Summer Reading Recommendations – 2023

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Charles W. Eliot
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I’ve always been an avid reader. Whenever I have some free time, you’ll usually find my nose buried in a book (especially now that I can read on almost any electronic device). And, since Memorial Day is traditionally considered the “unofficial” start of Summer, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from the first half of 2023 to consider adding to your beach reading list.

I read across a wide variety of genres, so I’m including some healthcare technology books along with some of my favorite fiction and nonfiction titles from this year so far. (All hyperlinks are to the Kindle versions of the book.)

First is The AI Revolution in Medicine: GPT-4 and Beyond by Peter Lee, Ph.D., Carey Goldberg, and Isaac “Zak” Kohane, MD, Ph.D. Whether you’re a physician, patient, healthcare leader, payer, policymaker, or investor, AI will profoundly impact you — and it might make the difference between life or death. Be informed, be ready, and take charge — with this book. A terrific read that separates the hype from the potential of this vital technology.

Redefining the Boundaries of Medicine: The High-Tech, High-Touch Path Into the Future by Paul Cerrato, MA, and John D. Halamka, MD, MS. Redefining the Boundaries of Medicine by Paul Cerrato and Dr. John Halamka challenges the profession to renegotiate its priorities and address the fact that it’s become timid and reluctant to explore new care delivery models. The guiding premise of this book is that rethinking and reimagining the way medicine is practiced in the 21st century will improve health outcomes and that technology is central to this transformation.

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia, MD, with Bill Gifford. Dr. Peter Attia draws on the latest science to deliver innovative nutritional interventions, techniques for optimizing exercise and sleep, and tools for addressing emotional and mental health. This is not “biohacking”; it’s science: a well-founded strategic and tactical approach to extending lifespan while also improving our physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Dr. Attia’s aim is less to tell you what to do and more to help you learn how to think about long-term health to create the best plan for you as an individual.

How Covid Crashed the System: A Guide to Fixing American Health Care by Dr. David Nash and Charles Wohlforth. Covid patients overwhelmed American hospitals. The world’s most advanced and expensive healthcare system crumbled, short of supplies and personnel. The U.S. lost more patients than any other nation during the pandemic. How could this happen? And how could this disaster lead to a more resilient, rational, and equitable healthcare system in the future? Using systemic analysis of the Covid crash, the authors find reasons to hope. America’s healthcare establishment resisted reform for decades, mired in waste and avoidable errors. Now, the pandemic crisis has exposed its flaws for all to see, creating opportunities for systemic changes. Even without new laws or government policies, America is moving toward a transformed health system responsible for our wellness.

Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence by Tom Peters and Nancye Green. Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence (IdeaPress Publishing) is full of inspiration for anyone aged 20 to 80, from cashiers to CEOs. Legendary, best-selling business author Tom Peters partnered with the iconic designer Nancye Green of Donovan/Green to create this guidebook for leaders in the workplace. Peters and Green have packed this strikingly designed little book with exhilarating quotes that will urge you to recognize what truly matters at work. Over the decades, Peters has gathered these gems of wisdom from those down in the trenches creating extraordinary places to work. Green has wrought the most accessible and captivating way to absorb that wisdom. I’ve been a Tom Peters fan since he co-authored In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman. Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence argues that business leaders must start putting people first and helping them prepare for a rocky future. As we come to terms with the debilitating pandemic, confront extreme wealth inequality, and wrestle with destabilizing technological revolutions still in their infancy, it is clear that “Extreme Humanism”—treating one another humanely—is the best path forward.

Strategy Savvy: Balanced Strategy Development Approach Using Insights, Culture, Operations, and Digitization by Hesham O. Dinana, Ph.D. I was especially delighted to purchase and read this book since Dr. Dinana is a former Philips colleague of mine. Many strategy books focus on the perspective of large multinational corporations that have the capacity and capabilities to develop and implement a strategy using very structured methodologies and tools. This book will add a new dimension by focusing on the use of Strategy-as-Practice (SaP), intuition, and serendipity as important complements that can be used by large corporations as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs to develop and implement winning strategies. This is an important dimension to support the strategic decision-making process frequently undermined in traditional strategic planning and management-focused books. He presents an approach driven by four propellers—insights, culture, operations, and digitization—to ensure the arrival at a better future. I loved this re-envisioning of how to approach strategy in any sized organization.

From Whispers to Shouts: The Ways We Talk About Cancer by Elaine Schattner. It’s hard today to remember how recently cancer was a silent killer, a dreaded disease that people rarely discuss publicly. In hospitals and doctors’ offices, conversations about malignancy were hushed, and hope was limited. In this deeply researched book, Elaine Schattner reveals a sea change—from before 1900 to the present—in how ordinary people talk about cancer. The book examines the public perception of cancer through stories in newspapers and magazines, social media, and popular culture. It probes the evolving relationship between journalists and medical specialists and illuminates the role of women and charities in distributing medical information. Schattner traces the origins of patient advocacy and activism from the 1920s onward, highlighting how, while doctors have lost control of messages about cancer, survivors have gained visibility and voice.

Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 by TJ Newman. The flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller (no, really) about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside—and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them. I couldn’t put this one down. I read it in a single evening. I can’t wait for the movie version.

The Last Kingdom (Cotton Malone Book 17) by Steve Berry. I have read all seventeen books in this series. And this latest doesn’t disappoint. I’ve also visited King Ludwig’s castle in Bavaria, so the subject matter fascinated me. King Ludwig II of Bavaria was an enigmatic figure who was deposed in 1886, mysteriously drowning three days later. Eccentric to the point of madness, history tells us that in the years before he died, Ludwig engaged in a worldwide search for a new kingdom, one separate, apart, and in place of Bavaria. A place he could retreat into and rule as he wished. But a question remains: did he succeed? Another great read.

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng (Agent Pendergast Series Book 21) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This is another series that I’ve read for years. Preston & Child continue their #1 bestselling series featuring FBI Special Agent Pendergast and Constance Greene as they cross paths with New York’s deadliest serial killer: Pendergast’s own ancestor…and now his greatest foe. These authors never disappoint.

The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. With all the hallmarks of a Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch page-turner, The Nazi Conspiracy explores the great political minds of the twentieth century, investigating the pivotal years of the war in gripping detail. This meeting of the Big Three changed the course of World War II. Here’s the inside story of how it almost led to a world-shattering disaster.

Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age by Lori Garver. Escaping Gravity is former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver’s firsthand account of how a handful of revolutionaries overcame the political patronage and bureaucracy that threatened the space agency. The success of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and countless other commercial space efforts were preceded by decades of work by a group of people Garver calls “space pirates.” Their quest to transform NASA put Garver in the crosshairs of Congress, the aerospace industry, and hero astronauts trying to protect their own profits and mythology within a system that had held power since the 1950s. As a certifiable “space nut,” I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how this evolved.

So there you have my dozen recommendations for your reading pleasure this Summer. Let me know in the comments whether you have any other books I should consider adding. I’m always looking for the next great reading adventure. Thanks for reading the blog and your comments and suggestions for additional topics to research and post. Enjoy the Summer and happy reading!

Audiobooks I Enjoyed This Year – 2022

“I haven’t read a book properly until I’ve had it read to me.”

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
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Since I’ve already shared my favorite books and podcasts for this year, I thought I’d finish with a list of my favorite audiobooks. But first, some context.

Even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be challenging. Many, then, rely on audiobooks, a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. You can listen to the latest bestseller while commuting or cleaning up the house. We can debate whether listening to an audiobook constitutes “reading,” but there’s no doubt that audiobooks have continued to grow in popularity over the last few years.

What makes a great audiobook? For me, content is king. I’ve claimed I’d happily listen to certain favorite narrators read the phone book. And to an extent, I would. But, if I’m being honest, I’d much rather listen to them read something I’m interested in, especially if it’s something that lends itself well to the audio format.

Next is the narrator. A pleasant and natural-sounding voice can blend into the background, allowing the story space to shine. The characters’ voices a narrator creates for an audio production can make or break the audiobook. While I’ve heard there are readers who prefer an audiobook read matter-of-factly and without using distinctive voices for different characters, I tend to think that approach takes much of the fun out of the format. I love it when a narrator uses differences in character voices. I have a list of my favorite audiobook narrators, and I will almost always purchase a book that features them regardless of genre. For example, I’ll listen to anything narrated by Stephen Fry: Greek mythology, Sherlock Holmes, biography of Oscar Wilde, anything.

Sometimes, there’s just that special something that takes a good audiobook and makes it great. It could be a spot-on accent. It could be an excellent use of music or sound effects. Or maybe it’s when the narrator verbally acts out stage directions like laughter, tears, singing, or slurred speech. You know, actually chuckling, rather than just reading, “He laughed.”

Finally, since I purchase all of my digital and audiobooks on Amazon, I like the ability to seamlessly jump back and forth between the printed page (to take notes or highlight a section to read again) and the audio version without having to search to find where I left off. I can even use my Alexa device to continue listening to audiobooks in my home office.

So, here are some of my favorite audiobooks from 2022. Note that most are not healthcare related, and many aren’t focused on technology. They just hit my major criteria for selecting an audiobook, and they give me hours of enjoyment.

Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landings by Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton

Have I told you that I’m a space geek? I had watched almost every launch since Project Mercury right through to Project Orion last week. So this was a no-brainer for me. Collaborating with NBC’s veteran space reporter Jay Barbree (the best reporter on the U.S. space program, in my opinion), Shepard and Slayton narrate in gripping detail the story of America’s space exploration from the time of Shepard’s first flight until he and eleven others had walked on the moon.

Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George by James Lapine

Another admission – I love Sondheim. And Sunday in the Park With George is the finest musical I’ve ever seen (multiple times). Putting It Together chronicles the two-year odyssey of creating the iconic Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George. In 1982, James Lapine, at the beginning of his career as a playwright and director, met Stephen Sondheim, nineteen years his senior and already a legendary Broadway composer and lyricist. Shortly after, the two decided to write a musical inspired by Georges Seurat’s nineteenth-century painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Growing up in Chicago, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I visited The Art Institute to view the painting, marveling at the visual effect those tiny dots made when you stood just the proper distance from the work. Hearing how the musical came together was a revelation. Highly recommend this one.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons of the series on Apple TV+. So I decided to go back and listen to Asimov’s original novel to see if I could pick out any differences. The Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov are among the most influential in the history of science fiction, celebrated for their unique blend of breathtaking action, daring ideas, and extensive worldbuilding. In Foundation, Asimov has written a timely and timeless novel of the best – and worst – that lies in humanity and the power of even a few courageous souls to shine a light in a universe of darkness.

Mythos by Stephen Fry

I’ve already mentioned that I’ll buy any audiobook read by Stephen Fry. This is the third in his series on Greek mythology and a delightful listening experience. The legendary writer, actor, and comedian breathes life into ancient tales, from Pandora’s box to Prometheus’s fire, and transforms the adventures of Zeus and the Olympians into emotionally resonant and amusing stories without losing any of their original wonder. Learned notes from the author offer rich cultural context. This volume is a doorway into a captivating world.

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War by Joanne Freeman

Joanne B. Freeman, a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, is a leading authority on early national politics and political culture. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of her lectures at Yale and have taken her online course on American history. In The Field of Blood, Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources; she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem. It sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introduces a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men.

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – read by Stephen Fry

“…it was reading the Sherlock Holmes stories as a boy that first turned me on to the power of writing and storytelling.” (Stephen Fry)

As an avid Holmes fan, this is by far the best audio adaption of the Conan Doyle stories. Fry’s Holmes is crisp and high-handed, his Watson enthusiastic and bemused, and the rest of the narration colorful without being mannered. Have fun with these.

Grant by Ron Chernow

Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood. He is often caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don’t come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency. This is one of America’s greatest biographers, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most under-appreciated presidents.

The Man Who Knew The Way To The Moon by Todd Zwillich

I know, “not another space-themed audiobook!” 😏 – I thought I was pretty well informed on what it took to get American astronauts to the moon and back. But I had never heard this story before. Released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, this book tells the story of John C. Houbolt, an unsung hero of Apollo 11 and the man who showed NASA how to put America on the moon. His plan was ridiculed and considered unthinkable. But this junior engineer was irrepressible. He stood by his concept, fired off memos to executives, and argued that LOR was the only way to success. This is a fascinating story, and Zwillich tells it well.

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey

This book was highly recommended by Dr. Bertalan Mesko, The Medical Futurist who is a big sci-fi fan. So I listened to the audio sample online and was immediately hooked. The author poses the following question: If you had the chance to look one year into the future, would you? Two best friends create a computer that can predict the future. But what they can’t anticipate is how it will tear their friendship – and society – apart. Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love – even from themselves.

Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo by Stephanie Storey

From 1501 to 1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome 50-year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-20s, desperate to make a name for himself. Oil and Marble is the story of their nearly forgotten rivalry. Storey brings early 16th-century Florence alive and has entered with extraordinary empathy into the minds and souls of two Renaissance masters. The book is an art history thriller and well worth a listen.

A Man of the World: My Life at National Geographic by Gilbert M Grosvenor

The captivating inside story of the man who helmed National Geographic for six decades is a front-row seat to audacious feats of exploration, from the successful hunt for the Titanic to Jane Goodall’s field studies. Offering a rare portrait of one of the world’s most iconic media empires, this revealing autobiography makes a passionate argument to know—and care for—our planet. For Grosvenor, running National Geographic wasn’t just a job. It was a legacy motivated by a passion not just for leaving the world a better place but for inspiring others to do so, too

The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone by Edward Dolnick

The Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous objects in the world, attracting millions of visitors to the British Museum every year, yet most people don’t know what it is. Discovered in a pile of rubble in 1799, this stone slab proved to be the key to unlocking a lost language that baffled scholars for centuries. Dominating the world for 30 centuries, ancient Egypt was the mightiest empire the world had ever known, yet everything about it – the pyramids, mummies, the Sphinx – was shrouded in mystery. Whoever was able to decipher the Rosetta Stone would solve that mystery and fling open a door that had been locked for two thousand years. Two brilliant rivals set out to win that prize. The Writing of the Gods chronicles this high-stakes intellectual race in which the winner would win glory for himself and his nation.

So, there you have it—my dozen favorite audiobooks this year. I hope you find one or more of them interesting enough to download a copy and give it a listen. What have you heard recently that you would recommend? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’m always looking for new adventures to explore. And thanks for reading this blog.

Books I Loved Reading This Year – 2022

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”

Carl Sagan
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Last year my post on book recommendations was well received, so I thought I’d share my favorite reads for this year. As you probably already know, I’m a voracious reader across multiple genres and probably read fifty to sixty books per year. This year was no exception. At last count, I’m up to fifty-seven completed books, with three still in progress for 2022.

As with last year, getting the list down to a manageable number was tough. But, after a lot of thought, some novel scoring algorithms (none of which would qualify as scientific), and in no particular order, here are twelve that I’d recommend as a gift to yourself or another reader in your family. (Click on the title for link to purchase on Amazon)

Tom Peters Compact Guide to Excellence

I’ve loved reading Tom Peters’ books since he published In Search of Excellence. I have all his books in print, digital, or audio format. In this, what he has characterized as his last book, Peters partnered with the iconic designer Nancye Green of Donovan/Green to create this guidebook for leaders in the workplace. Peters and Green have packed this strikingly designed little book with exhilarating quotes that urge you to recognize what truly matters at work. You’ll go back and think about these quotes often. Highly recommended for business leaders at every level.

Hacking Healthcare by Tom Lawry

Tom Lawry is the National Director of AI for Health & Life Sciences at Microsoft and previously served as Director of Worldwide Health. In this book, Tom helps readers understand what we learned from fighting a global pandemic and how to apply these learnings to solve healthcare’s other big challenges. This book is about empowering clinicians and consumers alike to take control of what is important to them by harnessing the power of AI and the Intelligent Health Revolution to create a sustainable system that focuses on keeping all citizens healthy while caring for them when they are not. Lawry’s credentials make him an important and credible voice in implementing AI in healthcare.

Human Frontiers: The Future of Big Ideas in an Age of Small Thinking by Michael Bhaskar

Dr. Bertalan Mesko recommended this book as a great read, so I downloaded a copy and was not disappointed. The author explains the birth and development of great ideas throughout history, encompassing all areas from science to politics and the arts. Single ideas from single minds in ages past are now making way for more complex frontier ideas arising from teamwork and critical peer review. If there is a pause in the arrival of genuinely new ideas, the increasing presence of AI may offer a breakthrough in due course. Another great read.

Mobile Medicine: Overcoming People, Culture, and Governance – Edited by Sherri Douville

New technologies can improve healthcare, but not without improved leadership and organization. The authors of Mobile Medicine: Overcoming People, Culture & Governance, a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners and users of Health IT together with researchers, make a significant contribution by applying lessons from the latest technology challenges: mobility, privacy, and security that can best be addressed by developing a learning organization and inspired leadership. A world-class multi-disciplinary team in Healthcare IT, medicine, and business writes this timely work. This type of breadth and collaboration is what’s required to deliver this cross-functional discussion and fantastic action planning resource. This book should be required reading for any organization looking to lead the next wave of healthcare technology to improve care quality, patient safety, and clinician satisfaction to help us save more lives and keep people healthy across the entire care continuum.

How Covid Crashed the System: A Guide to Fixing American Health Care by David B. Nash, MD, and Charles Wohlforth

Dr. David Nash, a founder of the discipline of population health, and Charles Wohlforth, an award-winning science writer, outline why America’s healthcare system failed so tragically during the Covid pandemic and how the forces unleashed by the crisis could be just the medicine for its long-term cure. From the broadest cultural flaws that disabled our health system to particular institutional issues, America’s defenses fell due to racism and poverty, combined with a culture of misguided individualism that tore communities apart. We suffered from failed leadership and crippled public health agencies and hospitals built to make money from services, not deliver health. This is an insightful read highlighting the healthcare system’s challenges, along with intelligent and thoughtful solutions for a better path forward. This is an excellent guide for anyone interested in understanding the system’s inner workings and desiring to make it better for future generations. You can listen to Dr. Nash discussing the book in this podcast episode.

The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places Are Building the New American Dream – by Steve Case

Steve Case, the co-founder of America Online and Revolution and New York Times bestselling author of The Third Wave, shows how entrepreneurs across the country are building groundbreaking companies, renewing communities, and creating new jobs, and in the process, reimagining the American landscape and bringing people together around a shared future. With dedicated venture funds backed by an iconic group of investors, executives, and entrepreneurs, including Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, John Doerr, Sara Blakely, and Ray Dalio, Rise of the Rest also invests in the most promising high-growth startups located anywhere in the US outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, and Boston. I love the fact that Case concentrated on areas outside of the “traditional” tech centers and showed that they no longer have a monopoly on innovation. You can watch a short PBS interview with the author here.

In addition to the technology and healthcare books listed above, here are some of my favorite reads in fiction this year:

The Omega Factor by Steve Berry

Steve Berry is one of my favorite fiction authors. I have all sixteen of his Cotton Malone novels. So I was delighted when his new book was published this year. In it, he introduces us to Nicholas Lee, who works for the United Nations’ Cultural Liaison and Investigative Office (CLIO). Nick’s job is to protect the world’s cultural artifacts—anything and everything, from countless lesser-known objects to national treasures. The story focuses on the Ghent Altarpiece, which is the most violated work of art in the world. Thirteen times it has been vandalized, dismantled, or stolen. Berry always combines historical fact with a page-turning mystery that keeps the reader engaged from the first page to the last. The topic fascinated me since I saw the Ghent Altarpiece during a side trip to Belgium when I worked with Philips. I also love the epilogue, where he clearly defines fact versus fiction in his story. This is a terrific read. Highly recommended.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva

My other “must read immediately” book is Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series of novels. Every July, when the new book comes out (which I’ve pre-ordered on Amazon), I download it and dive in. I’m usually finished in two to three days and lament that I now have to wait a year for the next volume in the series. This is book 22, and legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon has at long last severed ties with Israeli intelligence and settled quietly in Venice. When eccentric London art dealer Julian Isherwood asks Gabriel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the rediscovery and lucrative sale of a centuries-old painting, he is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse where nothing is as it seems. Portrait of an Unknown Woman is an entertaining journey through the dark side of the art world—a place where unscrupulous dealers routinely deceive their customers and deep-pocketed investors treat great paintings as though they were just another asset class to be bought and sold at a profit. If you haven’t read any of these yet, start with Book 1, so you can experience Allon’s story from the beginning.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built – by Becky Chambers

This series was recommended to me by a colleague who reads a ton of science fiction novels. A Psalm of the Wild-Built by Hugo Award-winning author Becky Chambers was named Best Book of the Year by NPR. On a planet similar to Earth, humans created robots to work in their factories, the same as we did. But when those robots became self-aware, humanity and robots parted ways peacefully, and humanity changed for the better. It begins a new chapter for humanity, in which they become a better species. Sibling Dex is a monk who is dissatisfied with their vocation. They decide to self-teach as a tea monk, traveling the country, meeting new people, and seeking out elusive crickets, whose song they’ve only ever heard about. The prose is beautifully and elegantly written with insightful examinations into what gives the character’s lives purpose, but at no time does it feel like you are being bombarded with tedious preaching. I enjoyed this first installment and have just started on the second volume in the series A Prayer for the Crown-Shy.

Stranger in a Strange Land – by Robert A Heinlein

After reading the Becky Chambers book described above, I decided to revisit an old friend and pulled out my tattered copy of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which tells the story of a human who was raised on Mars by Martians. The young man travels to a futuristic Earth, where he struggles to understand human concepts of religion and war. Fun to note that Heinlein’s book correctly predicted some aspects of the future at the time, including “hippie culture” and waterbeds. He also does the classic sci-fi thing of using an obviously fictional setting to ask profound questions about human nature. Heinlein is one of the authors who hooked me on science fiction years ago. Still one of the best books in the genre, in my opinion.

Call Me Obie by Ateret Haselkorn

I was delighted to see that my former Sg2 colleague Ateret Haselkorn’s book was published this year. Fifteen-year-old Obie hates the word “artificial.” It has to be the Most Misunderstood Word of the Year 2100. The media puts it in front of anything. They started with artificial intelligence, and now it goes with housing, law enforcement, and in Obie’s case, her heart. Ateret’s novel explores the future of discrimination and the timeless power of empathy and forgiveness, with a few comedic mishaps along the way. It is the tale of one young woman’s coming-of-age in a future where nearly anything is medically possible, and society must ask: When technology can modify humans, who gets to decide how? A fascinating read.

Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum – Coming, March 7, 2023

One last recommendation for the new year is this upcoming novel by Rachel Barenbaum. If you had the opportunity to prevent one of the world’s most horrific disasters, would you? What if saving thousands of lives meant losing your daughter? Such is the premise of Rachel Barenbaum’s time travel thriller Atomic Anna. Told through the eyes of Anna, her daughter Molly and her granddaughter Raisa, this story explores not only the implications of time travel but the impact of one person’s choices on multiple generations. I’ve had an opportunity to read the book’s galley as a reviewer on Part science fiction thriller, part family drama, I think Atomic Anna is a unique blend of what’s best about these genres.

Hopefully, one or more of these recommendations has piqued your curiosity or aligns with your interests. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have. If you have your own favorites, please share them in the comments section below. I’m always looking for another great read.

Summer Reading Recommendations – 2022

“There is no Frigate like a Book
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.”

Emily Dickinson
Image Credit:

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!

Books I Loved Reading This Year

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

William Styron, Conversations with William Styron
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I’ve always loved reading. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get my library card. Once I finally had one, I would walk down to the Lincoln Park branch of the Chicago Public Library and load up on as many books as I could check out and still expect to read in the two-week loan period. I always had my nose buried in a book. My reading tastes varied widely, even at a young age. I loved science fiction and read everything I could get my hands on. I devoured Azimov’s Foundation trilogy (and am enjoying the Apple TV+ series now – even though it doesn’t match the novels closely). I loved Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ursula Le Guin, and countless others. Those writers jump-started my interest in technology and the future – both topics I’ve been fortunate to explore in-depth throughout my professional career.

As I got older, I started reading more non-fiction books – especially biographies and histories. And space, anything about space exploration is on my reading list. Growing up, I watched every Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo mission on TV. I continued to follow the space program missions – from Skylab, through the Shuttle, the ISS, and all the JPL planetary missions, even today (NASA TV is on my Roku device). So, it probably won’t surprise you that there’s a novel about space in my favorites this year.

Getting the list down to a manageable number was tough. But, after a lot of thought, some novel scoring algorithms (none of which would qualify as scientific), and in no particular order, here are six that I’d recommend as a gift to yourself or another reader in your family.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – I did say I loved science fiction, right? Like most people, I was first introduced to Weir’s writing through The Martian. His latest novel is a wild tale about a high school science teacher who wakes up in a different star system with no memory of how he got there. The rest of the story is all about how he uses science and engineering to save the day. I have both the Kindle and Audible versions, and I love that I can bounce back and forth between the two.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson – Isaacson is another author that I read religiously. I have his biographies of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci. So when he released this book, it was a no-brainer for me – especially because I’ve followed and reported on Dr. Doudna’s work. The CRISPR gene-editing system is perhaps the most powerful scientific breakthrough of the last decade. I learned a lot from this comprehensive and accessible book about the discovery. Isaacson does a good job highlighting the most important ethical questions around gene editing.

Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response by Andy Slavitt – I’ve been following Slavitt’s work since his days at CMS during the Obama administration. As CMS administrator, he was able to work across the aisle, though quietly, more than some predecessors. His pragmatic problem-solving (he dislikes the word “technocrat”) approach helped him build good ties with much of the health care industry and many governors, including those in red and purple states. I wanted an honest account of what happened during the pandemic and got it in this book.

Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies That Will Revolutionize Everything by Eric Redmond – The world of “deep tech” has launched seven simultaneous global revolutions: artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing—a perfect storm that will drive the global economy for the next decade. Since each of these technologies has applications to health care, I wanted to get a sense of where they stood today from someone who advises groups like the MIT Media Lab and the World Economic Forum. A fascinating read.

The Digital Reconstruction of Healthcare: Transitioning from Brick and Mortar to Virtual Care by Paul Cerrato and John Halamka – This book is part of a series from HIMSS. Although somewhat expensive for an e-book, it is well worth the investment. Everyone is talking about digital health these days and the transitions of much of patient care from hospitals, clinics, and offices to various virtual settings. This book combines Dr. John Halamka’s lessons learned from years of international consulting with government officials on digital health with senior research analyst Paul Cerrato’s expertise in AI, data analytics, and machine learning. Together, these two experts support the contention that these technologies can help solve many of the seemingly intractable problems facing healthcare providers and patients. If you want to move beyond the hype and learn practical, real-world examples of how digital health works, this is THE book to read.

Troy: The Greek Myths Reimagined (Stephen Fry’s Greek Myths Book 3) – Last, but certainly not least, is this latest book from Stephen Fry. I also have the other two but was especially drawn to this volume because I had to study the Trojan myth in high school. Troy is the story of the epic battle retold by Fry with drama, humor, and vivid emotion. This is another one where I have both the printed and audio versions. And hearing Fry narrate his work is a real treat.

Hopefully, one or more of these recommendations has piqued your curiosity or aligns with your interests. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have. If you have favorites of your own, please share them in the comments section below. I’m always looking for another great read.