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AirTree's Summer reading list – 2022 edition

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December 14, 2022
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If you’ve worked your way through the backlog of books on your nightstand and are looking for something new to read, then look no further. From a whimsical story set in Florence to a mind-bending philosophical investigation of our virtual worlds, the AirTree team has covered some literary ground this year. Here’s the best of what we read in 2022.

Ada Yin – Investment Manager

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

Operating in a world where optimising for efficiency and productivity is often queen, and natural anxiety is borne from feeling like I can never do enough... I found Burkeman's more philosophical view on time management refreshing and comforting.

Rather than focusing on life hacks for doing more, this book calls on us to embrace our finitude: our forty thousand or so weeks on this planet. It arms the reader with some tools for living more intentionally so that we may lean more into the unpredictabilities of life.

Anna Tyndale – Portfolio Success Manager 

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Outline is a beautifully written novel.. about very little. It's a beach holiday in a book. Cusk's protagonist presents a passive insight into life's adventures, absurdities and occasional banalities. It's a weird one, best enjoyed slowly with a cup of tea on a Sunday morning/

Bree Fedele – Content Marketing Manager

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Reader, be warned: this is not a beach read. This is the heart-rending story of Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a young sweet lonely misfit, and his wayward mother, Agnes. Set amidst the booze-soaked brutality of 1980s Glasgow, where the husbands are out of work and the wives try to keep a safe distance. Shuggie and Agnes’ story is one of blinding dedications of love and briefly sublime moments when they’re able to escape from the shackles of their hardscrabble existence. 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus 

Lessons in Chemistry is the latest addition to the pop culture lineup of stories about pioneering women fighting to prove themselves in traditionally male arenas in the 50s and 60s. There’s more than meets the eye to this revenge comedy than the candy-sweet front cover may have you believe. 

Craig Blair – Partner

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

Another epoch-defining novel from one of America's greats. Franzen is back to his best since the Corrections.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

A wonderful, whimsical journey. I want to meet the characters and travel back to Italy.

Being You by Anil Seth

The nature of consciousness is a thorny puzzle, particularly science. Anil Seth explains what it means to be.

Dan Coughlan – Investment Manager

Stoner by John Williams

Set in the early 20th century, the book follows the life of John Stoner, who ditched the mid-Western farm he grew up on to pursue his passion in academia. It's an uneventful book about an unremarkable man that somehow still manages to captivate you through the beautifully written development of a fascinating, stoic character.

The Body by Bill Bryson

The first book I read in 2022, thanks to last year's AirTree Secret Santa (thanks Raaj!). This book gives you a great appreciation of how incredible our bodies are and why we should take care of them (useful reminder when setting/trying to live up to New Year’s resolutions). While it's full of fun facts, Bryson also points out how little we still know about the human body.

Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda

An interesting "boots-on-the-ground" account of how Apple builds beautiful software products. It has a good mix of anecdotes and useful principles, from demo-ing products to Steve Jobs, how to build a browser, to the painstaking effort behind features we take for granted (like the iOS keyboard).

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

This book should come with a warning that it will make you want to drop everything and buy an old cottage in the French countryside. This book is about basically nothing, but it's a great, relaxing read to completely check out of reality. The book recounts the first year Mayle and his wife moved to Provence as they buy and renovate an old farmhouse and slide right into the pace of Provincial living.

Elicia McDonald – Partner

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. But what happens when the culture in your exec team is breaking down? This book uses a fictional story about a struggling executive team to dive into the many pitfalls that lead to a dysfunctional team. It’s clear, memorable and incredibly valuable for anyone wanting to build a high-performance team culture. I’ve already shared key takeaways with colleagues and founders I work with. A must-read for any team leader.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Such a beautiful book. I had to finish it at home, rather than during my commute on public transport because I was a crying mess. It's a beautifully written autobiography by an ambitious neurosurgeon with a thirst to better understand what gives meaning to life. It captures his journey as he faces his own mortality. If you feel weighed down by the stresses of everyday life, this book will bring a powerful perspective and help to remind you of what matters most.

Harriet Dwyer – Head of Impact

Deep Purpose by Ranjay Gulati  and Net Positive by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

Two incredibly readable books filled with highly practical advice for harnessing purpose in business. They focus on “how”, rather than just the “why”, which is definitely needed in this space to accelerate adoption. 

The authors' backgrounds–Ranjay, a Harvard Professor, and Paul, former CEO of Unilever, demonstrate the maturity of thinking in the impact/purpose space and how much it is being explored by all businesses, not just ones in the social or environmental space.

Jackie Vullinghs – Partner

Still Life by Sarah Winman

A gentle heartwarming story of life and love in 20th Century London and Florence.

My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future by Indra Nooyi

I'm always on the hunt for engaging biographies of women, and I loved this one. Indra Nooyi retells the story of her life and career, from starting in consulting to rising through the ranks at Pepsi. Where many biographies of men don't talk much about their families, Indra details how they managed to juggle two full-time careers and young kids, something I'm trying to figure out for myself at the moment.

There are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important than Kindness by Carlo Rovelli

A delightful collection of articles exploring everything from science to history, philosophy and politics. Perfect for that 10 minutes before bed.

James Cameron – Partner 

Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave 

Nick Cave's music has soundtracked some of my biggest highs and lows so far and has been a sort of ever-present warm blanket in my life. But it struck me this year that I knew bugger all about the man himself and what drives his seemingly endless well of reinvention and creativity. So I picked this up to learn more about him and am really glad I did. This is written in a very engaging interview style and goes deep into questions of faith, art, creativity, grief and love. I got a much deeper understanding of his creative process and enjoyed a lot of the insane anecdotes (especially some of the chaotic heroin fuelled recording sessions in his early career). But the most lasting parts for me were how he describes the grief of losing his son Arthur and the impact it's had on his life and music. I loved it.

Reality+ by David Chalmers 

This book combines two of my favourite things: An Aussie who is at the absolute pinnacle of their game internationally, and some mind-bending ideas that make me feel as though I don't understand the world nearly as well as I thought. 

David Chalmers is the world's leading thinker on the question of consciousness: What is it? Where did it come from? Can it be manufactured etc.? It all sounds pretty bloody esoteric, until you think about how quickly advances in machine learning are hurtling us towards a world where we’ll have to start making real ethical decisions about AI and whether a machine can ever be truly conscious. In this book, he dives into an analogous area–the metaverse–and explores whether virtual worlds should be considered as real and legitimate as physical worlds. Anyone worried (or excited) about us all spending more and more time in a virtual world should absolutely have a read.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel

One of the (only?) upsides from the pandemic is that it's been responsible for a hell of a lot of great books/music/art. Emily St John Mandel's books have been a great Covid discovery for me. This one and her last book, Station Eleven (also about a pandemic but creepily it pre-dated COVID by 6 years), were both fantastic reads. They definitely fall into the sci-fi camp, but they are super approachable and extremely enjoyable.

Jess Blomfield – Head of People and Culture 

Educated by Tara Westover

An incredible story of Tara's early life in a religious extremist family that completely rejects modern healthcare and education and how she carves a new path for herself. I read this almost 6 months ago, and I still think about it nearly every day. It's a profound and shocking memoir of pain, resilience, intelligence and the power of family and self-determination.

Jumping on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Easy breezy Netflix series in book form: a compelling story with just the right mix of escapism and moving themes as you follow the journey of two friends and their families over the years. A perfect beach read.

John Henderson – Partner

The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson

A story of kindness and filling others' cups.

Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass by Frank Close

Frank Close explains the story of the mysterious Peter Higgs and his nobel winning idea that particles have mass.

Nick Brown – General Counsel

Love and Let Die: James Bond, The Beatles and the British Psyche by John Higgs

A fascinating attempt to analyse all aspects of British society via the prism of the 60s icons of film and music–glorious overreach and draws connections that blew my mind.

Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan

Extraordinary memoir from one of music's great survivors and underrated talents. Searingly honest, often brutal, but beautifully written and gripping.

Sachin Shah – Investment Manager

Siddartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha is one of those rare books that forces you to spend time reflecting on your life. It’s an amazing mix of spiritual inquiry and storytelling. “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”

Sid Kasbekar – Investment Manager 

Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side by Howard Marks 

It's a particularly timely read on how markets ebb and flow. Quotes like the below (which were written many years ago) really hit home especially given all we're seeing in the crypto markets.

“Investors gang up from time to time and say, 'Let’s disregard risk. We’ll all get rich'. After they have committed these sins of excess (and lost a lot of money)…they confess that they never really understood the exotic and exciting investment activities in which they had engaged. And they vow to never do it again."

Made in Japan by Akio Morita

Made in Japan is an autobiography written by the legendary Akio Morita, the co-founder of Sony. Through the book, we learn about his childhood and the making of one of the OG technology companies, all against the backdrop of Japan's defeat in World War II. The book provides insight into Japan’s social and business culture, the Japanese way of thinking, and the management philosophies still prevalent today.

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard

An incredibly well-written book about how to develop one of life's most elusive but important skills.

Raaj Rayat – Investment Manager

Banking On It: How I Disrupted an Industry and Changed the Way We Manage our Money Forever by Anne Boden

The rollercoaster account of Anne Boden’s journey to disrupt the titans of finance and invent the modern neobank through sheer force of will. I love stories that focus less on the overnight-success-highlight-reel and instead tell stories from the trenches of the founder journey. This one has everything from co-founder breakups and corporate espionage to getting laughed out of the room as a female founder. Anne’s story exemplifies the ambition and relentlessness required to reshape an industry.

Looking for more recommendations? Check out our reading lists from 2021 and 2020.

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