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AirTree’s Summer Reading List — 2021 Edition

We’re unashamedly a bunch of book nerds at AirTree, and if you visit our office, you’re very much encouraged to add or borrow a book from our library.

And now it’s that time of the year when we’re looking for something for our brains to feast on; whether that’s poolside, in transit to our Summer getaways or when the post-Christmas lunch food coma hits.

Looking for your next page-turner? We’ve got you covered. Here are our top-shelf recommendations.

Pop by and borrow a book!

Raaj Rayat — Investment Associate

One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits by Adam Skolnick

Skolnick dives into the evolution of freediving, following the rise and tragic demise of one of the sport’s best and brightest, who (spoiler alert!) is the first to die in an official freediving competition.

To dive 100m+ under the ocean on a single breath require an intriguing balance of athletic intensity and zen-like grace, all while grappling with the constant threat of unconsciousness and death.

It’s a masterful piece of storytelling that covers everything from biology, psychology, and the desire to conquer limits.

Victoria Lowe — Operations and Compliance Analyst

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

After deciding her life is no longer worth living, Nora wakes in a strange library. Each book on the shelf tells the story of her life — had she made different choices.

The Midnight Library’s most remarkable feat is how it manages to be teachy but not preachy. During lockdown, I got all too easily mired in the regrets, the doors that slid closed, the what-ifs and what could have beens. Nora’s story achieved the simple but mighty task of refocusing me on life’s infinite possibilities. It’s also a homage to the big power of small acts of kindness, and that’s always worth celebrating. The book is gentle, comforting and exactly what I needed in 2021.

John Henderson — Partner

How Not to Die by Michael Greger

Never in my life did I imagine I’d recommend a diet book. But this is the most scientific and compelling set of reasoning I’ve come across to cut back my meat consumption. It’s good for the planet, and it’s better for me, apparently! Not sure if I’m ready to go cold turkey yet though…

Bree Fedele — Communications Manager

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

At the start of lockdown, I was knee-deep in a lot of non-fiction. But the mundane reality of day-to-day life had me wanting an escape, and I found that in this novel.

It’s a story told over the course of 24 hours and 50 years, flipping between the life of the narrator, Elle, growing up and the day after a party took place at the family holiday home in Cape Cod.

The characters, their flaws and life decisions make them difficult to like, and it does cover some pretty dark topic areas from affairs to childhood trauma. But, Heller is the former Head of Drama Series at HBO, so she knows how to put it all together in a captivating story. It seems destined for a small screen adaption — lots of Big Little Lies energy — but i’d recommend taking a read and getting swept up in the family saga and complex characters.

Craig Blair — Cofounder and Partner

The Overstory by Richard Powers

A stunning piece of fiction told through the voices of trees. It changed the way I think about the world and ignited my interest in activism. Oh, and it won the 2019 Pulitzer for Fiction!

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin

Published 10 years after Berlin passed, you’ll be left wondering how only a few people might have known of her while she was alive.

Sketching lives very similar to her own, Bukowski and Carver come to mind through her conversational and confessional stories that traipse between very funny and very sad.

The Exponential Age by Azeem Azhar

Exploring the widening gap between AI, automation, and big data and the impact it’s having upon us. Azeem paints a dazzling picture of how exponential change is wrought by technology and is changing life as we know it. Hint — overall, it’s positive.

Elicia McDonald — Partner

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord
It’s never been harder to attract and retain top talent with constant headlines talking about “The Great Resignation”. So what better time than now to dive into this book written by Patty McCord, Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer from 1998–2012 and the creator of the viral Netflix culture deck.

It’s a short read exploring the tactics McCord and Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix) implemented to motivate and retain their top performers during a period of immense change at Netflix.

Aisling McGettigan — Financial Controller

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

A non-fiction thriller that details the frightening truth behind a few medics and scientists who saw the real danger of COVID, and desperately tried to push the US government to look at the data and act before the virus spread.

If you’ve ever read other books by Michael Lewis, you’ll notice this one feels slightly different to his typical focus on behavioural finance. But you’ll enjoy his usual use of a small group of fascinating people to explain a broader, more complex issue.

James Cameron — Partner

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

It’s a strange one, but I loved this book.

In our jobs, we’re constantly diving down technological rabbit holes — but we rarely ever get to reach a complete understanding of the technology that underpins the investments we make. I’ve often wondered how it feels to be a scientist who is on the very edge of human knowledge and peering into the abyss at areas that are (and always may be) beyond our comprehension.

This book blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction, telling stories of the giants of modern physics like Schrodinger and Heisenberg. It also goes into some of the dark psychological impacts of living at the edge of our understanding of the universe.

Who Gets to Be Smart by Bri Lee

Bri Lee is the sort of person you’d love to wind up sitting next to at a dinner party one day. Whip-smart, bitingly funny and someone who definitely does not pull punches. This is a well-researched breakdown of educational policy and institutions that continue to enshrine an ever-growing equity gap, hidden under the guise of fostering tradition and the pursuit of knowledge.

Worth reading for her scathing takedown of Tony Abbott alone.

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K Jemisin

2021 was a year I unleashed my inner geek and dove back into Sci-Fi again. I hadn’t read much of it since high school, but I went back and re-read some of the classics (Dune, Snow Crash and Neuromancer) to see which had held up well. I also dug into some more recent stuff, but my hands-down favourite was the Broken Earth trilogy. Utterly unique.

It was the first-ever trilogy to each win the Hugo Award for Fiction, and Jemisin was the first-ever African-American writer to win the word. A description won’t do it justice, but if you like sci-fi world-building, definitely take a look.

Katie Seo — Senior Accountant

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

It is a classic with a tried and tested method, it is full of insight and useful tips (especially for coping with difficult people!).

Interestingly, the book was first published in 1936 when the unemployment rate in America was at 16.9% during the Great Depression. Despite the intended audience being employees who were probably fearful for their livelihoods, it doesn’t read as if it was written during a dire time; rather, the sentiment is quite positive.

Richard Lin — Investment Associate

Consolations by David Whyte

Consolations offers a poignant yet accessible collection of short poems that explore the underlying meaning of everyday words.

I found this book particularly helpful in getting through the COVID lockdowns this year as a method of meditation and reflection on various aspects of life — such as being alone, friendship and gratitude.

It’s a beautiful book, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone.

Jackie Vullinghs — Partner

The Dream Machine by Mitchell Waldrop

An engagingly written history of computing told through the biography of MIT psychologist J.C.R Licklider.

Deeply insightful, the TL;DR is the history of the internet’s founding and their creators’ mindset on work and life.

Nick Brown — General Counsel

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century by John Higgs

This book absolutely blew my mind — connecting many threads from modernism to quantum mechanics, situationism to chaos theory, to explain how we got to the world we’re in today (with added jokes).

Crazy intelligence, but worn lightly. If you like the documentaries of Adam Curtis, you’ll love this.

Melissa Ran — Head of Community

The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen.

How did some of tech’s most successful products achieve user growth in the context of network effects? The book is particularly relevant for those building social apps, marketplaces, workplace collaboration apps or other products that rely on network effects, and it features interviews from the teams behind Slack, Clubhouse, Zoom, Twitch, Tinder, Reddit, Uber, Airbnb, PayPal, and more.

The book has only been out for a day, so I’m still working my way through it, but for a taste here’s an excerpt from Chapter 8 on the importance of solving something crucial for the ‘harder’ side of the network.



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AirTree is a venture capital fund that supports the most ambitious Australian and Kiwi tech founders. First round, multiple rounds.