My Favorite Books of 2023
The Wizard of the Kremlin by Giuliano da Empoli, published in April 2022 won the 2022 Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. The novel is based on the life and career of Vladislav Surkov, a former advisor to Vladimir Putin, who was nicknamed “the Wizard of the Kremlin” for his role in shaping Russia’s political system. The novel is narrated by Vadim Baranov, a fictional character inspired by Surkov, who recounts his meeting with the author in Moscow and his involvement in Putin’s rise to power. The novel explores the themes of power, manipulation, and creativity in contemporary Russia.
The Geek Way by Andrew McAfee explains a new way of running companies based on four norms: science, ownership, speed, and openness. The book argues that these norms are essential for innovation and success in the modern world, and that they tap into humanity’s superpower of learning and cooperation. The book also provides insights from cultural evolution, psychology, history, and management theory to support its claims. The Geek Way is intended to be a handbook for disruptors who want to challenge the status quo and create extraordinary results.
The Worlds I See by Dr. Fei-Fei Li, a computer science professor at Stanford University and an artificial intelligence pioneer. The book is a memoir of her journey from being an immigrant in America to becoming a leading scientist in AI. It also provides a clear explanation of what AI is, how it came to be, and the opportunities and challenges it poses for humanity. Read Dr. Li’s Lunch with FT this week.
Material World: The Six Raw Materials That Shape Modern Civilization by Ed Conway is a comprehensive exploration of the six fundamental materials that have shaped human civilization: sand, salt, iron, oil, copper, and lithium. Conway uncovers the hidden history of these materials, revealing how they've created empires, toppled civilizations, and fueled human ingenuity and greed for millennia. His journey takes him to diverse locales, from the sweltering depths of Europe's deepest mine to the pristine silicon chip factories in Taiwan, illustrating the complex processes these materials undergo before reaching their final form. Conway's work also challenges the perception of a predominantly digital world, suggesting that the material economy—oil, glass, steel, and sand—is still the foundation of modern life.
How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration and Everything In Between by Bent Flyvbjerg, Dan Gardner is a comprehensive exploration of the dynamics behind the success or failure of large-scale projects. Flyvbjerg, an expert in megaprojects, and Gardner, a skilled storyteller, delve into why big projects often go awry and outline strategies to increase their likelihood of success.
The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet by Jeff Goodell is an in-depth examination of the impacts of rising global temperatures and the resultant climate crisis. Goodell, a New York Times bestselling journalist and an experienced environmental journalist, delves into the significant changes our planet is already experiencing due to climate change. The book highlights the invisible yet profound impact of heat and how it is reshaping our world, from the increasing frequency of wildfires in California to the diminishing snowfall in the Northeast and the rapid melting of ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica.
Trust by Hernan Diaz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that explores the themes of money, power, intimacy, and perception through four different narratives of a Wall Street tycoon and his wife in the 1920s. It is a literary masterpiece that challenges the reader to question the reliability of facts and fiction, and the deceptions that shape our personal and social realities.
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