The 26 best books to read this Summer

Here are 26 books our network recommends, now that Summer has arrived and you'll finally have more time to catch up on your reading! Enjoy!

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June 16, 2023

It’s that time of the year again: when you go on a holiday to rest, have fun, explore and possibly meditate on the choices you have made in the past months (and will make in the next). As books are the perfect companion for each of these things, I asked our network to help us draw up a list of the best ones they  have read over the past months (or in their entire life) and the results are, as always, completely fabulous.

Obviously, there are some books about artificial intelligence to be found here - which are terribly relevant today - but I also love how eclectic the list is, with topics ranging from rooftop art, the dangers of techno-optimism and the history of money to geopolitics, degrowth, neuroscience, traditional wisdom and even 2 novels (one old and one new-ish).

Enjoy! And let us know what your favorite books are!

The Age of AI: And Our Human Future - by Henry A Kissinger, Eric Schmidt & Daniel Huttenlocher

Tip by Brett King, Author, Futurist, Fintech Hall of Fame & Media Personality

There's a lot of debate right now about what the effect of AI will be on society, particularly around policy, ethics, employment and economics. So who better to tackle such a subject than leading policy advisor for over 50 years Henry Kissinger, former CEO/Chairman of Alphabet/Google Eric Schmidt and dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing Daniel Huttenlocher. In this thought-provoking read, the authors argue that AI is the single most transformative and important technology humanity has developed since fire, one that will change almost every aspect of our life.

While many people debate IF AI will change our world, the authors show how machine intelligence has already diverged from human intelligence in many ways, and how it is solving problems more efficiently that we can in a range of areas. AI is already besting humans in a range of activities. The big question remains - how will we coexist with an emerging intelligence (or set of intelligences) that we don't understand, that can beat us at our own game, and is more cost effective, faster and more efficient than humans at almost everything it attempts? How will we co-exist with an alternative intelligence we may not be able to control? Well worth a read. If you don't come away thinking that this changes everything, you just don't understand how big of a deal AI is to the human race.

Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity - by Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson

Tip by Frederik Anseel, Behavioral Scientist, Management Professor & Senior Deputy Dean @ UNSW Sydney Business School

Daron Acemoglu is Institute Professor of Economics at MIT. For the last twenty-five years, he has been researching the historical origins of prosperity, poverty, and the effects of new technologies on economic growth, employment, and inequality. This book is a corrective against a particular brand of techno-optimism that is commonplace in US tech circles, journalism and academia. He and Simon Johnson wrote it because they think this techno-optimism is not just wrong, but also dangerous because it pacifies people and makes it much more likely that control over technology remains in the hands of a small group. It is not just wrong. It makes shared prosperity less likely.

Money: the Unauthorised Biography - by Felix Martin

Tip by Chris Skinner, Fintech Advisor, Author, Speaker and Troublemaker

It's a great romp of a read from the origins of why money was invented - and it wasn't to replace barter - through to things we see today, although it pre-dated a lot of crypto and central bank digital currency developments. Nevertheless, understanding the birth of money through various explorations from Greece to China to Hamlet and even the Vampire Squid, it gives a great insight into why this is such a key part of our world and life.

The Matter With Things - by Iain McGilchrist

By Wouter Van Noort, Journalist @ NRC. Future Affairs. LinkedIn Top Voice

An Oxford neuroscientist’s Magnum Opus about the fundamental differences between the left and right hemispheres in the brain, the impact they have on our worldview, and the urgency of a more holistic outlook on ourselves, consciousness and nature.
This marvelous book changed my views on the brain, consciousness and the urgent need for holistic thinking. It’s highly relevant for our current predicament and offers hopeful pathways for cultural change.

Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology - by Chris Miller

Tip by Hans Diels, Futurist & Geopolitics Expert @ ETION

Embark on an enthralling journey through the history of the microchip industry. In this timely and captivating account, Miller provides an essential framework to comprehend the ongoing technology war between the United States and China. Must-read for tech enthusiasts and businesspeople who want to learn more about how politics is changing business and vice versa.

Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition by Challenging Everything - by Bryce G. Hoffman

Tip by Hans Diels, Futurist & Geopolitics Expert @ ETION

Get ready for the future without even predicting it! In this engaging read, Hoffman introduces you to the world of red teaming—a technique widely employed in the military and one that every business should adopt. Discover how red teaming can stress-test your decisions, ensuring your company is well-prepared for any challenges that come its way

The World of Yesterday: Memoires of a European - by Stefan Zweig

Tip by Hans Diels, Futurist & Geopolitics Expert @ ETION

Don't be surprised to find a book nearly a century old in a summer reading list about the future. Stefan Zweig's "The World of Yesterday" offers a unique perspective on the cracks that appeared in the harmonious coexistence of nations before World War I. Zweig masterfully describes an era that believed nothing unexpected would happen, fostering a sense of certainty. This resonates with our contemporary environment, where rapid political and technological changes create cracks in the world as we know it.

Excellent Advice For Living - by Kevin Kelly

Tip by Fredo De Smet, Chief Visionary Officer @ LTS

This book is exactly what it says it is: "wisdom I wish I'd known earlier". Kevin Kelly gives advice in the form of short aphorisms, life lessons from one of the grand fathers of the US tech scene. Unique insight in the cultural blend of stoicism, Buddhism and Accelerationism that is Silicon Valley.

Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World - by Jason Hickel

Tip by Fredo De Smet, Chief Visionary Officer @ LTS

After reading this plea for a de-growth scenario, you understand that de-growth is not all that radical as it sounds. The real radical situation is the one called reality. Both people and planet are in a burn-out scenario. Do you have the courage to radically re-think the system?

Superintelligence : Paths, Dangers, Strategies - by Nick Bostrom

Tip by Jeremiah Owyang, Speaker: AI, Web3, Web2, Metaverse & Corporate Innovation

This is the seminal book on AI, which is referenced by most other AI books. Nick provides scenarios on what will happen when AGI arrives.

Future Shock - by Alvin Toffler

Tip by Ezra Eeman, Strategy & Innovation Director @ NPO

"Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler explores the human side of tomorrow. It describes what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change. Published in 1970, this timeless book remains relevant, especially today, as the rapid rise of artificial intelligence might transform our world in unprecedented ways.

The Web of Meaning - by Jeremy Lent

Tip by Jessica Groopman, Director of Digital Strategy & Innovation @ Intentional Futures

This is a must-read for any leader (and human) in the modern age. The book offers a deep canvassing of current consensus across a wide range of scientific disciplines, and their interconnections and validation with several wisdom traditions around the planet. Not only does it weave "threads" of meaning throughout each chapter, it offers readers a far more spacious (world)view for sense-making, empathy, and leadership in the 21st century. My highest recommendation!

The Earth Transformed: An Untold History - by Peter Frankopan

Tip by Rik Vera, international keynote speaker, author & futurologist

"The Earth Transformed" is historian Frankopan’s sweeping attempt to forge a new kind of history. He has used new technologies (machine learning, sensors and data analytics) to open up new ways to study the relationship between our climate and our past. It is a book about the impact of climate change on human history and a strong warning not to mess with that thin layer we call "weather".

Frankopan's conclusion is clear: the environment is “the very stage on which our existence plays out, shaping everything we do, who we are, where and how we live” – and if “the theatre closes or collapses, that marks the end for us all”. Given the heartbreaking damage we’re doing to our habitat today, us poor players would do well to listen.

Alice in Wonderland - by Lewis Carroll

Tip by Rik Vera, international keynote speaker, author & futurologist

In every keynote I advise business leaders to read "Alice in Wonderland" if they want to understand our VUCA universe. It offers a unique blend of creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, resilience, leadership, and nonlinear thinking, making it relevant and insightful for business people seeking to broaden their perspectives and enhance their skills to thrive in The Twilight Zone between a deflating old normal and a new normal that will never arrive, because there never was an old one either.

God, Human, Animal, Machine - by Meghan O'Gieblyn

Tip by Geertrui Mieke De Ketelaere, Adj. Professor Vlerick, Keynote Speaker, Author & Coach

This book brought me an interesting exploration of what it might mean to be authentically human in the age of AI, while looking beyond the current metaphors used today. The author, Meghan O’Gieblyn, tackles this challenge with philosophical rigor, intellectual reach, essayistic verve, refreshing originality, and an ironic sense of contradiction. If you are in the search for meaning while being surrounded by AI, this is your book to read!

How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy - by Jenny Odell

Tip by Laëtitia Vitaud, Director at Cadre Noir Ltd

In this book, artist and Stanford professor Jenny Odell questions what we perceive as productive and makes the case for redirecting our attention as an act of resistance and a way to live a more meaningful life. The last few years of Covid-related attention-destroying transformations have made her book even more relevant, and potentially life-changing.

The Good Life: Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness - by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

Tip by Ken Hughes, CX strategist and international keynote speaker

The longest longitudinal study on happiness from Harvard, this book is essential reading on understanding the nature of human relationship and connection.
Every leader should read this and take its learnings and apply them to the employee and customer connection. It will also have a significant effect on your own personal relationships and how you live your life.

The Denationalisation of Money: The Argument Refined - by Friedrich August von Hayek

Tip by Shermin Voshmgir, Founder at Token Kitchen

In the book Hayek advocated a system of private and competing currencies. It is a classic that even many mainstream economists have not read, since Hayek was considered a Heterodox Economist, at least when it came to his views on Money. The book is extremely relevant in the context of Web3 and tokenization - or what many refer to as cryptocurrencies.

The bubble that never pops - by Tom Orlik

Tip by Pascal Coppens, China keynote speaker.

A book I would recommend is “The bubble that never pops” from Tom Orlik, Chief Economist at Bloomberg based in Beijing. The book (2020) provides a detailed explanation of the Chinese economy. What I like about the book is that Orlik provides an impartial view or China, a bubble waiting to burst. But I also like the ending of the book: “For an economy as large as China, it’s never too late”.The book describes a very good historical view of China and its reforms, vulnerabilities and strengths of both Chinese and its leaders.

Collective Illusions - by Todd Rose

Tip by Raya Bidshahri, Founder & CEO @ School of Humanity

This book is a must-read because it opens our minds to how much of thinking is based on false assumptions. It draws on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology research to help us understand how our desire to fit in can harm society.

The Heroine with 1001 Faces - by Maria Tatar

Tip by Jerry Michalski, Curator of The World’s Largest Mind Map, Tech Visionary, Keynote Speaker & Expert on Trust & Mistrust

In Joseph Campbell's bestseller “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, women birth the men, lure the men, and are the rewards at the end of the Hero’s Journey — but they don't get to take the Journey. Maria Tatar, originally a Campbell admirer, sticks an intellectual knife between his ribs and opens our eyes to yet another way that women have been written out of history. This book will shift your perspective.

Everyday Monuments: The Rooftop Sculptures of Punjab - by Rajesh Vora

Tip by Celine Schillinger, author, keynote speaker & founder and CEO at We Need Social

This visual book brings you on a journey to Doaba, a rural region of India’s Punjab state. There, a unique local art form emerged in the late 70s as emigrants began constructing elaborate multi-storey homes topped with sculptural watertanks in the shape of planes, animals, soccer balls, or weightlifters. Striking photographs come with moving texts evoking the effects of political changes, economic development and human migrations.

Digital Technologies, Temporality, and the Politics of Co-Existence -  by Mark Coeckelbergh

Tip by Peter Vander Auwera, Curator, Artist & Experimentalist

Using process philosophy, narrative theory, and the concept of technoperformances, this book analyzes how digital technologies shape our relation to time and our existence, and discusses what this means in the light of climate change and new technologies such as AI. If you think your life is more hurried than before, you are not alone. This book is a solid philosophical reflection on connecting back to our human rhythms and immortal illusions.

Bildung: Keep Growing -  by Lene Rachel Andersen

Tip by Peter Vander Auwera, Curator, Artist & Experimentalist

This is a book about growing from self-governing to self-authoring humans and organizations. It is about a transdisciplinary education model that is not only focused on technology, production and scientific  advances, but also includes aesthetics, ethics, and narrative as important dimensions.

Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence - by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans  & Avi Goldfarb

Tip by Nancy Rademaker, International Keynote Speaker & Guest Speaker at London Business School

I highly recommend this for its eye-opening exploration of the immense power wielded by AI in today's world. It reveals the astonishing capabilities of AI-driven prediction, shedding light on its transformative potential and the ethical considerations surrounding its use. It left me with a profound awareness of the immense power at our fingertips and a deeper understanding of the responsibility that comes with it.

The Infinite Game - by Simon Sinek

Tip by Stijn Van Avermaet, Head of marketing @ nexxworks

I was captivated by "The Infinite Game" by Simon Sinek, which is even more engrossing than his previous work  ("Start with Why.")  As a person inclined towards a finite game mindset, this book opened my eyes to the importance of continuous play to outlast your competitors. I was particularly drawn to the emphasis on living a "just cause" and embracing existential flexibility, as I firmly believe that you need to practice what you preach as an organization. The section on "worthy rivals" definitely influenced my beliefs on fostering a healthy competition.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow - by Gabrielle Zevin

Tip by Laurence Van Elegem, Content Director @ nexxworks

Two friends come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality. This is a novel about building a business, identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play and finding “your people” when you have difficulties fitting in. Fun fact: Bill Gates also recommended it in his Summer reading list because it reminded him a lot of his relationship with Paul Allen and their work together at Microsoft. A perfect book for the Summer!

Laurence Van Elegem
Laurence Van Elegem
Laurence has more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications and disruptive innovation. Passionately curious, she is fascinated by the impact of technology and science on the way we work, consume and live our lives.
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June 16, 2023