diversity because its the right thing to do to get better results, not just because it’s the right thing to do morally and ethically.
A perfect mess: the hidden benefits of disorder. Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman
Similar ground to Harford’s book – but from 2006. Short version: say no to the tidy Nazis!
Empire of Things – How we became a world of consumers. Frank Trentmann
Fascinating stuff about the history of consumerism from the 15th Century onwards. Need to read more of it, but came highly recommended by the wonderful Julia Hobsbawn who I was lucky to be introduced to this year.
Originals: How non-conformists change the world. Adam Grant
This book ruined my life. Mid-way through writing the report for my research, I read this and in particular the bit that said that procrastination is a trait of original thinkers. Still, highly recommended (along with his other book Give and Take).
Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. Nir Eyal.
Again part of the research for the Who Shares Wins research, I’m still convinced that this book is evidence of the moral bankruptcy of Silicon Valley. HOW TO BUILD HABIT-FORMING PRODUCTS? I ask you…