Curated by: Abena Anim-Somuah
There’s nothing more relaxing on a summer evening than sipping on your favourite beverage and diving into a good book. We’ve asked 26 exceptional founders, funders, and operators what reads they have read or will be diving into this summer, and, from fiction to non-fiction, through a multiplicity of topics (and languages!), they delivered quite a spread. Hope you enjoy!
“This is the story of how second and third-generation immigrants — the children and grandchildren of Irish, Italian, Japanese and Jewish families who came to the U.S. at the turn of the century — overturned nativist and restrictionist immigration policy through 40 years of political organizing.”
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
“I spend a lot of time in the ‘now’ and I find it refreshing to go back in time and hear accounts of how Black people have navigated the world in big and small ways. This book covers one of the larger moments in Black American history — the Great Migration. Wilkerson does an incredible job of adding a human element to her writing. It’s reading history, but it’s like you’re right there.”
Whistling Vivaldi by Claude Steele
“I read it a few years back when I decided to start a career in VC as a minority (a non-American woman with a strong Italian accent), and it helped me understand some of the subconscious dynamics that I am affected by because I am part of a minority group. I re-read this book recently because it has several practical examples on how to curb the influence of stereotypes in our everyday life. I highly recommend it.”
The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris
“Probably the most impactful book I’ve ever read. The book dives into Dr. Harris’s research on how deeply our bodies are biologically affected by adverse childhood experiences.”
The Great CEO Within by Matt Mochary
“Despite the name, I think almost anyone working at a startup would benefit from this book. It’s great prep for being a better, more productive leader. If you are a CEO, this is an incredible guidebook for building out the core structure, processes, and culture of your company. The earlier you read it, the better.”
Temp by Louis Hyman
“Really well-written book that goes through the history of labor in the U.S. and explains how we’ve ended up with such a large and growing gig economy. It gives you a huge appreciation for who have historically and systematically been left out of jobs/role that provide for job security (largely non-white males).”
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
“This is a great book on finding presence of self and reconfiguring a balanced relationship with technology, we can all improve on this.”
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
“This book made me think intimately about the power of systems to do both harm and good, the inevitability and unpredictability of death, and the importance of both deep connection and dissonance between one’s work and broader life. I actually liked that from it, I didn’t draw new, concrete conclusions about anything, but rather just held onto powerful observations that I’m still thinking about.”
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, by Audre Lorde.
“Originally published in 1984, I’ve read this collection many times, but over the past few months, it’s taken on new and essential meanings for me. Writing at the intersection of her identities as a Black woman, lesbian, poet, activist, cancer survivor, mother, and feminist author, Lorde’s insights are an eternal act of generosity — an education no one in their right mind should overlook. As a writer myself, her essay, ‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,’ is particularly important to me, especially this passage: ‘I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.’ Lorde is my all-time favourite writer and I couldn’t recommend anything she’s written more highly.”
Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein
“I’m reading this I will follow that up by reading all the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters that are out there. What I have read in the book so far is a tremendous commentary on not only the life of an amazing investor, but also the fundamentals that drive the success of businesses.”
The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
“A philosophical book written by two Japanese authors that explores the work of psychologist Alfred Adler. The book encourages its readers to unlock the power within themselves and really own their outlook and mindset and chart their own path from there.”
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
“This book discusses tough questions around race, class, and identity, focusing on the coming-of-age experiences of a young Black woman in present-day America. Reid’s nuanced and clever writing made it hard to put the book down.”
Anabel Lippincott Paksoy, Co-Founder, The People Design House & The Council; Angel Investor
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
“This non-fiction work by the Belgian relationship researcher and couples therapist has been on my list for years and I finally dug into it. She really challenges what we think intimacy means versus what it actually means.
In the context of quarantine, I’m spending more time with my husband of 4/partner of 8 years than ever before, and this exploration into desire and longevity in relationships has not only fascinating, but helpful.
It’s not lost on me that this one I finished throughout the the many hours spending doing mundane household tasks next to my husband with our respective headphones as we made the effort to create ‘space’ during this crazy current circumstance.”
“This is one of my all-time favorite books, I go back to it often. There is a huge difference between leadership and management. Management is for some, leadership is for everyone, because everyone needs to lead themselves. The same way I think about being a companion to myself, I also think about being a leader to myself, and this is the first step in inspiring others and leading horizontally, which almost everyone needs to do, even if you don’t aspire to lead directly. Reading this book was like feeling the sun come out after years of being in the dark about why some managers in my past seemed inept, validation for things I wanted to do, as well as validation for my mistakes and the recipe for how to do better.”
“Rana is a friend I admire for her business and technical prowess in the AI space and her ability to be human about it. I mean, she literally has raised over $60M for her startup Affectiva and does emotion AI for a living. I can’t wait to read her book to learn her hacks.”
Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris
“The books I’ve read this summer that I’m most excited about are actually kids’ books. Being a parent working from home full-time with two young daughters isn’t easy at times, but one of our favorite activities is reading together.
As a mom to Black daughters, diversity and representation in children’s books has always been important to me. But it became an issue I wanted to do something about when I learned that, in 2018, there were as many kids books with animals as main characters as there were books with Black, Latinx, Asian, or Native main characters combined. Needless to say, little girls who look like my daughters are still underrepresented on bookshelves.
So earlier this summer, I published my first children’s book, Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea. Based on a true story from the childhood of my mom and aunt, it’s about two sisters working together to create positive change in their community. They teach us, ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’ I wanted to memorialize this message not only for my own daughters, but also for all children and the next generation of changemakers.”
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
“This is a powerful, applicable guidebook to approaching a lot of the social justice and racial equality conversations we’re having today as a society. It’s incredibly important to have a vocabulary to articulate what’s happening, and to be able to learn and talk about it in a responsible way.
As an aside, I’d be remiss to not make a plug for my own book! It’s called Pitching and Closing! I co-wrote it with my friend Alex Taub and it’s a practical guide to revenue-generating partnerships at tech companies.”
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
“If you spend more than a few minutes on Twitter nowadays it’s hard to ignore the constant debate about ‘cancel culture,’ ‘free speech,’ and ‘contrarian thinking.’ This book is foundational in understanding where we as a nation stand in our dialogue and how important it is for us to start speaking to each other instead of at each other.”
How the García Girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez
“I’ve always been drawn to books that reflect the intricacies of culture and what it means to be in a diaspora, both what is gained and what is lost. This book is a beautiful picture of a family, how they’ve navigated that experience, and one I come back to as I think about my place in the Haitian diaspora.”
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
“During the summer I try to distance myself from anything related to tech and startups. After a tumultuous Spring, it feels more important to me than ever to do so. My best friend recommended this book for me to pick up. It’s set in New York City in 2000 and 2001 and follows a woman in her mid-20s as she plans to spend a year sleeping.”
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
“Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been having a hard time getting through full-length books. I’m normally not a big reader of short stories, but I’m so glad I made an exception for Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Science fiction (a category I love) is often overly plot-driven — narratives in the service of creating an alternate world or unveiling a grand theory. But Chiang’s science fiction is meandering and contemplative, his stories more like riddles than answers. His explorations of concepts spanning memory, free will, AI and parallel worlds still haunt me a month later, and it’s always a welcome break from the urgency of my twitter feed. The best part: I’m told that his earlier collection of short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others, is even better.”
Volevo solo pedalare… ma sono inciampato in una seconda vita, by Alex Zanardi
“Biographies and auto biographies are one of favorite genres to read. I gather a lot of inspiration from reading the stories of other people, particularly athletes, artists, and those who have been successful in business. This particular book is in Italian, not sure if there’s a translation to English yet. It centers around the life of Alex Zanardi after a fatal car accident that almost killed him in 2001 and left him with no legs. Alex is one of the most recognized contemporary athletes in Italy, a truly inspiring man who after that life-changing event went on to build a new and better life for himself including becoming a 6-time Paralympic medalist. Sadly, just a few weeks ago, Alex had another accident and is currently in the hospital.”
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
“A lot of my day-to-day conversations revolve around finding happiness which is a relatively ephemeral concept. Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles the experience of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in the German concentration camps during World War II. Having studied those who survived the experience, one of his primary theories is that prisoners who were able to find meaning in day-to-day jobs around the camp were far better able to endure than those who did not. Thinking about happiness in the lens of finding meaning is a compelling way to reframe the concept and provides an interesting approach to living one’s life.”
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
“Most people go about life without realizing how necessary accessibility is. There are many reasons I love this book—I’m a sucker for good books I can’t put down till I’ve finished reading them — Haben’s story is exactly that. It moves you, it reminds you how inaccessible this world is, and how much work is still left to do. But most of all, it reminds you to believe in your inner strength, even when it’s uncomfortable and scary. To be resourceful, to be determined, and to advocate for change.”
The Second Mountain by David Brooks
“I really enjoyed this book in that it’s about finding meaning and purpose after climbing your first mountain, the mountain of traditional success.”
Factfulness by Dr. Hans Rosling
“Factfulness was a book that completely pulled me in, opened my mind, and led me down a rabbit hole of information. I firmly believe it should be required reading in every high school. And it’s especially beneficial to read the book during the state of our world right now.
It taught me how to truly understand the data we are fed on a regular basis, the way to look at the world to better focus efforts toward change, and how so much of what we understand about the world is completely skewed. It covered everything from the generalization instinct majority people have and prediction modelling, to recognizing that many things (including people, countries, religions and cultures) appear to be constant just because the change is happening slowly, but remembering that small and slow changes gradually add up to big changes.”
Abena Anim-Somuah is a contributing writer at All Raise. When she is not working on the Business Development team at Ada Support, she is avidly baking and talking about the food world on Instagram , listening to a podcast, or digging into a good book. Abena is currently reading How To Be Anti-Racist. You can find her on Twitter.