The year 2023 felt incredibly disruptive and my annual reading list probably reflects that fact as I sought out books that focused not only on managing risk and chaos, but recognizing and fostering disruptive technology opportunties. Five years ago, I recommended Kevin Roberts’ excellent book “64 Shots” which talked about surviving in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world and 2023 definitely qualified as a VUCA year. It was also a year to remember that there are bad actors in every domain and that being in the cultural zeitgeist doesn’t automatically qualify you as a good leader.
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The 2023 List
This is likely the most important book of the year. Suleyman is a practitioner in the AI domain, but has incredible insights into the challenges and opportunities of the emerging artificial intelligence era.
This was a disturbing book, but essential reading. Dalio has captured the zeitgeist of the nation over the past several years and his book made this list last year. It is important to understand the motivation, history, and dynamics behind such an influential person and Copeland’s book has some incredibly disturbing revelations.
I remain convinced that blockchain technology domain will unleash tremendous opportunities over the next decade, but it is good to acknowledge the flaws, fraud, and opportunism in the system. Faux’s book is a great contrarian take on the industry and is a fascinating read. Of the dozen or so cryptocurrency related books I read this year including the famed Michale Lewis book “Going Infinite”, this was my favorite.
Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
Isaacson’s biography of Musk is quite brilliant and I found the entire volume to be insightful. Without a doubt Musk has been and will continue to be an important figure driving rapid and unexpected innovation in multiple industries. This book really provides some insight into how he operates and what drives him. There are useful management and engineering principles here, but also revelations around one of the world’s most notable people.
Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb
When you understand the predictive nature of AI, you unlock a cheat code for understanding how these technologies will transform business. This is a good follow-up to the authors’ previous book on the topic.
Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away by Annie Duke
Kenny Rogers figured this out many decades ago with his infamous advice to “know when to fold ’em”, but Duke has delivered a powerful look at the psychology of quitting. So many books explore pushing yourself or your company to the limits, but very few explore the dynamics of when to walk away, pull back, or pivot. Every person should understand the nature of quitting as it relates to their decision-making process.
Grant’s true genius is in the case studies he explores and Hidden Potential does not fall short. As a fan of his earlier work “Originals”, this book did not disappoint as it explores how to maximize the potential of the people and opportunities hidden in plain sight, but for which we lack the frameworks to properly identify.
Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of Crisis by Scott Patterson
Of the many investment-related books I read this year, Chaos Kings was my favorite. It provides an essential exploration of the people and models that are best equipped to deal with Black Swan events and chaos in global markets and politics.
I always love a good cybercrime true-story thriller and Greenberg delivers with Tracers in the Dark which was reminiscent of “Hunting Leroux”, but with a broader focus. Where Number Goes Up focuses on the more nuanced fraud, Tracers provides a deeper insight into the criminal underbelly plaguing the cryptocurrency space.
Not with a Bug, But with a Sticker: Attacks on Machine Learning Systems and What To Do About Them by Ram Shankar Siva Kumar and Hyrum Anderson
Whenever the topic of adversarial machine learning comes up, I’m quick to refer folks to this essential read on the topic. Given the prominence of AI and machine learning, it is important to understand how these systems might be targeted, exploited, or inadvertently broken.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
If you subscribe to my Global Frequency mailing list, you know that I believe creativity to be an essential component of entrepreneurship. As a result, I often read books focused on the topic and The Creative Act is the best I’ve read in several years. Reading this book reminded me of the brilliant Kevin Roberts book “64 Shots” which remains an all-time favorite and I’ll be referring to earmarked pages in Rubin’s book for years to come.
Red Team Blues: A Martin Hench Novel by Cory Doctorow
Martin Hench is the red team hero we never knew we needed. This is a fun read, full of inside jokes as “financial red teamer” Martin chases a few ghosts to solve a modern-day mystery. A fiction novel that could only be written by someone like Cory that understands the red teamer mindset and can provide a realistic plot full of fictional characters that you will recognize for their familiarity to real-world folks.
Critical Mass by Daniel Suarez
I’ve read all of Suarez’s books and this is amongst his best. Space exploration, interesting characters, off-world economies and politics; this book is as close to living in the future as you are going to get for 2023. Highly recommended and exciting and fun read, while educational and insightful at the same time.
Going Zero by Anthony McCarten
Could you go off the grid and avoid detection in an age of modern surveillance? That is the premise of the contest launched to test a new national security intelligence system designed and built by an obsessed defense contractor. An interesting fictional look at how technological dependence, patterns of life, and a global surveillance grid impact privacy. A well done and fun read.
Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway and Nicholas Cornwell
A near-future cyberpunk noir crime novel that delivers an excellent story with fantastic world-building, and compelling characters. I literally could not put this one down.
The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci
I religiously read 20-30 thrillers per year that includes the latest from the Clancy, Thor, Greaney, Flynn, and Carr series. Baldacci was a departure for me and I really enjoyed this story which focuses on a Veteran with a new job at financial services firm that gets embroiled in crime and mystery. Great character development and an interesting story will have me coming back for volume two.