Rude VC’s Summer reading list 2013

Jul 23, 2013
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la-ca-summer-booksLast year’s summer reading list proved so popular that I’ve decided to renew it. The guiding criteria for books to fit this list are merely: i) to have some connection to startups, technology, VC, or Europe; and ii) to not be too heavy or intensely intellectual.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. A book that practically packs the entire history of the world into 500 pages is bound to be dense. Still, Guns, Germs, and Steel is a captivating read that qualifies for summertime reading. Jared Diamond manages to glean the underlying, ultimate reasons for the way humankind evolved as it did. Although some critics have suggested that it’s overly deterministic and ignores the role of religion in the rise of civilizations, Diamond asserts fairly convincingly that there’s a reason for everything. His analytical methods are not irrelevant in thinking about why some markets may advance faster than others.

I Didn’t Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, by Michela Wrong. This tale of Eritrea’s struggle for independence offers a mountain of inspiration for all the startup underdogs trying to disrupt more powerful incumbents. Former Financial Times correspondent Michela Wrong recounts the history of how this little African nation that had been dismissed, forgotten, or betrayed by the world’s powers won its independence against all odds. It’s a heart-warming while at times tormenting story about one of the earth’s most resilient peoples, proving that being creative, agile, and focused can help you overcome stronger, better-financed rivals.

Rework, by Jason Fried and David Hansson. Although I try to avoid adding too many business books to a summer reading list, Rework hardly qualifies in style or tone as a business book. In other words, the book is lean, punchy, and an incredibly fast read. The 37Signals founders pack a single, cogent lesson into a each of the book’s two-page chapters (for example: Eliminate meetings; Marketing should pervade all aspects of the firm; Treat employees like children only if you want child’s work; A top-down declaration of one’s corporate culture undermines its very existence; etc.). Pretty much every lesson is the book flies in direct contradiction to traditional management practices at French companies, hence Rework should be required reading for all French firms, large or small.

Wanted: a good sci-fi recommendation

The above recommendations are all non-fiction books, yet I submit that no summer reading list is complete without a good piece of fiction too. Fiction novels open up the imagination — crucial for professionals pursuing innovation — and I find science fiction to be particularly expansive.

I know readers of this blog have some fantastic suggestions, so I’ll turn it over to you: Any recommendations of science fiction novels for this summer (in English or French) would be welcome in the comments !

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{Note: To maintain his credentials as a French VC, RudeVC will be taking some holiday over the coming weeks. Have an enjoyable summer !}