“There is no Frigate like a BookEmily Dickinson
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.”
Since Memorial Day is usually considered the “unofficial” start of Summer, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from the first half of 2022 to consider adding to your beach reading list. Here are twelve books (both non-fiction and fiction) that I enjoyed:
First up – and I’ve mentioned this book in previous posts – is The Age Tech Revolution by Keren Etkin. In my view, this is the definitive book on the use of technology in aging and is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic. You should also follow Keren on her website, The Gerontechnologist, for regular updates on conferences, publications, and new entrants into the AgeTech space.
I first came across Jane McGonigal when I saw her TED talk on how to see the future. When I heard that she was publishing a book on the topic, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon. Imaginable is a fascinating read and covers a lot of ground on how futurists like McGonigal approach their future-focused research.
I’ve been interested in the field of synthetic biology for some time. Fortunately, I had the benefit of learning a lot about the area by tapping into the expertise of one of my former colleagues at Sg2, Justin Cassidy, who patiently explained the basics and clinical applications of the technology to this novice (Thanks for putting up with my dumb questions, Justin!). The Genesis Machine is another book that I discovered while watching a podcast interview of Amy Webb by Leo Laporte on Triangulation. You should also follow her work at The Future Today Institute, where you’ll find a wealth of information on Tech and Science trends. Amy and her co-author Andrew Hessel cover this fast-growing field—which uses computers to modify or rewrite genetic code—has created revolutionary, groundbreaking solutions such as the mRNA COVID vaccines, IVF, and lab-grown hamburger that tastes like the real thing. It gives us options to deal with existential threats: climate change, food insecurity, and access to fuel. But they also outline the risks involved and how to best address the opportunities in the bioeconomy.
I’ve read every biography that Walter Isaacson has written. His books on Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs were two of my favorites. I love his writing style and comprehensive approach to researching the people he is profiling. His biography of Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., one of the inventors of CRISPR technology and gene editing, is one of those volumes that I couldn’t put down. Isaacson traces the arc of her life from early childhood to her ground-breaking discovery of CRISPR in his usual highly engaging fashion. A great read.
Dr. Peter Hotez has been a regular fixture on the cable channels throughout the COVID pandemic. Millions have seen his calm, rational voice during the many interviews he has given. His work in infectious diseases has been going on for decades now. In his book Preventing the Next Pandemic, he brings all of his knowledge about dealing with pandemics together, along with his keen assessment of what went right and what went wrong in our global response to the COVID pandemic, along with some recommendations about how to prevent those mistakes from happening again. I found his book to be more interesting than Bill Gates’ tome, although both are worth reading.
This was a book recommended by Dr. Bertalan Mesko, The Medical Futurist, on his website. In an age where critical thinking is in short supply, Think Again by Adam Grant examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds, which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life. His stories and examples teach us to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.
Mike Magee, M.D., former hospital administrator, and Pfizer executive, has spent years investigating the pillars of our health system: Big Pharma, insurance companies, hospitals, the American Medical Association, and anyone affiliated with them. His book Code Blue: Inside America’s Medical Industrial Complex gives readers a look behind the often opaque industry to expose the greed and sometimes questionable business practices that consume a large portion of the health care dollars spent in this country. He offers some suggestions for how we might change the system to make it more accessible and less costly – although many will find his arguments for a single-payer, multi-plan insurance arena controversial.
While not a new publication, I came across Self Tracking as part of my research into the current state of self-tracking devices and their expanded use in personalized health care. Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus describe what happens when people turn their everyday experiences—in particular, health and wellness-related experiences—into data and offer an introduction to the essential ideas and key challenges of using these technologies. They consider self-tracking as a social and cultural phenomenon, describing not only the use of data as a kind of mirror of the self but also how this enables people to connect to, and learn from, others. This book is especially relevant today, as we question things like who owns our health care tracking data, how it can be used, and whether patients should be compensated for the use (or misuse) of their data.
AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future is another book recommended by Dr. Mesko. The authors, Kai-Fu Lee, the former president of Google China and bestselling author of AI Superpowers, and novelist Chen Qiufan imagine our world in 2041 and how AI will shape it. This combination of real-world technology development and science fiction storytelling provides the reader with a fascinating look into the not-so-distant future of AI.
I usually read about a book a week. But, lest you think that all I spend my time reading are non-fiction books, here a few of my favorite fiction books so far this year:
I loved Andy Weir’s novel The Martian (not so much the movie version, though). So when he published his latest novel Project Hail Mary, I downloaded it on its release date and finished it in a single reading. Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. I loved the way Weir structured the entire novel. And the second half of the book, where Grace uncovers how to communicate with the alien being he’s encountered, is utterly fascinating. I know there’s a movie version in the works. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy this one better than the last adaptation of Weir’s The Martian.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future is not a new publication (released in 2020), but somehow I missed adding this to my reading list. Robinson uses fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a lonely, post-apocalyptic world but a future almost upon us. Cited by both Bill Gates and Barack Obama as critical reading for people wanting to understand how humanity can band together to solve the crucial issue of climate change, Robinson’s book makes an excellent read.
Stephanie Storey’s Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo is another “how did I miss this one” finds. First published in 2016, Storey’s novel covers the period of a few years at the very beginning of the sixteenth century when Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty-year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. Having read Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo, I found the juxtaposition of his work and Michelangelo’s work at this critical point in each of their careers an excellent, engaging read.
Books I’m looking forward to reading in the second half of the year (release date in parentheses):
- Portrait of an Unknown Woman (July 29) – Book 22 in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. It can’t come soon enough for me.
- The Omega Factor (June 7) – I Love Steve Berry’s novels
- Exponential Organizations: The Essential Guide to Building ExO’s (June 25) – More on exponential organizations from Peter Diamandis
- The Future Circle of Healthcare: AI, 3D Printing, Longevity, Ethics, and Uncertainty Mitigation (September 3) – This book brings together scholars whose areas of expertise represent different themes essential to understanding how healthcare might change and evolve over the next decade.
- Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age (June 21) – I’ve been a space nut my whole life. This book by the former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver outlines her push to get NASA to partner with commercial space companies. I am looking forward to reading this one.
So there you have my dozen recommendations for your reading pleasure throughout the Summer. Let me know in the comments whether you have any other books I should consider adding to my list. I’m always looking for the next great reading adventure. Thanks for reading the blog and your comments and suggestions for other topics to research and post. Enjoy the Summer, and happy reading!