Summer reading: Ultimate Guide

James Riley
Editorial Director

Naughty or nice, people? If you haven’t asked yourself that question already, you have maybe left your run a little late. We are about to enter the land of the Ho, Ho, Ho. And not before time, either.

The only thing left to do here at is to release our Ultimate Guide to Summer Reading, our list of book recommendations for Christmas 2018. Thank you to everyone who has participated – there are some excellent reading suggestions, so put your orders in to Santa as soon as you can.

It has been a crazy year. There have been many highs, and many lows. For all of the great energy and enthusiasm that we see across the ecosystem, there is also great uncertainty. And people are tired. That’s the message I’ve been getting as I have spoken to people across the sector.

What a year. We have a new Prime Minister (our fourth in five years). We have a new Industry minister (our sixth in five years). We have a federal election in five months, and the real prospect of a change of government.

Maybe I will ask Santa Claus for consistency. How about it Santa? A consistent and energetic mission statement, and a consistency of policy to follow. That would be great. Thank you, Santa. Say ‘hi’ to Rudolph for me.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our readers. I hope you all have a wonderful break and get the chance to recharge your batteries in readiness for a massive 2019.

And so on with our Ultimate Guide to Summer Reading.

Ric Richardson is Australia’s most famous independent inventor and is a prodigious creator of patents. Ric thinks different. He is recommending Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy as a must-read for anyone who is interested in what happens next for the internet.

Life After Google is written by George Gilder, a 79-year-old economist, investor and prolific author. I read this book at Ric’s recommendation. It is fascinating.

“This book is from the world renowned futurist who predicted the end of television’s dominance [of media] and was asked by News Corp to address its annual meeting at the height of televisions’ broadcast power,” Ric Richardson said.

“His latest book predicts the end of Google and all the other walled data silos. For an elderly man, his understanding of blockchain and its deeper economic and social impact is incredibly perceptive and accurate,” Ric said.

“He articulates with clarity impending trends which I am seeing in technology and online, but until now have not been able to explain. His book is my 2018 top read.”

It’s all about the business for CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall this year. The best book he read in 2018 was Mariana Mazzucato’s The Entrepreneurial State.

“I met Professor Mariana Mazzucato while she’s in Australia this month, and her research on the economic impacts of publicly-funded research is a must-read, starting with The Entrepreneurial State,” Larry says. “A shame she missed out including CSIRO’s WiFi in her list of iPhone innovations that came from public research, but she’s up to speed now!”

For anyone with an abiding interest in scientific research, or in the commercial development of science-based technology, Larry has a long reading list of Industry Roadmaps that he wants you to become familiar with.

“These include our space roadmap, which maps out how we’ll grow our national space industry to $12bn by 2030; and our hydrogen roadmap, which provides a blueprint for the diversification of our national energy mix, exemplified through our announcement with Fortescue Minerals Group last month. What’s around the corner is exciting!”

Larry recommends reading Securing Australia’s Future by Simon Torok and Paul Holper, which looks at harnessing interdisciplinary research for innovation and prosperity. And he says 2019 marks 50 years since CSIRO helped beam the first images of humans on the Moon into people’s homes. He will be reading the 2000 book Tracking Apollo to the Moon is written by Hamish Lindsay, a former engineer from CSIRO’s tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek, near Canberra.

Data61’s chief executive officer Adrian Turner’s favourite book for 2018 was Originals by Adam Grant for its “powerful insights into the counterintuitive principles that brought about the positive global societal changes we take for granted today and a window into dealing with antibodies to change.”

Right now Adrian is reading A Crack in Creation by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg. “Perhaps the most important consequence of technological advancement is the ability to rewrite the code of life. It makes the ICT revolution feel inconsequential, calling into question what it means to be human, and the future of humanity.”

The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch comes to me highly recommended,” Adrian says of the book he plans to read over summer. “It promises to describe the intersections between four seemingly disconnected strands: quantum physics, and the theories of knowledge, computation and evolution. Has drawn comparisons with Douglas Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach.”

Writer, commentator and industry analyst Sandy Plunkett – a prolific reader, it must be said – says the best non-fiction book of the year is Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. “It’s about exactly what it says in the title. Scary stuff.”

Right now Sandy is reading The Curse of Bigness by Tim Wu, which she says is “a little book about a big problem: the concentration of power in many industries in the US, and challenges for anti-trust authorities to do much about it.”

For the best non-industry books, Sandy says she “re-read both Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World back to back and fell into a deep depression! It turns out, in the digital age, both are right!” Over summer she will be reading some thriller trash fiction, as well as diving into Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan.

Port of Newcastle chairman and special adviser to the UTS Innovation Council Prof Roy Green correctly predicted that he would not be alone in nominating Mariana Mazzucato’s influential book The Entrepreneurial State. “Even more impressive is her new book The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy,” he says.

“Whereas the former documents the role of government in driving innovation and growth in modern capitalist economies, the latter examines the problems that arise when these economies reward value-extraction more highly than value-creation. And it concludes by reinforcing the role of ‘public value’ in economic and social progress.”

“Talking about value extraction, I can strongly recommend the new volume of essays edited by Damien Cahill and Phil Toner, Wrong Way: How Privatisation & Economic Reform Backfired. This volume provides an insightful companion to Richard Denniss’ Quarterly Essay, Dead Right: How neoliberalism ate itself and what comes next,” Roy says.

“The authors ask whether privatisation has led to more productivity-enhancing competition, or less? What has been the impact of deregulation on economic and consumer welfare in energy, finance, health, education and labour markets? Readers will have their views confirmed, or challenged.”

Over the summer Roy will “grapple with Joel Mokyr’s magisterial work A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy. Professor Mokyr who holds Northwestern University’s endowed Chair of Arts and Sciences (in itself a combination to reflect on) has addressed the issues not just of how the Industrial Revolution took place but why.”

“Mokyr argues that a culture of growth specific to early modern Europe and the Enlightenment laid the foundations for the scientific advances and pioneering inventions that would promote technological and economic development. By implication, he highlights the dangers of the current assault on Enlightenment values.”

For non-fiction: “It’s hard to think of another contemporary writer in the English language who comes close to the Irish literary giant John Banville. While his book The Sea has been beckoning me from a shelf for some time, it was with immense pleasure that I was compelled to switch from what can only be described as the instrumental prose of economics and public policy to the mystical flow of what may be Banville’s finest work.”

“I was reminded of Seamus Heaney’s response to a BBC interviewer a few years ago who asked him what was the difference between ‘English English’ and Irish English. ‘Ah’, said Heaney, ‘it’s the difference between the language of instruction and the language of ambiguity’.”

AustCyber CEO Michelle Price says that right now she is reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. “In our game, it’s easy to be married to the job and given my self-confessed and rather public passion for the job, I’m quite sure colleagues would be quick to agree this is a self-help must for me,” Michelle says.

Over summer Michelle will be reading Australia’s Boldest Experiment by Stuart Macintyre, recommended to me by Lockheed Martin A/NZ chief executive Vince Di Pietro. She will also read Brotopia by Emily Chang (“because I’ve wanted to read it since it was published”), as well as AICD Company Directors course reading for my mid-January enrolment. Michelle says she will also be catching up on a couple of missed Risky Business podcasts (produced by my mate Patrick Gray.)

Fleur Brown is a serial entrepreneur and media specialist. She is founder and executive producer of the Entrepreneurs television how on Nine’s the Money Channel, as well as the CEO of the Launch Group and a director at advocacy group Tech Sydney.

Fleur’s best book of the year is Seth Godin’s What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn). “This is unashamedly a feel-good pick-me-up read. If you are looking for a confidence boost to go with your New Year’s resolutions, this is it. I read it at the start of 2018, and attribute it to getting me into serious action on a number of my goals.”

Right now Fleur is reading Lab Rats by Dan Lyons, the follow-on from Lyon’s book Disrupted. “Like anything from Dan Lyons, Lab Rats is not for the faint-hearted. He shines a light into the rather dark corners of tech, startups and big tech. Dan was also a writer on the Silicon Valley TV series – he has you laughing and cringing at the same time. It’s all strangely cathartic.”

Over summer Fleur plans to re-read two older books, both by Chris Anderson (author of the Long Tail). The first is Free, “because it started the whole conversation about the freemium digital model, which is now a dying business model. I want to re-visit the thinking and review what was real and why some things failed.” Secondly she will re-read his follow-on book Makers, “which I never managed to read, but which I suspect still holds a lot of currency.”

The best book StartupAus chief executive Alex McCauley read this year was Happiness by Matthieu Ricard. This is not strictly an industry book, he says, but a bit of Buddhism should be essential reading for founders and executives everywhere. “We should all be a little more conscious of the way our brains work, and our role in consciously managing them.”

Right now Alex is reading Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman, which looks at the policy challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for developed economies. It is “an optimistic realist’s look at what a tech-driven utopia might deliver,” he says. His recommendation for the best non-industry book is Stephen Fry’s much acclaimed Mythos. “Ancient Greek myths told in a captivating, humorous, irreverent style.”

Scott Handsaker is the CEO at cyber-focused accelerator Cyrise, and co-founder and CEO at Attendly. The best book he has read this year is Bad Blood – Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. “This is the fascinating true tale of Theranos. Hard to put down, and will make you run to YouTube just to listen to the founders voice.”

Right now, Scott is reading The Bottom Billion, by Paul Collier, which explores why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it. Over summer he’s getting into The Lost Man by Jane Harper.

“Harpers first book (The Dry) was amaze balls. If you have ever thought of writing a novel, do not read The Dry as it is intimidatingly good and you will get depressed that you don’t have that level of talent,” Scott says. “The Lost Man is her third and will be on my reading list.”

The best non-industry books of the year include The Righteous Mind – Why good people are divided by politics and religion by Jonathan Haidt. “A weighty tome but worth your time. One of two books to have changed the way I view the world (the other being The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins).”

Another is Red Notice – a true story of high finance, murder, and one man’s fight for justice, by Bill Browder.

I will finish this epic summer reading list with recommendations for books published this year by three authors from the formative years of my own past – each of them esteemed members of the Mitchell Mafia from the badlands of 1980s Bathurst in NSW (now Charles Sturt University.)

Richard Anderson is an outstanding writer from northern NSW who this year published a country crime novel Retribution, to follow his previous work The Good Teacher. Ando’s next book, Boxed, is due in May 2019.

Chris Hammer is a long-time (and now former) Canberra Press Gallery journo whose first fictional work Scrublands has been a sensation this year, a crime novel set in a dying town out in the real Australia. The book is soon to be released in hardback into the US. It is available on Audible.

Helen Pitt is a celebrated Sydney Morning Herald journalist – a raconteur, an incredible singer and an amazing liver of life – whose book The House has been received to great acclaim, the extraordinary story of the Sydney Opera House, the 20th century’s most remarkable building.

Have a great Christmas everyone.

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