For the past three Decembers, I’ve shared my favorite 10 books of the year. These posts continue to be some of my most popular, so I’ve decided to share my top 10 reads of 2017. If you’re hungry for more books, check out my list from 2014, 2015, and 2016.
I read several good books in ’17. I read very little fiction; I love to read about people, historical episodes and books that describe how things work. I’ve broken this list into a few categories that also align with my interests: business/technology, how the world works and biographies/historical biographies. I highly recommend each of these books.
- High Output Management by Andy Grove. This is a true gem for anyone in a leadership role who endeavors to drive more productivity from their team. Grove outlines several of the simple, no nonsense strategies that made Intel such a huge success during his time as CEO. His focus on output has had a big impact on how I think about operating as a VC and as a board member.
- Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper. This book traces the history of Bitcoin, from the earliest days of Satoshi and his white paper to the rise and fall of Silk Road to the early innovators and through mid-2014. Obviously a lot has happened (and continues to happen) since then, but this is a fascinating read about the early actors and trends in the Bitcoin ecosystem.
- The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee. This book does a great job tracing the rapid development of technology, particularly focusing on advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. The authors confront the issues around what role people will play in the future, and the resulting societal impacts, as machines continue to gain in power and capability.
How Stuff Works:
- Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. This book is written as a sequel to Sapiens, one of my favorite books, but you can get a lot out of Homo Deus even if haven’t read Harari’s prior work. This book looks at how society is increasingly adopting Dataism as a religion of sorts, enabling algorithms to become increasingly prominent, and questioning what human existence will resemble in the future. Very provocative.
- The Teenage Brain by Frances Jensen. This book is written by a neuroscientist and parent who, like most other parents, struggles with better understanding her teenaged kids. Jensen reviews in detail how the brain develops and explains why teenagers physiologically lack the scaffolding to apply judgement as do adults. She talks about the impact of sleep, alcohol, stress and gender issues. A must read for parents of adolescents.
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This is a quick but dense read that reviews several aspects of astrophysics. I really enjoyed learning more about the big bang, dark matter, dark energy and the ever expanding universe. This book is detailed but also approachable for those who have an interest but not much background in astrophysics.
- The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. This book recounts the unique relationship between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two Israeli psychologists, and the innovative work that they produced around how bias can subconsciously enter our thinking. This becomes ever more important to recognize as we’re increasingly deluged with information.
- Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman. Friedman goes back to his hometown, a suburb of Minneapolis MN, to evaluate why so many prominent thinkers and otherwise successful people came from there. He highlights accelerations in technology, the environment and globalism as stressing how society is evolving. He ultimately concludes that diversity of thought and background, encouraged and welcomed in his hometown, served to inspire innovation and disruptive thinking, which is even more critical in the current age of accelerations.
Biographies/ Historical Biographies:
- Irena’s Children by Tilar Mazzeo. This is an amazing book, recounting the heroism of Irena Sendler and many other non-Jews exhibited while the Germans occupied Warsaw during WW II. Barely escaping the Nazi onslaught many times, Sendler and her network of heroes, saved the lives of over a thousand Jewish children. This is both an uplifting and sorrowful story.
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. This is a really great read. Noah, the brilliant comedian and host of The Daily Show, details his upbringing in South Africa under apartheid. The book alternates between hilarious stories of Noah as a mischievous young boy and painful, confusing memories of the indefensible absurdity of apartheid.