Airtree’s Summer reading List – 2020 Edition
If you’re looking for summer holidays reading inspo — here are some recos from the Airtree team.

Anyone who’s ever been round to our offices knows that book are a big part of our lives at AirTree. Our little office bookcase is constantly growing and changing as founders, friends and family all drop by and borrow a book or two, recommend a few more or lend us something of their own.

The AirTree HQ bookshelf — come hang out and grab a book from us!

We all love totally different things — but at the end of each year we’ve always held a vote to find the book that we loved the most — and we give it as a Christmas gift to our founders.

So if you are looking for some inspiration for a summer read — I’ve collected some recos from the AirTree team below.

With 2020 being such a dumpster fire — I don’t think we’ve ever collectively needed a summer to chill out and read a good book as badly as we do right now. If you have other book recommendations, please leave them in the comments section — we’re always hunting for some new suggestions for the office bookcase.

Enjoy — and have a great break!

James Cameron — Investment Team

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin

This was the clear winner of our holiday season gift this year. Robert Plomin is a Professor of Behavioural Genetics at King’s College London, and in this book he explores the latest state of the art in behavioural genetics. The research he explores suggests that DNA has a much larger impact on physiological traits than was previously thought, and most of what we usually think of as ‘nurture’ has, on average, much less impact than we thought. The implications can be pretty profound — and this book led to more interesting debates in the AirTree office than any book I can remember. Especially interesting given four of the AirTree team all had brand new babies this year! And if you haven’t got time for the book — his podcast with Sam Harris is well worth a go.

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan has an incredibly engaging and accessible style and in this book he takes you though an illuminating history of hallucinogenic drugs. In aide of his ‘research’, he tries LSD, psilocybin and the crystallized venom of a Sonoran Desert toad (thankfully not all at the same time). As vivid as his description of these experiences are — the most interesting parts of the book are his discussion of the modern clinical benefits that psychedelics offer to the treatment of mental health issues (and the incredible progress that loads of startups are having in this area). It’s hard to read this and not feel gutted that this field of research that has the potential to save millions of lives was effectively shut down for almost 40 years by the moral panic that cropped up around LSD use in the 60’s.

Akshat Pande — Finance and Ops Officer

How Innovation Works by Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley is the PB&J of science authors. His PhD-journalism-and-politician combo comes together in harmony just like delicious peanut butter and jam. He authoritatively deconstructs the history, enablers and prohibitors of innovation in an extremely understandable format. We’re put back in touch with the idea of how innovation can be simple, and that a lot of it is about ramping up affordability. The book does a stellar job of humanizing innovation too — so we all know how enabling we can be to the founders, investors and policy-makers around us.

Jax Vullinghs, Investment Team

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other tells the winding and interrelated stories of what it’s like to be black, British and a woman through 12 unique voices. The prose is gorgeous, such a pleasure to read.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

A fictional but thoroughly researched history of the French Revolution told through voices of the pivotal characters in the drama — Georges Jacques Danton, Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins. It’s a real undertaking but so worth it — Hilary Mantel at her best showcasing one of the most dramatic periods of social and political change in history.

Nick Brown — General Counsel

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan is just a spectacular writer — I don’t think there’s anyone better at finding the beauty and humour in bleakness. The way he gets so completely under the skin of his characters absolutely floors me.

Cricket 2.0 — Inside the T20 Revolution by Freddie Wilde and Tim Wigmore

As a cricket obsessive and a technology nerd, this sits perfectly in the sweet spot of my interests. Exhaustively researched and really well written, this captures the role data has played in helping T20 take over the cricket world.

Elicia McDonald — Investment Team

All the ways to be smart by Davina Bell

This book is a celebration of creativity, kindness and individuality. It’s a delightful reminder to embrace our uniqueness and demonstrates to the little ones in our lives that “smart is not just being best at spelling bees, a tricky test”. It’s a joyful read with bright and beautiful illustrations and playful rhymes. A perfect bedtime story which you’ll enjoy reading just as much as the kids.

Emily Close — Investment Team

The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood

The Hungover Games portrays a period in author Sophie Heawood’s life where everything from her career to imagined future was turned upside down. The plot explores ‘the adventures of a single mother adapting to her new life have plenty of self-mocking humour but also moments of profundity’.

Daniel Petre — Investment Team

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson.

The Splendid and the Vile is based on diaries, original archival documents and once-secret intelligence reports to explore to depict “in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people ‘the art of being fearless.’ It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama”.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben Macintyre.

The Spy and the Traitor is a spy story about Oleg Gordievsky, a Russion whose secret plan helped hasten the end of the Cold War. The book ‘brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man’s hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.’

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World by David Epstein

We’ve been taught that success in any field requires early specialisation and many hours of deliberate practice. What if this was completely wrong? In this book, David Epstein shows that the way to excel in the 21st century is by sampling widely, gaining a breadth of experiences, taking detours, experimenting relentlessly, juggling many interests — in other words, by developing range.

Kev Lu — Investment Team

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

My Inner Sherlock was fully engaged in this psychological thriller, and found it quite hard to put down. I’d highly recommend particularly on Audible, where the readers do a great job suspending disbelief.

Mel Ran — Head of Community

⚖️ Notorious RBG — The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — By Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

A grand book about a grand lady. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States and a pop feminist icon with multiple documentaries made about her including one which was nominated for an Oscar. Regardless of your politics, there’s no denying that the ‘Notorious RBG’ has led a life of history-making consequence. And rather fittingly, her death this month is just as consequential as she leaves empty a Supreme Court seat 2 months before a polarising election.

How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices by Annie Duke

COVID has forced all of us to re-evaluate all facets of our lives and the ability to make good decisions in fast-changing and uncertain environments is more important than ever. ‘Pros and cons’ lists just don’t cut it anymore and many of us might be second-guessing ourselves more than usual. The good news is that decision making is a teachable skill that anyone can sharpen. Annie Duke’s latest offering provides a blend of compelling exercises, illustrations and stories that will train us to combat our own biases and become better and more confident decision-makers.

Aisling McGettigan — Financial Controller

A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts

This was a gift from my sister Siobhán, I loved it — it’s a heart-breaking yet humorous portrayal of grief, an inspirational tale of changing careers, and a feel-good love of baking!

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