Summer reading: A lazy book list

James Riley
Editorial Director

Ho, Ho, Ho, you beautiful people. We are readying the car for an insanely long road-trip through the deserts of the ‘real Australia’ and have been gathering all the books that have been sitting on the shelf waiting to find enough time to get past the opening paragraphs.

And we’ve asked the industry for suggestions of books that will get us prepared for 2017.

It is inarguable that 2016 has been an incredible year for our sector. Life is always busy, but in 2016 it seemed to be busy with things that mattered. Real progress was made, and that’s a good feeling.

We have seen amazing Australian companies achieve incredible milestones. We’ve seen a local industry that is more vibrant and more energised than at any time in living memory. There is a lot going on.

So as we move to celebrate Christmas and to enjoy some time with our families and friends, presents to you a helpful guide to finding the perfect book to accompany you to the hammock, the beach, or the lounge.

And we’ve asked celebrated luminaries to suggest the books that have most influenced them this year, and to recommend the must-read books for the summer.

Sure, the point of summer is to relax. But you can’t ever relax completely, right?

Hopefully these suggestions will help you get ahead in your industry reading in readiness for an even more incredible year in 2017.

Angus Taylor, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation: It should surprise no-one that a minister who is neck-deep in planning for City Deals – including in Western Sydney – should be reading Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay this summer. This book explores how airports will drive the cities of the future, rather than the other way around.

Mr Taylor’s second book (presumably setting aside time for the Boxing Day Test) is Rubicon – the Last years of the Roman Empire by Tom Holland is an oldie but a goldie, published in 2003. The book looks at the end of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire.

Federal Labor’s Ed Husic has a shadow portfolio that is that the centre of the technological upheaval that is changing the way we live. He is the shadow for employment services, workforce participation and the future of work. He is also shadow minister for the digital economy.

Mr Husic says Airtree Ventures’ Daniel Petre had been telling him for ages to read Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford.

While some might argue the author has been deliberately provocative, Ed Husic says the book made him more determined for us to think of ways to help prepare for the transition that has to emerge as future waves of automation and technological change sweep over us.

Over summer Ed’s going to be reading another Martin Ford book – Lights in the tunnel: automation, accelerating technology and the economy of the future. He’s also hoping to smeak a read of Troy Bramston’s Paul Keating: The Big Picture Leader.

Ed’s must-read recommendation for the industry is ‘Why the Future is Workless’ by Tim Dunlop. He says Dunlop looks at the automation challenge via an Australian pair of eyes and dials down the ‘tech anxiety’ surrounding the issue. Not everyone will agree with the arguments, but Dunlop teases out the debate around Universal Basic Income and asks if it is time to use tech to help redefine the value and centrality of work in our lives.

Innovation Clearinghouse founder and ecosystem consultant Sandy Plunkett says the best book on the sector she’s read this year is ‘Who owns the Future?’ by Jaron Lanier, an exploration of how the middle class is increasingly disenfranchised from online economies.

For her own summer reading, Sandy says she’s happy with whatever she finds under the Christmas tree. But she will also be re-reading a 1985 book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Which seems to be a book that [still] suits the times.

As a must-read this summer for the industry, Sandy is recommending Lanier’s Who owns the Future. But she also puts forward The Innovators by Walter Isaacson’s 2014 classic The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

The industry’s very well known Mick Liubinskas – who is Venture Portfolio Manager in San Francisco for Telstra’s Muru-D – says the best book he’s read this year Abundance: The future is better than you think by Peter Diamandis.

For summer reading Mick’s going for the Stephen King memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. But his must-read recommendation for the industry is The Greatest Salesman in the World, a book first published in 1968 by Og Mandino, an author who has sold more than 50 million books worldwide.

TechSydney chief executive Dean McEvoy says he is currently reading Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari, a book that surveys the length of human history.

Dean has a laundy-list of must-reads for anyone entrenched in this industry. If you haven’t read these, this summer is the time to start:

The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

Zero to One by Peter Theil

Venture Deals by Brad Feld

Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg

High-profile StartupAus CEO Alex McCauley agrees with Daniel Petre and Ed Husic – the best book he read this year is Tom Ford’s Rise of the Robot. But he gives an honourable mention to The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master, the Roman philosopher (this one is via Audible.) Seneca was one of Nero’s mates, and the man to know in ancient Rome.

For must-reads this summer, it should be no surprise whatsoever that Alex wants the entire industry to read the StartupAus 2016 Crossroads Report. And he will probably want you to commit key findings to memory, and to raise the issues with your member of parliament. But he also says Tom Urban’s Wait But Why series about Elon Musk is well worth it.

Outside of tech – and everyone needs the nourishment of widely – McCauley will be reading this summer: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks, Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (a rare re-read, he says, because it’s fantastic.)

The Start Society’s Pete Cooper is going to be re-reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, as well as Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (from the Start Society library). “They are almost timeless and I am always reminded of some of the basics of internet disruption to apply in our businesses,” Pete says.

Next up will be Business Adventures by John Brooks – a classic recommended by Gates and Buffett. He’s hoping someone donates it to the StartSoc library.

For myself, I will be happy to finish several books that I started this year, but got too swamped to complete. The first is Mark Di Stefano’s What A Time To Be Alive: That and Other Lies of the 2016 Campaign, because who doesn’t enjoy a good campaign book and Di Stefano’s on the pulse.

The second is The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down, the brutal account of a grotesque presidential campaign train wreck by Andrew Young, a former staffer.

Finally, I plan to re-read George Megalogenis’ Quarterly Essay, Balancing Act: Australia between recession and renewal.

And finally, I have recently acquired The Promise of Digital Government, an essay by Angus Taylor. I’m going to read it. I am trying to understand the opportunities for Australian companies in the transformation of government.

To all of our readers: Have a safe, wonderful break over Christmas and the New Year. We’re looking forward to seeing you all again in 2017.


Update: The Start Society’s Pete Cooper was inexplicably left off the original version of this story. An oversight! The story has been updated with his summer reading list.


Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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