11 Books for 2021

In Instagram by Jessica Vodden

I’ve been listening to a lot of books during my Operation Rural Tech road trip. If you are looking for something interesting to read, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from business and tech. I don’t always agree with the things some of the authors on my list write, but I do believe what they’ve written is worth thinking about. I’ve provided a little summary, below, on why I like the book. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these and any recommendations for other good reads!

1. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth
Successful outcomes are always determined by a mix of luck, skill and effort. This book makes a good case that once you reach a certain level of skill, grit (i.e., effort) is the most important factor — and that you can improve your level of grit.  

2. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things are Better Than You Think

by Anna Rosling, Hans Rosling and Ola Rosling
Bad sensational events dominate the news. Yet amazing and much more significant positive things are happening (often over longer time frames) that never make the headlines. The authors provide a data-driven look at how good things are getting.   

3. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds

by Charles MacKay
Technology changes, but people do not. Fear, greed and gullibility are eternal. This book offers an amazing account of Tulip Bulb Mania in Holland and the South Sea Bubble in England. It was written in 1841, but the Dot Com Bubble in the 1990s (I had a front row seat) would be included if it was written today. 

4. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

by Geoffrey Moore
This is a must-read for anyone in a startup whether you are in marketing, sales, or engineering. I think it’s especially important if you are in engineering.

5. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

by Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings
Rarely do I read a business book that has multiple ideas that are new (and good). This one offers lots of fresh ideas on how to manage a creative, innovative company.   

6. A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution

by Noble Laureate Jennifer Doudna
Humans can direct our evolution … and we will. Read about it from the University of California Berkeley Professor who helped create the process.

7. The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World

by Charles Mann
Some people think we have to learn to live within the resources we have or we will die (prophets). While others think we have to use technology to make more resources or we will die (wizards). This book helped me discover I’m more of a wizard than a prophet.

8. No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram

by Sarah Fisher
Fisher provides an insider view of Instagram through its founding, acquisition by Facebook, and beyond. Plus, learn why Instagram defaults to square pictures. 

9. The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

by Maria Konnikova
This is a fun read about how humans are TERRIBLE at managing uncertainty and risk. Konnikova shares her journey from not knowing how many cards are in a deck to winning a poker tournament in just a few years. 

10. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

by Yuval Noah Harari
There are lots of things to worry about in the 21st century. This book looks at 21 of them and helps explore the “right” way to worry and think about them.

11. Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media

by W.P. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking
This book provides a fascinating look at how individuals, organizations, and nation-states use social media as a weapon.