With school holidays upon us, August nearing and hints of the sun, it’s time to think of what to read on holiday. I’ve read a ton of books this year, and here’s 9 that I’d recommend for a summer holiday:
- Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudde. The writer has a treasure trove of data from his dating website, OKCupid. He uses it to draw out what we’re really like, especially looking at the gap between what we say and what we do. One observation from the book I have to share: a 20-yr old woman tends to find 23-yr old men look the best to them, a 30-yr woman finds 30-yr men look best, a 40-yr old woman finds 40-yr old men look best and a 50-yr old woman finds most 46-yr old men look best So women find men their own age look the best. How about men? Well, a 20-yr old man tends to find 20-yr old women look best to him, a 30-yr old man finds…20-yr old women look best, a 40-yr man finds…um…21-yr old women look best and a 50-yr man finds…yes, you guessed it…22-yr old women look best. A fun, revealing and surprisingly deep book.
2. The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray. A slightly mad novel involving a banker, struggling writer and a waitress. The set-up is the writer offering to immortalise the banker in a novel, but actually using him for a more underhand motive.It captures well the insecurities of both investment bankers and writers. As a result it doesn’t inadvertently glamourise finance like “The Big Short” or “The Bonfire Of the Vanities” which is a nice change
3. China’s Economy What Everyone Needs to Know by Arthur R. Kroeber. An excellent overview and history of the Chinese economy by long-time China-watcher Kroeber. It throws up some original insights and provides a nice balance to the more common alarmist books on China.
4. Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin. I only recently finished this and found it surprisingly endearing. Steve Martin of course is famous for movies like The Jerk, Cheaper By the Dozen and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but before acting he made his name in stand-up comedy. The book covers that period, which includes times where he had to perform to an empty bar, and his anecdotes about his disapproving parents.
5. The Vegetarian by Han Kang. The Korean author won the Man Booker International Prize for this novel. It describes the journey of a women who gives up meat. This may seem uneventful to many in Western Europe, but in South Korea vegetarianism is usually the preserve of monks alone. Her family reject her to varying degrees, while an artist accepts her as a piece of art with consequences that reverberate throughout the book.
6. Warren Buffet’s Ground Rules by Jeremy Miller. Warren Buffet’s best investment years were before Berkshire Hathaway when he ran a partnership that delivered 24% annual returns after fees. The letters he sent to the partnership chronicled this period and provided a deep insight into how Buffet invested. For the first time, these letters have been accessed and are laid out this book. I’d skip the authors pre-amble to each latter and go straight the letters themselves.
7. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer. Written in 1951, the self-taught Hoffer studied mass movements from Nazism to communism to the KKK. His conclusion that such movements are made up of the frustrated that project their hopes on to the movement can easily be applied to various parts the world today. A line that stuck with me was when Hoffer writes that movements don’t need a god, but they all need a devil. Chilling, wide-ranging and as relevant today as any time.
8. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware. It might sound depressing, but the book really is uplifting. Ware became a palliative care nurse and worked with the dying. Over the years, she found that many of her patients had the same regrets. The book explores the five recurrent ones.
9. The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age Hardcover by Reid Hoffman. Written by the co-founder of LinkedIn, Hoffman describes how both employers and employees need to re-think their relationship away from the conventional “I pay you, you give me loyalty” construct to “being allies”. The book will make you become more outward-looking as an employee and hopefully more marketable when circumstances change!