Wanted: The best books of 2018

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Christmas break is nearly upon us and it can’t come soon enough. It has been a big year, with plenty of great, positive stories of successful Australian companies doing great things, both here and overseas.

It would have been nice to finish the year without the rabbit-punch to the back of the head – as delivered by our federal parliamentarians via the shocking encryption legislation – but we can all turn our attention to re-joining that particular fight soon enough.

In the meantime, at InnovationAus.com we are focused on finding the best books of the year and compiling – for your relaxation and pleasure – the 2018 Ultimate Summer Reading List.

To get the ball rolling, I’ve listed some my favourites for the year below.

This is a crowdsourcing venture. As we have done in each of the three years since we founded, we are seeking your input. We are looking at ‘industry’ books mainly – science/tech/business – but don’t restrict yourself. Feel free to throw off the shackles of sector insularity.

We’re looking for short two- to three sentence answers to the following:

  • What is the best book you have read this year?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • What do you plan to read over the summer break?
  • What was your best non-industry book this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Answer all or answer none, the guide is just a bit of fun. Please email your best picks to me at james@innovationaus.com and I will compile the Ultimate Guide to be published in our last newsletter of the year.

So here goes.

Bad Blood – Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou is a ripping yarn, expertly rendered. It is way more interesting than you think it will be on the way in. I loved this book because it is such a superb piece of long-form reporting, an exceptional piece of journalism. Full of unexpected turns, and even more unexpected characters.

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday. I had read Peter Thiel’s Zero to One for the first time earlier this year and was more surprised than I should have been at how great it was.

Thiel is often painted in mainstream media as an unknowable, two-dimensional figure, and I wanted to find a book that would present a more three dimensional view of this exceptional and interesting guy.

The premise that started the ball rolling in Conspiracy is seemingly small, but it is ultimately the clash of giant ideas and institutions.

I had a Michael Lewis binge this year (Moneyball, The Big Short, Flash Boys), culminating in The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy – a kind of take-down of the neglect of public sector expertise and service delivery in the US. Lewis is brilliant at finding intensely interesting characters and then telling a story through their eyes.

The Fifth Risk tells the recent history of the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce in the US. It sounds like snoresville – but is both fascinating and confronting. It is as if people have forgotten how much we rely on our much-maligned public sector (and our governments have forgotten how to tell their story).

Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures in the Tech Startup Bubble by Dan Lyons is very, very funny. It is an exceptionally well-mannered and polite take-down of startup cultism. Lyons is an exceptionally credentialed, 50-something, old-skool journo who finds himself working at Hubspot. Much weirdness follows.

The book is effectively Gulliver’s Travels or Alice in Wonderland. Anyone working in startups will know the characters.

Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy by George Gilder. It seems counter-intuitive in the extreme to suggest Google’s business model is under serious threat – especially given the ACCC’s report this week that underlined just how dominant the company is in digital advertising.

George Gilder maps the technology that is decentralising the internet, and undermining the Google/Facebook hegemony. ‘The end is nigh’ is the extraordinary conclusion.

I read The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I am very late to that particular book, but I loved it. I am far from being an entrepreneur, but I am married to one and have had a front-row seat to the struggle.

Ben Horowitz brings it down between the eyes with the hard and universal truths about running your own show.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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