2020 has been a complex and complicated year and many people are jumping into books as a way to both learn and distract themselves from the world’s chaos. Over the last couple of weeks, several people have asked me for book recommendations for different topics and I thought it would make a nice post. Also, this is a great way to restart the blog after not being active for quite a while. I intend to write again in 2021 on a semi-regular basis so hopefully this will be the first of many pieces.
All the books I have read in 2020 are good and will definitely be interesting to different audiences. However, I will not review each one of them. Instead, I will explain the main “themes” that tie them together and then I will focus on my favourites. During 2020, I read 18 books and in addition to my “traditional” themes of AI, Data Science, innovation and entrepreneurship I also spent more time reading on leadership, and people and product management. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, as Signal AI continues growing, people leadership and management is one of the main areas where I want to improve ir order scale the research function accordingly. Secondly, while I believe there are many courses and books on the “technical” part of Data Science (e.g., models, architectures, implementation, …) I have found very little literature on managing data science projects and teams. In order to improve on this front, I have decided to explore books on Product Management.
Over this year, I have revisited some of the must-read classics on entrepreneurship, in some cases reading them cover to cover for the first time, such as Start With Why, The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Crossing The Chasm. These books have been recommended and reviewed many times and I will not add anything apart from saying that they are a must read for anyone working in technology and entrepreneurship.
One book that surprised me greatly is Life 3.0. This is an absolute gem that will delight anyone interested in Artificial Intelligence and the implications of technology in society. It is a very easy book to read with a novelistic style that covers many of the aspects and debates of the implication of AI in society.
Another book that has quickly become one of my favourites of all time is Turn The Ship Around. The book describes the experience of David Marquet, a captain of a nuclear submarine, in his quest of making his submarine more effective by changing the way he leads. Moving form a strict hierarchical chain of command to a model where the objectives are clear and the teams and members of the crew have more autonomy to achieve such goals. While this style of leadership is understood and (potentially) common in tech today, the book showcases the real story of how this is also possible in the navy. Arguably one of the most hierarchical and opposed to change organisation on the planet.
Another fantastic book that I discovered this year after many recommendations was Never Split The Difference. Written by one of the most successful negotiators from the FBI, the book describes the mechanics of communication and negotiation using a set of clear examples drawn from the authors’ field experience. This book is a masterpiece that will help you in any situation that involves a “negotiation”, from discussing the value of your company with potential investors, to buying a new car.
I would like to end this post with my favourite book of the year. Factfulness is a fantastic book written by the amazing human being that was Hans Rosling. A data-driven book carrying a simple yet powerful message: Many things are still bad in the world, but we have improved massively over the last few decades and the world is definitely a better place that it used to be. The book “re-tunes” our biased view of the world with data, using the same authentic and enthusiastic style he has shown time and again in his TED talks. This is even more impressive knowing that he was in gravely ill while finishing the book and that he passed away shortly after. This book is a must read for anyone making decisions that affect the world as well as anyone interested in statistics, data visualisation and data analysis.
I would use this moment to with you all a fantastic start of 2021!
Just in case it is interesting for anyone, this is the full list of my 2020 books:
- The subtle art of not giving a f**k by Mark Manson
- Starting with Why by Simon Sinek
- Turn the ship around by L. David Marquet
- Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead and Kevin Maney
- Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
- Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
- Leadership and the one minute manager by Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi
- The innovators’ Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen
- Outcomes over outputs by Joshua Seiden
- OKRs at the center by Natalija Hellesoe and Sonja Mewes
- Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
- Hard things about hard things by Ben Horowitz
- Building Machine learning powered applications by Emmanuel Ameisen
- Never Split the difference by Chris Voxx and Tahi Raz
- The one minute manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
- Data Science from scratch by Joel Grus
- Factfullness by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Ronnlund and Ola Rosling
- Inspired by Marty Cagan