Our top reads for your summer break

4 minute read

13 August 2021

By Peter Springett

Head of Content, Upstart

Summer holidays have always been a time for reading and reflection. But this year is special. For many of our clients - and the Upstart team - this has been the first opportunity to take a break and travel for 18 months or more.

It’s also been a time of enormous disruption: at work, in tech, and in our day to day lives. For this reason we asked our Upstart colleagues to recommend their 2021 holiday reads on the topics of digital transformation, the future of work, and just about anything else that inspires them. Here’s what they came back with. 

Cat Daniel, Content and Marketing

The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim was my big discovery this year. It’s an easy-to-read novel and useful for describing challenges in the workplace. It’s a bit romantic in places, but highlights lots of digital transformation concepts in a way that's easy to grasp.

When it comes to the brave new world of home working, I also enjoyed Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play by Mark Forster. It helped me to structure my home working day and put effective methods in place to deal with interruptions alongside deadlines.

Shona Davies, Operations

Could it really happen? Aliens landing? Dinosaur parks? Nuclear war? The internet going down? Antibiotic resistance? If you're human, these things probably worry you, even if only slightly. With research and wit, The Day it Finally Happens, by Mike Pearl, explores these scenarios and wonders whether humanity would survive.

In 1968, nine men set off on the very first Golden Globe yacht race to sail non-stop around the world. Something no one had ever done. Only one man finished. A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols is an incredible story of fortitude and courage but also weakness and human frailty. It will inspire you to chase what you love (but be prepared for some nail-biting stories!).

Elena Hill, Marketing

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead: In this international bestseller by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, there are lessons for everyone, not only women, in the modern, disruptive workplace. You won’t agree with everything, but you’ll certainly have plenty to think about. 

How to be a Brit: If you’ve moved to the UK to live and work, this is a very funny, accurate description of the locals at home, at work and at play. Buried away in the humour there are plenty of tips about how to negotiate the UK workplace as well. 

Kristin Polman, Client Lead, Head of Healthcare

The three-stage life of education, work and retirement is dead. Instead, we will experience multiple stages of education, work, retirement and sabbatical throughout our lives. In The Hundred Year Life, Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton consider these stages with explanations, stories of archetypal life choice pathways and reimagined "balance sheets" now that “age no longer equals stage”. I quote sections and ideas from this book all the time, in personal and professional conversations.

In Bad Science, Ben Goldacre unpacks common misconceptions about topics from alcohol consumption to drug approvals, and explains why the media so often misinterprets research into vaccines, nutrition, childcare and many more. From 2010, but as relevant today as ever.

Peter Springett, Content 

What does it mean to be human? Intelligent? Alive? Kazuo Ishiguro explores the ethical and social consequences of artificial intelligence in his latest novel Klara and the Sun. Even though it is set in the future where the genetic engineering of children is commonplace, it never feels removed from the dilemmas that face us today in both parenting and technology.

My favourite short read was an article by one of my favourite tech journos, Cathy Hackl. In  More Than A Trend: Entering The Metaverse Will Become A Necessity For Brands, she cuts through the hype and explains why the metaverse is the most exciting and disruptive technology for businesses in many years or decades even. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.

Ian Jordan, Digital Product Innovation

The 4 Thinking Caps of Successful Product Managers by Sourabh Pradhan is one of my favourite articles of the past 12 months or so. It really gets under the skin of what makes a successful product from big picture thinking to focus and creativity. 

Outliers: The Story of Success has been around for a while now, but it's still one of Malcolm Gladwell’s most memorable publications. From co-pilots to school athletes and tech entrepreneurs he explains why some people are high achievers, why others aren’t, and how you can apply this to your own careers. 

We’d love you to drop us a comment with your own recommended reading selections. In the meantime, enjoy your summer, wherever you might be spending it.

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