Summer Reading: Your guide to a relaxing break

James Riley
Editorial Director

Well, that was one crazy year. Full stop. We’ll definitely need to double up on the Ho, Ho, Ho’s this Christmas.

As we move into the holiday season and set our collective vibe to ‘chill’, we present to you the annual InnovationAus Summer Reading list. This is my favourite column of the year, the last thing that write. And if the list signals the near end of 2020, that makes me happy.

2020 has brought moments of great sadness and much uncertainty and anxiety. But it has also brought moments of joy and great satisfaction. But mainly it has been busy AF.

InnovationAus more than doubled its readership during 2020, particularly during and after the first lockdown as people started to ask ‘what’s next’ and interest in industry policy surged. That interest has been maintained, and we look forward to the debates about industry development issues continuing into 2021.

From all of us at InnovationAus, have a great Christmas and New Year period. Enjoy the break, recharge the batteries and get ready for a full-on 2021. The challenges and the opportunities that presented themselves in 2020 will still be there in January – and we look forward to working with the industry to make the most of it.

Summer Reading
Summer Reading: Wishing everyone a relaxing break from everyone at InnovationAus

And now, to the Summer Reading book recommendations from our industry leaders:

As part of our Summer Reading Guide for 2020, we are offering a copy of Ann Moffatt’s brilliant new book, The IT Girl – 50 years as a woman working in the Information Technology Industry to the first four readers who comment in the comments section of this story below. It’s a great, inspirational book to start 2021.

From the dark days of March, April and May all the way through Victoria’s second wave and the northern beaches breakout this month in Sydney, the political leadership across all governments have been running hard to outpace the policy complications of the pandemic.

Federal industry minister Karen Andrews’ favourite book about the tech industry in 2020 was Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again by Eric Topol, the American cardiologist, scientist and author, while her favourite fiction for the year was Killer Instinct from crime-thriller king James Patterson.

And over the summer break, the minister will be reading the acclaimed autobiography Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton (she is a huge fan).

Deep Tech incubator/accelerator Cicada Innovations chief executive Sally-Ann Williams’ favourite industry book is Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman. It is not so much an industry book, but rather “but a book I think all who are in my industry would benefit from reading.”

“Rutger Bregman makes you rethink what you think to be true about humankind. It challenges common beliefs about the flawed nature of humanity and presents the case that we are created to collaborate and that at our core we are good,” Sally-Ann says.

“We’ve seen lots of examples of this in 2021 and we certainly need to come together to solve the future challenges the world is facing.”

Sally-Ann’s favourite non-industry book is Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, while her plan for the summer break is Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder And Things That Sustain You When The World Goes Dark. “There’s some great lessons and truths in learning to slow down in awe and wonder at the world around us,” she says.

Books about the potential impact of artificial intelligence technology is a theme for the 2020 reading list. This is the case for shadow minister for innovation, technology and the future of work Clare O’Neil, whose favourite industry book is Rage Inside the Machine, by Robert Elliott Smith, “a really compelling, readable explanation of some of the big issues we face in our AI future.”

Ms O’Neil’s favourite non-industry book is Michael Lind’s The New Class War as “quite the revelation if you are interested in what’s going on in politics across liberal democracies,” while her plans for the break include Trent Dalton’s smashing Our Shimmering Skies.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall favourite book was Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World by David Epstein.

“When you lead an organisation of 5500+ passionate specialists, it’s important to remember the power of a polymath with a broad curiosity about the world.,” Larry says. “This year COVID presented us with an opportunity to move some of our people around into roles outside of their expertise and we’re finding many are thriving on the new challenges.”

“Epstein articulates in an inspiring way the opportunities to innovate when you create new intersections between disciplines.”

Larry’s favourite non-industry book of the year was Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta, “a bold voice among a growing field of Australian Indigenous writing that challenged a lot of my assumptions,” while his plan for the summer is to read Lowitja: The Authorised Biography of Lowitja O’Donoghue, Stuart Rintoul.

“CSIRO goes to Garma each year and it was my turn a few years ago,” he said. “That experience changed my thinking profoundly, and I’m determined to keep my commitment to reconciliation fresh.”

Verizon Business Group regional vice-president Robert Le Busque recommendation for the best Industry book is The Perfect Weapon by David E. Sanger, described as “a great read about the state of Cyber warfare and cyber security across the world. The chapter on North Korea’s cyber campaigns has to be read to be believed!”

Rob’s favourite non-Industry book is Trent Dalton’s best-seller Boy Swallows Universe: “I grew up in the Western Suburbs of Brisbane, in the era of the infamous Boggo Road jail. So much of the book’s setting is familiar.  Brisbane in the 80’s had a slightly rough edge, it was a little looser and certainly less refined than it is today. It’s a great ride.”

Long before he had regional responsibilities for a global tech company, Rob Le Busque studied music at university, and this summer he will be reading This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin.

“While I haven’t built a career out of music, it remains a lifelong interest, and sometimes an obsession,” Rob says. “At the moment I’m interested in the impact different types of music can have on your mood, brain function, ability to concentrate.  Daniel Levitin was a leading sound engineer and record producer who went on to become a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist.”

The NSW government’s chief data scientist Dr Ian Oppermann has been crazy-busy this year as you would expect. But he’s got some recommendations for summer. 21 lessons for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harari:

“I started this book early in 2020 and was really enjoying working my way through the ideas in the book when we were hit by COVID. I really enjoyed Harari’s earlier two books ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’ and loved the clarity of thought and the connected scale of his thinking, Ian says.

The Mirror and the Light, the third in the series by Hillary Mantel is Ian’s favourite non-industry book. “I took delivery of this book during the peak of COVID in NSW and have not yet made it to the end. It is a weighty tome filled with insights into the very dangerous political world of the Tudor court.”

Finally, Dr Oppermann says he plans to read The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia over summer. “Rumour has it that it is in the Christmas stocking, so I am hoping to read it over the break. I have always loved history and stories of human endeavour. This has it all.”

Australia’s newly appointed chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley says the best industry book she read in 2020 is Quantum Computing for Everyone by Chris Bernhardt.

“Quantum is going to be transformational technology across all industries, similar to the way that the digital revolution has been transformational. We need to lift awareness and preparedness, and I’ve been reading lots to help me explain and demystify how the technology works so everyone can understand,” Cathy says.

Over summer, our new chief scientist will ready Australia Day by Stan Grant (“I read Talking to My Country and have been looking forward to this follow up since then”) and Scott Galloway’s The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning.

“I love the idea behind this book because I think it is so important to not lose sight of keeping the balance of love and happiness in life,” Cathy says. “We have all been working so hard this year, and trying to juggle so much, I’m looking forward to reading this book and starting 2021 with a fresh outlook. I also like that it includes algebra.”

Dr Priya Dev is a data scientist and senior lecturer at the Australian National University. This year she read the timeless Australian classic, The Lucky Country by Donald Horne.

“It is as relevant today as it was in 1964 and a must read as we turn the page on a new monetary system where Australia has an opportunity to emerge as a global leader in the fourth industrial revolution,” Priya says. “Let’s not squander this once-in-a-century opportunity!”

Priya’s favourite non-industry book of the year was Collusion; How Central Bankers Rigged the World by Nomi Prins, which she says is “a must read for those wanting to understand how ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) and where money printing began and how it ends. Some people believe that technological disruption is causing inequality, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

For summer reading Priya has in mind Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, or look for “a book written by a historian that analyses the rise and fall of empires throughout history.”

The chief executive of Slattery’s and the primary driver behind the Tech23 deep tech festival and Agile Australia Rachel Slattery says the best industry book she has read this year is Ketan Joshi’s Windfall: Unlocking a Fossil-Free Future

“Unlocking a fossil-free future has helped me understand the windfall of benefits renewables can bring while explaining why Australia hasn’t yet realised those benefits,” Rachel says. “Joshi left me feeling optimistic of how close Australia is to powering itself without hurting itself.”

The best non-industry book Rachel recommends is The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett, which she read as the Black Lives Matter movement began its crescendo. “It explores colour and privilege through the story of identical twins and I could not recommend it more highly as it does that thing great fiction can do – truly helping us step into the shoes of someone else.”

For summer reading Rachel will be hopping into The Age Well Project by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders. “Some of their advice on how to live a longer, healthier, happier life seemed in contrast to my current coping mechanisms! I am looking forward to a gentle time over summer where their advice can not only be read, but heeded!”

The CEO of Mindaroo’s Wildfire and Disaster Resilience Program and former Data61 chief Adrian Turner is reading Ray Dalio’s emerging book The Changing World Order.

“This is actually a book in the making. Ray Dalio founded and led the world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. He is a keen study of history and this is the best work I have found that puts today’s economic, societal and geopolitical challenges into a cogent, macroeconomic 500+ year context. Incredibly well researched, each chapter is being released to a growing community of 150,000+ people for feedback,” Adrian said.

David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet is Adrian choice for best non-industry book. He has enormous gravitas and I think this work is a lightning strike moment for us all and the spaceship that we call Earth. It feels like a macro shift is well underway.

Over the summer Adrian Turner will be reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. “This book has been recommended to me twice in the last days by avid readers who I respect. After a year that started with a near death experience caught fighting the Black Summer fires, and that never slowed down, escapism sounds perfect right now over the break!”

StartupAUS chief executive officer Alex McCauley says the best industry book of 2020 is The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, by Margaret O’Mara which he says is a “must-read for anyone who is still operating under the delusion that Silicon Valley’s success was independent of government policy.”

Alex’s favourite non-industry book for the year is Malcolm Turnbull’s political memoir A Bigger Picture, which is a great read and superbly written. “And if you can, get the audio companion too – Turnbull reads it himself and it’s incredibly evocative.”

Over the summer, Alex will be reading Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty, which is a look at the USSR’s planned economy that asks the question ‘what if it had worked?’

Ann Moffatt is the Founder of FITT (Females in IT and Telecommunications) and a 50 veteran of the tech industry. Her favourite industry book this year was Payments and Banking in Australia from coins to crypto currency by Nikesh Lalchandani.

“Nikesh Lalchandani who was chair of the NSW branch of the ACS when his book was launched. It’s an amazing book with all the detail you might want to know about banking and automation.”

For Ann, the best non-industry book was Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which she says “details the dark times when the British came to our shores and very nearly destroyed everything the indigenous people have built and failed in their effort to ‘anglicise’ our proud indigenous people.”

Over the summer Ann plans to read Hidden Hand by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg about how china is reshaping our world. “It was bought for me by my son for my birthday in July. I’m really looking forward to reading it.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

  1. Wade Hextell 3 years ago

    Waiting eagerly for my copy to arrive, hoping I can get a sneaky autograph from Ann

  2. Hasnain Zaheer 3 years ago

    That’s a great list, James. I have added several to my list.
    A book that I really enjoyed reading this year, and a fairly recently published book, which is also highly relevant to this topic is Tim O’Reilly’s What;s the Future and Why it’s up to us.


  3. Caroline pegram 3 years ago

    I’d love to read the IT Girl. Happy holidays

  4. Jordan 3 years ago

    A great list – thanks for collating this! If only the summer break were about four times longer I could hope to get through them all. I really enjoyed ‘Range’ by David Epstein this year and I’m hoping to get through ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear, as well as whatever Santa delivers…

  5. Julie Lockyer 3 years ago

    Sounds really interesting The IT Girl – 50 years as a woman working in the Information Technology Industry by Ann Moffatt

  6. Susan 3 years ago

    Totally agree with many of these suggestions – Dark Emu and Trent Dalton’s books in particular – and I’ve added a couple to my to-read list. And yes, would love a copy of Ann’s book!

  7. Dijana 3 years ago

    Thank you for the reading list and yes please for a copy of Ann Moffat’s new book. Another two to add:
    A gentleman in moscow – Amos Towles
    The age of surveillance capitalism – Shoshana Zuboff

  8. Wendy 3 years ago

    Certainly some great suggestions to see out 2020 and re-energise for 2021 – thank you. Would love to start by reading The IT Girl.

  9. Betty 3 years ago

    I would love to read The IT Girl – 50 years as a woman working in the Information Technology Industry by Ann Moffat 😀

  10. Natasha 3 years ago

    Would love a copy of the The IT Girl – 50 years as a woman working in the Information Technology Industry by Ann Moffatt. 🙂

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