A Geek Technologist’s Summer Reading List

Now that July 4 is past and we’re squarely in the heart of summer, I thought I’d share a few of the books I’m looking forward to reading between now and Labor Day. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of great ones, so leave a comment, please, and tell us what else should be on the list.

The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver. I’m embarrassed I haven’t read this one yet, especially since Silver is a geek hero of mine. I want to learn what he thinks about how to do prediction well (since few do it better) and how he sees human abilities combining with digital ones in this area. After reading the research of Paul Meehl, Daniel Kahneman, Ian Ayres, Phil Tetlock and others, I’m coming to the conclusion that people should really just ignore their intuition and go where the data take them (or, at most, offer their opinions / intuition as one more data input to the algorithm). I’m eager to see how much Silver agrees with this.

 

Startup Risingby Christopher Schroeder. Schroeder has spent a lot of time recently in the Middle East, and distilled his thoughts and findings here. It looks like it’s going to be a lot more hopeful than most books about the region; Schroeder witnessed a great deal of entrepreneurial energy which, when combined with ever-greater access to technology, could be a big deal. Will the young, wired, and energetic people of the Middle East see their ambitions realized or thwarted? This book should help us get a handle on this critical question.

 

 

Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economyby Bill Janeway. This one is denser than the others on the list — I don’t think it’s beach reading — but should repay the effort. Janeway has a ton of first-hand experience watching technology and capitalism intersect, and has thought deeply about the phenomenon. I’m eager to learn what he’s concluded. Tim O’Reilly recommended this one to me, which is really reason enough to read it.

 

 

 

Mindsetby Carol Dweck.I met Dweck at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, and was intrigued by her description of her work. As she described it to me, the right mindset for success is not “I’m really smart” but rather “I’m really good at learning and adapting.” The former leads to fragility (“If I’m so smart, why did I fail at this?”), the latter to resilience (“That failure taught me something, and will help me not fail next time”). Her work has deep implications for how we think about ourselves and educate our children.

 

 

The Immigrant Exodus, by Vivek Wadhwa. I reconnected with Vivek at the Ideas Festival, and was glad I did. He’s both smart and enthusiastic, rigorous and relevant. Immigration is one of the topics he’s done work on, partly in collaboration with Annalee Saxenian and others, and I want to hear what he has to say. My understanding is that his work shows that immigration-fueled entrepreneurship has been tapering off recently, at least in part because of wrongheaded policies. If this is the case we need to fix them, fast.

Of course, I’m going to read a lot of fiction as well. For reasons that are not quite clear to me, I have an abiding fondness for really dark stories, particularly ones where there’s a long guy slogging through the muck, trying to figure out what the right thing is and then how to do it (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye). So I’m looking forward to Derek Raymond’s “Factory” seriesFat City by Leonard Gardner, and Countdown City, the second of Ben Winters’s “Last Policeman” series of novels about a small town New Hampshire cop trying to do his job as a giant, all-destroying comment hurtles toward Earth. These should all ensure that gorgeous weather and beaches don’t cheer me up too much… 😉

What’s on your summer reading list? Leave a comment, please, and let us know.