18 book recommendations to round out your summer reading list from VCs at firms like Index Ventures and Initialized Capital
August 25, 2022
The end of summer is near, but there’s still time to add a few books to your nightstand or beach bag.
We asked eight VCs to share the best books they’ve been reading this summer. From sci-fi series, to a book about the COVID-19 vaccine, to reads about CEOs and founders, they shared their top picks for professional development, personal development, and leisure.
Here are the 18 books the VCs recommended.
‘2034: A Novel of the Next World War’ by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis
“As a technologist and venture capitalist, I find professional inspiration in reading science fiction. It keeps my mind open to new possibilities and alternative imaginings of what the future could hold, and it helps me reason about possible risks or implications of technology in society. I love everything from Snowcrash to the Left Hand of Darkness, and lately have been fascinated by this near-future dystopian novel jointly written by an acclaimed science fiction writer and an admiral in the US Navy. It tells the story of World War III, which is fought between the US and China in the year 2034; it is the first true ‘digital war.’
The book helped me think critically about everything from hardware and software supply chains to the possible evolution of our national infrastructure over the coming decade, and the fact that technology is not immune to geopolitics. Reading a book by a military strategist about a future conflict with a totalitarian dictatorship inspires me to invest in technology that protects the values I hold dear.”- Erin Price-Wright, partner at Index Ventures
‘This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland’ by Gretel Ehrlich
“Gretel Ehrlich is a brilliant essayist, poet, and environmentalist. After recovering from getting struck by lightning in Wyoming (you can read about that in the Solace of Open Spaces, which is also incredible), she moved to Greenland for seven years to live with an Innuit community and learn their ways of being.
Her beautiful and stark descriptions of the landscape and its inhabitants nourish me when I become overstimulated and overwhelmed. With clear, pared-down prose, she offers awe and respect for many types of wisdom and reminds her readers that the strongest and most resilient people recognize that they can’t control everything. Her books, which somehow feel both isolated and expansive, also remind me how to be comfortable alone with my own thoughts, how to observe and accept unexpected beauty, and how to be intentional about when to fight and when to bend.” – Erin Price-Wright, partner at Index Ventures
‘Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High’ by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregor
“It’s a classic, but I’m re-reading this now because it probably encapsulates all of the tricky situations I encounter day to day.” – Parul Singh, partner at Initialized Capital
‘The End of the World is Just The Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization’ by Peter Zeihan
“This thought-provoking geopolitical worldview helps provide context for increasingly turbulent macroeconomic environments and demographic trends, even if one does not agree with all of the book’s conclusions.” – Kevin Lalande, founding managing director and chief investment officer at Santé Ventures
‘Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process’ by Andy Monlinsky
“Despite a trend of deglobalization, the turbulence around the world calls for everyone to become more globally adaptive as it would be hard to predict where and what kind of organizations one might be working for in the future. This book provides interesting insights about adapting one’s behaviors to different needs and cultures.” – Lorin Gu, founder of Recharge Capital
‘Groundskeeping’ by Lee Cole
“A novel about a working-class young man in Kentucky trying to become a writer may seem pretty far away from the worlds of finance and tech. But whether it’s a groundskeeper and aspiring writer in Kentucky or a hedge fund manager in Manhattan, the first trick is figuring out who you are, what you care about, what truly matters, and what you will do to get there. Owen’s story in ‘Groundskeeping’ is exactly that: realizing there’s more to life than what’s on display directly in front of him and figuring out how to adjust his life to get there. In many ways, it’s a familiar story to all of us strivers trying to make it.” – Bradley Tusk, co-founder and managing partner at Tusk Venture Partners
‘How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World’ by Steven Johnson
“This quick read offers clever insights and interesting historical connections about how six fundamental innovations helped shape our modern world.” – Kevin Lalande, founding managing director and chief investment officer at Santé Ventures
‘The Midcoast: A Novel’ by Adam White
“For a bit of escapism, I read ‘The Midcoast,’ which came out this year. It’s a multi-generational family mystery set in Maine. I love Maine, so the setting, with the lobsterman and all of the drama, made it a quick, fun read.”- Lucy Deland, partner at Inspired Capital
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It’ by Chris Voss
“I’m reading this book, which is by a former FBI hostage negotiator. There are obvious reasons that negotiation skills apply to any deal-making profession but, at the end of the day, all of our lives are a series of negotiations — your salary, buying a car, getting your children to eat dinner — so it’s a beneficial skill for everyone and it’s fascinating to get inside Voss’ head for a little while. ” – Lucy Deland, partner at Inspired Capital
‘Our Wives under the Sea’ by Julia Armfield
“If you’re looking for some surrealist beach horror, this book is for you. I was recently abroad on a beach vacation and finished all the books I’d packed too quickly, so I wandered into the local English language bookstore to see what treasures I could find — foreign bookstores tend to stock books that are more off the beaten path, which I love.
I ended up picking this up despite never having heard of it or the author because it seemed both appropriately ocean-themed and dark (I tend to prefer haunting books without a lot of plot, but with plenty of emotional or psychological tension). ‘Our Wives Under the Sea’ is about a woman whose wife is a deep sea researcher who goes on a mysterious expedition where something goes very wrong. She gets stuck on the ocean floor in a submarine for months longer than the voyage was supposed to last, and when she is finally rescued, she’s somehow changed. Her wife slowly tries to unravel the mystery of what happened while she is caring for her. I won’t give away the ending because it’s excellent and bizarre.” – Erin Price-Wright, partner at Index Ventures
‘The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success’ by William N. Thorndike, Jr.
“Tale of eight unconventional CEOs, not all in tech, that excelled at capital allocation to build enduring companies. They didn’t follow business school textbooks but tried ways that others did not dare, which made for a compelling read and a lot of learning.” – Samir Kaul, founding partner and managing director at Khosla Ventures
“It’s about unconventional corporate leaders and the values that drive them. We are in the business of looking for exceptions, so I love personal stories like this.” – Parul Singh, partner at Initialized Capital
‘The Power of Myth’ by Joseph Campell
“This book delineates the power of narratives and how unsubstantiated stories with humble beginnings can be transformed into narratives, which in turn can be shaped into cultures and influence social, political, and consumption behaviors.” – Lorin Gu, founder of Recharge Capital
‘Rules of Civility: A Novel’ by Amor Tolles
“To round out the summer, I’ll probably re-read this old favorite, which lets you spend time on the streets of New York City in 1938 with a cast of characters you’d love to know in real life.” – Lucy Deland, partner at Inspired Capital
‘Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike’ by Phil Knight
“I recommended ‘Shoe Dog’ to anyone who is considering becoming an entrepreneur. Phil Knight embodies what it means to be a founder. His grit, resilience, and refusal to abandon his dreams are an inspiration and a reminder that anything worth doing will seem impossible. Even the book pages feel drenched with sweat and tears as the author builds an iconic company while remaining humble enough to finish this great read with excitement that there’s still ‘so much to learn’.” – Iana Dimkova, co-founder and general partner at Initiate Ventures
‘A Shotto Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine’ by Gregory Zuckerman
“This is a story about how tech saves the day and is about COVID and the vaccine. Scientists are rarely celebrated in our culture, and to have the most historic health crisis get under control in an incredibly short period of time by a diverse group of people around the world is inspiring!” – Samir Kaul, founding partner and managing director at Khosla Ventures
‘Skyhunter’ By Marie Lu
“I recently discovered a science fiction writer named Marie Lu, and this summer I’ve raced through her ‘Warcross,’ ‘Legend,’ and ‘Skyhunter’ series. It’s reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s future dystopian worlds with a thoughtful and edgy perspective on tech’s impact on culture, like gaming.” – Parul Singh, partner at Initialized Capital
‘Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts’ by Annie Duke
“This book provides both a narrative and logical examination of how to attribute the factor of ‘luck’ to investment successes.”- Lorin Gu, founder of Recharge Capital
‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens
“It’s a fun book.” – Samir Kaul, founding partner and managing director at Khosla Ventures